« Those damn accent marks | Main | Body parts, body positions »

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?



Posted by John McIntyre at 2:46 PM | | Comments (9)


It may of course be that Americans, being more comfortable with legal process, are also more comfortable with digesting garnish and garnishee over their muesli, but speaking parochially I can't find that either of these is an appropriate expression for use in a daily newspaper - except in the parsley sense, of course.

Hmm..... i think this debate all comes down to how one parses "parsley"; taking a page from Pres. 'Bubba' Clinton's impeachment trail obfuscating ruse.

Now don't some folk refer to moolah, paper money, cold cash as "lettuce'? In that vein, perhaps to garnish one's wages would be more fitting than garnishee?

Frankly I have no tongs in this salad 'toss', since I'm not receiving wages, per se, being a proud pensioner, and no longer working for 'the man'.

Picky, hope you have a great sojourn in Cumbria (?). Stay dry, smell the wild roses, and say hi to those adorable British robins for me. They are so different from our American Robins, which are in the thrush family, and appear rather larger than your more compact, little guys. (Your Robin has a rosy-red breast, whereas ours is kind of a brick-red in hue.
Both handsome birds, nonetheless.)

I'm getting all enthused about taking in the Wimbeldon championships. For me it's the best annual major tournament of the lot, and it's taking place right in your own backyard. (Well, not literally. HA!)

Both Nadal and Federer look in fine, mid-season form, and will likely advance to at least the semi-finals. One of the pair will likely win it all.

Already, after first round play in the women's draw, Jankovic, a fairly high seed, has lost. Both Williams sisters advanced w/ wins yesterday.

I'm sure the fortnight at Wimbeldon will see some precipitation, but hopefully at a minimum.

Ta! Ta!


P.S.: Picky, I always liked the village (?) name of Much Hadem, where my favorite sculptor, the late Henry Moore, lived and worked for so many decades. Not that far from Stonehenge, as I recall. The sheep would gather under some of his monumental abstract bronzes sprinkled throughout the grounds for shelter. Just such a lovely, bucolic setting for one of Britain's most beloved, and celebrated modern artists.

Speaking of Much villages, Alex, I like Much Matchingham (not far from Blandings Castle). I have visited that part of England often, and it never fails to entertain.


Indeed, Much Matching sounds like a winner. Didn't realize there were that many "Much"-named villages in England. (Much-Ado-About-Nothing would be a fine appellation for say a village near Stratford-on-Avon, no?)

I fondly recall the odd name of a wee, nondescript village in northeast Perthshire, Scotland, namely Yetts o' Muckhart, which immediately grabbed my attention when I first laid eyes on the roadside village's signpost.

I happened to be on a one-week-intensive 50th birthday Scottish golf junket, motoring along in a little official tour minivan, tooling over to play two-out-of- the-three famous Gleneagles courses w/ my two avid golf companions, and on seeing the sign, "Yetts o' Muckhart", couldn't help but let out a chuckle, or two.

Apparently, the word "yett" is from the old Scots for "gate'. The Gaelic name, Muc-aird comes from 'muc' (pig} + 'aird' (height) ---this region of Perthshire likely being an ancient pig farming region. (Gleaned this word origin info from Wiki sources.)

The town name of Auchterarder, to my ear, has a slightly comic air about it, as well. (I remember my Glasgow-born grandmother on my Dad's side saying, "Go wash your 'oxters', lad."-----which translated meant was your 'armpits'. HA!)

The quaint old village of Auchterarder's environs are home to the aforementioned Gleneagles golf complex and their five-star hotel.

Back in mid-June of 1996 I vividly remember us three golfers from far across The Pond being decidedly jet lagged when we touched down at Glasgow airport that early evening, and our (playing) tour guide, Don Cameron, suggesting that we should take full advantage of the northern latitude's extended mid-summer daylight, and try to get in nine holes at the local Auchterarder Golf Club, before retiring for the evening at our roadside B&B, the Tourmaken Inn.

With a bit of reluctance, I said, "Let's do it.'

First hole at Auchterarder, a shortish par-4. No sweat, right?...... Wrong.

About 100 yards out was an ancient, roughly six-foot-high field-boulder fence/ wall fronted by a tight-knit row of tall, leafy deciduous trees, w/ maybe a 50 yard gap of treeless stone wall over which one could hopefully drive one's ball to the open fairway, and the 1st green beyond. Yikes!

From that point on, I knew full well that golfing in the land where the auld game was officially born would be a major challenge. The Old Course at St. Andrews, the links at Carnoustie, Gulane links, Gleneagles, and Turnbury in Robbie Burns country, did not disappoint in the least.

Talk about golf heaven........... and at times, hell. HA!

It was ALL good. No lingering regrets. Wonderful memories.




I unwittingly dropped the "ham" on your quaint Much Matchingham, in my last post.

I held the "mayo", but should have kept the ham. Oh well.

The yoke's clearly on me.


Is this the forum to comment on grammar, language and usage? Sorry, I have no reminiscences to share of that fair archipelago, but I can say it makes no sense to invest in a 2011 AP Stylebook. Only by subscribing online can one keep up with the co-op's capricious "updates."

Alex, if you really want to learn all things Much Matchingham you should read the excellent guides written by Pelham Grenville.


In my prior life as a divorce attorney, I garnished (never garnisheed) the wages of many a non-custodial parent for child support, and never a sprig of parsley involved.

They are so different from our American Robins, which are in the thrush family, and appear rather larger than your more compact, little guys.

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
Baltimore Sun Facebook page

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected