Each week, we chat about the quirks and anomalies of the English language. This week, quiet please, we get advisory…
Q: So time for another Q&A huh?
A: Yup. Hey, what’s that on your head?
Q: Don’t I ask the questions?
A: Right, okay. Off you go then.
Q: What’s this on my head?
A: We don’t know, please tell us all.
Q: Gladly. I’ve been out playing tennis – it’s a visor. You know, like the ones you see the 7-foot tall female European players named things like “Kantservitova” wearing. Actually, is it spelt “visor” or “viser”?
A: No, definitely a “visor” is the headgear. The other spelling isn’t used.
Q: But why when I google “viser”, do I get 90 million hits?
A: You could also google “Kim Kardashian genius” and get 20 million hits. Not sure the internet is a fantastic yardstick. But there is another reason in this case.
Q: Which is?
A: Well, it’s because the world isn’t just full of the English language. “Viser” exists as a noun and verb, in Danish and French. And our “visor” derives from Anglo-Norman/Old French “viser” once upon a time.
Q: Okay, fair enough, I’ll give you that point. 0-15. But what about a more common confusion – adviser vs advisor? Which is the correct one?
A: Finally a decent question. Well, you’ll see both used around the globe – and the North Americans especially like to use “advisor”. Perhaps because it’s often considered a logical step from “advisory”.
Q: But as we know, the golden rule of English is that logic does not live here.
A: Correct. After all, the verb is “to advise”. And despite even in Australia seeing “Careers Advisor” or “Financial Advisor” etc, we recommend using the “e” version – “adviser” for all uses.
Q: All uses? I’m sorry, that ball seemed out. I’m going to have to challenge that one.
A: It’s that word “consistency” again. Some people use “adviser” for someone giving advice and reserve “advisor” for the official professional paid job. But there really shouldn’t be a distinction like that. Use one or use the other (and this may depend on your company/publication style guide). If it’s up to you here in Oz, the Macquarie Dictionary (Australia’s best yardstick) considers “adviser” the main spelling, but does note that “advisor” is commonly used.
Q: You’ve used “yardstick” twice today. What exactly IS a yardstick?
A: Okay, fair call. Well, a yard is 36 inches long–
Q: Three big Subway sandwiches?
A: Yes, that. Three feet. About 91.44cm. So a yardstick is a rod of that length. But we also use it figuratively to mean the standard to which other measures are judged. Got it?
Q: Got it. 0-30, nicely played. So you’re saying use “adviser” for everything?
A: Yes, we are – unless a style guide says otherwise.
Q: Even for the job title? Even though we have supervisors, professors, editors, authors, tutors, janitors, doctors, sailors and tailors?
A: Teacher, builder, lawyer, writer, banker, cleaner, bus driver, bricklayer, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. Your point?
Q: Ahem. No, your point. 0-40. Well played.
A: Remember, both forms do get used around the world. But in this part of the world, it’s best to go with “adviser”, despite the fact “–or” is creeping in. Even in North America, the Associated Press in US opt for “–er” while the government goes with “–or”, so that’s a bit messy.
Q: Okay, fair enough. And after all, it is “Roger Federer”, not “Federor”… Probably because he never wears a visor.
A: Um, that has nothing to do with—
Q: Game, set and match!
A: Wasn’t the score only 0-40?
Q: Yeah, sorry, we had to stop. Someone complained that we were making a racquet.
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