Merrill Perlman is adjunct assistant professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and president of Merrill Perlman Consulting, offering consulting and freelance editing services and training in journalism, grammar and usage. Among her clients are The New York Times, ProPublica and the Poynter Institute. She writes the "Language Corner" column and blog for Columbia Journalism Review. Merrill retired in June 2008 after 25 years at The New York Times, most recently as director of copy desks with responsibility for managing 150 copy editors.
"I'm trying to stave off a cold," a friend said. Another responded, "Wine will work for that." Neither probably realized that, indeed, to "stave off" has its origins in wine, or something like wine. Continue reading...
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...
Verizon offers "Even faster FiOS Quantum Internet" speeds. Duracell has a new Quantum alkaline battery. James Bond had his Quantum of Solace. Any number of companies have "quantum" in their names as well. The implication is that "quantum" is something big and powerful, with a hint of science behind it. Continue reading...
"I ought to know better, but I know naught about the difference between aught and nought" is a sentence sure to make more than one head spin. Continue reading...
We have occasionally invoked Tom Lehrer when discussing how the simple letter "e" can change the meaning of many words, citing his song "Silent 'E.'" That "e" can also magically change a word into another form, such as a noun into a verb. This being illogical English, there are few "rules" as to what it does, though. Continue reading...
When coming up with adjectives for made-up things, we have many to choose among: fictional, fictitious, or fictive, or even factitious. Choose wisely, or risk saying something you don't mean. Continue reading...
The artists were being praised for their technique in which, the article said, they "use only pallet knives, not brushes." The conference attendees were told that "it's not too early to start whetting your palette for" the food expected to be served. And the article talked about a shipment of "wooden palates infested with the Asian long-horned beetle." Possibly wrong, wrong, and ouch. Continue reading...
1 2 3 4 Displaying 1-7 of 27 Articles

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.