English pet peeve: taut vs. taught February 11, 2013Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Random musings.
I’ve been encountering this misuse a lot lately, and it never fails to make me cringe.
Students are taught, ropes are pulled taut.
According to Merriam-Webster:
1 a: having no give or slack : tightly drawn <a taut rope>, b : high-strung, tense <taut nerves>
2 a: kept in proper order or condition <a taut ship>, b: (1): not loose or flabby <taut muscles> (2): marked by economy of structure and detail <a taut story>
The origin of taut is the Middle English word tought, perhaps from tought, toughth fierce, tough, alteration of tough tough
But it seems most American native speakers seem to think the word to use in connection with muscles or someone’s face post-cosmetic surgery (which is what set me off this time) is taught. No!!! I’ve seen it in comments on blogs (not here thank goodness) and fan fiction. So just to let all you non-native speakers know… the correct word is taut. Taught is a verb that means impart skills or knowledge to or accustom gradually to some action or attitude. A verb – not an adjective!
Thanks for letting me rant.