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The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Category: Vocabulary

Why Does the Word Moist Get So Much Hate?

Posted on Monday, June 21, 2021, at 6:00 am

Why do so many people dislike the word “moist”? It's a good question. Even if you are one of those who can't stand the sound of that particular word—and there are many who can't—you might not be able to explain why. In this discussion, we'll consider the issue people have with this much-maligned word, along …

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Sarcastic vs. Facetious: What’s the Difference?

Posted on Monday, February 22, 2021, at 9:00 am

One of the most entertaining facets of communication can also be one of the most frustrating: That's because people don't always mean exactly what they say. We refer not to lies or falsehoods, but to statements that aren't aimed to be accepted or understood by their literal meaning. For example, if a friend tells you …

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The Diversity of American English Dialects

Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Americans share a common language, but as in other countries, not all people speak it the same way. The U.S. has its own family of dialects that differ by region within its 3.8 million square miles. People establish a dialect when they live together within set social or geographical boundaries over time. As they use …

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Restoring the Meanings of Misused Words

Posted on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Words give us an array of ways to express what we're thinking or feeling with boldness or nuance. The more we use them in the proper context according to their definitions, the more settled they become in our eloquence. Within American English, some words continue to operate as people wearing another's attire. One can ponder …

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The Dictionary Definition of Racism

Posted on Tuesday, June 16, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Just as public support for the Black Lives Matter movement and nationwide protests over police violence are moving Americans toward positive social changes, so too do they reveal an inadequacy in how we have defined racism. We've written frequently about how the meanings of words change over time. The prescriptivists among us tend to hold …

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American vs. British English: Vocabulary

Posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Our last discussion of U.S. and Commonwealth English focused on word spellings between the dialects. We’ll next review variances in vocabulary. Understanding how the U.S. and the U.K. approach the naming of words is a great opportunity to embrace the richness of our shared language. Stateside, we enjoy and appreciate how Commonwealth writers and speakers …

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How Does a Word Become a Word?

Posted on Tuesday, April 28, 2020, at 11:00 pm

The English language is about 1,400 years old. One of the earliest-known English dictionaries, The Elementarie (1582), contained 8,000 words. As of January 2020, English now includes more than one million words—a figure that differs from words accepted in dictionaries, which can range from 170,000 to 470,000 depending on the source. Even if we discuss …

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Staying Woke* with New Words

Posted on Tuesday, April 14, 2020, at 11:00 pm

English is a language of flux, always moving and shifting with the changes among us as we evolve. Each year, it introduces around 1,000 new words to represent the events, circumstances, and spirit of the day. Today’s cyber-centric existence makes it only easier for those new words to spread and multiply. We thought it would …

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Leaning on the Evolution of Meanings

Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020, at 11:00 pm

Words and their meanings change as people and society do. Just as we replaced travel by horse with motorized transit, so have we altered words to serve what we want and need from the era we live in. In some cases, those words have even become the opposites of what they used to signify. At …

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Mixing Miscellany Again

Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 11:00 pm

Our study of American English grammar and style sometimes gathers bits too small to feature yet worthy to gather for group exploration. In 2018, we discussed such medleys twice: Exploring Some English Miscellany More Mulling Over Miscellany This year we've continued tracking items of note that we receive from our readers. Let's look at several …

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