Right-click here to download pictures. Jane Straus

Welcome to your GrammarBook.com E-Newsletter.

“The free e-newsletter answers so many of my questions. Other proofreaders look to me to resolve arguments, especially about commas, and I rely on you!”
—Cynthia S.


“Thank you for making the grammar rules so easy to understand.”
—Terence T.


“I have struggled with grammar my whole life. The way you explain things is great.”
—Leah S.

Feb-roo-ary vs. Feb-yoo-ary

We all know that February is the only month of variable length, and the only month with fewer than 30 days. But of greater concern here: it’s the only month that most Americans can’t pronounce.

That includes radio and TV commentators, whose job it is to say things right. There are a few meticulous media types who correctly say “Feb-roo-ary.” But for every one of them, there are countless others who say “Feb-yoo-ary.” Then there are those who fecklessly say “Febber-ary”—at least they’re trying, but it only makes “Febber-ary” all the more annoying. Last and least is “Feb-wary,” a feeble cop-out.

I hauled out my American Heritage dictionary, about the best you can get this side of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary, and I checked to see what the renowned American Heritage Usage Panel had to say about pronouncing February.

It turns out the answer is: a lot. And I hate to butt heads with this great dictionary’s panel of experts, but I have a big problem with the “Usage Note” I found. It said that “Feb-yoo-ary” is “quite common in educated speech” and “generally considered acceptable.” Whaaat!?

Wait, it gets worse. “The loss of the first r in this pronunciation can be accounted for by the phonological process known as dissimilation, by which similar sounds in a word tend to become less similar.” By this dizzy reasoning, your six-year-old has been right all along in pronouncing library “lie-berry.”

“In the case of February,” the panel adds, “the loss of the first r is also owing to the influence of January, which has only one r.” I guess this means we get so accustomed to “yoo-ary” after 31 days of January that our poor little brains and tongues can’t make the adjustment—but the compassionate arbiters on the usage panel want us to know it’s OK, they understand.

Well, to me, this is a dismal misstep by the panel, usually so strict and no-nonsense in its findings. Legitimizing widespread carelessness is where madness lies. Such leniency is an unappetizing leftover from the anything-goes 1960s. That’s when the language was taken down the dead-end trail that has brought America to the brink of illiteracy. That’s when traditional grammar was attacked as elitist, even racist, for supposedly stifling spontaneity and marginalizing the underclasses by imposing on them its tyrannical rules. This was the position taken not only by the rebellious youth of that era, but also by many self-doubting teachers and professors, who chose appeasement over their solemn responsibilities as keepers of the cultural flame.

Anyway, reeling from this seeming betrayal by one of my most trusted allies, I sought and found a second opinion in There Is No Zoo in Zoology and Other Beastly Mispronunciations by Charles Harrington Elster. The enlightened Mr. Elster did not disappoint: Feb-roo-ary “is hard to say, and so most people say [Feb-yoo-ary] because it is easier, not because it is right … [Feb-yoo-ary] may now be standard, but it is still beastly.” Amen, brother.

But Elster wasn’t through. In a direct dig at the American Heritage panel, he said “certain dictionaries have gone to great lengths to tell you that a fancy linguistic process called dissimilation is at work here … the result being that most educated speakers now replace the first R in February with a Y …

“That is a very convenient explanation, which makes a mispronunciation look right because so many people use it, and makes the correct pronunciation look wrong …

“Therefore, I will not dissemble about dissimilation, or feed you some malarkey about how [Feb-yoo-ary] is an alternative pronunciation based on analogy with January.” Ouch—a stinging rebuke from an indignant word nerd!

As for me, I’m not quite that angry with the American Heritage dictionary, which I consider an invaluable resource. I’m just glad I have others like Elster, too.

Tom Stern

Because of the E-Newsletter's large readership, please submit your English usage questions through GrammarBook.com's Grammar Blog.

Revised and Expanded Blue Book Coming This Month

Thanks very much to those of you who already took advantage of the publisher's generous discount offer on pre-orders of The Blue Book. The discount code glitches experienced by some people in the first week of the offer have been worked out. Your pre-orders should now process smoothly.

If you live in the United States or Canada, order the new edition of The Blue Book through Wiley.com and get 30 percent off and FREE shipping. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4AYY.

For those of you who live outside the U.S. and Canada, although the publisher is not able to offer free shipping, you will get 35 percent off to help offset your shipping costs. Simply go to bit.ly/1996hkA and use discount code E9X4A.

This offer is good through the publication date of February 10.

With our best wishes for good grammar,
The team at GrammarBook.com

Free BONUS Quiz For You!

[[firstname]], because you are a subscriber to the newsletter, you get access to one of the Subscription Members-Only Quizzes. Click here to take a Subject and Verb Agreement and get your scores and explanations instantly!

Hundreds of Additional Quizzes at Your Fingertips

Hundreds of Quizzes

“So convenient...hundreds of quizzes in one click.”

[[firstname]], Subscribe to receive hundreds of English usage quizzes not found anywhere else!

  • Take the quizzes online or download and copy them.
  • Get scored instantly.
  • Find explanations for every quiz answer.
  • Reproduce the quizzes to your heart's content.
  • EASY to use.
  • No software to download.
  • No setup time.
  • A real person to help you if you have any questions!

“Fun to test my skills!” “The explanations really help...thanks!”

Your choice: Subscribe at the $29.95 or $99.95 level ($30 off - regularly $129.95).

“I download the quizzes for my students who don't have computer access.”

Subscribe today to receive hundreds of English usage quizzes not found anywhere else!

“Makes learning English FUN!”


Don't need all the quizzes at once?
You can now purchase the same quizzes individually for ONLY 99¢ each. Purchase yours here.

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Get Yours Today!

Get Amazon’s No. 1 Best-seller in Four Categories!
No. 1 in Grammar
No. 1 in Reading
No. 1 in Lesson Planning
No. 1 in Vocabulary

The Blue Book of Grammar
and Punctuation
by Jane Straus, Lester Kaufman, and Tom Stern

The Authority on English Grammar!

Eleventh Edition Available February 10

Have You Ordered Your Copy Yet?

An indispensable tool for busy professionals, teachers, students, homeschool families, editors, writers, and proofreaders.

Available in print AND as an e-Book! Over 2,000 copies are purchased every month!

Order Your Copy Today!

  • Hundreds of Grammar, Punctuation, Capitalization, and Usage Rules 
  • Real-World Examples
  • Spelling / Vocabulary / Confusing Words
  • Quizzes with Answers

Discounts available for schools, bookstores, and multiple copies. Order Today!

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual similes and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country. Here is a selection of one year's winners:

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

68 One-Minute English Usage Videos

English In A Snap: 68 One-Minute English Usage Videos FREE 

Learn all about who and whom, affect and effect, subjects and verbs, adjectives and adverbs, commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and much more by just sitting back and enjoying these easy-to-follow lessons. Tell your colleagues (and boss), children, teachers, and friends. Click here to watch.

Forward this E-Newsletter to your friends and colleagues.


If you received this FREE weekly E-Newsletter from a friend, click here to have it sent to you each week.

Look for more Hot Tips from GrammarBook.com next week.

Miss a recent newsletter? Click here to view past editions.

Subscriber Log In Subscriber Benefits