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curmdgeon.GIF (1254 bytes) Curmudgeons' Corner

Guestmudgeon Jack Cook goes into a tack

The following appeared in the August 29, 2002, National Review Online. In  his article Disengaging in Defense of Liberty, while  discussing a change in the diplomatic approach to the problem of encouraging  democracy abroad, Michael Rubin wrote: "The U.S. has taken a different tact."  

While the National Review is usually a paragon of linguistic virtue, the use  of the word tact when the true usage is tack sets my  teeth on edge. This is not the first time I have seen it, but this one was the  last straw. I had  to call it to your attention. Please explain to your readers the difference between the nautical term and the diplomatic.

Briefly, tact is defined as "a ready and delicate sense of what is fitting and proper" while tack in this sense is "a course or line of conduct or action; implying change or difference from some preceding or other course".  It comes from the nautical verb tack "take a course or movement obliquely opposed to the direction of the wind". 

Have you heard or read similar or equally distressing usages?

Do tell us. 

Read this before commenting on this week's Curmudgeons' Corner

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