'Recouping' Gives Reader Paws

Rob Kyff on

Today, some questions from readers ...

Curt Guenther of Memphis asked me to vet this sentence describing a Labrador retriever's recovery from health problems: "Hayden has spent the last three months recouping."

Unless Hayden has regained money he lost in the stock market (he must have picked some dogs!), he's better off "recuperating."

"Recuperate," meaning to recover or regain, is most often used in health contexts. It's usually an intransitive verb ("Joan is recuperating from pneumonia") but can be transitive as well ("Joan recuperated her strength.")

"Recoup" also means to recover or regain, but it's most often used in financial contexts. It's usually a transitive verb ("Joan recouped her losses"), but it can also be intransitive ("The Tampa Bay Buccaneers slipped in midseason but then recouped to make the playoffs.")

True, this intransitive, nonfinancial, general use of "recoup" could possibly be applied to Hayden's recovery. After all, like the Bucs, he's regaining a favorable position (in Hayden's case, up on all fours). But "recuperate" is the better word to describe Hayden's medical recovery.

(By the way, what we may be witnessing here is the development of a shortened form of "recuperate" -- "recupe." After all, the verbs "demonstrate" and "promote" are often clipped to "demo" and "promo," respectively, as in, "Let's demo and promo the product." But if this is happening to "recuperate," the clipped form of its present participle should be spelled "recuping," not "recouping.")

Roy Wiseman of West Hartford, Connecticut, asks whether there's a connection between the small, horse-drawn carriage called a "sulky" and the verb "sulk."


Indeed, there is! When these one-person vehicles first appeared during the 1700s, they were mockingly dubbed "sulkies" because the people who used them presumably wanted to be alone so they could sulk in solitude.

Isadore Grossman of Southfield, Michigan, wonders about the verb "grow" in expressions such as "grow the economy." He suggests using "expand the economy."

The use of "grow" as a transitive verb has long been common in English ("grow a mustache," "grow corn"). But during recent years, trendy business types, capitalizing on the word's nurturing, watering-can connotations, have cunningly transplanted it into the hothouse of bizspeak jargon ("grow profits," "grow customers").

While grammatically flawless, it's now overgrown and overused. I give it a (green) thumbs down.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Connecticut, invites your language sightings. His book, "Mark My Words," is available for $9.99 on Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via email to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2024 Creators Syndicate Inc.




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