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I Now Pronounce You Mangled by Kyff

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Here's a pronunciation quiz I'd fail miserably. That's because it comprises eight words I've always mispronounced.

Can you show up the Word Guy by choosing the correct pronunciation?

1. fungi -- A. FUN-guy (hard "g") B. FUN-juy (soft "g")

2. aeolian -- A. ee-OH-lee-uhn B. ay-OH-lee-uhn

3. flaccid -- A. FLAK-sid B. FLAS-id

4. hauteur -- A....Read more

Why Do We Verb Nouns?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

"Let's Christmas like crazy!"

"How do you burger?"

"People encored him again and again!"

Faithful reader Oren Spiegler of Upper Saint Clair, Pa., recently spotted these exuberant conversions of nouns to verbs.

Like most of us, Oren enjoys the sly retrofitting of nouns to create verbs for one-time use, as in "to Christmas" and "to burger." ...Read more

Bewitched and Bothered by 'Bemused'

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Jim Bond of Canton, Conn., recently wrote to ask about the shifting meanings of "bemused." Indeed, this word seems to change colors more often than a chameleon on plaid.

Sometimes "bemused" denotes bewilderment. Ian Bremmer, for instance, told the Washington Post that witnesses to a meeting between President Donald Trump and Russian President...Read more

Can You Detect What's Incorrect?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

You're the editor! See whether you can identify the grammatical or wording problem in each sentence and fix it. Warning: These are tricky and picky!

1. The senator's proposal appealed to Americans of all regions, ages, backgrounds, social class and national origin.

2. We should never laugh at another's misfortune.

3. The hiker worried that ...Read more

Mixed Reviews for TV News

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

I've recently noticed some intriguing linguistic trends and glitches on national evening news programs...

-- Missing in Action. More and more broadcast journalists are omitting the main verbs of sentences, turning their reports into mosaics of sentence fragments.

A recent sampling: "Clashes today in the Spanish region of Catalonia as police ...Read more

Everything Is Under Con-Troll

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Have you heard the story of Cornelius "Con" Trary and his encounter with the troll?

Con is a conventional, traditional guy -- a tied-down cannon who thinks inside the box, pushes in all the stops, and burns his candle at one end.

He likes to play the deity's advocate, return someone's thunder, and pull the wool off people's eyes.

Con always...Read more

How Can an Exception 'Prove' a Rule?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Q. I've been wondering about the expression "the exception proves the rule." Can you elucidate? I'd be interested in its history and some examples to clarify the meaning. -- Frank Aleman, via email

A. True confession: When someone asked me this question 20 years ago, I responded with a completely erroneous explanation. I had been seduced by ...Read more

Behind the Greenscreen

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Why is a lazy person called a "goldbricker"? Why is the off-stage chamber where guests wait before their TV appearances called the "green room"? Why do we say someone speaking quickly is talking a "blue streak"?

Let's take out our crayons and color in the origins of these multi-hued expressions ...

--Goldbrick: Until the mid-19th century, ...Read more

Reporters Engage in 'Tranche' Warfare

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Reporters covering hurricane disaster relief during recent weeks have been donning their "tranche" coats. Many news outlets described the initial package of federal money for Harvey's victims as "the first tranche" of aid, adding that assistance would be allocated in "multiple tranches."

Where does "tranche" come from, why is it proliferating...Read more

Language Goes to the Dogs

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

When White House adviser Stephen Miller accused a CNN reporter of having a "cosmopolitan bias" last month, some pundits claimed he was using the term as a "dog whistle" -- a coded message that flies over the heads of most people but conveys a special meaning to certain constituencies.

Noting that "cosmopolitan" was once used by fascists, ...Read more

Briticisms Are Jumping the Pond

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

What is it about those Brits? We Americans made our Brexit from their empire in 1776. But we can't stop importing their lingo.

As King George III sings knowingly to us newly independent Yanks in the musical "Hamilton," "You'll be back."

And how. The long lines of British soldiers waiting on the beach for evacuation in the movie "Dunkirk" ...Read more

It's Time To Leave 'Never-Never'land

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Never begin a sentence with "And" or "But." Never split an infinitive. Never end a sentence with a preposition.

Ah, the wonders of "Never-never" land! When we were young and impressionable Peter Pans, we learned these strict rules from well-meaning, Wendy-like teachers, and many of us still obey them religiously today.

But now, Peter Pans, ...Read more

German Syntax Becomes 'All'-American

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

If you were to stop at a roadside stand in south-central Pennsylvania on a summer afternoon to buy some corn, the vendor might tell you, "I'm sorry. The corn is all."

Have you stumbled upon a strange cult devoted to the worship of corn? Do their hymns include "A'maize'ing Grace"? Do they wear skullcaps with tassels? Does their god welcome ...Read more

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