2 Simple, Everyday Vocabulary Rules

Language & Editing

 I’d like to take a look at two pairs of words that are increasingly, incorrectly interchanged. No, I’m not talking about your/you’re and it’s/its — not that it doesn’t hurt a little inside every time I read “your welcome” in online correspondence, or when a parking lot sign tells me that “Management is not responsible for any vehicle or it’s contents.”

No, these are two pairs of words that, when confused in the ways they commonly are, produce not only an incorrect meaning but also a meaning that is actually the opposite of what is intended.

Every day versus Everyday

Every day means “daily.” It’s what signs in store windows should say when the management or owners want passersby to know that their business is open, or has great deals, Monday through Sunday. Every day. Instead, those signs, more often than not, it seems, say Open Everyday, or New Sales Everyday.

But everyday means “ordinary, usual.” Of course, the expression of frequency every day and the adjective everyday are closely related: things that happen on a daily basis (every day) tend to become commonplace (everyday). But in attempting to promote to potential customers what is notable and special about their stores, those putting everyday signs in their windows are using a word that means the opposite of notable or special.  

However, amidst the masses of misused everydays, a clever exception can increasingly be found in grocery stores and fast-food menus that I suspect might even be exploiting the common conflation of every day and everyday: “Everyday value.”

Yes, the sale or menu is available every day, but (stay with me) it’s also special because it’s everyday. These companies are promoting the idea that offering their customers value is just par for the course; what’s special about their prices is that they’re not special prices. “Everyday value” is just the kind of value you can and should expect from them, well, every day.

Simple versus Simplistic

"What I really appreciate about this dish is how simplistic it is," croons the Food Network judge around bites of a dish hastily prepared by a harried chef from a random selection of surprise ingredients for our TV-viewing amusement. The judge croons, I cringe. What she means is that she likes how simple the dish is, how its flavours stand out because the chef used only a few ingredients and prepared them in an uncomplicated manner.

In this context, simple can most certainly be a compliment. Simplistic, on the other hand, is never a compliment. Simplistic means “too simple.”

My trusty Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines simplistic as “excessively or affectedly simple,” or “oversimplified so as to conceal or distort difficulties.” So, although a dish of food can also definitely be described as simplistic, this word has a negative connotation and should be used by Food Network judges — or by anyone else — only to express a criticism, not to pay a compliment.

I offer these simple, everyday vocabulary rules for your consideration.