Why You Should Be Wary of Writing Weary Instead of Wary
by Owen Fourie
Was it a dream or a nightmare?
At the farther end of a dark alley, the trumpets sounded. The fanfare of competence in English usage announced that some students had achieved their goal. Many still struggled in the alley.
On either side of that narrow lane, tall piles of musty books—grammar texts, dictionaries, thesauri and literature—threatened to topple and crush any student struggling along to reach the place of competence.
Through the mire of blood, sweat, crumpled paper, F-grade essays, and tears, they made their way.
Their feet, shackled by the weight of many rules, sometimes refused to go on, but then the quicksand of despair tugged at their weary limbs. Of this they had to be wary, or they would lose all hope.
Up they rose and on they went. Not for long. From each recess amongst the piles of books, protruded the foot of a sneering demon who tripped them and burdened them with yet another rule…
This was one student’s nightmare. Is this how you feel about the study and usage of English? Beware! It can make you weary, especially if you aren’t vigilant and wary.
Weary and wary
Here are two words that confuse many. Let’s be aware of them.
The more familiar word is weary, which is used correctly more often than not. Wary is the word that is a stumbling block to many. Often, when it should be used, you will see it written as weary.
Weary and wary are distinct words of similar (not identical) sound but with different roots and meanings.
This is an adjective that describes the physical or mental condition of someone who is worn out by hard work.
Tired, exhausted, and fatigued are suitable synonyms for weary.
You can also be exhausted or wearied (used as a verb) by hot weather, delays, boring routine, and criticism.
The quicksand of despair tugged at their weary limbs.
The root of weary is an Old English word, wērig.
This is also an adjective, but it is related to beware and aware, which will tell you that it speaks of caution, of taking care in a situation that could be harmful.
Careful, watchful, cautious, alert, vigilant, suspicious, guarded, chary are some of the synonyms for wary. Leery is another synonym, but not for formal usage.
Of this they had to be wary, or they would lose all hope.
The root of wary is also an Old English word, wær.
If there are other words like weary and wary that trouble you, mention them here. Your comments, observations, and questions are welcome.
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