Word Count Writers Talk About Writing

People awakening from a "nightmare" often have the sensation that they can't breathe. Not surprising: That's where the word "nightmare" comes from. Continue reading...

Hairy Metaphors

Last August, the folks at Oxford Dictionaries published a list of words that they were adding to their dictionaries. Among them was neckbeard, which is listed as "A growth of hair on a man's neck." But this self-describing definition is not why the term was added. More interestingly, the term connotes someone with "poor grooming habits" and who's "socially inept." Continue reading...
TOPICS: Language, Usage, Words
The critically lauded film The Imitation Game just won an Oscar for Graham Moore's screenplay, adapted from Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges. Crosswords play an important role in the story of the World War II codebreakers, but it turns out they also mastered the art of the palindrome. Palindromist Magazine editor Mark Saltveit reveals a long-hidden chapter of wordplay history. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Fun, Language
In January, I took part in an interesting discussion on Twitter. Washington Post copyeditor Bill Walsh posted a headline: "Hole-in-the-walls: East, west, and downtown, 19 named." He asked, "Would you take your sister-in-laws to such a place?" Continue reading...
TOPICS: Grammar, Language, Usage
Language allows us to communicate the ideas in our heads with other people. It is a main way we connect with the world around us. Because of that, language becomes very personal to each user. We form affinities for individual words because of what they mean to us. Continue reading...
On the surface, and/or seems like a helpful but mostly harmless little phrase — a little ugly, perhaps, but still useful for those times when you want to be extra clear about what all the options are. Most people associate the phrase with legal writing, but it turns out that a surprising number of lawyers and judges hate it, claiming that it's actually unclear and thus impossible to interpret. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Usage, Words, Writing

Unexpected Opposites

I occasionally teach a class about using Microsoft Word. In one of the class exercises, students are asked to format a page, and the instructions tell them to "outdent" a heading. After I got several questions about that each class, I realized that lots of people have no idea what the term means. Continue reading...
TOPICS: Language, Usage, Words
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