Category: Humor

Words Can Be Bullies

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013, at 6:53 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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I’ll Be Hanged! Or, Have I Just Gone Missing?

Posted on Monday, July 29, 2013, at 9:29 pm

Several readers responded to Tom Stern's article The media made me do it which asked for alternatives to gone missing. Interestingly, the overwhelming choice was to simply replace the phrase with missing. This is fine in many, perhaps most, cases, e.g., The man was missing instead of The man went missing. But it's no help …

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The Media Made Me Do It

Posted on Thursday, July 4, 2013, at 10:04 am

I heard from a correspondent who hates the phrase gone missing. His e-mail called it an “ear-abrading” and “vulgar” usage. “Sends me right round the bend, mate!” he said. I did a little digging and found that he’s far from alone. “Gone missing,” according to a word nerd at the Boston Globe, is “the least …

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Word Nerds: Verbal Custodians Trapped in a Time Warp

Posted on Friday, May 17, 2013, at 9:59 am

A big drawback to a column like this is being perceived as having insufferable attitude: “So, Mr. Expert, I guess you think you’re so superior.” It’s not like that. Word nerds do custodial work. A lot of brilliant people can’t write. Ernest Hemingway was a terrible speller. Word nerds don’t think they’re “better”—do janitors think …

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Nuggets from Ol’ Diz

Posted on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 4:24 pm

Let’s welcome baseball season with this item by veteran copy editor and word nerd Tom Stern. Baseball’s back. I realize a lot of people don’t care. To them, sports fans are knuckle draggers who probably also read comic books while chewing gum with their mouths open. But baseball isn’t called “the grand old game” for …

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