Category: Words Worth Defending

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 »

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 »

'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 »
Advertisement:

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 »

What's the difference between pandemic and epidemic?

What's the difference between pandemic and epidemic?
As a word maven, I am enjoying something during all the stories about the novel Coronavirus pandemic. I am enjoying the use of the specific, but previously rare, word “pandemic” itself. On the other hand, I’m reluctant to write that we’re “in the middle of” a pandemic — not because I’m worried about the word... Read more »

Don't let 'do' take over your vocabulary

Don't let 'do' take over your vocabulary
I keep seeing a worrisome trend, and hearing it, too. People are doing too much! I don’t necessarily mean they’re too active, but any action is being described by the word “do.” I suppose it started with “let’s do lunch” among executives. But now I’m hearing people saying “I did the onions” or “Just do... Read more »
Advertisement:

I've got a case of the 'shoulds,' and I need a cure

I've got a case of the 'shoulds,' and I need a cure
I should be doing other things — exercising, answering e-mail, reading a biography, getting groceries — but I want to write. So I should know what to write. But I don’t, so I should just start it… or go and do something else. Oh help! It’s the shoulds! One reason I decided to write about... Read more »

'Kindness and Wonder' -- Connect with other people every way you can, like Mister Rogers

'Kindness and Wonder' -- Connect with other people every way you can, like Mister Rogers
“Mister Rogers didn’t reinvent puppetry or do anything particularly flashy with it,” Gavin Edwards writes in the fifth “way to live like Mister Rogers” in his book “Kindness and Wonder.”     (To connect with other posts on the other ways, use the “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” tag below or click underlined sections.) “Many young viewers had... Read more »

Everyone should be wary of using the word 'everyone'

Everyone should be wary of using the word 'everyone'
Over the past weekend, I noticed a trend in the news, especially on the radio and social media. Many commentators and reporters were referring to the helicopter crash in California that had “everyone” talking, “everyone” grieving, and quotes from people saying “everyone” was in shock. Well, I kept listening and reading, and other stories were... Read more »
Advertisement:

The, most powerful word in the English language

The, most powerful word in the English language
No, that comma in the headline is not out of place. In the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) weekly newsletter, “”The Essential List: This week’s best stories,” the subject line caught my eye immediately: “The most powerful word in the English language.” Seriously, folks, you know I needed to read that. It turns out that “the”... Read more »