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I found myself writing "a different take" and wondering if I didn't mean "a different tack".  It got me wondering what the difference, if any, is between these two phrases.

Initially, my view was that "a different tack" is the correct phrase and "a different take" was just a common mistake caused by the spelling similarity between tack and take, and people's familiarity with using take in phrases such as "What's your take on all of this?".

I googled this and only found results about tact versus tack – nothing about take versus tack. There is a dictionary meaning of take as a noun which is relevant: ”a particular version of or approach to something”. Tack is a reference to "change course by turning a boat's head into and through the wind", although some dictionaries actually have a more relevant definition which I suspect is derived from the use of the sailing meaning as metaphor: "a way in which you do something or try to do something". As noted, I could find nothing on my particular question of take versus tack.

I have come to believe these are two separate, legitimate phrases. While hard to pin down, I would choose take where I mean someone's point of view (e.g., "Donald always has a unique take on things") whereas I would use tack to mean something more action oriented, such as "Let's try a different tack to solve this problem."

I think there is substantial overlap when the desired meaning is approach, as both words cover this. In those cases, either phrase can work.

Lastly, I will say that when I started I did not understand why people got confused between take and tact but I now understand this better. I think that many people are making up a shorthand version of tactic which, as of yet, does not exist in English.

  • It's also very common to hear "a different tact". – Jim Mack Apr 25 '18 at 13:54
  • similar - both acceptable – lbf Apr 25 '18 at 14:09
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    While you do see “a different ‘tact’” this seems like a clear mistake to me, although understandable given the similarity to tactic. – PeterVermont Apr 26 '18 at 22:44
  • I am new to this stackexchange. Why did I get downvotes? – PeterVermont Apr 26 '18 at 22:51
  • The downvotes are most likely for the same reason as the closevotes: you haven't included your attempts to find an answer (aka "research"). In this case, you should look in a dictionary to see what you can find and include this in your question. (Googling the phrases will be the best way to find dictionaries with relevant definitions.) – Laurel Apr 27 '18 at 20:57
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They're the sort of pair that could eventually become conflated, but they're independent.

One's take on a situation: think of a "take" when filming a movie scene. "Scene 15, take 2." A director might call for more takes after requesting changes to elements of the scene or the shooting of it. A different take on a situation is a different way of looking at it.

In sailing, "tacking" is a technique for heading askew to the direction in which one wants to go when that direction is heading into the wind.

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"Take" is a relative overview, a snapshot or focal point. It may lack more details and content than a "tack".

"Tack" also refers to tailoring, "a long stitch used to fasten fabrics together temporarily, prior to permanent sewing." "Tack" in tailoring is to temporarily 'pull together'.

And since "tact" was brought up, it means a plan, or strategy, towards a goal, as in 'tactic'.

They all fit, though each can be asking for a different summation; one an overview, one a point of connection, and one a method, or plan.

  • I can see the logic of tact as it relates to tactic but as far as I know that is not one of the accepted definitions of tact. – PeterVermont Apr 26 '18 at 22:46
  • I was also surprised to see your definition of tack. While it is legitimate I have always thought tack in this context was the meaning related to sailing. – PeterVermont Apr 26 '18 at 22:48
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    @PeterVermont Tack: Transitive verb; to join or add in a slight or hasty manner. Intransitive verb; b : to modify one's policy or attitude abruptly. Merriam-Webster, In asking for someone's 'tack' it could apply as either meaning to put together a hasty summation, or, asking for how a plan might alter with additional information. And, I have always understood that way. – Norman Edward Apr 27 '18 at 2:39

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