Is there a British/American distinction in the use of "substitute," or is the usage just geting so muddled that it has reached the point of total ambiguity? If I wanted to say "if you don't have cinnamon, you can use nutmeg instead," I would say "You can substitute nutmeg for cinnamon." However, recently I have been noticing an increased use of "You can substitue cinnmon with nutmeg" (along the pattern of "replace") or even "you can substitue cinnamon for nutmeg" meaning exactly the same as "you can substitute nutmeg for cinnamon." It becomes impossible to tell which is the original, and which is the substitute. Here's an example:

In the newspaper today, a cartoon called Bizzaro showed a pig at a table in a restaurant. The pig is giving his order to the waiter (who is human), saying "The special sounds good, but can I substitute the pork chop for a fried chunk of your left buttock?" Shouldn't it be the other way around?

How do you folks use "substitute"?
Khoffcan I substitute the pork chop for a fried chunk of your left buttock

That sounds assinine to me.
Your are right - the meaning has become confused. I always avoid using the verb. The noun does not seem to cause confusion: nutmeg is a good substitute for cinnamon.
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There's already a forum survey over this.


I made a complete fool of myself on that one! Emotion: embarrassed
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Thanks for the link, Julie. I don't know how I missed that one. It seems to confirm my feeling that most people (at least most of those who responded) interpret it the same way I do, but enough choose the opposite interpretation that the whole construction is now totally ambiguous (and therfore useless!)

Could a substitute a Emotion: cake for the Emotion: snail on that Emotion: pizza, please?