Category: Vocabulary

Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017 (Follow-up)

Posted on Thursday, July 20, 2017, at 12:15 pm

We enjoy helping you reinforce the way you express yourself with precise grammar and composition. We appreciate just as much when you join meaningful discussions about written language. Our recent GrammarBook article Worn-Out Words and Phrases inspired some great feedback about whether certain terms have outlived their welcome. After reading and considering your thoughtful responses, we determined …

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Worn-Out Words and Phrases: 2017

Posted on Wednesday, June 28, 2017, at 8:06 am

Words and phrases are powerful tools when used correctly in the right places in a thought or idea. They can also add conversational glue among those tuned in to the buzz of a current milieu. Yet not all words and phrases are meant to last forever. Many serve a fleeting purpose before they lose their …

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Media Watch: Word Choice, Articles, Pronouns

Posted on Monday, May 29, 2017, at 2:43 pm

These articles used to be a lot more fun to write, but that was before newspapers and magazines went on life support. Mainly, we do “Media Watch” for the copy editors, those unsung word nerds who make journalists watch what they say and how they say it. When companies struggle, they downsize, so we shudder …

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That’s What That Means?

Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2017, at 11:02 pm

I know many avid readers, and I wish I read as much as they do. But to my surprise, very few of them read with a dictionary on hand. When I ask why, the answer is some variation on “It ruins the mood” or “I want to relax, not study” or the most self-deluded one: …

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Whether to Give a Hoot About Moot

Posted on Wednesday, April 12, 2017, at 9:22 am

Those who follow the evolution of English understand that some words with a once-fixed identity can get pulled into the pool of common use and begin to lose their form. Some words become a new creation. Others obtain a duality that makes them hard to discern. One such word is moot. Dating back to the …

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Small Dishes (2017)

Posted on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at 10:37 am

Things we’ve been meaning to talk to you about … Breaking news is broken  Remember when a standing ovation meant something? Now performers get them for just showing up. There’s a misguided tendency nowadays to overdo things whose power is in their scarcity. So it is that virtually every day, especially on the cable news …

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Words Can Be Bullies

Posted on Tuesday, February 14, 2017, at 2:03 pm

Words that start with the letter h don’t always act like it. Consider “herb,” when it means “an aromatic plant used for seasoning in cooking.” Americans dump the h, whereas many Brits pronounce it. So we say “an ’erb,” but an Englishman says “a herb.” A different sort of h-confusion happens when self-important speakers and …

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A Fine Distinction

Posted on Tuesday, February 7, 2017, at 11:57 pm

How valid can a rule be if nobody knows or cares about it anymore? That all depends on what the definition of “nobody” is. A lot of people I’ve been around seem to feel “nobody” applies to just about everybody 15-plus years younger or older than they are. Generational outcasts—the nerds, wonks, and misfits—also get …

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Go Trendy, Stay Alive

Posted on Wednesday, November 30, 2016, at 11:09 am

Americans used to love their newspapers and magazines. Now a whole generation regards them as quaint curiosities. Here’s a day in the life of a late-twentieth-century big-city newspaper: “The newsroom was packed with reporters keeping very close watch on every institution in town. They had two reporters covering city hall, three reporters covering the police …

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The G-Rated Truth

Posted on Monday, November 7, 2016, at 11:16 am

Euphemisms put a happy face on the world’s brutishness. When a player is laid out by a ferocious hit in a football game, announcers downplay it with a cheerful “He really got his bell rung.” We had a Department of War from the eighteenth century until the late 1940s. Then it was renamed the Department …

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Big Words We Can Use

Posted on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, at 3:35 pm

To many Americans, big words are an affront. People who use fancy words are trying to show us up, flaunting their education and intelligence, rubbing our noses in our own shortcomings. It’s true there are people who use their vocabularies to intimidate. It’s a shabby tactic, and it’s sad how effective it can be. Many …

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Test Your Vocabulary

Posted on Tuesday, September 6, 2016, at 11:33 am

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe We try to ensure that our vocabulary tests concentrate on “reasonable words.” Do you know the ones listed below? The answers …

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Nothing Poetic About This Verse

Posted on Tuesday, August 23, 2016, at 4:42 pm

Have you noticed how the abbreviation vs., meaning “against,” is pronounced these days? People read “Serbia vs. USA for the Gold Medal” and say “Serbia verse USA.” Yes, “verse”—one syllable—although vs. stands for versus here. That’s “verse-uss”—two syllables. When we hear this gaffe over the airwaves, are we imagining things or do the announcers sound …

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Media Watch: Pronouns, Misused Words, Excess Verbiage

Posted on Monday, August 15, 2016, at 5:26 pm

The following are less-than-exemplary snippets from recent newspapers and magazines … • “The suspect was linked to at least nine different bank robberies.” Why not just “nine bank robberies”? It would be interesting to know what compelled the writer to add “different.” However, this sentence is not a total loss; it could be shown to …

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Arcane Words and the “Intuitive” Reader

Posted on Tuesday, August 2, 2016, at 10:47 am

Serious readers, when they are reading literature they consider important, routinely look up any words they do not know. But there are also “intuitive” readers, who consider themselves of sufficient wisdom to figure out a word just by reading the sentence and trusting their life experience and common sense to grasp the writer’s meaning. Today …

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