The Red Pen: “Phase” vs. “Faze”

We Need to Talk About Grammar is a weekly feature in which I complain about grammatical mistakes I encounter all too often. Feel free to commiserate below, and check out the archives here!

After all the crazy stuff I’ve seen in the ER, nothing phases me anymore.

I hate to admit this, but it took me a long time to accept “faze” into my vocabulary. I’m not really sure why, but I insisted (to myself, at least) that “faze” was an incorrect, made-up word that shouldn’t be used in writing.

Well, folks, I was wrong.

Vol. 24 wrong gif

I was even wrong about how recent it is; having thought for a long time that it was basically made up, I figured it was made up recently. But according to Merriam-Webster [LINK:], the first-known use was in 1830. It comes from the Middle English fesen and Old English fēsian, “to drive away.” Learn something new every day, huh?

Anyway, the correct word to use in the above example sentence is faze.

Phase (n.) – A distinct period or stage in a process.
Faze (v.) – To disturb the composure of; disconcert.

Phase can also be a verb, meaning to carry something out in gradual stages; I think the most common use of this is probably to phase out, as in Over a period of a few years, Apple phased out the iPod Classic in favor of the iPod Touch. (This is something I’m very upset about, by the way.) But faze is still the correct word to use when you mean disturb.

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