who’s trying to replace a familiar word with a foreign accent mark?

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 minutes.

MORE BOOLSCHIDT “NEW USAGE” in writing! In sev­eral ar­ti­cles in what ap­pears to be Amer­ican Eng­lish, I found writers had added a tilde (~) be­fore an amount of money. For ex­ample, a sen­tence might read, “The cost of buying orig­inal copies of all six psy­che­delic al­bums by the Straw­berry Watch Pipers in near-mint con­di­tion is ~$4,000.”

I did not have a clue what the prefix meant. In fact, the first time I saw it, I as­sumed it was a typo! It wasn’t until I saw it used re­peat­edly in a second ar­ticle that I looked it up. Ac­cording to the Gram­marist web­site:

“In in­formal writing, the tilde can be used to in­di­cate an ap­prox­i­ma­tion. This is usu­ally used with num­bers to re­place the words about or ap­prox­i­mately and is placed be­fore the number.”

Why would any writer feel the need to re­place “about”—a word that prob­ably every English-speaking reader with an IQ above 80 understands—with a symbol that few English-speaking people out­side the field of math­e­matics understand? 

Cut the crap and just write, “The cost of buying orig­inal copies of all six al­bums by the Straw­berry Watch Pipers in near-mint con­di­tion is about $4,000.”


Computer generated image of a tilde, a foreign accent mark rarely used in English.

FEA­TURED IMAGE: I found this nifty piece of art ac­com­pa­nying the ar­ticle “The Use of Ac­cent Marks in Spanish” on the Study Spanish web­site. Ac­cording to the article:

“For an Eng­lish speaker, one of the more chal­lenging as­pects of learning Spanish can be to un­der­stand and use ac­cent marks. The ac­cent marks used in Spanish ac­tu­ally make the pro­nun­ci­a­tion and con­text of the lan­guage easier to un­der­stand, not harder. You just need to learn the rules of their use and you will be much better off than if you try to skip over them. 

We started off this ar­ticle calling them ac­cent marks, but the more spe­cific name for them is tildes. In Spanish, there are not a lot of let­ters that can have a tilde over them, and the ones that do are all vowels ex­cept for one.”

PS: The pre­pos­ter­ously named psy­che­delic rock group from the ’60s men­tioned above, the Straw­berry Watch Pipers, is my cre­ation. It is a nod to three real bands with equally pre­pos­terous names: the Straw­berry Alarm Clock, the Choco­late Watch Band, and the Lemon Pipers.



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