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”… Read more

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… Read more

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’… Read more

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,… Read more

  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… Read more

Word of the Day: antique Napoleon 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… Read more

Word of the Day: grammar Welcome to Word of the Day, a daily foray into etymology, grammar, historical linguistics, poetics, articulatory phonetics, and style – and Scripture, and literature, and baseball, and whatever else I happen upon in my way! And the opening word is grammar, which, if you come from southern Massachusetts, might describe your mammar’s mammar – as the Massachusetts girls in Little Women call their mommy Marmie.  But for most people it describes a small grab bag… Read more

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