Category: Humor

Clichés Are Too Easy

Posted on Tuesday, July 14, 2020, at 7:00 am

Clichés are to good writing as McDonald’s is to fine dining. You don’t need to shun them altogether; occasionally they have their place. But overall, like fast food, the job they do isn’t worth the toll they take. But what’s really so wrong with avoid like the plague? You know exactly what it means when …

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Sweating the Small Stuff

Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, at 7:00 am

At a football game a few years ago, the University of Notre Dame sold soda in cups that said, "Figthing Irish." Did no one at this distinguished school have the time or pride to proofread a two-word slogan? Here are a few other items we've seen and now wish we hadn't … Back to Basics  …

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Christmas ‘Log Review

Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Every year, for six weeks or so, I get a taste of what it's like to be a superstar. From late October to early December, I am accosted daily by an aggressive mob of stalkers who know where I live. Their urgent need for my attention seems to be their only reason for being. No, …

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More Ear-itating Word Abuse

Posted on Tuesday, June 4, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Although Arnold Schwarzenegger's star has faded, the erstwhile weight lifter-actor-governor hasn't quite left the building. Recently, a phonics teacher e-mailed her exasperation with broadcasters who mispronounce the first syllable in "Schwarzenegger," saying "swartz" instead of "shwartz." "There IS a difference!" she said. "It's gotten to the point that it's like nails on a chalkboard when …

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What’s Up With Up?

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019, at 11:00 pm

We thought we would lighten things up a bit this week. We hope you enjoy it. There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is up. It's easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, …

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Nuggets from Ol’ Diz

Posted on Monday, March 25, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Let’s welcome baseball season with this item by our late veteran copy editor and word nerd Tom Stern. Baseball’s back. I realize a lot of people don’t care. To them, sports fans are knuckle draggers who probably also read comic books while chewing gum with their mouths open. But baseball isn’t called “the grand old …

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The Media Made Me Do It

Posted on Tuesday, February 26, 2019, at 11:00 pm

I heard from a correspondent who hates the phrase gone missing. His e-mail called it an "ear-abrading" and "vulgar" usage. "Sends me right round the bend, mate!" he said. I did a little digging and found that he's far from alone. "Gone missing," according to a word nerd at the Boston Globe, is "the least …

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Year-End Quiz 2018

Posted on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Another year of grammatical exploration has concluded with linguistic miles behind us. What we’ve learned and discussed with you along the way has been illuminating, and we are grateful for the thought and insight it has inspired. We hope you gathered even more sharpened tools for communicating in concise and eloquent English. A year-end review …

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Word Nerds: Verbal Custodians Trapped in a Time Warp

Posted on Tuesday, October 9, 2018, at 11:00 pm

A big drawback to a column like this is being perceived as having insufferable attitude: “So, Mr. Expert, I guess you think you’re so superior.” It’s not like that. Word nerds do custodial work. A lot of brilliant people can’t write. Ernest Hemingway was a terrible speller. Word nerds don’t think they’re “better”—do janitors think …

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When Jumble Fumbles

Posted on Tuesday, September 11, 2018, at 11:00 pm

I may be a word nerd, but I don’t go in for word games. I’ve never been a Scrabble guy and crossword puzzles leave me cold. But I have a weakness for Jumble, a game that since the 1950s has been a daily feature in newspapers from coast to coast. When I started playing it, …

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More Mangled Language and Pompous Usages to Avoid

Posted on Tuesday, August 14, 2018, at 11:00 pm

This column is mostly concerned about the written word, but even so, pronunciation will inevitably enter the picture from time to time. The expressions chomping at the bit and stomping ground are both corruptions of the original champing and stamping. People find this incredible. But, for instance, consult the 1961 cult-favorite western film One-Eyed Jacks, …

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The Word Nerd: Six Pitfalls Writers (and Others) Should Avoid

Posted on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at 11:00 pm

That’s right, I admit it. I’m a word nerd. I pick, pick, pick at the way you express yourself. Despite protests of apathy, people of all ages care about how well they express themselves. Deep down, everyone likes to be right about language, and you can even hear little kids teasing each other about talking …

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A _____ Walks Into a Bar

Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2018, at 11:00 pm

The phrase A ______ walks into a bar has provided the take-off point for an uncountable number of jokes over the years. No matter what one’s opinion is of bars, we hope that everyone can appreciate the lessons in English grammar contained in the clever sentences that follow: A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying …

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The Language of Sports

Posted on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, at 11:00 pm

“I truly don’t know the language,” said the late Sparky Anderson, a Hall of Fame baseball manager, in 1993. At least he had the gumption to admit it. It’s not that they’re lazy—athletes work their tails off. And it’s not that they’re stupid—you try memorizing a football playbook. It’s just that their brand of eloquence is …

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Pop Culture Fallacies

Posted on Wednesday, October 11, 2017, at 10:59 am

Editor's note:  It was one year ago that we passed along to you the unfortunate news of the death of our popular GrammarBook writer Tom Stern. Tom loved writing about the English language, and he loved writing for and hearing from you, his audience. He was a keen observer and critic of the media. While the …

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