November 27, 2018

"Forego"/"forgo."

Oh, come on! Who doesn't know the "forego"/"forgo" distinction?!

I'm reading this humor piece in The New Yorker — "Dr. Seuss’s Freelance Rhymes and Woes" by Jeremy Nguyen — and I'm having a pretty humorless reaction to the last of 6 reinvented Dr. Seuss book covers:



The Grammarist explains:
The original definition of forego is to go before. This definition is easy to remember because both forego and before have the syllable fore, with an e. To forgo, meanwhile, is to do without (something) or to pass up voluntarily. But forgo has so completely encroached on forego's territory that the latter’s older sense is now essentially lost (outside legal contexts and the phrase foregone conclusion—see below), and forgo now bears the secondary definition to go before.
In short, the foregone conclusion is don't write "forego."

I remember when The New Yorker was punctilious about word editing.

31 comments:

Ralph L said...

I've managed to forgo Fargo, the film. Forge me a medal.

EDH said...

"Forgoabaoutit".

chillblaine said...
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chillblaine said...
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rhhardin said...

That was the Ross era.

Thurber did a nice essay describing the complete New Yorker operation that got every fact wrong.

rhhardin said...

Fargo (1996) was a great film. Marge ought to be a feminist hero.

chillblaine said...
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Fernandistein said...

Who doesn't know the "forego"/"forgo" distinction?!

The rule is: never use either word.

gilbar said...

Our Professor said... I remember when The New Yorker was punctilious about word editing.

I (too, am SO OLD, that I) remember when school taught English not Social Justice and condoms on bananas

Left Bank of the Charles said...

This needs a grammar bullshit tag. Not that grammar is bullshit, but a lot of what is written about grammar is. Even the grammartist admitted it hadn’t been able to track down “even a few” examples of forego in what it regards as its more traditional sense. If the only examples you can cite use forego as a variant spelling of forego, perhaps it is just a variant spelling.

BJM said...

I remember when The New Yorker was worth reading. I used to care, but things have changed.

TML said...

The Merriam Webster Dictionary of English Usage has another POV on this. Apparently, forgo has been spelled "forego." However the reverse is not true. I believe they even namecheck Bill Bryson as a denier of this fact.

I call this book the "Argument Ender"

I'm almost certain you have a copy! Page 457.

Original Mike said...

Blogger Ralph L said...”I've managed to forgo Fargo, the film. Forge me a medal.”

Your loss.

Ralph L said...

If the only examples you can cite use forego as a variant spelling of forego

This is a new twist: making an error when pointing out something as a non-error.

Tommy Duncan said...

"I remember when The New Yorker was punctilious about word editing. "

Most mainstream editors are now focused on maintaining the purity of the narrative.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

Does any kind of publication employ copy editors any more?

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

The correct phrasing as a question is: "Did A forego B?"

As a statement the correct phrasing is: "Yes, A forewent B."

Crazy Jane said...

If the formerly prissy, high-culture New Yorker has given up on correct usage, the whole shebang is over.

Precision in expression used to be associated with precision in thinking. That's over too.

We now have an emojipedia that relieves us of the burden of having to communicate in words.

As René Descartes said, "I feel; therefore I am."

Enjoy the squalor.

Murph said...

Therefore, is this compare/contrast word game in the same category therefor as "therefor" v. "therefore"?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

My forebears would want me to forbear commenting on this

Marcus said...

Forgo, ND.

My high school senior prom date was the agent for William H. Macy at the time of his performance in Fargo. He graciously invited her along to the Academy Awards (he was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role but did not win; Kevin Spacey the pervert won so.....). I managed to see her twice on camera. It was the last time I watched that political forum.

THEOLDMAN

gerry said...

I remember when The New Yorker was punctilious about word editing.

Those were the day when New Yorker staffers had genuine high school diplomas.

Sigivald said...

OED says "forego" is a variant spelling of "forgo". In fact, they list it BEFORE "precede in place or time".

OED always wins; "forego" for "go without" is completely acceptable.

"Grammarist" doesn't get to tell me otherwise.

Earnest Prole said...

I'm loathe to defend a publication that features neo-umlaut solecisms like reëlect and coöperate, but the most authoritative American dictionary considers forego an entirely acceptable variant spelling. Whether it's the best choice is a different question.

Ken B said...

Forego = not garner

Ken B said...

Prole
Both Oxford and Cambridge give these as variant spellings. So I’d say it’s unanimous amongst the most authoritative dictionaries.

jimbino said...

Every other job ad solicits candidates with language skills "both written and verbal," as if they were mutually exclusive or complementary. No, and they probably mean to say, "both written and oral." It does make sense, though, when they admit that what they need are technical writers, editors and proofreaders.

Rabel said...

Humor is better when it's funny.

That set of cartoons might have generated one tiny smile.

Here is a batch from the same artist. Also not funny, but on point for this post.

Phidippus said...

I remember when The New Yorker was punctilious about word editing.


They can't afford to get too far ahead of their readership these days. Self-esteem and all, you know.

jimbino said...

It's not enough that a dictionary be "authoritative." It also needs to be prescriptive, not descriptive, to be of any real value to a person trying to improve his English. The only one that comes close is the American Heritage Dictionary.

A foreigner trying to master English would have every reason to fire you as a ESL teacher relying on any descriptive dictionary. The only value of a descriptive dictionary is that it might help the learner decipher the lousy English spoken by the world's anglophones.

Earnest Prole said...

It's not enough that a dictionary be "authoritative." It also needs to be prescriptive

Meh. A lot of prescriptive American spelling and grammatical rules are flat-out wrong. I once had the pleasure of watching a foolish-consistency American copy editor attempt to explain to a famous English author that his use of which and that were deficient.