This is the language police: We're surrounded

 - 
11/20/2007
Here's reason #354 why I should never have been handed the keys to a blog: A prolonged rant on compliment/complement. This particular rant has been triggered by a release posted by Imperial Capital, an investment bank that just bought another investment bank, USBX (one of their four vertical interests is security). Here's the offending sentence: "The addition of the USBX team is the perfect compliment to our existing professionals and will increase our M&A capabilities and expertise. So, basically, the deal is a way of saying, "good job," to the existing professionals. "Hey, guys, you've done such a nice job with that whole merging and acquiring thing that we're going to go out and buy another banking firm. Sound good? Good." Why is this particular homonym pair so difficult for people? I even recently discovered that if you google "compliment" and "deal" (don't ask why I was doing that) it returns pages with the word "complement" as well. And vice versa. I find that to be messed up. It's wrong in press releases more often than it's right, I'd swear. (It's ironic that USBX CEO John Mack is quoted using "complementary" correctly later in the release.) For reference, here's the Oxford American's explanation of the conundrum: USAGE: Complement and compliment (and the related words complementary and complimentary) are frequently confused. Although pronounced alike, they have quite different meanings. As a verb, complement means 'add to (something) in a way that completes, enhances, or improves,' as in: Janet's new necklace complemented her pearl earrings nicely. Compliment means 'admire and praise (someone) for something,' as in: They complimented Janet on her new necklace. Complementary means 'forming a complement or addition, completing,' as in: I purchased a suit with a complementary tie and handkerchief. This can be confused with complimentary, for which one sense is 'given freely, as a courtesy': You must pay for the suit, but the tie and handkerchief are complimentary. Try not to hate me.