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The Word Guy / Knowledge

Linguists at the End of Their Rope

Can you find 25 usage errors in the following story about a tug of war between the Prescriptivists and the Descriptivists?:

The battle began with a hoard of tweedy English professors on the P side and a large amount of dictionary editors in blue ...

From Rags to Witches

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, I coached a boys cross country running team. During practice, these runners donned such a motley assortment of torn T-shirts, ratty sweat pants and frayed shorts that I sometimes called them "ragamuffins." Mischievous ...

Is There a Cure for 'Curate'?

Once upon a time, "curate" was a nice, quaint little word. Derived from the Latin "cura" (care), it meant a clergyman who took care of a small, often rural parish. As a verb, it meant to select and organize objects in a museum or exhibition.

That...

Too Much of a 'Good' Thing

Today, some random dispatches from the Word Front ...

--Goodie-Goodies -- We all know that many young people now respond to "thank you" with "no problem" instead of "you're welcome." But Dan Olson of Sioux Falls, S.D., writes to tell me he's ...

Unscrambling Some Common 'Eggs'pressions

Is there any connection between the phrase "egging someone on" (inciting someone to action) and actual eggs?

You might assume this term comes from throwing eggs at people to goad them into action. Or perhaps it derives from whipping up a crowd, ...

Giving Letters the Silent Treatment

Should you pronounce the "t" in "often"? The "l" in "almond"? Though "often" was pronounced with a "t" sound until the 1600s, doing so today conveys a whiff of pretension.

Traditionally, the "l" in "almond" was silent (AH-mund), but recently ...