Which Word Wednesday: Complement vs. Compliment

By February 20, 2013 language No Comments

http://studentbranding.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Compliment-Complement.jpgWord glitches happen. Given the right set of circumstances, anyone can insert the wrong word for the context.

That’s what happened at Christ and Pop Culture for an article title that needed either complement or compliment. The one with I was chosen and posted for the world to see—and that wasn’t correct. eek! The author alerted the editing team of the error so a quick edit could be made and cheers were heard around the world. (Proper language is so popular!)

The incident inspired today’s Which Word Wednesday. Let’s look at the definitions from The Oxford American Dictionary:

noun :: a thing that completes or brings to perfection
verb :: add to (something) in a way that enhances or improves it; make perfect

noun :: a polite expression of praise or admiration
verb :: politely congratulate or praise (someone) for something

The words are different; no one would contest that. But it’s remembering which word to use for the context that trips us up.

We need some memory hooks. How about:

Complement with an E makes things complEtE, as in: These green eggs complement the ham. They go well together.

Compliment with an I raises things up high, as in: These green eggs compliment the ham. “You are so tasty!” said the Green Eggs to the Ham.

Those are memory hooks you won’t soon forget. (Yes, those are originals. You’re welcome.)

What’s my WWW verdict? If your breakfast speaks, maybe don’t eat it.

What’s your verdict? Do you keep your complements and compliments straight? What’s your most recent word glitch? Do share in the comments.

Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

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