The Rise and Fall of Vogue Words

Posted on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at 7:54 pm

In the last two weeks, on various radio and television programs, I have heard the word granular used no less than five times, in sentences like “The commission was hoping for a granular analysis of the problem.” The word got my attention, but I didn’t know what it was supposed to mean. All I knew …

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Punctuation or Chaos

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, at 9:43 am

She said I saved the company No one knows for sure what the above sentence means. It consists of six everyday words, and the first five are monosyllables, yet this simple declarative sentence has at least three quite different meanings—maybe more, because with no period on the end, the reader can’t even be sure the …

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When Branding Undermines Spelling

Posted on Monday, April 4, 2016, at 6:32 pm

• Spring is in the air, which means that in America, major-league baseball is on the air. In San Francisco, two members of the hometown Giants’ broadcast team are former major-leaguers Mike Krukow (pronounced CREW-ko) and Duane Kuiper (KY-per). The team’s publicity department refers to these popular announcers as “Kruk” and “Kuip,” which we are …

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Autoantonyms Speak with a Forked Tongue

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at 7:29 am

An autoantonym (pronounced auto-ANTA-nim) is a word with two opposite meanings. A familiar example is the Hawaiian word aloha, which means both “hello” and “goodbye.” Autoantonyms (also known as contranyms, contronyms, and Janus words) are not rare. We see, hear, and use them all the time. Too often, miscommunication ensues. It’s awful when you think you said “purple” but the whole world …

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Spell Well, and Excel

Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, at 10:38 am

Take care that you never spell a word wrong. Always before you write a word, consider how it is spelled, and, if you do not remember, turn to a dictionary. It produces great praise to a lady to spell well. —Thomas Jefferson to his daughter If there are spelling and grammatical errors, assume that the …

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