Monday, March 24, 2008
My new book, Mortal Syntax, is out tomorrow.
It's a list of the 101 most-clobbered usage choices -- stuff grammar snobs pick on (think I feel badly, I could care less, so fun, like used for such as, etc.. For each item, I check my reference sources and determine whether the usage is really bad language choice or just a myth.
Thanks for indulging this shameless self-promotion and I'll be back from the dark to resume regular posts soon.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Usage note ... As a collective noun, variety, when preceded by a, is often treated as a plural: A variety of inexpensive goods are sold here. When preceded by the, it is usually treated as a singular: The variety of products is small.
In the American Heritage Dictionary at dictionary.com
n. a large shallow dish; a platter.
(I suspect a lot of Better Homes and Gardens types knew that definition of "charger." But as someone who grew up enjoying many a dinner straight out of the Doritos bag, this was a new one on me when I came across it in a story I was editing and just couldn't figure out how a platter of mashed potatoes could power a cellphone.)
Monday, March 10, 2008
This well-known usage of "down with" appears in Webster's New World College Dictionary, curiously flush with exclamation points:
down with! overthrow! do away with!
Yet the online version of the American Heritage Dictionary also lists that other, hipper version of "down with":
Slang. Having knowledge of; aware; "He was not, I detected, 'down with the revolution'" (Clarence Page).
And urbandictionary.com reports the next phase of this term's evolution:
down wit dat: to be in agreement
And here we have yet another example of why native English speakers should go easy on anyone trying to learn this language: The protesters who were originally "down with!" sexism changed their minds and instead became "down with" sexism.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
camomile: n. (see chamomile) any plant of two genera (Anthemis and Matricarcia) of the composite family, with strong-smelling foliage; esp., a plant (A. nobilis) whose dried daislylike flower head are used as a medicine and in making tea. -- Webster's New World College Dictionary
chamomile: alt spelling of camomile. -- Webster's New World College Dictionary
Sunday, March 2, 2008
Buckley replied: "First mate. I have a mate. Her name is Pat." Source: Los Angeles Times Opinion, March 2, 2008
From the American Heritage Dictionary:
mate: 5. A deck officer on a merchant ship ranking next below the master.