Wednesday, December 6, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + capital/capitol

A “capitol” is almost always a building. Cities which serve as seats of government are capitals spelled with an A in the last syllable, as are most other uses of the word as a common noun. The only exceptions are place names alluding to capitol buildings in some way or other, like “Capitol Hill” in DC, Denver, or Seattle (the latter named either after the hill in Denver or in hopes of attracting the Washington State capitol building). Would it help to remember that Congress with an O meets in the Capitol with another O?


On the podcast this week, we pick up our discussion of words related to government and politics. This week we find out the origin of the word “veto,” talk of filibustering and reconciliation, and more.

Book sale! Through the end of the year, buy the Common Errors in English Usage book now for $15 with free shipping in the US.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

This Week: Book Sale Continues! Plus, Thanksgiving Leftovers on the Podcast + dolly/handcart

A dolly is a flat platform with wheels on it, often used to make heavy objects mobile or by an auto mechanic lying on one under a car body. Many people mistakenly use this word to designate the vertically oriented, two-wheeled device with upright handles and horizontal lip. This latter device is more properly called a “handcart” or “hand truck.”


On the podcast this week, we pick up from last week and serve some Thanksgiving leftovers, including “dolly/handcart,” “duck tape/duct tape,” “between you and me,” and many more entries and cartoons from the book.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, Giving Thanks for the Book on the Podcast + bare/bear

There are actually three words here. The simple one is the big growly creature (unless you prefer the Winnie-the-Pooh type). Hardly anyone past the age of 10 gets that one wrong. The problem is the other two. Stevedores bear burdens on their backs and mothers bear children. Both mean “carry” (in the case of mothers, the meaning has been extended from carrying the child during pregnancy to actually giving birth). But strippers bare their bodies—sometimes bare-naked. The confusion between this latter verb and “bear” creates many unintentionally amusing sentences; so if you want to entertain your readers while convincing them that you are a dolt, by all means mix them up. “Bear with me,” the standard expression, is a request for forbearance or patience. “Bare with me” would be an invitation to undress. “Bare” has an adjectival form: “The pioneers stripped the forest bare.”


On the podcast this week, we celebrate Thanksgiving by giving lots of thanks for the book.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + reactionary/reactive

Many people incorrectly use “reactionary” to mean “acting in response to some outside stimulus.” That’s “reactive.” “Reactionary” actually has a very narrow meaning; it is a noun or adjective describing a form of looking backward that goes beyond conservatism (wanting to prevent change and maintain present conditions) to reaction—wanting to recreate a lost past. The advocates of restoring Czarist rule in Russia are reactionaries. While we’re on the subject, the term “proactive” formed by analogy with “reactive” seems superfluous to many of us. Use “active,” “assertive,” or “positive” whenever you can instead.


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + socialize

People socialize at a party or on Facebook. Socialist governments socialize their economies. Sociologists speak of people being socialized into particular customs or groups. Animals can also be socialized. These are the main standard uses of “socialize.”

But people in the business world have developed a new meaning for “socialize”: to get people to agree with. Examples: “have them socialize the material with their work groups,” “we need to socialize the idea.” To nonspeakers of business jargon this sounds pretentious and silly.


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

This Week: Book Sale! Plus, More on the Language of Politics on the Podcast + Romainian/Romanian

The ancient Romans referred to what we call “the Roman Empire” as Romania (roh-MAHN-ee-ya). The country north of Bulgaria borrowed this ancient name for itself. Older spellings—now obsolete—include “Roumania” and “Rumania.” But although in English we pronounce “Romania” roh-MAIN-ee-ya, it is never correct to spell the country’s name as “Romainia,” and the people and language are referred to not as “Romainian” but as “Romanian.”

Ancient Romans were citizens of the Roman empire, and today they are inhabitants of the city of Rome (which in Italian is Roma). Don’t confuse Romans with Romanians.