Be pacific

Talking about phrases which people, including me, are prone to mangle, made me think about individual words which are often misused.

One I’ve heard a lot is people saying pacific when they mean specific. So they might say: “Can you be more pacific?” or “I pacifically asked you to do that.”

Pacific means peaceful so I suppose it’s quite a nice thing to ask people to be – but it’s still not the word they are after, just a near homonym.

I suppose one reason it’s easy to get this word wrong is because ‘specific’ often doesn’t have much of a function in the sentence, except to add emphasis. It’s one of those words like ‘actually’ which you can actually bung in almost anywhere actually without altering the actual meaning.

Once you spot someone using the wrong word, especially if they do it regularly, it’s difficult not to correct them on it. But, gentle reader, I would caution you to resist that urge – because nobody likes a clever dick.


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