It has been an exceptional week for those of us who own dictionaries.
For people placing classified ads and putting signs in store windows, it has apparently been an “acceptional” week.
A little background: “Except,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, came to English from Latin and French. The prefix “ex-” in this case means “out,” and the word “except” means to take out or leave out.
“Excepted” is a legitimate, though rare, verb, as in “He excepted garage sale ads from his list of well-written prose” or “present company excepted.”
Dictionary.com blames the confusion between “accept” and “except” on the similar sounds of the words. Interestingly, it also cites rapid speech as a contributor to the confusion. Apparently people who place classified ads and write door signs are fast talkers. Or they are “acceptional.” Take your pick.
Think about the difference this way: When “ex-” is involved, things are either left out (except) or they stand out (exceptional).
When “ac-” (from the Latin “ad-“) is involved, things are coming in or being embraced (accepted).
As always, slow down and think. You really don’t want to become “acceptional.”