Archives for 2013

Word of the Day: forgo

Word of the Day: forgo The word is commonly but inaccurately spelled forego, but those are really two separate and unrelated verbs. The fore in forego means first or before, so that a foregone conclusion is a conclusion that comes before any argument or declaration, since none is necessary. That prefix fore is related to all kinds of words in English that have to do with priority in time or position. The ones beginning with f come from the German pantry (first, forward), while those … [Read more...]

Exploring the Real Lessons of Prohibition

Writing over at Crisis Magazine:So, then, what does Prohibition teach us?That amendment inserted into the Constitution a law that neither protected fundamental rights nor adjusted the mechanics of governance. It was a radical break from tradition. It is crucial to understand this. It took a juridical break from tradition to obliterate the customs, the lived traditions, of the American people and their forebears.Granted, Prohibition addressed problems that certainly needed solving. … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Foreign Plurals

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Foreign PluralsThere are four groups of nouns from Latin and Greek that we’ve borrowed into English directly, using both singular and plural forms.  These aren’t too hard to remember, if we focus on the singular rather than on the plural:Greek neuter singular nouns ending in –on (-ion); plural in –a (-ia):one phenomenon, two phenomena one criterion, two criteriaBut newly coined words with Greek singular forms simply add the usual s for the plural: … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: punch (the drink)

 Word of the Day: punch (the drink)No, it has nothing to do with packing a wallop.  When the British conquered India, they were delighted to discover real food and refreshments, among which was a delicious drink named in Hindi for having five ingredients.  The Hindi number is punj, as in the Punj-ab, the land of the five rivers (cf. Gaelic abhainn, brook, Welsh afon, river). Hindi, descended from ancient Sanskrit, is a distant cousin of English and Latin and Greek and the other I … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Odd Plurals

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Odd PluralsOld English words formed their plurals in various ways, depending upon the declension of the noun.  All that means is that nouns belonged to different groups, and would take endings on the root according to that group, and the noun’s function in the sentence.  The most plentiful group of nouns formed their nominative and accusative plurals by adding –as (accusative is the case for direct objects and for the objects of certain prepositions):se stan, th … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: queen

 Word of the Day: queenAll my life long, feminists have claimed that language used to describe women was either nasty or condescending or narrow-minded.  I don’t intend here to placate them.  You can’t cool a volcano with an ice cube.  I simply mean to show how language can turn an ordinary word into a term of high honor; and can do the reverse, applying a term of high honor to ordinary people. I have in mind that fine old word that names Lucy Van Pelt’s dearest ambition: queen.  It … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: the future participle

Grammar Lesson of the Day: The Future Participle“Hail, Caesar!” cried the gladiators in the arena.  “We who are about to die salute you!”In our last lesson we defined the term participle: it’s a form of a verb used as an adjective, retaining many of the properties of verbs.  One of those properties is tense, referring to the time of an action.  That’s the simple way of putting it, for now.  What’s important about the tense of a participle is that the time designated is relative.  If it ha … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: dust (again)

Word of the Day: dust, again.Lily Munster walks about the tumbledown parlor, shaking a mop-like thing over the pump organ, the raven-clock, the sofa, and the electric chair.  Smoke scatters everywhere.  “Excuse me,” she says to the astonished visitor, “I was just dusting the furniture.” The joke’s on us English speakers.  How odd it is, that we turn nouns into verbs, just like that, to mean that we put that noun onto something else.  We paint things by putting paint on them.  We soil things … [Read more...]