Flaunt, Flout

How to Be Careful Not to Flaunt What You Should Flout

by Owen Fourie

Here is a brief item to help you to avoid the error that I almost made while writing an article last week.

It is easy to carry on and use a word that is commonly used in a certain way.

Sometimes, though, you have to check yourself, especially if you get a nagging doubt about the usage.

This is what happened to me. I was writing a sentence as an example for a particular point.

I wrote, “Although his friends flaunted the rules of the competition, Justin argued that it was necessary to observe them…”

What I was trying to say was that these friends were holding the rules in contempt. Was flaunt the right word to use? I had my doubts.

As I looked into the matter, I found that, somehow, it has become quite common for flaunt to be used to mean “to show contempt for.”

The word that should be used instead of flaunt is flout. To be correct, I had to say, “Although his friends flouted the rules of the competition …”

So when should you use flaunt and when should you use flout? Let’s see.

Flaunt

Meaning: to show off something

Example: Trying to impress her peers, she flaunted her knowledge of many things.

Flout

Meaning: to display contempt for something

Example: With so many frivolous laws* on the statute books, the people felt that such nonsense deserved to be flouted.

For the pronunciation of these words, click on the loudspeaker icons at these links:

Now you can see why the title says, “How to Be Careful Not to Flaunt What You Should Flout.”

You should take care not to boast of what is a questionable action or condition. It is better to dismiss it.

*Frivolous laws

There are many frivolous laws. Consider this, for instance: The entire Encyclopedia Britannica is banned in Texas because it contains a formula for making beer at home.

It is possible that this is sheer fabrication, but if it is true this law should be treated with contempt. It should be flouted.

This link will tell you what the Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog has to say about this. [Editor’s note, 2-13-2013: Unfortunately, the page at this link is no longer available.]

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