Category Archives: The English Language

What is the 2020 Word of the Year?

In keeping with the tradition of commemorating the past year in every way possible, what language milestone has been honored as the Word of the Year for 2020? Like everything else about this last trip around the sun, it gets messy. Dictionary.com honored (surprise!) pandemic (https://www.dictionary.com/e/word-of-the-year/) — “…our choice was overwhelmingly clear. From our perspective

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Happy Birthday, Peter Mark Roget

As a writer with limited talent, I’ve come to depend upon my thesaurus for finding imaginative words. So I was interested to learn that today is the birthday of the man who started it all, Peter Mark Roget, who was born in London in 1779. According to The Writer’s Almanac (https://www.spreaker.com/show/the-writers-almanac?), Roget was a very

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How Word Meanings Can Embarrass You

English is a very complicated language with hundreds of thousands of words, so it’s not surprising that many people get confused about word meanings. How many ways are there to embarrass yourself? At least 43, according to the article “43 Embarrassing Grammar Mistakes Even Smart People Make” by Christina DesMarais (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/43-embarrassing-grammar-mistakes-even-smart-people-make). I’m not going to

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What is a Lame Duck?

Between an election and the formation of a new government, we always go through a period of governance that includes people who are about to lose their jobs. We’ve adopted the expression “lame duck” for this period, as in a lame duck session of Congress. But where did this expression originate? And I can understand

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Flexibility of English — Words That Are Their Own Opposites

The flexibility of the English language has always been a source of fascination for me. In the past, I’ve written about the origins of words and expressions, and how word meanings change over time. Recently, I’ve found another example in an article entitled “25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites” by Judith Herman (https://getpocket.com/explore/item/25-words-that-are-their-own-opposites). It’s

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Word of the Day — Palimpsest

If you love books, be glad you live in this era. There was a time when the best available writing materials were papyrus (interlocking strips cut from reedy plants) and parchment (the hides of sheep and cattle). Since papyrus and parchment were scarce and expensive, it was not uncommon for scholars to recycle materials by scraping off

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The Language of Thanksgiving

Every holiday has its own unique expressions and phrases, and Thanksgiving is no exception. This year, with its limited celebratory options, I decided to investigate two of my favorites. Why are male turkeys called gobblers? According to Merriam-Webster, Gobbler appeared in the 18th century as the nickname for a male turkey, in imitation of the bird’s

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Two Ways To Be A Writer

If you’ve ever wanted to write a novel and didn’t know where to begin, you might try looking for a formula or recipe, and simply plug in the words. Yes, there are some basic formulas for writing fiction. Recently I have found two. The first is called “The Hero’s Journey.” Various writers have put forth

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