[Caution ! Correcting others, especially in company, may prompt them to try defensively to discredit or deride you !
There are two types of people - those who embrace being corrected and learning from it, and those who resist
being corrected, thus making it difficult for themselves to learn. The former may be found to be happier, safer to be around and more
interesting company than the latter.]
Vulnerable: some mispronounce it as "vunnerable",
and protest that they cannot do otherwise. So we have devised the following test and exercise -
anyone who can pronounce the phrases before "vul-ner-able" need have no difficulty correctly pronouncing "vulnerable".
- Neither evil nor able,
- Neither oval nor oblong, .
- Neither level nor oblique,
- But vul-ner-able
Statistics: Our test: anyone who can correctly pronounce "high-status Texan" need have no difficulty correctly pronouncing
Schnitzel: Our test: anyone who can correctly pronounce "she knits lovingly" need have no difficulty correctly pronouncing
Criteria is surely one of the most often misused words in recent times, by those who parrot others
and do not bother to check any dictionary. It is the plural of criterion,
which has been used in English since at least 1622 to mean "a standard by which anything is judged or estimated" (Oxford Dictionary).
It does not mean "minimum requirement" or "factor to consider". Many a far-flung pub proudly bears the name: "Criterion Hotel",
and many products took the name "Criterion" (like "acme", "peerless", "excelsior", etc.).
They certainly were not calling themselves "minimum requirement"!
So a criterion is a benchmark, typically of excellence, and to say "a criteria" is totally incorrect.
Phenomena is the plural of phenomenon. While not overly surprised to hear a TV presenter say:
"What is this phenomena called Eurovision?", we were astonished that Margaret Wertheim's science book "The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace"
continually refers to a/this/the/that "phenomena" - unforgiveable in a book about science, which is the study of natural phenomena.
If she does not know even that "phenomena" is the plural of "phenomenon", what other errors does her book contain?
Yet New Scientist (and Vogue Australia) praised it!
So not only the author, but her editor, proofreaders and publisher (Doubleday) are apparently ignorant of how to use this very common word.
Strictly speaking, data and bacteria are plural, their singulars being datum and bacterium.
Scientists tend to correctly use bacterium ("a bacterium") but "datum" is rarely heard simply because there is little call for it.
It is however incorrect to say "the data is...", "the data shows...", "this data...", etc.
Correct are "the data are...", "the data show...", "these/those data...", etc. Likewise, strata is the plural of stratum.
So "the strata is..." is incorrect.
Alumnus is the singular of alumni (like focus/foci, radius/radii, locus/loci, etc.). So it is incorrect
to say "an alumni" or "the alumni is...", etc.
The inaccurate placement of "only", e.g.:
The trick is to place "only" after the verb, so that it cannot apply to the verb.
- "I go to church only on Sundays" = Only on Sundays do I go to church. BUT
"I only go to church on Sundays" = I do nothing on Sundays but go to church (OR)
Church is the only place I go on Sundays.
- "I scratch my nose only when it's itchy" = Only when my nose is itchy do I scratch it. BUT
"I only scratch my nose when it's itchy" = I do nothing but scratch my nose when it's itchy (OR)
I scratch only my nose when it's itchy.
- "I will consider it only if I have time" = Only if I have time will I consider it. BUT
"I will only consider it if I have time" = I will do nothing but consider it if I have time (OR)
I will consider only it if I have time.
"She was only reported missing on Saturday" (ABC News) is poor English. It could mean "She was ONLY reported missing..." (and nothing
else), "She was only REPORTED missing..." (but wasn't necesarily missing), "She was only reported MISSING..." (but nothing else).
Correct and clear is: "Not until Saturday was she reported missing".
Again (from a movie-subtitle): "We only found your fingerprints in the loft". As written, the meaning is that
nothing but fingerprints were found, or else that nothing was done with the fingerprints in the loft apart from finding them.
Now, when spoken, ambiguity is usually avoided by emphasising or stressing certain words, and in this
case it would spoken as: "We only found your fingerprints in the loft" (not "We only found..." or
"We only found your fingerprints..."). The subtitle could have been written correctly and unambiguously as:
"We found no fingerprints but yours in the loft".
The placement of "badly": e.g. "It badly needs painting", NOT "It needs painting badly" (unless it needs to be badly-painted!),
and "I badly need to eat/sleep", NOT "I need to eat/sleep badly"!
The trick here is to place "badly" before the verb, so that it does not apply to that verb.
"Suckling": It is mothers who suckle (breast-feed) their young - not the other way round.
It is incorrect to say "The baby is suckling its mother".
"Epicenter/epicentre": means the centre at the surface, as with an earthquake whose actual centre may be many
kilometers away beneath the Earth's surface (just as the epidermis is the skin's surface layer).
It is not interchangeable with "centre", as some journalists misuse it,
such as: "...Huntington, Virginia, the epicentre of American obesity.".
Capsicum, not "capsicun", is correct
We have heard at least three TV "chefs" and one radio presenter say "capsicuN"! Also, it is avocado, not "advocado".
Not "momento", but memento (it's related to "memory", "remember", "commemorate",
Not "restauranteur", but restaurateur (there is no "n") - restaurateurs please note!
None means "not one". So "none is..." (i.e. "not one is") is right, but "none are..." (i.e. "not one are...") is wrong.
It is as wrong as saying "no-one are..." or "nobody are...".
Mastectomy is correct; "masectomy" is not, although vasectomy is.
Anaesthetist (from "anaesthetic") is correct; "anaethetist" is not.
Average does not mean normal. For example, the average number of children per family may be 1.8. It is not normal
to have 1.8 children! A person's average score in sport or anything else is rarely their "normal" score (even if they have one). Average
temperature is not "normal" temperature (some weather presenters - note!). Also, abnormal does not mean unacceptable.
Those who excel at doing good things are by definition abnormal, and certainly acceptable!
Missing numbers: "Altzheimer's sufferers are expected to quadruple in the next ten years"
(ABC 7:30 Report - Kerry O'Brien 10.06.10). We hope that these sufferers do not quadruple as well as having Altzheimer's,
but are willing to believe that their numbers will quadruple!
"Grab": as in: "Grab a bargain today!" or: "Come in and grab your free copy!", etc. etc. Despite what these ads say,
security guards would probably be all over you if you went into the store and started grabbing things! Such an ugly
picture anyway - who came up with it and why do so many keep copying it years later? In most cultures, it is uncouth and inadvisable
for adults to grab things unless they need to.
And what about "The story grabbed the headlines", etc.? If you ever see a story grab a headline or anything else,
we respectfully suggest you are hallucinating!
Deterioration is correct; "deteriation" is not. Diminution (from diminish, and rhyming with "revolution") is correct;
"dimunition" (rhyming with "ammunition") is not.
Paparazzi is plural; paparazzo is the correct singular (derived from a character - a photographer named "Paparazzo" -
in Fellini's film "La Dolce Vita").
Veterinarian is correct; "vetinarian" is not.
Disinterested means impartial or unbiased (having no vested interest); "uninterested" means not interested.
Terrestrial is correct; "terrestial" is not.
Lackadaisical is correct; "lacksadaisical" is not.
Doubtful: (as in: "Smith is doubtful for tomorrow's game"). Smith may well be doubtful, but the wrongly-expressed
intended meaning is: "Smith's selection is doubtful...". Equally poor is: "Smith is in doubt for tomorrow's game".
Mischievous is correct; "mischievious" is not. Grievous is correct; "grievious" is not.
Infer does not mean "imply". To infer is to draw a conclusion; to imply is to covertly suggest,
express indirectly or insinuate. If one person implies something, another may infer something from it.
Climatic refers to climate. Climactic refers to climax. We mention this after hearing a young
"climate scientist" talk about "climactic change" in relation to climate! We have also too often heard scientists (including
academic climate scientists and oceanographers) and science journalists mispronounce Antarctica and Arctic
as "Antartica" and "Artic".
Flaunt means to show off or display ostentatiously. Flout means to flagrantly disregard.
So, for example, "flaunting the road rules" is totally incorrect.
Dice is plural; die is singular. So it is incorrect to say "the toss of a dice".
Et cetera - not "eck cetera"!
Midriff is correct; "midrift" is not.
"MP" is the usual abbreviation for "Member of Parliament" in English-speaking countries which have parliaments. The plural form is
invariably given as "MPs" which is actually an abbreviation of "Member of Parliaments", not "Members of Parliament",
which should accurately be abbreviated as "MsP".
A song is sung; an instrumental piece is not. It is currently common to incorrectly call any piece of music (including a
symphony!) a 'song'. The word 'piece' can correctly be used for eveything except opera, which should simply be called 'opera' (its songs
are usually called 'arias' which is Italian for 'airs'). A large piece of any type is usually and correctly called a 'work' (or 'opus',
which is Latin for 'work' - interestingly, 'opera' is the plural of 'opus'!).
The French word lingerie is correctly pronounced 'lanjeree', not 'lonjeray'. Likewise, Moulin Rouge is properly pronounced
'Moolan Rooj', with the 'oo' short as in 'look' (not as in 'soon'). In both cases, the 'j' sound is soft, as if combined with 'sh', and
the 'n' is slightly aspirated. Surely those who mispronounce the above do not pronounce vin 'von' or Cardin 'Cardon'!
Amateur is not pronounced 'amacher'.
Masseuse is pronounced 'masserz' (without pronouncing the 'r'), not the American 'massooss'.
Début is properly pronounced 'dehboo', not 'daybyoo'.
Longitude, not 'longtitude'.
Orang-utan, not 'orang-utang'.
Capture(d) is often used by the media with unintended humor, as in 'President Kennedy was captured making a speech...', 'Colonel
Gadaffi was captured speaking from an unknown location...', 'She was captured at an exclusive resort...', etc. etc., where 'captured'
usually means 'filmed'. But imagine the possibly catastrophic consequences of 'captured' being taken literally by non-English-speaking news
It is probably too late to rescue the word 'hopefully' from its common misuse. 'I approached my exams hopefully' and 'Hopefully,
Hillary began climbing Everest' are correct, because the people were hopeful. But 'hopefully, we will win' means 'we will win if we are
hopeful', whereas the intended meaning is 'I/we hope we will win'. The misuse becomes comical in sentences like 'Hopefully, the train will
be punctual', which means the train will be punctual if it is hopeful. Misuse is always avoided simply by replacing 'hopefully' with
'I hope that', 'you hope that', 'we hope that' or 'they hope that' (or alternatively 'I am hopeful that', 'you are hopeful that',
'we are hopeful that' or 'they are hopeful that'), whichever applies.
Members of sporting teams seem particularly fond of (mis)using 'hopefully', perhaps because they avoid saying 'I', having been told:
'there is no 'I' in 'team'! So instead of saying 'I hope that we...' they say 'Hopefully, we...'.
'Successful' does not mean 'wealthy' or 'famous' (strangely, perhaps, Oprah Winfrey makes this error on her TV show).
'Actually' is a word that can be inserted before any verb, and all too often is, and meaninglessly. Academics seem particularly
attracted to using it constantly in conversation, especially when explaining ('this actually happens', 'this was actually done', etc.).
It is an occasionally useful word, when it emphasises an unusual or unexpected occurrence (e.g. 'She actually went up to the boss and
berated him', 'he actually kicked a goal'). Usually, however, its use is unnecessary, timewasting and can be irritating if constant and
'Great' is also a vastly-overused word, usually to mean no more than 'I really like it'. The trouble with its overuse is that it
loses its meaning - if everything is great, nothing is great. Of all the tens of thousands of more interesting and descriptive adjectives
in the rich English language, we are delivered 'great', 'fantastic' and 'wonderful' constantly, which shows habitual laziness,
non-creativity and/or ineptness. 'Great' is perhaps best used to describe something/someone which/who has stood the test of time in being
considered excellent. But to say, for example, that a pop song is 'great' is to put its lyrics on a par with Shakespeare and its music on a
par with Beethoven!
In 'chaise longue' (literally 'long chair'), 'longue' is not pronounced 'lonj' similar to 'lunge', but simply like English 'long',
with the 'ng' slightly aspirated in the French manner. It is generally used by the French to mean 'deckchair', but in English to mean 'a
kind of sofa with a rest for the back at one end only' (Oxford Dictionary definition).
This one is not really an "error" but, like the continual overuse of words such as "great" and "actually", a disappointing, boring and
even annoying tendency. It is the constant use of "just" by TV cooks. It is rare to find one who does not use "just" literally
at least once per sentence on average - "just do this", "just this much", "just this long", "just this temperature", "I'm just going to..",
etc., etc. It is usually pronounced "jss". Most TV cooking shows would be significantly shorter, with a great deal of electricity-producing
resources saved, simply by eliminating every "jss" from them.
'Slowly' is often used when 'increasingly' or 'gradually' (which need not be slow, but merely smooth) is really meant. Indeed,
'slowly' is often used when 'fast' is meant, as in 'it is slowly eroding' when the intended meaning is 'it is fast eroding'. And
'increasingly eroding' or 'gradually eroding' are clearly better than 'slowly eroding'.
'Natural' does not mean 'safe'. Snake venom, cyanide, arsenic, mercury and lead - to name just five - are perfectly natural yet
lethal. Be sceptical of products with ingredients touted as 'natural' to suck in buyers.
"'Til death us do part" is clearly ungrammatical, as death is singular, not plural. "'Til death us does part" would be correct.
How many millions have been married using this ungrammatical vow?
"Behaving like animals": When people are accused of this, you can be sure that no animals, apart from humans,
behave like that! Such people are invariably behaving like humans. Of course, humans are animals (apes, in fact)
and in that sense everything humans do is "animal behaviour". And humans show obvious ape-like behaviour when, from infancy, they clap
their hands and whoop to show approval, and jump up and down when excited, just as other apes do.
But other animals do not, for example, waste time, energy and resources destroying things "just for the hell of it" or to impress others.
We are not idealising animals here - they can steal, deceive, argue, fight and be cruel like humans. But, when people describe other
people as behaving "like animals", it is a safe bet that the behaviour they are describing is not seen elsewhere in the animal kingdom.
"All that glitters is not gold" (Or "all that glisters...") is incorrect, because gold does glitter. So some of what glitters
is gold. The Oxford Dictionary version, cited as "proverbial", is: "All is not gold that glitters".
Also correct are: "Not all that glitters is gold", "Not all is gold that glitters", and "Gold is not all that glitters".
Notice that exactly the same six words are used in each, which shows the importance of putting words in the right order.
"Changed forever": How often we hear sentences like "Their lives were changed forever"! Apart from the obvious point
that no mortal life lasts "forever" - so how can your life be changed "forever" if you don't live "forever"? -
you can never return to the past, whatever happens, even if you were to live forever.
Every breath you take changes your life irreversibly; "it is not possible to step into the same stream twice". Any and all change is
irreversible, and therefore "forever". As far as we know, we cannot turn back time.
Equally absurd is the use of "all time", as in "Who is the greatest.....of all time?" "All time"?
Who knows? Who even cares (apart from marketers and simpletons)? What does it mean anyway?
We often hear advertisers and TV presenters presuming to speak for us all, saying: "We all...", "Everybody likes...",
"Nobody expected...", "Nobody predicted...", "Everyone was taken by surprise..." etc. etc. Do they know what everyone thinks?
Have they asked everyone or are they psychic? Of course not. And of course people vary considerably.
Such dishonest efforts to "engage the audience" are hamfisted, crude and even offensive, if not laughable.
Incidentally, "None of us want..." is also incorrect grammatically (it should be "none of us wants..."; see "none" under "WORDS" above).
"Beg the question": This term is increasingly misused by journalists and, inevitably in their wake, politicians.
(E.g.: "It begs the question: what really happened?") According to the Oxford Dictionary, it has been used for over 400 years (1581)
to mean: "To take for granted without warrant"; in other words, to assume without evidence.
An example we remember from our schooldays is: "When was the last time you beat your wife?", which, when there is no evidence you ever did,
begs the question "Have you ever beaten your wife?". Endless examples can be dreamt up:
"When did you last visit Disneyland?", "What's your golf handicap?", "What is the meaning of life?";
each of these "begs the question" if there is no reason to assume you have ever visited Disneyland, have a golf handicap or that there is
a meaning of life.
Rise up would seem to show redundancy, as it is not possible to "rise down". Yet the word "uprising" exists. Similar are
lift up and "uplifting", and
fall down and "downfall", although it may be possible to fall up stairs (or maybe not).
'In India, malaria is killing fifteen times more people than official estimates' (BBC World News) literally means that
official estimates are being killed by malaria (although fifteen times less than people are)! Correct are: '...than official
estimates show' or '...than officially estimated', for example.
'It does not look optimistic'. To be optimistic is to look on the bright side, so the quoted sentence literally means 'It does not look as
if it is looking on the bright side'! Correct are: 'It does not look positive' or 'It does not look promising', for example. Similarly
incorrect would be: 'It looks/ is looking/ does not look/ pessimistic'.
A BBC report declared: 'He has covered the Royal Family for years'; it should have been 'He has covered stories on the Royal Family...'
"Exploding prices" and "spiralling costs": Explosions send force in all directions, so if prices are "exploding", some would
be going up, others would be going down, and the rest would do neither. "Exploding" does not automatically mean "going up"!
And costs, similarly, either rise, fall or stay the same. Spirals do the same, so "spiralling costs" says nothing. And how can costs
"spiral" anyway? What would that look like? "Spiralling out of control" does make sense - airplanes do it. "Escalating costs" and even
"rocketing costs" (because, although rockets also descend, they are really associated with going up) make sense.
"Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?": Shakespeare's famous line is so often misunderstood and inflected as meaning "Wherefore
ART thou, Romeo?" - as in "where are you?", with Juliet peering over the balcony. But "wherefore" means "why" (as in "whys and
wherefores"), not "where"! So the correct emphasis is on "Romeo" - "Wherefore art thou ROMEO?" - as in "why are you Romeo?", because Juliet
is saying "why does it have to be you, Romeo, with whom I am in love?". The point is that his family was feuding with hers, and they were
thus "star-crossed lovers", as Shakespeare wrote, so it was a "forbidden love", which is the main drama of the play.
"Sour grapes" is not about simply being a "sore loser", but rather more subtle and interesting. It is about comforting yourself by
pretending that what you have failed to attain wasn't worth having anyway. If you fail to get a coveted job, you may tell yourself "I
probably wouldn't have enjoyed it anyway", or a man rejected by a woman may say "She's a slut anyway". The phrase originates from Aesop's
famous fable "The Fox and the Grapes" (often retold and rewritten by others, sometimes with additions) where a fox lusts after some
luscious-looking grapes which are hanging over a garden wall but, when after repeated attempts he fails to reach them, he skulks away
scowling "they were probably sour anyway". It is often cited as an example of cognitive dissonance by psychologists. The idea is
mirrored in the old Persian saying: "the cat that cannot reach the meat says it stinks".
"Ageing population": EVERYONE is ageing from the moment they are born - they always have been and always will be until they die!
"Increasingly aged population" (but not "increasingly ageing") would be correct. Incidentally, everyone is also dying (that's where we all
end up!) as was pointed out in the novel "Catch 22".
"Level playing-field": This can apply to playing-fields but never to people, for the obvious reason that everyone is unique, with
individual abilities, inclinations, background, appearance, social connections, etc., etc. It also cannot apply to nations, with their
differing resources, climates and connections. Beware of those peddling this phrase!
"It is better to fail than not to try". It's a heroic saying, but with very limited application. It does not apply to committing
crimes, gambling or doing any number of stupid things, such as jumping off a building with an umbrella as a parachute!
"You make your own luck". This is said by the lucky. But who would say it to (for example) a kid who has had his/her legs blown off
and lost his/her young parents in a war they had nothing to do with? It is, however, true that positive thinking combined with action tends
to be more productive than negative thinking and inaction.
This relates to organising words in the right order to avoid misunderstanding. BBC News reported "She was not named to protect her
privacy". Now, this can mean that she was named, but not to protect her privacy (even though this does not really make sense).
Correct would be "To protect her privacy, she was not named" - this is clear and unambiguous. "I did not go because I was scared" could mean
"Because I was scared, I did not go" or "I went, but not because I was scared". Endless examples can be dreamt up. Misunderstandings can
easily lead to mishaps.
Sports commentators frequently say that an umpire/referee "gave" a player "the benefit of the doubt" in not penalising them for a
possible infringement or error. However, in no sport we are aware of is it an umpire's role to confer "benefits" on players! It is the
same as in law - if there is no clear evidence of an infringement or error, there is no cause for penalty. This is not to say there was no
infringement or error, but simply that if an umpire perceives no conclusive evidence of one they must not impose a penalty. Penalties are
meant to be imposed, and should be, only when the umpire has no doubt - and never when they are unsure. Umpires should not, and are not
meant or required to, "give" anything, any more than a judge is, apart from penalties based on undoubted infringements or errors.
"Newton discovered gravity when an apple fell on his head" - WRONG! He did not "discover gravity":
he obviously was not the first to notice that things fall! And the ancient Greeks, for one, were discussing thousands of years ago
what caused this.
What Newton did was surmise that both an apple hanging from a tree and the moon hanging over Earth were subject
to the same Earthward force - Earth's gravity. When the apple falls to Earth, this force is clearly seen in action,
but it was also acting on the hanging apple - only "at a distance" from Earth. Newton hypothesised that the same applied to the moon,
and followed a universal law, which he formulated as his "Universal Law of Gravitation". So Newton did not "discover gravity",
but the Law of Gravity.
The law states that this force of gravity is proportional to the mass of one object (e.g. the apple or moon)
multiplied by the mass of the other object (e.g. the Earth), divided by the square of the distance separating them.
But the apple anecdote above was told by Newton only in his old age, long after he had published his findings some 20 years after
returning from his family's country estate with its apple orchard, whence he had earlier fled from London to escape the Great Plague.
Newton's publication of his work on gravitation was partly prompted by a 2-pound bet made by Halley with another astronomer to be the
first to explain the planets' movements, for which Halley sought Newton's assistance.
(a) Stunts are often presented on TV as "gravity-defying",
(b) A cosmetic advertisement entreats us to to "help defy gravity" with its "anti-sagging cream",
(c) British architectural TV presenter Kevin McCloud declares that a dome in Rome was "defying God's laws of gravity".
Nothing "defies gravity", although it may appear so to the ignorant.
Without gravity, domes could not be built - the materials would fly into space. An architect, for one, should know something about gravity!
Even airplanes need gravity to work - they fly through air which is held to Earth by gravity and keeps them buoyant.
A constantly misused scientific term is 'quantum leap' - it is in fact the smallest leap able to be made,
according to quantum mechanics. But it is misused to mean a very large leap. It is, however, a sudden leap, with apparently no
intervening stages, but sudden should never be confused with large.
Life expectancy: We often hear "we are living longer", although it is never said who we are living longer than (ourselves?)!
We even hear "we are ALL living longer" - but try telling that to children who are terminally ill in hospitals or are casualties of war.
Two and a half thousand years ago, the Bible specified 'three score and ten' (70) years as our allocated time - today, in wealthy
countries, it's now a little bit more than that, on average.
The fact is that infant mortality and war deaths (warriors are usually youngsters), as well as plagues and epidemics, vastly reduce the
AVERAGE life expectancy, while those who survive may well reach their allotted 'three score and ten' and, history shows, often did. Take,
for example, a family unit of mother, father and four children, three of whom died in infancy (a typical scenario). If mother, father and
surviving child each lived to 60, the average age of the family unit members would be slightly above 30! That is why it is critical
to say "AVERAGE life expectancy" when applicable, which is almost always.
Modern medicines have greatly reduced deaths from epidemics and reduced infant mortality in wealthy countries, causing AVERAGE life
expectancy to rise significantly in those countries and to rise slightly world-wide.
"I think, therefore I am" (cogito, ergo sum)
is the famous statement of Descartes, as proof of his own existence.
Realising that he could be merely hallucinating his experiences of the world, or that some "evil genius" could be implanting them
in his mind, or simply that his perceptions were wrong, he asked: "How can I know if anything exists, including myself?".
We know today that we perceive via our brains.
Even if I were to say to someone: "Prove to me that this chair exists", and they hurled it at me saying "There! Is that proof enough?"
and it hit me causing pain, it is nevertheless true that the pain did not occur where I felt it, but was simply a signal from my brain
telling me that it did. So what are we to believe exists?
Descartes's answer followed this reasoning: "I can doubt everything, except that I think, because to doubt is to think.
Thinking requires a thinker who exists, so I must exist: I think, therefore I am".
We have heard his conclusion being misinterpreted even by the highly-educated (or, rather, highly-trained)
who have not bothered to check, but presume to say: "Descartes got it wrong, because there is more to being human than just thinking".
His simple, elegant argument needs to be understood by them.
Never, ever ask a songwriter: "What do you come up with first - the music or the lyrics?" unless you want to be seen as a buffoon who asks
pointless questions because you have no better ones! It's as silly as asking: "Which shoe do you put on first - the right or the left?".
First of all - does it matter to you? Second, it assumes that one comes before the other. In reality, each is adjusted and fine-tuned
to the other over time - alternating. You can begin with one but that does not mean that you finish it before commencing the other.
Anyway, save your breath (and, if you are an interviewer, your audience), because the answer you'll get is always something like:
"It all depends..." over politely well-concealed inner squirming.