Verbiage? No Way!

Verbiage is often pronounced – mispronounced – to nearly rhyme with garbage, something with which it has a bit in common. Hold onto your hats. Here comes another language-related rant. This one’s about the widespread misuse and mispronunciation of the word verbiage. I can’t tell you how many times, as a writer, I’ve been asked […]

‘Educate’ vs. ‘Inform’

Education As regular readers of this blog are aware, every once in a while I take time away from retelling stories I find entertaining and go on a little language rant. As a writer and editor, I hope my friends will view this as coming inevitably with the territory. Today’s post – about the widespread […]

The Commencement Speech You’d Really Rather Hear

Graduation season is again upon us. The season for speechifying. As a professional speechwriter, I’d like to offer the following text for the featured speaker at whichever graduation you’ve been invited to attend: “Good morning, graduates, parents and guests. To provide some unexpected relief, I’ll be brief. I’ll simply answer a question many of you […]

‘Bespoke’ vs. ‘Custom-Made’ or ‘Made-to-Order’

  Here’s a word that, in my view unfortunately, has been creeping into use in the U.S. – “bespoke,” as in a “bespoke” suit or shirt. Taking myself as a representative moderately well-educated American native speaker of English, I have to admit that the first couple of times I came across “bespoke” I was completely […]

Windiness Is Ubiquitous

Nearly a year ago I wrote about unnecessarily windy phrases like “next week Wednesday” and “15-year anniversary.” It seems, however, that the wind never stops blowing. Have you ever noticed how people sometimes appear to forget simple words and instead use liberally loquacious locutions (there’s one!) whose extra length only makes reading tiresome? Want another […]

‘Regard’ vs. ‘Regards’

  Regular readers* of this blog probably realize by now that I often react to poor usage almost as I do to the sound of fingernails on a blackboard. So – Surprise! Surprise! – here’s something else that bothers me: seeing “regards” written in place of “regard.” One extra letter makes a big difference. The […]

‘Simplistic’ vs. ‘Simple’

Simplistic ain’t simple. Well, actually it is … in the sense that the difference between the two words is clearcut or, you might say, plain and simple. We all know what “simple” means – “not complex, easy.” However, it’s such a simple word that sometimes, when some of us would like to sound more impressive […]

May I Help Who’s Next?

Have you ever been in a store needing assistance when a clerk or barista who’s just finished helping another customer asks, “May I help who’s next?” It’s happened to me more times than I can count – umpty-ump times at least, if not skatey-eight, as my mom used to enumerate such things. In checking to […]

The Blind Leading the Blind

Ever have a nightmare about the risk of getting lost in a crowded place where no one speaks your language? For an idea of how it might feel, read this story from my first visit to Japan, in 1971. Japan was the last stop on a roughly three-month trip back to the U.S. at the […]

A Memory of Christmas Past

Christmas morning never fails to remind me of the most memorable holiday event I’ve ever experienced. No, this is not the heart-warming story of family gathered round a blazing fireplace, sipping eggnog and inhaling the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Rather, it’s a tale of a somewhat less time-honored Christmas tradition – the grab-bag game. […]