The Word Guy / Knowledge

Pleading Guilty To Using 'Pled'

Q. I recently read an article in my daily newspaper about a court defendant who "pleaded" guilty to a crime. I have always thought the past tense is "pled." Which is correct, or are both of them acceptable? -- Janice Smith, Greensburg, Pa.

A. ...

That Nasty 'So' and 'So'!

So ... a lot of people are starting their sentences with annoying, useless words and phrases. I mean, my readers are starting to notice. Look, it's rampant.

David Howe of Avon, Conn., wonders about the "so"ing together of sentences, as in, "So,...

'Hoi Polloi' Stirs Mass Confusion

Sometimes, we think we know a word's meaning but really don't. Until a few years ago, for instance, I thought that "hoi polloi" meant "the elite, the upper crust."

This probably stemmed from my mother's frequent references to the rich folks in ...

'Monetize' Your 'Moving Parts'

"Campaigns are complex organisms with hundreds of moving parts."

When I encountered that sentence recently, I was willing to overlook the mixed metaphor that mingled the organic and the mechanical. But I couldn't ignore the ubiquitous cliche "...

Good King 'Whence' Is Lost

Q. I hope you can help me with two language problems. The first involves the word "whence." Is it "the evil spirit returned whence it came" or "from whence it came"? The second involves the word "suffice." Is it "suffice to say" or "suffice it ...

A Fresh Look at 'Stalemate'

Is "stalemate," meaning "a deadlock," related to "stale," meaning "old, not fresh"? You might think so, because as anyone who follows Congress knows, stalemates can get awfully stale after a while.

In fact, "stalemate" is related not to "stale,...