This year's -- in January? You missed it, then

This year's -- in January? You missed it, then
The middle of December’s almost here, but I just heard a reference on TV to something happening “this year” in January. No, I hadn’t missed it. The event was coming up in January 2019. Let’s all be careful out there — “this year” means 2018. If you mean the future and want to say something... Read more »

Gloria the angel -- you know, Harold's friend!

Gloria the angel -- you know, Harold's friend!
Hearing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” brings back a memory at least once a year. Thanks to the flat Midwestern accents I heard from most people as I grew up, I thought “herald” — not a word I heard the rest of the year — meant the same as the man’s name Harold. I was... Read more »

Classical music and jazz: A reply to Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune

Classical music and jazz: A reply to Howard Reich of the Chicago Tribune
I was, and am, delighted by Howard Reich’s column in the Nov. 25 Chicago Tribune on the joys of reviewing both jazz and classical concerts for the Tribune. (If you missed it, here’s a link.) As an amateur cello player and lover of good music, meaning I listened to Beethoven while starting to write this, I... Read more »
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Rejoice in the Lord always -- advice from Saint Paul for Thanksgiving

Rejoice in the Lord always -- advice from Saint Paul for Thanksgiving
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your... Read more »

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 »
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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 »

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 »
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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 »