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Malapropism Monday, Week 4 — Compliment vs. Complement

It’s Monday again! You know what that means, right? I still have some malapropisms left on my list, so I’ll continue with this series a while longer.

Today I wanted to focus on the use and misuse of “compliment” and “complement.” This is a pair of words that people mix up all the time, in my experience. In fact, I mentioned it in my recent post on TokyoTreat snack subscription boxes. Here’s a screenshot from their (overall enjoyable and well-done) magazine that comes in the box:

I mentioned in that post that, among a couple small typos, here is an example of the misuse of “compliment.” To compliment is to say kind or flattering things about something or someone.

If you imagine that the vanilla cream and airy chocolate are saying kind words about the monaka, well, you’re far more creative than I am, and you should comment to let me know where I can read your stories! Or even better, you should make some cute little comics about it! I’d read them! Just let me proofread them for you.

Almost certainly, the writer here meant to say that the flavors complement each other, which means they go well together and complete each other. And yes, they did! That was a delicious treat, probably my favorite in the January box.

Here’s an example of using the two words correctly:

“That gold eyeshadow really complements your dark brown eyes,” Jamie complimented her friend.

Finally, don’t mix these words up with the plural “compliments.” In the plural, “compliments” can mean good wishes or greetings. It’s normally used in phrases like “compliments of the chef” or “send my compliments to Joe for a job well done.” And “complimentary” means “free of charge,” while “complementary” means “completing” or “making a complement.”

This post is compliments of me! I hope it complements the rest of the blog, but I don’t expect to receive a compliment about it. Got it?



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