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Grammar tips: calvary versus cavalry

Posted by Wendy Wood on 3rd May , 2022 in Grammar
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Easter weekend, my husband and I were watching a movie he’d chosen. I forget the name of it. He picks some doozies, which I’m sure are quite enjoyable for him, but they are definitely not the dramas I choose when it’s my turn.

I do love his movies for one reason, though. I always try to spot the typos in the closed captions. With Matt’s taste in movies, it’s not difficult. Most of the time the closed captioning doesn’t even match what the actor is saying.

In this particular movie, however, the voice and subtitles actually did match – but they weren’t correct. The actor had said, “We’d better call in the calvary.” Matt and I looked at each other.

Since it was Easter weekend, we had been discussing Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Calvary, and their significance. But we had never discussed that we should “call in the Calvary”.

The actor should have said they’d better call in the cavalry. I get it; I have to stop and think of which one is correct for the context. I have a trick to remember the difference. First, let’s define the two words.

Calvary: noun

  1. Golgotha, the place where Jesus was crucified.
  2. (sometimes lower case) (plural calvaries) a sculptured representation of the Crucifixion, usually erected in the open air.

cavalry: noun (plural cavalries)

  1. a unit, or units collectively, of an army, which in the past were mounted on horseback, and are now equipped with armoured vehicles in either an armoured or a reconnaissance role.
  2. the cavalry, Colloquial (humorous) reinforcements.

Now for the trick to remember if it’s Calvary or cavalry you’re going to call in. It comes down to three letters in each word. Use the cal in Calvary to associate it with the Christian term Calvinism. Use the val in cavalry to associate it with valiant soldiers.

If you forget the trick, you can always call me in for reinforcements.

Wendy Wood
Proofreader

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