June 13th, 2007
Lovely men / x percent of all ... / lit and lighted
by Barbara Wallraff
Ruth Feiler, of Troy, Mich., writes: “I have heard male hosts refer to male guests as ‘lovely’ when introducing them. Is that an acceptable adjective for a man?”
Dear Ruth: Somewhere in the English-speaking world, nearly any adjective you can think of is acceptable in reference to any category of person. Here’s the soccer player Lorenzo Amoruso talking about his former teammate Stefan Klos: “Stefan is a fantastic guy, a lovely man and a fantastic goalkeeper.” And here’s the heavy-metal musician Ozzy Osbourne discussing wrestling and wrestlers: “I became a very good friend of Andre the Giant when he was alive. I used to go drinking with him, and he was such a lovely man.”
Louis Desjardins, of Belleville, Ontario, writes: “When discussing polling results, commentators often redundantly inject the word ‘all’ in, for instance, ‘75 percent of all Canadians believe that ...’, or ‘62 percent of all Democrats want ...’ Of course, a poll identifying the preferences of 75 percent of ‘some respondents’ wouldn’t have much in the way of validity.”
Dear Louis: You’re right that “all” after “percent of” is a common wasted word. In fact, it appears in 5 percent of the recent newspaper articles containing “percent of” that I just called up on my computer. No doubt people are tempted to write “all,” because they’re thinking, “75 percent of what?” The “what” might be this year’s graduating class or the population of the U.S. -- or all Canadians. Nonetheless, careful speakers and writers skip the “all,” because they realize it’s implied.
Dennis Andersen, of Issaquah, Wash., writes: “Is a room ‘well lit’ or ‘well lighted’? When do you use one word versus the other?”
Dear Dennis: You won’t be wrong whichever word you use. Reputable sources agree that “lit” and “lighted” are nearly interchangeable. (The one exception often mentioned is that only “lit” can mean “drunk.”) Although “lit” is noticeably more common than “lighted” in almost every context, you should feel free to use “lighted” anywhere it sounds better to you.
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.