April 8, 2015
Weekly Language Usage Tips: climactic or climatic
I was reading a book review recently and found an error. I don’t know if this will come up much in our scholarly writing, but it made me laugh, so I thought I would mention it. I can’t remember the sentence exactly but it went something like this:
The climatic conclusion arrived swiftly and dramatically, much to the consternation of the central characters.
Or something like that. So what made me laugh? The general profusion of words beginning with the letter, ‘c’? No, although that did have me shaking my head in wonder. What had me laughing was the author’s mistaken use of climatic, when what the author meant was climactic. Hilarious, isn’t it? Maybe I’ve been hanging around words a tad too long.
Let me explain. Climactic has to do with climax, and climatic pertains to climate. Here’s an example for each:
The orchestra’s volume rose repeatedly, exploding with sound at the climactic finale.
Weather forecasts are difficult to predict in the long term due to the unpredictability of climatic events.
So, our unfortunate author was writing about the ‘weather-related’ conclusion instead of the ‘intensity’ of the conclusion. Hmmm. Not that funny when writing it up.
If there’s anything in particular you want me to get into, just let me know.