Grammar 101 with Michael Kwan

Putting aside the concept of body language and tones for just a moment, it is generally understood that we have two primary forms of communication: written and verbal. Moving from one to the other can sometimes cause all sorts of confusion and this is very common in the case of homophones.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times that there, their and they’re have been misused. While not nearly as common, there have also been circumstances where I’ve heard (or read) people misusing not, naught and knot, along with various related terms.

“Not” generally indicates a negation. Whereas saying that the box is blue is an affirmative statement, saying that the box is not blue would indicate that the box is some color other than blue. Not too many people have trouble understanding this basic concept.

“Naught” is a term that is more common in Great Britain than it is in North America. It is generally defined as the concept of zero or none. For instance, you could say that the final score in game was three to naught. This is not to be confused with the term “naughty,” which could be thought of as being unruly, mischievous, or otherwise not behaving in an appropriate manner.

“Knot” has two common meanings. First, it is a measure of speed in the context of wind or water. I don’t believe that this has some connection to “nautical,” which has to do with the sea (e.g., a nautical mile), but don’t quote me on that. One knot is equivalent to one nautical mile per hour, which is how you’d measure your speed when you are out at sea. Second, you could tie a knot in a rope or, colloquially, “tying the knot” refers to getting married.

Do you have a suggestion for a future Grammar 101 post? Do let me know through the comment section below.