The ever-vigilant Word Guy Blooper Patrol has been working overtime to apprehend examples of erroneous English:
1. "Not every relationship must somehow hue to a predictable path." Some can even make you blue. (Spotted by Judy King, Farmington, Conn.)
2. "Hopewell Valley Regional School District plans to tackle mental health 'epidemic.'" Is ...Read more
Studying the origins of words can seem like an esoteric enterprise, relegated to nerdy scholars poking around in dusty dictionaries. But sometimes knowing a word's history can inspire us and even improve our lives.
Consider the word "inspire" itself. We all know it means "to influence, guide or motivate," but learning that it's derived from ...Read more
Duz speling evan mattar enymore?
After all, you knew what I meant, right? Companies deliberately misspell brand names (Froot Loops, Tumblr, Chick-fil-A). TV news graphics are rife with errors ("high tempertures," "choaos in streets"). And don't even get me started on emails, texts and internet posts.
That spelling autocorrect feature doesn't...Read more
Batter up and banter up! The new baseball season is in full swing, and the playful palaver of the plate is wafting through the spring air like the smell of freshly-mowed grass. Take me out to the "call" game!
As lexicographer Paul Dickson observes in his introduction to The Dickson Baseball Dictionary, baseball slang leans toward the light ...Read more
On "PBS NewsHour" last month, South Bend, Indiana, mayor and likely presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg (pronounced "BOOT-ih-jidge") said that making a version of Medicare available for all Americans would provide "a very natural glide path to a single-payer environment."
A few days later, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said of his state's ...Read more
Q: Why do some people use the adverb "predominately" instead of "predominantly"? Is this an accepted usage? I saw "predominately" used in an academic journal article that I was reading just today. -- Ronnie Stutes, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
A: Cancel your subscription! Just kidding.
"Predominately" is what linguists call a "needless variant" --...Read more
Q. I've noticed that some publications are using "millenniums" in place of "millennia," e.g., "The mastodon lived millenniums ago." Same for "medium" and "media." Have the rules changed? -- Amy Robinson, Hartford, Connecticut
A. Ah, the rules. Remember those mastodon days when original Latin plural endings ruled the Earth? Today, not so much....Read more
A Liberty Mutual commercial depicting a bicyclist with grossly overdeveloped "custom" calves features this tagline: "Only pay for what you need."
I hate to slaughter the fatted calf, but the "only" in this ad is misplaced. "Only pay for what you need" means that you will only PAY for what you need, as opposed to begging or bartering for it. ...Read more
During the recent partial government shutdown, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi repeatedly called President Donald Trump's demand for $5.7 billion in border wall funding a "nonstarter." At the time, those of us shivering in the extreme cold in the Midwest and Northeast immediately thought of the nonstarters in our driveways and garages -- ice-...Read more
"Roominate" on the choices posed by this usage quiz as it races from the classroom to the emergency room:
A. Though the lecture took (a while, awhile), the students clearly (benefited, benefitted) from it. Their teacher held a (master's, masters) degree in English, and, when it came to grammar, she expected students to (tow, toe) the line. ...Read more
During a recent NFL playoff game, veteran NBC sportscaster Al Michaels reported that an official's placement of the football had been "very fortuitous" for the Philadelphia Eagles because it had given them a first down.
For linguistic purists watching the telecast -- and yes, some of them do follow football -- Michaels' use of "fortuitous" to...Read more
A vivid passage from Michelle Obama's memoir, "Becoming," refreshed my appreciation for the intense power of concrete details in writing. It describes Obama's girlhood experience as she rode the bus each morning through downtown Chicago en route from her South Side neighborhood to an elite magnet school:
"Through the window, I watched men and...Read more