Whether you're headed to a jet, a jetty or a Jet Ski this summer, toss one -- or more! -- of these nifty books about words and language into your tote bag.
Bound for England? Take along Lynne Murphy's delightful romp "The Prodigal Tongue -- The Love-Hate Relationship Between British and American English" (Penguin, $17). You'll learn that the ...Read more
A recent Wall Street Journal review of James F. Simon's new book "Eisenhower vs. Warren" quoted Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren as follows: "It would be unfortunate if we had to take precipitous action that would inflame more than necessary."
Faithful reader Elmer Sullivan of Ewing, N.J., wrote to ask whether Warren should have used "...Read more
The season of festive graduations provokes many profound questions: What time does the ceremony start? Where the heck can we park? How are we going to wheel grandma up there? When, dear God, will this thing end?
And then there's the music. As we listen to "Pomp and Circumstance" performed in its endless, droning majesty, we certainly ...Read more
The term "mansplaining" describes the annoying tendency of some males to explain a concept or process to women in a condescending and oversimplified manner. It can also refer to the blather of a man who compulsively offers his opinion about everything, even if he doesn't know what he's talking about.
You say you already know all of this? Oops...Read more
What's the difference between "accrual" and "accretion"? When a friend emailed that question the other day, I figured she'd either been checking her IRA account or cleaning dead bugs off her car's windshield.
Indeed, these nouns are very similar in meaning. In fact, both derive from the Latin root "crescere" (to grow).
"Accrual" and its verb...Read more
Pity the poor viola. Not only does this charming instrument have to play second fiddle to the violin, but also it's forced to endure the frequent mispronunciation of its name as "vy-OH-luh" instead of the correct "vee-OH-luh."
It's an understandable mistake. After all, "violet," "violence" and "violin" DO begin with a long "i" sound. ...Read more
The Word Guy Blooper Patrol has been working overtime to send me mistakes that have appeared in print. Can you spot the blots?
1. "Rescue personnel summarized the occupants must have abandoned the vehicle." In a nutshell, they scrammed. (Spotted by Cynara Stites, Mansfield, Connecticut)
2. "The state also interviewed 10 and disposed three ...Read more
Have you ever noticed that many terms we use for new technologies are surprisingly old-fashioned?
Mark Lander of Old Saybrook, Connecticut, recently reminded me of the linguistic ghosts that haunt our modern gizmos. In fact, his email message was written on a "template," a word that dates to metal plates used in woodworking and metal ...Read more
Huckleberry Finny: When my daughter texted a friend that she was planning to visit her, the friend texted back: "The Kyffster is finny to come to Boston!"
Finny? Did this term have something to do with Boston's being famous for codfish? Would her trip be a "fishing expedition" (the political term for an over-zealous investigation)?
"Finny" has...Read more
What's in a name? For corporations, a lot of money. The nation's wealthiest companies spend millions to craft monikers that are distinctive, attractive and unique.
So what does the current Fortune 500 list suggest about trends in corporate nomenclature?
--Squeeze Play. Want to impress? Compress. Abbreviate the words in your original name, ...Read more
Veni, vidi, vici. Can you conquer all 10 questions on this usage quiz?
1. The expenses for this project are not (A. estimable B. estimatable).
2. They'll reinforce the foundation as a (A. preventive B. preventative) measure.
3. The diplomats plan to take a different (A. tact B. tack) in the negotiations.
4. A notorious (A. cardsharp B....Read more
This winter just "flu" by, didn't it? My own bout began a week ago when invading forces apparently flanked the Maginot line of my flu shot. They've now settled in for a grim siege of my 'Flem'ish fields. (Don't worry. By the time you read this, I'm sure I'll be marching triumphantly through the conquered city of 'Flu'seldorf.)
Speaking of ...Read more