Tag Archives: dictionary

#WordUse Series:
Merry Melancholy Christmas

On Christmas Eve last year, I was alone in the house, awaiting my son’s arrival from out of town the next morning. It was a quiet—but happily anticipatory—time. When I posted a comment on Facebook— A little melancholy tonight … but my heart is full. I am blessed in so, so many ways. Merry Christmas, […]

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#WordUse Series:
On Stationery. And Guilds. And Vocabulary Words.

Stationery is an old-fashioned word. Or maybe I just think it’s old-fashioned because I learned it a long time ago and I don’t see it used much any more, given our electronic culture. But no, my fave dictionary lists it as having appeared in 1688—which is old enough, but its etymology is stationer, which we’re told by the same […]

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#WordUse Series:
Step Away From the Thesaurus and No One Gets Hurt

You know I love my thesaurus, right? I do. I have at least four of them, from various decades dating back to the ’40s (you’d be surprised how useful that is), as well as a rhyming dictionary, a slang dictionary, and something called the Flip Dictionary, which is more fun than any dictionary has a right […]

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#WordUse Series: ’Til? Till? Until?

The word until can be a preposition (it took until late that evening to unload the truck, for example) or a conjunction (we kept unloading until it got dark) and for many years I believed the shortened version of this word was ’til. You know—like ’til is a truncation of until, with the apostrophe indicating […]

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Short Saturday: The Politics of Language

I use my Merriam-Webster online dictionary every day, and sometimes I find interesting articles or interesting people wiriting them. In this case, both. In an article called “An Oxford-Educated Southerner in Berlin,” I was delighted to read about a journalist who has lived lots of places, Johnson City, Tennessee Little Rock, Arkansas Omaha, Nebraska Marietta, […]

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#WordUse Series:
The Language Metamorphosis

We’ve talked a lot here about how the language we use—the words, the grammar—is a constantly evolving, living, almost breathing thing. (And still, still we want to stop that process! Human nature, I guess.) I’ve written about it in various ways, from evolving spelling and compounds to singular they and even usage problems. We’ve talked about word use, literary devices, and slang too. And—as with the word meme—I’m always a little fascinated when […]

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#WordUse Series:
Is That a Smirk on Your Face, or Are You Just Happy to See Me?

Here’s a word that gets misused a lot, at least in the manuscripts I’ve seen in recent years. (And not just misused—overused.) Smirk. It can be a noun or a verb. But no matter how it gets used, I think some writers are missing the fine nuances in smirk, the subtleties that distinguish it from, […]

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Homage: It’s All in the Spelling

I love my subscription to Southern Living. It’s full of the things that interest me: good food, gardening, travel, history … and it’s just the right mix. But I was a little surprised the other morning when I got to Rick Bragg’s piece—always on the last page—about Pat Conroy’s passing. “An homage to a Southern literary […]

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Short Saturday: True Confessions of a Reformed Pedant

Not long ago I wrote a (pedantic) post about two common usage errors that often come up when I am editing. One of them is the phrase begs the question. And yes, the actual meaning is difficult to grasp; I confess I have to sit very still and concentrate very hard. :) (It’s a term […]

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Slang Creates Solidarities

Considering the temper of [Lindley] Murray’s writing, it may come as a surprise that he has nothing to say about slang. One feels confident that he would have dismissed it as a disgracegull aberration. But slang would not have meant much to him. The OED’s first citation for this word in the sense ‘language of […]

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