Can You Catch 40 Winks?

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Can you find and replace each of the 40 usage errors in this account of my spring-cleaning? (The number of errors in each paragraph appears in parentheses.)

The current anti-clutter movement has struck a cord with me, so I've decided to start tossing out things I don't need. It's not that I horde stuff, but I have several cachets of treasured...Read more

FDR's Prose Crackled with Clarity

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Jill Lepore's new book "These Truths," a delightfully quirky and informative romp through U.S. history, serves up many delicious details and anecdotes. Who knew, for instance, that Teddy Roosevelt wore a ring containing a wisp of Abraham Lincoln's hair?

In one passage about presidential rhetoric, Lepore underscores the importance of clarity ...Read more

Reader Bludgeons 'High Dungeon'

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

Q: I was watching a news program, and one of the guests said someone "was in high dungeon" instead of "high dudgeon"! Meanwhile, is "dudgeon" ever preceded by a word other than "high"? -- Linda Rusin, Suffield, Connecticut

A: Oh, the difference a single letter can make. "Dungeon," meaning "a dark, underground chamber for holding prisoners," ...Read more

Blooper Patrol Laps Up Lapses

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

Origins Breathe Life into Words

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

Being Letter-Perfect Casts Its Spell

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

Baseball Banter Is Easy-Going ... Going, Gone!

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

'Glide Path' Lands Smoothly on Political Runway

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

'Predominately' Makes Purists 'Ant'sy

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

Those Roman Plurals Are Roamin'

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

I Only Have Calves for You

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

Today's Politics? Don't Get Me Started!

Knowledge / The Word Guy /

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

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