The Word Guy / Knowledge

Getting a 'Grip' on Hollywood Job Titles

"Gaffer"? "Key Grip"? "Foley Artist"?

As the Academy Awards approach, let's explore the origins of those strange job titles that scroll by during movie credits. We'll get help from Richard Weiner's book "The Skinny about Best Boys, Dollies, ...

Them's Fightin' Words!

Grab your cudgel, mate! We're plunging into the origins of "donnybrook," "brouhaha" and "ruckus." And, because experts disagree about the sources of some of these words, you can expect a real hair-pulling match as disputatious amateurs and ...

Is 'Based Off' Off Base?

Q. When did "based on" morph into "based off"? When I was teaching, I heard my students say it a lot, e.g., "This movie was based off the book." I just saw it in print for the first time: "Two toys based off Walt Disney's hit animated film..." ...

Compound Fracture of the Left Participle

You're the sentence doctor! Diagnose the ailment in each of these sentences, and then prescribe a rewrite to repair the problem. Just to make things interesting, one sentence is completely healthy.

1. The fact that experts disagree about the ...

Was Snidely a 'Wrapper'?

What did the dastardly villain Snidely Whiplash say when Dudley Do-Right tied him up with Reynolds Wrap?

"Curses! Foiled again!"

But is there a linguistic connection between the "foil" that means "a thin sheet of metal" and the "foil" that ...

Subba, Subba 'Few'!

Q. What do you think of the following? "Subba's is one of the only Nepalese restaurants in the city." I think it should be "one of the few Nepalese restaurants in the city." -- Nick Kyriazi, Pittsburgh

A. Your question piqued my curiosity -- or...