Will Barbie Be a Nervous Nellie at the Oscars?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Why is the doll (and movie) called "Barbie"? Why is Nellie nervous, and why is a statuette named Oscar? This column will put you on a first-name basis with terms based on first names.

-- Barbie -- During the 1950s, Ruth and Elliot Handler noticed that their daughter, Barbie, preferred paper dolls resembling adult women to baby dolls. So they ...Read more

The Bridge Between Steel and Art

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Three essential tools on every writer's workbench should be contrast, detail and imagery. Watch how skillfully Bill Bryson handles all three devices in his paean to the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia, from his delightful memoir "In a Sunburned Country."

"The opera house is a splendid edifice and I wish to take nothing away from it, but ...Read more

Bumpkins Get Short End of the Sticks

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

"Stix Nix Hick Pix," proclaimed a 1935 headline in the entertainment newspaper Variety. Translation: Small-town movie houses don't want films with rural themes.

But why do we call rustics "hicks"?

"Hick" is one of several derogatory terms based on abbreviations of common names. In England during the 1600s, "Hick" was short for "Richard," "...Read more

Share and Snare a 'Like'

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Today, two meaty questions involving comparison ...

Jeanette Lendl of Delmont, Pennsylvania, isn't sure about this sentence from an ad: "Ensure has protein, like in meat."

"This sounds stilted to me," she writes. "Is it correct? Should the word be 'as'?"

Advantage Lendl. The use of "like" followed by a prepositional phrase is indeed ...Read more

A 'Soup'er Bowl Packed With Pigskin Palaver

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

The lingo of American football is a soup bowl bubbling with terms from almost every realm of life, from fighting to food to finance.

Not surprisingly, its lexicon bristles with military terms such as "bomb," "blitz," "trenches" and "shotgun." The Visigoths sacked Rome and spiked the torsos of defending centurions; today's players sack ...Read more

Why the Letter 'B' Is Deeply in 'Debt'

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Have you ever wondered why we don't pronounce the "b" in debt, the "c" in indict, the "p" in receipt or the "s" in island?

Blame it on 17th-century British scholars.

During the 1600s, England's intellectuals became besotted with classical languages. These bespectacled, bearded dons began speaking Latin, wearing laurel wreaths and chanting "...Read more

'Recouping' Gives Reader Paws

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Today, some questions from readers ...

Curt Guenther of Memphis asked me to vet this sentence describing a Labrador retriever's recovery from health problems: "Hayden has spent the last three months recouping."

Unless Hayden has regained money he lost in the stock market (he must have picked some dogs!), he's better off "recuperating."

"...Read more

A January Jaunt With Blooper Snoopers

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

The Word Guy Blooper Patrol, which has plenty of cachet, has cashed in on a cache of errors. Can you catch the mistakes?

1. "A cast of characters ... violated and flaunted the law." 2. "Last week, the Pope beautified the Sister." Did he use "mass"cara?

3. "Lawyer Accused Of Hiring Hit Men To Squash Probe." Were they squash racquet-eers?

4. ...Read more

Why a 'Bass' Can Sing or Swim

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

An amusing compilation titled "Why English Is Hard To Learn" has been bouncing like a beach ball around the internet for years. By citing sentences such as, "A bass was painted on the head of a bass drum," "The wind was too strong to wind the sail," and "Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear," this ditty showcases the linguistic ...Read more

My Teacher Imparted 'Vary' Good Advice

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Until my junior year in high school, I thought my writing was pretty hot stuff. Teachers had always commended me for my sound ideas, clear sentences and expressive descriptions.

Then I met Mr. Wittern.

My 11th-grade English teacher, Herman Wittern, was as eloquent and reflective as the 19th-century American poets he loved. In fact, I always ...Read more

Editors, Here's Your 'Write' of Passage

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Your the proofreader, er... You're the proofreader! Can you find 28 errors in this passage?

Mistakes in grammer, usage and spelling can seriously effect a writer's credability. Readers loose faith in a writer who makes a high amount of errors. If a writer is all together careless about these kind of slips, readers begin to question the writer...Read more

Who Wants To Be a 'Spellionaire'?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Remember the old TV show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" Here's a version of that high-stakes game based on your knowledge of spelling. As the show did, I'll provide you with three "lifelines" along the way.

Let's go! Select the CORRECTLY spelled word in each quartet:

$100 -- A. begining B. recieve C. opening D. athelete

$200 -- A. ...Read more

The Story of 2023 in Its Own Words

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

'Twas the night before Twitter rebranded as "X,"

Not a "Swiftie" was stirring, not even by text.

But buzzwords like "thirsty" and "vibe check" did whiz,

Including "authentic" and "toxic" and "rizz."

On TikTok and Meta, we often did spar,

Declaring with gusto, "That's not who we are!"

"Amazing" and "bandwidth" made some of us gack;

"...Read more



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