"Comprise"

Are you familiar with the experience of a word, or person, or song, or some other thought that hasn't entered your consciousness for some time suddenly surrounding you, seemingly with no connection between the sources?

This happened to me yesterday with the name Gargamel.  I heard it on the television while I was at the computer and recognised it as a name from childhood, but couldn't remember from where.  As I looked up, I realised that it was an advert for the 2011 film The Smurfs.  Gargamel was the villain in The Smurfs cartoon, which was a staple of my childhood.  Later on that evening, reference was made to Gargamel in a programme aimed at people of my generation, who would be expected to remember The Smurfs.  It brought back fond memories of the various children's programmes that I used to watch, followed quickly by my usual lament that children today are subjected to nonsense that simply doesn't compare to the treasures that my generation had.

Another recent - but less felicitous - example is something that is usually just a minor annoyance to me but by no fewer than six examples of which I have been bombarded over the course of the past week.  While my writing is by no means from free of errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, and vocabulary, I feel that I must address this one because it really grates on me more than most.  I do not know why: it just does.

When speaking of any collective body or other subject made of constituent parts, it is proper to refer to those parts as together composing the whole.  It is also proper to speak of this in the passive voice, by saying that the whole is composed of those constituent parts.

The problem comes when people replace the word compose with comprise, which has the effect of turning the sentence into nonsense due to the reverse meanings of these words.  To compose is for individual elements to come together to form a complete article, which can be said to be "composed of" those elements.  To comprise is for a body or other article to embrace or include within its make-up its various constituent elements.

Therefore, it is correct to say:
My science class is composed of students from around the world.

However, it makes no sense to say:
My science class is comprised of students from around the world.

The intended meaning is properly expressed by:
My science class comprises students from around the world.

That is to say, the science class includes in its make-up students from around the world.  It comprises them: it is not comprised of them.  In fact, it is difficult to imagine what the expression "comprise of" could possibly mean.

That's all.

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