Professional Style

Flaunt vs. Flout

December 2010
Spot the Error

After being pulled over for a traffic violation in 1989, Zsa Zsa Gabor flaunted the law by slapping the police officer in the face.

Remember Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Hungarian-born beauty queen who became an American celebrity? In her heyday, she most certainly flaunted her looks, her wealth, and her multiple marriages, but she never flaunted the law.

What we have here is a case of sound-alike: flaunt and flout. Flaunt means to show off; flout means to show contempt for. Accordingly, what Zsa Zsa did when she slapped the police officer was to flout the law.

Need some help remembering the difference? Theodore M. Bernstein, a past consulting editor of The New York Times, offers this fun, mnemonic device:

One who is defiant of authority is, to mint a word, a floutlaw.

Thanks, Theodore.

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