Archives for September 2013

Grammar Lesson of the Day: redundancy

Grammar Lesson of the Day: RedundancyThe word redundant suggests a wave that keeps splashing over the side of the boat, over and over.  We use it to signify something unnecessary because it has already been said or done.  It is not the same as repetition, which can be extraordinarily effective.Redundancies in poor writing occur most often when the meaning of an adverb is already implied by the verb.  They can lead to real silliness:“Successfully foiled again!” snarled Mr. Whiplash, st … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: slack

Word of the Day: slack.Have you ever noticed that there aren’t any words in French or Spanish that begin with sl-?  There weren’t any in Latin, either.  Every language rules out certain combinations of consonants, as being too hard to pronounce.  Hawaiian rules them all out!  You never get two consonants together in Hawaiian, but you sure get a lot of vowels to make up for them.Now then, we know that the English language is a cousin of French and Spanish – and Latin.  Either Latin lost al … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: because

Grammar Lesson of the Day: because.Some years ago I began to notice that my college freshmen had all gotten a very strange idea.  They had been taught that one must never begin a sentence with the word because.  I have no idea where high school teachers came up with this one.  It is like alligators in the Manhattan sewers, or aliens landing in Roswell.  Some kook huddled in a condemned building says it, and all at once everybody “knows” it, though it is not in the slightest bit true. … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Pronominal Case

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Pronominal Case.I watch a lot of Saint Louis Cardinals baseball games, and though the broadcasters are splendid fellows who know the game and are a delight to listen to, whenever they utter a sentence in which two pronouns appear as objects, they get them wrong.  Oh for the days when only somebody putting on hoity-toity airs would say, “Oh, darling, it was such a trial for Beauregard and I, you’ll never know!”  That was what grammarians call being hyper-correct; you … [Read more...]

The MPE Award (Maximum Possible Error) of the Day: Tris Speaker

Back in 1920, the New York Yankees, who had never won much of anything, acquired a big fellow named George Herman Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for a World Series to be named later (84 years later, to be precise).  George Herman had made quite a name for himself with the Red Sox, winning two games in the 1918 World Series, which the Sox took four games to two from the Cubs, and winning a fourteen inning 2-1 pitchers' duel against the Brooklyn Robins in the 1916 World Series, which the Sox also … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: science

Word of the Day: science“He’s a scientist and he’s OK, He sleeps all night and he works all day!”“I poison rats, I eat my lunch, I go to the lava-tree. Then back in my apartment I drink and watch TV.”“He’s a scientist and he’s OK, He sleeps all night and he works all day!”All right, all right, I know that scientists are human beings like the rest of us, and that what’s called science these days, knowledge of the natural world gained by hypothesis and experiment, has worked wo … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: beer

 Word of the Day: beer“Hey Matty, hey Matty,” said the football player down the hall to his groggy roommate, “what’s all this beeah on the flooah?”  I was a freshman at Princeton, and it was the first time I'd ever heard a Rhode Island accent in all its glory.We don’t know where the word beer comes from.  We think we know where the stuff itself comes from: ancient Mesopotamia.  Think about it.  Would you really want to drink the runoff in the canals and standing pools from the sl … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: antique

Word of the Day: antiqueNapoleon snorted that the British were a “nation of shopkeepers,” a comment in the venerable tradition of Frenchmen turning up le nez at the smell of the bluff beefeaters.  That’s why, in the wooing scene that concludes Shakespeare’s Henry V, the young English soldier-king pays court to the French princess Katherine by confessing outright that he’s just a plain man, that is to say, a plain man, and none of your finicky supercilious eyebrow-tweezing courtiers a la Franc … [Read more...]