Straight and Strait

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Straight and Strait :

If something is not crooked or curved it’s straight.

If it is a narrow passageway beween two bodies of water, it’s a strait.

Place names like “Bering Strait” are almost always spelled “strait.”

Straightjacket or Straitjacket :

The old word “strait” (“narrow, tight”) has survived only as a noun in geography referring to a narrow body of water (“the Bering Strait”) and in a few adjectival uses such as “straitjacket” (a narrowly confining garment) and “strait-laced” (literally laced up tightly, but usually meaning narrow-minded). Its unfamiliarity causes many people to mistakenly substitute the more common “straight.”

When you are threading your way through troubles as if you were traversing a dangerously narrow passage you are in “dire straits.” The expression and the band by that name are often transformed by those who don’t understand the word “strait” into “dire straights."

Common Errors Index

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