Needless to say? Then shut up!

Needless to say? Then shut up!
I keep seeing and hearing the words “needless to say,” and I have something to point out about them: Anything that is after those words is, well, needless. So why use them? In all the noise and the “information overload” of the modern world, we all could stand to be stricter editors. So watch your... Read more »

'The Story of English' -- Pioneers! O Pioneers!

'The Story of English' -- Pioneers! O Pioneers!
In Chapter 7 of “The Story of English,” authors Robert McCrum, William Cram and Robert MacNeil report that “Thomas Jefferson, the Virginia lawyer, who… was chiefly responsible for drafting the Declaration of Independence, was fascinated by words.” (Ah, I knew I liked him.) Among the words he invented, “belittle was one of his more famous, much ridiculed... Read more »

Watch out if someone says he'll 'help you out'

Watch out if someone says he'll 'help you out'
Just a quick observation as we get the week, and perhaps the new school year, started this morning: If someone says “I’ll help you out,” that could mean he’s offering you assistance. But it could mean “There’s the exit door (the door OUT). Use it.” Maybe it would help if we could see punctuation in... Read more »
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'The Story of English' -- The Guid Scots Tongue

'The Story of English' -- The Guid Scots Tongue
Regular readers (who include some family members) will know immediately that this chapter, “The Guid Scots Tongue,” is one of my favorite reasons to keep the book “The Story of English” on my shelf. (Hmm. I have more than one bookshelf, of course, but even a big book like this one can go on only... Read more »

'The Story of English' -- The Mother Tongue

'The Story of English' -- The Mother Tongue
“From the beginning, English was a crafty hybrid, made in war and peace,” write Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil in Chapter Two of “The Story of English,” called “The Mother Tongue.” Invasions and cultural revolutions fed the development of English long before 1776 and American independence. In the eighteenth century, “a gifted amateur... Read more »

Merry Left-Handers Day!

Merry Left-Handers Day!
Author/editor’s note: I’ve received an e-mail today from Anything Left-Handed containing correct information for the Left-Handers Day celebration. I’m advised that the correct website for Left-Handers Day information is: http://clicks.aweber.com/y/ct/?l=IHRIA&m=JJBWKpQAyeFvF9&b=d52yi_OT4fRFhonxX3ewSQ (NOT .co.uk) Have a great day, readers! Here we are approaching the middle of August, and you didn’t think there was anything to celebrate, did... Read more »
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'The Story of English' -- Speaking of English (and why now)

'The Story of English' -- Speaking of English (and why now)
As promised, here’s part one of the series about the book “The Story of English.”  But I would be remiss if I went on with it without mentioning why I choose to stick with writing about words now. First of all, you expect it of me. But secondly, for those of you who think I... Read more »

In memory of Stan Mikita

In memory of Stan Mikita
I had known it was coming since the most recent day the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup championship, i.e., June 15, 2015, but today’s  news of Stan Mikita’s death still came as a shock to me as a Blackhawk supporter. Some of my favorite memories of growing up are of watching Stan late in... Read more »

A new series: 'The Story of English'

A new series: 'The Story of English'
This month, I’ll concentrate my posts on “The Story of English,” a book by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert MacNeil published by Viking and Elizabeth Sifton Books in 1986 to coincide with a PBS television series of the same name. (There are two parts of why I love books — they last longer than video... Read more »
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More from Audrey Hepburn on 'How to be Lovely'

More from Audrey Hepburn on 'How to be Lovely'
Here’s another selection of quotations and observations from Melissa Hellstern’s book “How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life.” (For two previous posts, catch up here and here.) A whole little section of the book is headed “Laugh Often.” With a pen (or PC) name like Margaret Serious, I don’t necessarily think of... Read more »