Archives for 2014

Grammar Lesson of the Day: The Phrasal Possessive

Grammar Lesson of the Day: The Phrasal Possessive We in English have an odd and useful tool: a possessive that can be appended to an entire phrase, rather than to just one word. Look at the following: Il figlio del re d’Inghilterra (Italian) Le fils du roi d’Angleterre (French) Der Sohn des Koeniges von England (German) In each case, the possessive applies to the noun alone. In the Romance languages, it must be marked by a prepositional phrase: The son of … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: brethren

 Word of the Day: brethren. I like the word brethren. Its specialized use is to denote members of a solemn or sacred brotherhood, sometimes including women too. Nobody would now say, “I have three sisters and two brethren,” unless he was telling a joke; he’s a member of an order of priests, and there are three nuns next door. Brothers will do. But sometimes the older word is more powerful: “Brethren, let us now consider the matter before us.” How did it get to be brethren, … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: methinks

Word of the Day: methinks “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” says Queen Gertrude in Hamlet, watching a play wherein a woman professes, in the most fulsome terms, utter devotion to her husband the king, two minutes before the king’s brother will poison him by pouring poison into his ear, and four minutes before that devoted woman will marry her brother-in-law. Oops! What does the word mean? And why is it methinks? I imagine a Huron queen watching the same play, and strug … [Read more...]

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Deponent Verbs

Grammar Lesson of the Day: Deponent Verbs Deponent verbs are the bane of the young Latin student’s existence. They take the form of the passive voice, but they have active meaning. And they are darned common: loquor, I speak; confiteor, I confess; morior, I die. Many of them are transitive verbs, and so they can take an object where the “look” of the verb wouldn’t suggest any. Why would the Romans have such a ridiculous thing? Many of these verbs, though, really do occupy a middle s … [Read more...]

Word of the Day: castle

Word of the Day: castle “A man's home is his castle!” shouts the fat bus driver Ralph Kramden, trying to bully his wife Alice to get his way. “And in a castle there's one king! And I'm the king!” And he cocks his head and jabs his finger at her. “I'm the king! And you – you are a peasant! I'm the king!” To which Alice, utterly unimpressed, replies, “Aaaaah, shaaaadap!” And Ralph fumes with frustration. For all his bluster, he does love Alice, and he knows he's being absu … [Read more...]