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. […]

Tired of the Oxford Comma Debate?

Oxford, Harvard, Serial or Cereal Comma? We’re tired of the tiresome “Oxford” – or serial* – comma debate, whose annoying persistence seems largely the doing of the Oxford proponents. Proponents say that when you don’t use the serial comma, you can introduce ambiguity into a sentence. Serial comma opponents point out that when you do […]

The Best Language-learning Experience Ever

Prabha (back to camera – unfortunately this is the only photo I have of her) Part of the good fortune I’ve had in a career that afforded me the opportunity to live and work in several other countries has been the chance to learn other languages and use them while living and working abroad. I […]

‘Horde’ vs. ‘Hoard’

The Mongol Horde From time to time I’ve seen the words horde and hoard confused. But they’re as different in meaning as in spelling. Horde, a noun, refers to a very large group of people – e.g., a swarm, an army. In fact the word is often used to refer to the much-feared 13th century […]

‘Reticent’ vs. ‘Reluctant’

Reticent Reluctant I keep seeing and hearing this, so I thought I’d finally put in my two cents – reticent does not mean the same thing as reluctant. That’s right. Reticent means to be inclined keep one’s thoughts and feelings to oneself, to be reserved, uncommunicative, silent. Reluctant means unwilling, disinclined – not only in […]