For example, I had no idea that there was a difference between compared to and compared with. Did you?
Compare: A is compared with B when you draw attention to the difference. A is compared to B only when you want to stress their similarity. ( “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?”)It had never occured to me either that there was anything wrong with the expression softly spoken, or the term homosexuals and lesbians. Nor was I aware of the difference between to forgo and to forego (I think I may have been guilty of that crime against the English language here).
Others are more widely known eg. the distinction between less and fewer. Although native English speakers so frequently use less instead of fewer that I no longer correct students for if they get it wrong. There are more important things in life; there are more important things to be taught in an English course.
Certain of these unsayables seem to have been included just to refute American usage. It's true that the American "to protest the plans" has always sounded a little strange to me:
Protest. By all means protest your innocence, or your intention to write good English, if you are making a declaration. But if you are making a complaint or objection, you must protest at or against it.Others can only have been included to be deliberately provocative :
Scotch: to scotch means to disable, not to destroy. (“We have scotched the snake, not killed it.”) The people may also be Scotch, Scots or Scottish; choose as you like. Scot-free means free from payment of a fine (or punishment), not free from Scotsmen.I mean, come on: the people may bloody not be called Scotch. Indeed, we ra people refuse to be called Scotch.
I suspect that if any of the sticklers at the Economist who compiled this list were to take a quiz on Facebook they would have an apopletic fit.