Angela’s ABCs flout and flaunt words sometimes confused
It seemed to me that flout and flaunt were sufficiently different for it to be difficult to confuse them. I thought their meanings were clear. If you don’t comply with a rule, you are flouting it. If you make a big display of your success, you are flaunting it
It seems that I was wrong. I was tut-tutting to myself the other day because I noticed that one of The Guardian’s coronavirus update writers had used flaunt to mean flout. Nobody seemed particularly bothered. When I did some research, I realised this is because the use of flaunt to mean ‘to treat contemptuously’ has taken off and it has proved difficult to convince people that this usage is wrong, even though style guides have been reprimanding people about it since the 1940s.
The Guardian’s style guide is clear:
flaunt or flout?
To flaunt is to make a display of something, as in flaunting wealth; to flout is to show disregard for something, as in flouting the seatbelt law.
Most dictionaries however, include a reference to this recent use of flaunt because it has become so common and may, in time, through usage, become accepted. In the meantime, most copy editors, style guides and grammar tut-tutters will raise their eyebrows and make a correction.