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Penchant is synonymous with words such as "inclination" and "leaning."

Does the sentence below correctly use the word "penchant"?

Joe has a penchant against the UCLA Bruins.

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3 Answers

A penchant is a predisposition in favor of, a predilection for something. I found this on the Net, though. I'd say that he's misusing the word and that the writer or speaker should have said "prejudice" or "bias" against the UCLA Bruins.

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I recommend looking at Wordnik for questions like this. In addition to providing definitions from more than one dictionary on the left, the Wordnik page shows example usages on the right.

Initially, I didn't like the sentence about Joe and the Bruins. I think of a penchant for doing something being used more like a tendency to do something. So, I'd be more inclined to say:

Joe has a penchant for disliking the Bruins.

When I checked the Wordnik page, I noticed that almost all the usages read penchant for, even after I clicked the Show 10 more examples… link three or four times. For example:

...his penchant for exerting political pressure.

...a preternaturally eclectic, intellectually minded prog rocker with a penchant for cosmic horror.

...has a penchant for the use of physical threats and violent analogies in discussions and debates.

Still, 30 or 40 usages on Wordnik hardly constitutes a definitive answer. So, I looked up "has a penchant against" on Google books, I found all of one hit, from a 1930 yearbook:

...unless perchance some famed alumnus has a penchant against metropolitan papers and for love of Alma Mater keeps his great secret to himself.

When I changed the search to "has a penchant for", however, there were 137,000. Interestingly enough, the very first result was from a dictionary of idioms, which says that the idiom "Have a penchant for" means:

Have a tendency or taste for. For example, He has a penchant for saying the wrong thing, or She has a strong penchant for baroque music.

I also tried these searches on Google books:

  • "a penchant against" (36 results returned)
  • "a penchant of" (two thousand results returned)
  • "a penchant for" (4.7 million results returned)

You can say whatever you want to say, and write whatever you'd like to write, but, as for me, I'd have a penchant for avoiding the usage found in your sentence.

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penchant has these definitions:

noun: a strong and continued inclination (MW)

noun: A definite liking; a strong inclination (freedictionary)

noun: a liking for, an enjoyment of, or a habit of doing something, especially something that other people might not like (cambridge)

noun: a strong inclination or liking; bent or taste (wordreference)

google search result

(first thing that pops up in google when 'inclination definition' is all that is typed)

Going by the definitions, and substituting penchant with (an) inclination, I don't believe that penchant is being misused. Does it seem a bit off? Yeah, but that doesn't make it wrong.

Also, if you see the synonyms for inclination, you'd see that it corresponds with Bill Franke's want for bias and also corresponds to J.R.'s dislike.

(Regarding my statement about J.R.'s dislike, the sentence could also be worded:

Joe has a liking against the UCLA Bruins.

*I linked inclination to help support why I say that penchant is not being misused.)

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