Category: Definitions

When Idioms Become Monsters

Posted on Tuesday, October 20, 2015, at 9:52 am

Close but no cigar, fly off the handle, he is pulling your leg, I was beside myself—we see idioms like these all the time, even though the closer we look, the less sense many of them make. Sometimes two familiar expressions get jumbled. When that happens, the result is what you might call a “Frankenstein …

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Slipshod Extension

Posted on Tuesday, October 13, 2015, at 2:01 pm

Henry W. Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage, published in 1926, is still the greatest of all English grammar guides. The first edition or the lightly revised second edition (1965) is highly recommended. Sprinkled among Fowler’s entries are topics that typify the author’s innovative approach to the study of grammar. His titles for these entries …

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Why Irregular Verbs Are Strong

Posted on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, at 11:05 am

When the authorities labeled certain verbs “irregular,” it was never intended as a putdown. Quite the opposite: another term for irregular verbs is “strong verbs.” In A Dictionary of Modern American Usage Bryan A. Garner explains: “Irregular verbs are sometimes called ‘strong’ verbs because they seem to form the past tense from their own resources, …

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Each Other vs. One Another

Posted on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, at 9:31 pm

There are still sticklers among us who see a distinct difference between each other and one another. They use each other when discussing two people or things, and one another when discussing more than two people or things. According to this system, the following sentences would both be correct: The twins told each other everything …

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You Can Say That Again

Posted on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, at 7:35 pm

Because English is so unpredictable, it’s often impossible to infer a word’s pronunciation from its spelling. Dictionaries help, to a point. But dictionaries often seem all too willing to penalize time-honored pronunciations after a word gets mispronounced by a sufficient number of people. So here is another in our series of pronunciation columns. The words …

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