Third Wednesday – The Prerogative for Using Purgative Pejoratives

In these Third Wednesday posts, the words and phrases under discussion have been seen in print.  Yep, they have.  Some make the reader groan aloud.  Some make us laugh as our minds create an image of the misused word in the context of the scene.  And there are those that make us weep… how could anyone make such a blatant mistake?

Understand that these are mistakes that can and should be caught by a sharp editor or an alert proofreader.  That means you can slap your forehead, make a correction before publication, and take all the praise for proper use of the word or phrase in your manuscript.

I’ve rewritten the sentence in which this word was used – to protect the guilty.  The new sentence uses the word the same way the original did.

“It was Marcia’s purgative to change her plans without consulting her husband.”

Did you catch the error?  I hope so, because this scene could get messy.


PURGATIVE – to purge, to cause a bowel movement.  In the noun form, it means a substance which causes purging.

Yes, the word “purgative” means to purge, to cause a bowel movement.  Not, I think, what the author was trying to convey.

The head honcho’s threat to ‘have someone’s guts for garters’  the next time the copier jammed had a purgative effect on Ralph who had just walked away from the machine rather than take the time to fix it.

Rhubarb pie acts as a purgative for some people.


PREROGATIVE – a prior or exclusive right.

This is probably the word the author was searching for.  Using this word, the sentence would have meant that Marcia exercised her right or privilege to change her plans.  A much better mental image, don’t you think?

Every time she expressed doubts about their wedding plans he hauled out that old chestnut about it being a woman’s prerogative to change her mind, knowing it would make her irate.

It’s the king’s prerogative to honor any citizen with a knighthood for service to the crown.


PEJORATIVE – disparaging or derogatory, especially as applied to words whose meaning has changed for the worse.  Expressing contempt or disdain.

This is another word I’ve seen in place of PREROGATIVE in the last couple of months.

Once again, the quarterback was cautioned by his coach to say nothing pejorative about the opposing team, which had a much better cadre of lawyers on the payroll.

Some women find ‘feminista’ a pejorative term while others are proud to claim it.


Here’s another look at PURGATIVE, PREROGATIVE, and PEJORATIVE.


King Edward I exercised his purgative to choose the John Balliol as King of Scotland, yet maintained suzerainty over the nation.

Alan hated the prerogative the clinic gave him before his colonoscopy.

Sasha loved to employ her pejorative as president to change the meeting time of the Ladies’ Quilting Circle so she could sleep past noon whenever she had a late night out.



Alyssa slipped the purgative into her ex-lover’s stew, knowing she’d be safely gone before the effects became apparent.

When the queen exercised her royal prerogative to taste her consort’s dish, Alyssa knew her revenge had gone seriously awry.

As she slipped from the dining hall, she muttered a pejorative term that would get her hanged by the neck if anyone realized Alyssa was talking about her queen.


As with any set of difficult words, the best way to burn these into your personal dictionary is to use them soon, and use them well.  We won’t use a pejorative term to describe anyone who confuses a purgative with their prerogative.  But we won’t eat lunch twice with that person.