January 17th, 2007
Supposedly and supposably / more than one favorite / co-join
by Barbara Wallraff
Jay Deacon, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., writes: “I’m wondering about the correct usage of the words ‘supposedly’ and ‘supposably.’ The dictionary says that either is correct, but I think ‘supposedly’ sounds better. Can you help?”
Dear Jay: “Supposably” means “it is possible to suppose that” -- not something people often want to say. “Supposedly” is much more common. It’s the one to use when you mean “allegedly” or “in theory.”
Paul LeGere, of Ballston Spa, N.Y., writes: “I play an online message-board game called ‘Baker’s Dozen,’ in which a subject is given and participants offer items that fit the subject, one at a time. It’s possible for someone to offer as many as seven items. My question is: If the subject is ‘What’s your favorite candy bar?’ does that not by definition restrict the players to one item each? Can you have more than one ‘favorite’?”
Dear Paul: Sure, you can have many favorites. I do! I like Butterfingers, GooGoo Clusters, York Peppermint Patties, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and dark-chocolate Toblerone -- assuming all of those count as candy “bars.” It’s the grammatically singular form of the question you quote -- “What IS your favorite candy BAR?” -- that would limit each player’s answer to one.
Debra Wells, of Windsor, Ontario, writes: “This morning on ‘Meet the Press,’ Sen. Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, was discussing the situation in Iraq and repeatedly used the word ‘co-join’: ‘American forces going into Baghdad co-joined with Iraqi forces, and a new political model is our best chance for victory.’ Please tell me that this travesty isn’t acceptable as a substitute for plain old ‘join.’”
Dear Debra: That’s the least of what I dislike about the way Sen. Graham thinks. But you’re right that “co-join” is a foolish redundancy. By the way, sometimes even when “co-” would be correct, it’s unnecessary. For instance, all it adds is clutter to a sentence like “As co-sponsors of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, Sens. Graham and Jon Kyl tried to play shameful tricks on the public.”
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.