It’s the Principale of the Thing

As well, essential travel like going to work, going to school,
returning to a principle residence
and getting health care is exempt from these rules.
CTV News, reporting on new BC travel restrictions

What struck me about this article on the roll-out of new travel restrictions in BC (limiting people to the boundaries of their Health Authority) (well, except for the exemptions) wasn’t the slight strangeness of them (I mean, do *you* know the boundaries of your Health Authority area? I sure don’t), anyway, what struck me was that phrase, “principle residence.”

I admit that I handle principal/principle much as I do bathroom glyphs: I always check the alternative before committing myself. And when I see another’s principal/principle usage seeming to be wrong, I don’t jump to condemnation. I pause. And then I condemn.

No, no, mindful of my own hesitation I merely note the error, if error it be. And this usage — principle residence — be an error.

A principle is a rule, a law, a guideline, or a fact. A principal is the headmaster of a school or a person who’s in charge of certain things in a company. Principal is also an adjective that means original, first, or most important. – Grammarly

That seems clear enough, doesn’t it? Even if we have to think about the different meanings of the nouns, principle is *never* an adjective. For that, we need principled.

It occurs to me that the energy consumed in choosing between principal/principle is pretty much time badly wasted. After all, what principal purpose is served, what principle is supported, by making people choose?

And so I have a modest proposal: Let us merge these words. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you . . .

prin ci pale:

1. a rule, a law, a guideline, or a fact
2. the headmaster of a school
3. a person who’s in charge of certain things in a company

adjective: original, first, or most important

We would save time and mental energy for more important things: after all, the correct use of principle is never truly the principal thing, is it? The intent would be clear from context, we could rest easy knowing that our usage was correct — because it could not be wrong — and we would add a little Old World flair to our speech.


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10 Responses to It’s the Principale of the Thing

  1. Tom Watson says:

    So was Mike Duffy right that the place he owned, but where he only stayed once in a while, was truly his “principale” residence?

  2. Jim Taylor says:

    1. Your solution seems beyond the pale…
    2. Your solution implies that you support the blending of — let’s see — mixed marriages, cheese-and-honey sandwiches, and unmatched socks?

    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – I don’t know about cheese-and-honey sandwiches, I’m all for mixed marriages and socks matched by thickness, but am not convinced of the connection. But maybe it’s thyme to think about one form of it’s/its/its’, your/yore, way/weigh/whey and so on.

  3. John Whitman says:

    Isabel – always remember, “The ‘principal’ was your ‘pal’ because he or she set the ‘principles’ by which the school was run.”

  4. I also have to think about principle/principal. I am still hung up on lie/lay, since about grade five.

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