Sunday, February 24, 2008



Last week I heard an announcer on Minnesota Public Radio say, "She took umbrance with that." There are over a thousand examples of the solecism umbrance on Google. Not only was the radio announcer's noun incorrect, but so was his preposition. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, you can give umbrage (displeasure, annoyance, offence, resentment) to and take umbrage at, but you can't take umbrage with.

There are also hundreds of examples of umbrance in Google Books, most of them due to faulty optical character recognition of encumbrance. I did note among the Google Books examples "in the semblance of the substance for the membrance of the umbrance with the remnance of the emblence," from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake. Joyce was obviously playing with words, but just as obviously Rand B. Evans in Thomas Carlyle Dalton and Rand B. Evans, edd. The Life Cycle of Psychological Ideas: Understanding Prominence and the Dynamics of Intellectual Change (Springer, 2004), p. 30, was serious:
Even today one criticizes James with care lest some of his present day admirers take umbrance.
I take umbrage at umbrance.

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