Posts Tagged ‘Garner’s American Usage’


Vital Information

In Vital Information,words/lexicography on January 5, 2011 by Two Barbers Tagged: , , , , , , , ,

Different Uses for Freedom

In Garner’s Modern American Usage, by Bryan A. Garner, you can find eight terms derivative of the word ‘freedom’ and they all appear on one page: 367.

The first is the suffix “-FREE“, where Garner simply draws the distinction in spelling between those ‘-free’ words that are “established” and those that are not and denote only the absence of some quality or component usually attributed innately to the word, such as caffeine-free coke or germ-free environment (no guarantees on its physical possibility though, or whether it even is as favorable as it sounds at first, opposed to eerily, shroud-of-death-ish unnatural), and always uses a hyphen. The former “established” words are meant to denote those that are more singular in their definitions, such as the example given by Garner, “carefree,” which signifies something more like ‘unburdened’ than ‘lacking cares that should otherwise be expected’. A carefree person does lack care, most of the time, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect that he wouldn’t, nor would you go so far as to make that judgement having not met or interacted with him and, anyway, it’s not to say that he’s careless.

In the next entry it is listed in the broadest form able to be tapped, to wit, ‘free’, but applied in its most narrow, material sense. As in “free; for free“, the latter being technically incorrect since ‘free’ is an adjective and if you’re going to put a preposition in front of something it should be a noun, such as “nothing” (again, Garner’s example). But remember what Kris Kristofferson said about freedom, that it’s “just another word for nothing left to lose”.  And nobody cares if he/she loses nothing, because ain’t nothing for free, especially not freedom (see bumperskickers). But the way Garner would put it would be to call it a “casualism”, meaning, in his own words “the expression is far to common to be called an error.” (Garner’s descriptivist sympathies are revealed here. What that means is, believe me, something you don’t care to know in full detail right now, but suffice it to say it’s one of two ideological schools of thought in the linguistics academia, neither of which does anybody really ever claim but, rather, are dubbed with by other writers, because nobody sees their POV as anything but the right POV, and therefore not moniker worthy.)

Garner also accounts for the difference between ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’, which he says has “connotative distinctions.” “Freedom is the broader…term” and it “carries positive connotations” and ‘liberty’ is “slightly less emotive” and refers more to the “removal of restraints on specific freedoms”. Except in the Declaration of Independence.

In the case of “Freedom of’ vs. freedom from“, both are ok, as long as you make sure not to cross the negative with positive, such as -of hunger and -from expression. As long as you got that down, feel free to attach whatever suits you as you go.

Then there’s “free gift” which is a redundancy, since all gifts are given for free and, according to Garner, was used initially by advertisers, who really don’t care about language anymore than a car thief cares about the car he just stole, because, apparently, their philosophy is ‘why lie in one word when you can use two and get paid more for it’ (my summary).

Free rein” is spelled without the letter ‘g’, because it alludes to horses, and not a free kingdom through which you can roam rein-less.

If you look up the term ‘freethinker’, the entry prompts you to “see atheist“. As in “freethinker. See atheist.” However, it’s snarkiness breaks down when you actually flip back to atheist, where the latter gets widdled to the former, which is really nondescript sounding, and surprising that it’s even attributed directly to religion, that makes you wonder if Garner initially meant to be snarky but his conscious shrunk his balls as he fleshed it out, or not at all.

And last, but not least, the bee’s knees of all these different variations on freedom, one of the broadest, most comprehensive concepts we have,- “free will” (which can also be written as one word) can be used to refer to the lofty philosophical question or a simple description of basic, meaning less action, such as getting up one day and watching TV for 14 hours while eating cereal, then Dominos, and then chips for dinner, which, let’s be honest, if we’re to cut through all the philosophical musings and equivocations, is what most of us ultimately do with our free will, if not a sufficient analogue.

Bryan A. Garner on

I’d like to go ahead and apologize to Garner and anyone else for any subtle or glaring grammar or usage errors, malapropisms, or just any cringingly irksome choices in attempting to set up this little playground for the word “freedom” but, this shit’s for free, so what do you expect? And that’s the most prominent problem with freedom of speech. In, admittedly, very crude terms, any jack ass can take something and completely, or just in specifica ways that vital to the thing, mess it up.

Madison wrote, “Liberty is to faction what air is to fire, an ailment without which it instantly expires. But it could not be less folly to abolish liberty, which is essential to political life, because it nourishes faction than it would be to wish the annihilation of air, which is essential to animal life, because it imparts to fire its destructive agency.” Now, you could point to qualifiers such as “political”, or the specifier, “faction”, on which the entire statement hinges, and argue that I’m reaching a bit to connect it to the pontificating of a superficially educated dumb ass. And for that, I have nothing…I am retort-free.

…Too bad Madison didn’t have a copy of Garner’s book to see he was using liberty incorrectly (in his defense though, words do stretch and change through time.)