Make Your Editor Cry: Ancestor vs Descendant

Make Your Editor Cry:  Ancestor vs Descendant

Your great-grandfather is your progenitor. You are his progeny.

Your great-grandfather is your ancestor. You are his descendant.

In the first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Albus Dumbledore proclaimed that Lord Voldemort was “the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin,” more than one person noted that the wise wizard had just made a serious verbal mistake. In later printings that phrase was corrected to read, “last remaining descendant.”

I am not picking on J. K. Rowling. Many people surprisingly and very often confuse these two terms even though they mean very different things.

Examples:

Incorrect:

I am the last remaining ancestor of my great-grandfather.

Correct:

I am the last remaining descendant of my great-grandfather.

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