spelling “lose”

I know that I’m the last person that should complain about spelling (thank you, Rhode), but there’s one spelling mistake which is so common that I wonder if the language is actually changing. I refer, of course, to spelling “lose” as “loose.” As in “you have nothing to loose,” which, although perfectly grammatical and even appropriate in some contexts (fishing, for example?), does not convey the meaning of the idiom as it is commonly understood.

Am I hallucinating, or has anyone else noticed this?

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0 thoughts on “spelling “lose”

  1. I’ve noticed it… but I’ll be damned if the language is actually changing. It annoys me almost as much as “prolly” does. :-p

    Also, I don’t think it’s grammatical in the sentence you’ve used. It should be, “You have nothing to loosen,” often heard at nudist camps.

    Oh, and you’re welcome. 🙂

  2. There’s “loose” as into “set loose” and there’s “loosen.” Imagine you have a number of birds that you are freeing. At the end you will have nothing to (set) loose, so one might say you have nothing to loose. Or is that usage too colloquial?

  3. It’s beyond too colloquial — it’s just wrong. You pointed out in your parentheses what the correct usage would be. Think about it… when you’re fishing, you say “We set the rock bass loose.” You never say, “We loose the rock bass.” That just doesn’t make sense. “Loose” is not a verb in that usage; it’s an adjective. (For example, you can say “The loose rock bass is floating on top of the water.”)

    But dictionary.com appears to back you up on this one. Just goes to show that even dictionaries can be wrong sometimes. 🙂

  4. I think it’s probably because I’m using the infinitive form of the verb rather than the present active. So “to set loose” can become “to loose” because the whole verb phrase is acting to modify “nothing.”

  5. I’m with Anand/dict on this one. I think you could say, “Loose the hounds!” It’s not common usage, but most people don’t flinch at things like “a number of penguins are swimming around the tank”, so maybe I’m just a pedant.

  6. I went back and read all the comments:
    there is something being missed:
    it is okay to say “to loosen” as in the noose (to make a funny)
    or the belt when you’ve digested too much dictionary.com and lettuce for lunch (as in “let us do”);
    but “to lose” is about battles, and “track of,” and that lunch when you suddenly contract the flu after dining, which is also a kind of loosing or loosening.

    Let’s get real: folks just do not any longer have a grip on this difference — not so when they speak, but when they write.


  7. I agree that “to loose” is a valid verb, but one that is rarely applicable to anything, especially online. Lose/loose misspellings are an annoyance of mine, too. Not as much as apostrophe’s gone wild, though.

  8. Apostrophes Gone Wild is a great video series. Who would have thought so many drunk punctuation marks would be willing to flash the camera?

    Merriam-Webster lists all of the following as definitions of “loose” as a verb:

    1 a : to let loose : RELEASE b : to free from restraint
    2 : to make loose : UNTIE
    3 : to cast loose : DETACH
    4 : to let fly : DISCHARGE
    5 : to make less rigid, tight, or strict : RELAX

    But I still think that most of the people who use “loose” where one expects “lose” are being ignorant rather than blazing new lexicographical trails.

  9. Gee, I do not think that’s accurate, Brandy: “…to loose the hounds of Hell” seems like a common endeavor online — authors, commentators, and pundits are all involved in this achievement, which mostly loses the rest of us unto the dilemma whether or not to respond to…or even read IT. But we hang loose and try to be charmed and charming even when we know in advance we may lose that battle. Too.

  10. The opposite mistake (“you’re” for “your”) also annoys me. And add “there”/”their”/”they’re” to that list too. Oh, let’s face it… I am easily annoyed by bad spelling (and Anand is well aware of that :)).

    The problem is that people are too reliant on spell checkers and don’t actually bother to learn to spell on their own. If I was in a position to accept or reject someone for a job or grad school or what have you, I would immediately throw out any application that made errors like this. It bothers me that much.

    I have the same problem with people who are too dependent on calculators and can no longer add, but that’s a different rant.

  11. I’m just going to another word or two on the use of “loose” as a verb, and call to mind some lyrics from the Battle Hymn of the Republic:

    “He has loosed the fateful lightening of His terrible swift sword”

    Although, honestly I can’t say I’ve ever heard it used in conversation or anything, and it’s definitely no excuse for mental degenerates to mix up “loose” and “lose.” Yes, it’s one of my pet peeves as well.

    In high school, our english teacher (a crotchety old Jesuit priest) had a list of “sacreds.” The “loose-lose” thing and “apostrophes gone wild” were definitely on the list. Making any of these mistakes would mean an automatic failure for the assignment. Harsh, but quite effective.

  12. I have noticed this “lose” v “loose” error as well – even on the web sites of respected news organizations! When I have contacted them about their mistake, their responses have ranged from apologetic embarrassment to indignant annoyance.

  13. I have not only noticed, but have been counting. In my count about 50% of instances where “lose” would be accurate, the writer has instead used “loose”. It leaps out of the page and annoys the hell out of me. So many of the population are unable to spell this simple little four letter word. It crosses social divisions too, from teenagers to older managers who should know far better. Few seem to care any more. Please let the world end soon so as to save us from any more of this.


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