[Ads-l] "substitute" woes

Ben Zimmer bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM
Sat Sep 17 01:31:19 EDT 2016

>From The Independent (UK), more proof that nobody really knows how to use
the word "substitute" anymore:

Our editorial last Friday said we were worried that the Prime Minister’s
planned new grammar schools would “attract an influx of the affluent
seeking places, which pushes property prices up and, once again,
substitutes academic selection for the principle of ‘whoever pays, wins’.”
It’s a confusing bit of phraseology, but what we meant was the reverse of
what is written, as Bernard Theobald wrote to point out.
To substitute x for y means that you put x in the place of y, but this
meaning clashes with the usual logic of English sentences, which is that
you put the starting state first and the end state last. We meant
“...substitutes the principle of ‘whoever pays, wins’ for academic

Another one for the Zwicky files...



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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