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Buck's English: Many fluent people are affluent

Gene Owens: The difference between fluent and affluent are discussed by Buck.
BY GENE OWENS Published: July 3, 2012

“A normally very good sports writer ... appears to me to have blown it,” said attorney Rex Travis as he stopped by Curly's Soonerco for a brief chat with Buck and the boys. “Writing of a non-native English-speaking player, he wrote, ‘We about have him affluent in English.'

“Since the article isn't talking about the football player's financial condition, he meant ‘fluent,' (ready or facile in speech), not ‘affluent' (rich) did he not?”

Buck sees a couple of possible explanations for this gaffe. The writer may have been quoting someone directly, in which case the goof came from the speaker, not from the writer. Or it could have been a mental lapse on the writer's part — one that should have been caught by a copy editor. When such minor glitches occur in spoken English, Buck prefers to quote what the speaker meant to say, not what he actually said. That is, unless the objective was to illustrate the speaker's poor command of the language.

Though “fluent” and “affluent” share a common root, the two words have quite different meanings. “Fluent” literally means “fluid” or “flowing.” In the context of language, it means being able to use a language easily and accurately. The English word has been around since the late 16th century.

“Affluent” literally means “flowing in abundance,” and usually is used to describe someone who has material abundance. It entered the language during the 15th century.

“Luther isn't fluent when he's affluent,” said Gopher. “When he's loaded with cash, the booze starts flowing, and his tongue gets tangled.”

Send questions for Buck to Gene Owens, 104 Belspring Lane, Anderson, SC 29621, or email him at Please let Buck know what town you're from.


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