Friday, May 06, 2005

Wages vs. rages

The latest CJR Language Corner, for May and June, is up. It covers the oft-seen mistake of a battle waging on instead of raging on.
“Wage” means to engage in, conduct, carry out. It’s a transitive verb, meaning it must have an object, meaning we have to “wage” something — a battle, a campaign, war. “Wage,” by itself, just doesn’t work, with or without “on.”

“Rage,” by itself, does. It’s an intransitive verb, not allowed to have an object. Whatever or whoever is raging just does what “rage” means — proceed or spread violently, or blow off steam — without doing it to anything else. No one can rage war or a campaign or a battle or a storm. Those things (among others) just “rage.” Or sometimes “rage on.”


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