Tag Archives: language

#WordUse Series:
The Soda / Pop Conundrum

My siblings and I talk like Midwesterners, although none of us live there (or have ever lived there). Our mother was a Midwesterner: born and raised in Chicago. Daddy was also a Midwesterner, born/raised in St. Louis, although he had Southern roots: his mother was born/raised in Tennessee, as were her people, while his father’s […]

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#WordUse Series:
Words I Never Want to See in Your Novel. Please.

When I get to the end of an edit, I generally make a list of the author’s “favorite” words and phrases—words he or she used over and over without realizing it. It’s quite instructive. Usually they are words like so and well used at the beginning of sentences of dialogue. Often it’s amazing (and you know how I feel about that!). Smirk shows up […]

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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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#WordUse Series:
You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

I admit I’m sometimes out of the loop. (Or behind the curve. Or whatever.) I don’t watch television and it’s only me up here in the swanky second-floor office in the pink house with the blue door, so whole fads pass me by. Whole memes pass me by. But I am up on my word usage, kids. And Your […]

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#WordUse Series:
Many Teaspoonsful of Sugar Help the Medicine Go Down …

My Facebook friends and I engaged in an etymological rabbit chase the other day. I do, seriously, get a kick out of this stuff, even if I really should be working instead of hopping around my office pulling reference books off the shelves. One friend wrote: Yesterday, I posted a comment to you in which […]

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#WordUse Series:
A Puke of Politicians, or Collective Nouns

A book I’ve been working on has an interesting and lovely mention of terms of venery—which are a very special form of collective nouns—and it occured to me that it would be fun to take a look at them. You know what a collective noun is—team, committee, crowd are all collective nouns. They are words […]

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#WordUse Series:
All Their Wars Are Merry and All Their Songs Are Sad*

Words—and the way they are pronounced—can be such funny things. And people are often passionately attached to their own interpretation, even if they’re … well … wrong. (Like the pronunciation of Van Gogh. Look it up; you may be surprised.) The Irishman and I have done some pleasant business with a company called Celtic Marble […]

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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:
Amazing, My Dear Watson

The word amazing is still way, way overused these days. She’s an amazing mother. That movie was amazing. It’s amazing that you can get up and do that every day. That clothing store is amazing. (A clothing store? Really? These are examples ripped from your editor’s own life and I assure you a clothing store […]

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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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