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One = singular. Two or more = plural

Why are people suddenly (the last few years) having so much trouble with the concepts of singular and plural? They know (I’m betting that nearly a hundred percent of them know) the difference between “one” and “more than one.” And most people who are literate (in the sense of being able to read and write) [...]

What is a “theory”?

I keep running across material in which the term THEORY seems to be confused with the term HYPOTHESIS. These two words are not interchangeable, although they are often used in casual conversation as if they were. In casual conversation this doesn’t much matter, but a serious discussion requires that we at least agree on the [...]

Some things I think are very funny

This is from boingboing.net:   In recent weeks, popular protests against ACTA have grown, and many nations are pulling back from ACTA. IFPI doesn’t like this. In fact, it says that popular demonstrations calling for substantive treaty negotiations to take place in the open “silence the democratic process.” In this statement, IFPI is using the [...]

What Should We Ask the Doctor?

This post will be a surprise to regular readers, as it isn’t yet another rant on grammar or usage.   I’m a follower of Seth Roberts’ blog, which I recommend, and I’ve been doing some thinking about an issue recently addressed in it.   First, a disclaimer: I am not an expert on any of [...]

Catachresis: Department of No Such Word: *chaise lounge

  chaise longue – noun:  a chair, with or without arms, for reclining, having a seat lengthened to form a complete leg rest and sometimes an adjustable back.     Got that? Please note the spelling: the second word is LONGUE. The second word is not LOUNGE. I know, I know—the word LONGUE looks like [...]

Catachresis: Department of No Such Word: *barbeque

Here’s a fact that’s strange but true: There is no Q in “barbecue”!   The letter group –QUE is not pronounced cue. The letter group –QUE is pronounced like K. For a number of words illustrating this fact, see this list.   The word “barbeque,” spelled with a Q, would be pronounced bar-BECK or possibly [...]

Catachresis: Department of No Such Word: *COUPLE adj.

I have labeled this “Department of No Such Word,” but that isn’t entirely accurate. There is of course such a word as COUPLE. It can be used as a transitive verb and as an intransitive verb:   1. He coupled the caboose onto the rear of the train. 2. The dancers were coupled according to [...]

Catachresis: Department of No Such Word: “The rest are on tour.”

That’s actually a perfectly good sentence: “The rest are on tour.” Now say it fast. If it sounds like the word you use to mean ‘the man [or woman] who owns the restaurant,’ you are totally out to lunch. There is no such word as *restauranteur, usually pronounced “restarontoor.” The man who owns the restaurant [...]

Catachresis: Department of No Such Word: *alot

There is no such word as *alot.1 Let me repeat that. There is no such word as *alot. MSWord won’t even let me write *alot; it automatically inserts a space, which I have been removing by hand each time I type *alot. Look at the following sentences: 1.            a. She has a bunch of friends. [...]

Who the Hell is King Canute?

A look at the search terms people use to access this essay has made it clear to me that a lot of those who end up on that page are actually trying to find out who King Canute is. That page, though of course fascinating and informative, will unfortunately not help them. So this post [...]