Onward and upward we must press -- 'The Roses of Success'

Onward and upward we must press -- 'The Roses of Success'
Sometimes keeping old technology going has great advantages. When I wrote “Onward” in a message this morning, I remembered a song in a movie I saw as a child, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” It was the first story by Ian Fleming — yes, that Ian Fleming, Mr. Bond — I ever saw on the screen.... Read more »

Looking for passing places as I walk

Looking for passing places as I walk
I realized something funny when I was taking a walk while doing laundry this afternoon: When someone approached, I caught myself looking for a passing place. I haven’t thought much about passing places since I was 12 and traveling in Scotland with my family, meeting Dad’s cousins and seeing part of the country. Especially in... Read more »

Want something ordinary? Here it is (about the word 'ordinary')

Want something ordinary? Here it is (about the word 'ordinary')
During one of several phone conversations that made up most of my human contact yesterday, we talked about things being ordinary. “What’s the etymology of that word, Margaret?” Ah, the echo of my dad and his way of saying he’d heard a good word that day. Just as I used to do for Dad, I... Read more »
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Of paperbacks and hardcovers -- why?

Of paperbacks and hardcovers -- why?
I was just leaving a note for a friend on a LinkedIn post when I added a comment that I recognized his paperback copy of Strunk and White (as we word mavens call the classic book by those two, “The Elements of Style”). I wrote that I had two paperback copies of the book and... Read more »

Redefining 'special occasions' during a crisis

Redefining 'special occasions' during a crisis
I had to go out today — my “economic impact” check wasn’t taking itself to the bank. So I wore my good boots, my gray suede “skates” (so nicknamed since they’re as tall as skate boots, but don’t have blades). And yes, I wore a mask into the bank. Again. As I rode to the bank,... Read more »

Happy Tchaikovsky's birthday!

Happy Tchaikovsky's birthday!
Repeating to repair video reference. The author regrets the error. Ludwig van Beethoven’s getting all the noise ahead of the 250th anniversary of his birth, and that’s not even until Dec. 16 (as any long reader of “Peanuts” comics knows). Meanwhile, today is the 18oth anniversary of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s birth (in 1840 — I did... Read more »
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William Safire defending the word 'hopefully' and doing it hopefully

William Safire defending the word 'hopefully' and doing it hopefully
I’ve been trying to assert that the word “hopefully” has become a stage direction instead of an adverb. MARGARET (hopefully): Oh, please, readers, use this word well! When I read “On Language” and left myself sticky bookmarks to get back to the great entries, I found that William Safire was on my side in this... Read more »

William Safire on the origins of 'Have a nice day!'

William Safire on the origins of 'Have a nice day!'
William Safire died in 2009, but I think he may be looking on happily from heaven’s library at our new conversation-enders, “Stay safe” and/or “Stay healthy.” If he were here, he’d be delighted to hear what I’m hearing — the noticeable lack of that mainstay of recent decades, “Have a nice day!” In Safire’s book... Read more »

'Virtual' is not the same as 'online' -- let's keep the distinction

'Virtual' is not the same as 'online' -- let's keep the distinction
Author’s note: Thank you to my reader, good friend, and former teacher Dr. LRW for this idea based on misuse and shifting meanings of the word “virtual” in these days. I have written elsewhere of the differences between virtual and verbal, but I am more troubled now by growing misuse of the word virtual. We’re having... Read more »
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Safire 'On Language' - alternate and alternative

Safire 'On Language' - alternate and alternative
William Safire, the great language columnist who defended and described the English language so well in his columns and books, could sometimes slip up and use a word badly. Even in his books, such as “On Language,” he was wise and humble enough to use his own errors to explain how he’d erred and counsel... Read more »