English usage bugbears, part II:
- Comprised/composed of. The parts comprise the whole; the whole is composed of the parts. England, Northen Ireland, Scotland and Wales comprise the United Kingdom; the UK is composed of the three provinces of Great Britain, and Northern Ireland.
- Mutual. Strictly speaking, mutual does not mean 'in common', or 'shared', except in the sense of 'reciprocal'. Thus, 'X and Y have a mutual love of chocolate" is incorrect - the chocolate loves neither X nor Y. 'X and Y have a mutual hatred' is correct. They hate each other. I probably have to concede defeat on this one, however. If Charles Dickens gets it wrong (Our Mutual Friend) then do you wanna be right? I do, but I appreciate the hopelessness of the situation.
- The reflexive personal pronouns (myself, yourself, etc.). These are fine when used in their true reflexive sense: 'I painted the kitchen myself'; 'I'm gonna sit right down and write myself a letter' (which latter tends to throw machine dictation programs into a spin: 'machine: write a letter to Mr Wright, right now'). Where the -self pronouns are wrongly used is as substitutes for the straightforward direct personal pronouns he, I, you: 'My father was a salesman, like myself'. Even worse, 'the task fell to Jones and myself'.
More entries in this quixotic, snobbish and extremely pedantic series as I think of them.