The Word Guy / Knowledge

For Whom the 'Tell' Tolls

While grading a student's paper the other day, I came across this sentence: "The cost of the U.S. Interstate Highway System was $128.9 billion, all tolled."

Gosh, I hope not. If that's true, my drive down I-84 to New York City is going to be bit ...

'Room'inating on Word Origins

Whenever you sit back and relax in your home, you're exemplifying the origins of the word "residence." That's because "residence" literally means "to sit back." It derives from the Latin "resideo," a combination of "re-" (back) and "sedeo" (sit). ...

Jargon Makes the Dean's List

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

--Dean Speak -- Benjamin Ginsberg's recent book "The Fall of the Faculty" decries the rampant proliferation of university administrators -- a bloated army of vice presidents, provosts, deans ...

Giving 'the Both' the Boot

Q: As a former English teacher (Is one really ever a former English teacher?), I am bothered by the increasing use of the phrase "the both," as in "The both of us went to the book signing." Intuitively I know that "the both" is wrong, although "...

How to Avoid 'Trash Talk'

When flight attendants collect our napkins, plastic cups and cellophane wrappers before a landing, they're instructed to ask passengers, not for their "trash," but for their "service items."

According to a former flight attendant I heard on the ...

Laws Were Made to Be Spoken

What do you call a lawyer who writes a book about words? A grammar-head shark.

Just kidding. In "Law Talk." librarian Fred Shapiro and lawyers James Clapp, Elizabeth Thornburg and Marc Galanter tell the fascinating stories behind many legal ...