The parsley on your fish
Today’s inquiry: whether to use garnish or garnishee.
The 2010 edition of The Associated Press Stylebook* continues to insist on the distinction that to garnish is to decorate and to garnishee is to attach wages or property.
The new edition of The New Oxford American Dictionary lists garnish as a verb in both senses, garnishee as a verb as an alternative spelling, and garnishee as a noun for the person whose wages have been attached.
Garner’s Modern American Usage says that the garnish (v.) garnishee (n.) distinction is usual in American English, though Britain and some American jurisdictions favor garnishee (v.).
I suspect that when someone is told that his wages are being garnished, he does not expect that parsley will be put on them. Garnish/garnishee is another of those unnecessary distinctions long immured in AP style and unthinkingly enforced on American copy desks. (I’ve changed it in The Sun’s much-disregarded electronic stylebook; we’ll see if anyone notices.)
*Yes, I somehow still haven’t gotten around to ordering the 2011 edition. Should the suspense be killing me?