Which of the following do you usually mean when you say the word "peruse"?
7 Comments

  • Mark Ward - 11 years ago

    I've posted my follow-up.

    David Lowry wins! Andy Anonymous (I know who you are! =) did well. Mejohnso is right, too, but I question how often people will really mean "read thoroughly." I think a 2009 survey of a representative usage panel (one including old and young) would dip far below the 58% opposition in 1999 that David cited.

    So, Duncan, I say don't "improve" your diction. And Phil, I say don't let Dr. Bell get away with Lexicographical Prescriptivism! He knows better! (I invite his input, in fact! =) And, Dan, check to make sure that an ESL speaker really and truly speaks very well English before you give in!

  • David Lowry - 11 years ago

    If the trend holds in this paragraph (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/peruse), then the majority is now in favor of using the second definition:

    Usage Note: Peruse has long meant "to read thoroughly" and is often used loosely when one could use the word read instead, as in The librarians checked to see which titles had been perused in the last month and which been left untouched. Seventy percent of the Usage Panel rejected this example in our 1999 survey. Sometimes people use it to mean "to glance over, skim," as in I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, but this usage is widely considered an error. In a 1988 survey, 66 percent of the Panel found it unacceptable, and in 1999, 58 percent still rejected it.

    (From AHD 4th Ed)

  • Daniel T - 11 years ago

    I was set straight by a man who spoke English as his second language. He explained to me, in broken English, that my use of the word 'peruse' did NOT mean to quickly scan or survey.

  • Phil Gons - 11 years ago

    Since Dr. Bell set me straight in Hebrew or Advanced OTT (can't recall which), I try to always use it properly (i.e., to read thoroughly or carefully).

  • Mejohnso - 11 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    Actually, I think they're both right. If I remember correctly, both the fast and slow meanings are legitimate and the difference would normally be established by the context. Except maybe in cases like this ;)

    "Mrs. J, can you peruse this 400 page document for me?"

  • manthano - 11 years ago

    my understanding of the word is that of OED II.4.c which is see is not the primary sense of the word... oh well, usage determines meaning, right? :P

  • Duncan Johnson - 11 years ago

    Although I probably usually mean the second gloss most times I use the word, I'm pretty sure the dictionary definition is actually the first one. Thus this word is one where my diction needs to be improved.

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