Head over heels? I hope so! What's it mean, really?

Head over heels? I hope so! What's it mean, really?
I’ve found another expression that just doesn’t make sense: head over heels. What’s so special about that? My head is over my heels… well, most of the time. I consulted Robert Hendrickson’s “QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins” (published by Facts on File, Inc., 1987)  to track down the answer. Hendrickson states that “head... Read more »

Even Joel Quenneville didn't win 'three Stanley Cups' -- there's only one

Even Joel Quenneville didn't win 'three Stanley Cups' -- there's only one
Being careful with the English language isn’t something I can turn off, even when I am dealing with rotten news. When I started to read and hear stories about my favorite (ice) hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks, firing coach Joel Quenneville, I was stunned. Three championships for “the Hawks” — in 2010, 2013, and 2015... Read more »

In praise of November... and not

In praise of November... and not
Great! It’s November! The month of staying cozy, staying home and reading… well, the cozy part’s new, and the staying home is a bit longer because of my lack of an elevator. But in general, November’s great for writers — as these in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations reminded me. My favorite poet, Robert Burns (1759-1796), wasn’t necessarily... Read more »
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Life without the elevator, or 'The 39 Steps'

Life without the elevator, or 'The 39 Steps'
Do you ever think of a part of your life in terms of a title of a great book? This week — and perhaps next — I’ll be doing that. Going down stairs is now two words in my apartment, not the one word downstairs,  because the elevator is being repaired. I counted the stairs... Read more »

'The Story of English' -- Next year's words

'The Story of English' -- Next year's words
Here, as the last installment of our look at “The Story of English,” is a look at the book’s Epilogue, “Next Year’s Words.” Life has butted its way into my plans for this instalment; other words and expressions appeared that were easier to write about, so I went ahead with those. But I don’t feel alone... Read more »

Memorizing vs. committing to memory

Memorizing vs. committing to memory
Several things in life — the new hockey season and the national anthems (U.S. and Canada), familiar hymns in church, music at home, and other autumnal goodness — have been calling my attention to just how much I have committed to memory, and how much I like that expression. (The last piece in my series... Read more »
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Google, could you do what Bartlett's did?

Google, could you do what Bartlett's did?
It’s been interesting to run across quotations from Winston Churchill’s speaking and writing when I’ve been browsing through Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. But I got thinking differently when I read a reference to Bartlett’s in Churchill’s book, “My Early Life” (Copyright 1930 by Charles Scribner’s Sons of New York, originally published by Butterworth of London). Churchill... Read more »

Suddenly, 'gate' is a word worth defending

Suddenly, 'gate' is a word worth defending
I don’t question that words change; I simply question how they do. I notice when education and careful use tend to ignore particular words — when even basic words are threatened. When sloppy speakers and those who don’t care for words they use run into those who do care, such as your humble and Serious... Read more »

'The Story of English' -- The New Englishes

'The Story of English' -- The New Englishes
“The Story of English,” the book published to accompany a 1980s Public Broadcasting System series in the U.S., spent a chapter looking at “the new Englishes.” In this chapter, it’s not a case of showing how English has developed over time. In this case, it’s geography. I’ve been studying the chapter gradually because of its... Read more »
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Being challenged to tell a story

Being challenged to tell a story
I was under the weather last night, so I missed the challenge of our monthly “Blogapalooza” writing prompt until this morning. I’m still home, fighting a sore throat, so I looked for something to read and write to get me through listening to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings about Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I found the... Read more »