creators home lifestyle web
Rob Kyff


Too Big for My Breeches? Are you a valiant soldier on the front lines of verbal knowledge? Take this quiz on common usage errors to find out. Forward, into the breech ... er, breach! 1. The villagers tried to fill the (a. breech b. breach) in the brick wall with logs. 2. …Read more. Rage Against the Machine! What do you call someone who uses a 1999 IMac computer and an AOL email account? Me! My daughter calls me a Luddite. Whence "Luddite"? Legend has it that Ned Ludd, an eccentric apprentice to a woolens-maker in the English city of Leicester, was …Read more. 'Strip' Search Uncovers a Devil Several decades ago, police in Illinois were trying to narrow their list of suspects in a kidnapping case. A ransom note had demanded that money be placed in a trashcan "on the devil strip at the corner of 18th and Carlson." Police gave the note to …Read more. Say 'Hi' to the Handy Hyphen The hyphen is the duct tape of English. It's the perfect adhesive for simple jobs, such as connecting a noun and a prefix (post-traumatic, in-law), a noun and a suffix (follow-up, stand-in) or two parts of a compound noun (well-being, cease-fire). …Read more.
more articles

Don't Forsake Meaning of 'Namesake'


First, some fun: A reader recently e-mailed me this puzzler, and I can't resist sharing it with you:

There is something unusual about these eight words. See whether you can figure it out: assess, banana, dresser, grammar, potato, revive, uneven, voodoo. The answer is at the end of the column. No peeking, but there's a clue lurking below.

— namesake — A few months ago, I wrote about the misuse of "ancestor" to mean "descendent." Now Ralph Sims of Baton Rouge, La., reports that "namesake" is being used in a similar way — to indicate the person or entity whose name is given to another, rather than the person or entity that has been named for another.

He quotes this passage from a recent magazine article: "Peter Post, director of the Emily Post Institute and great-grandson of its legendary namesake."

I was all set to give this breach of linguistic etiquette a scolding worthy of Emily Post, until I discovered that Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary accepts this REVERSAL. It defines "namesake" as "one that has the same name as another; esp. one who is named after another or for whom another is named." Those last five words mean that Emily Post could indeed be the namesake of the Emily Post institute.

All the other name-brand dictionaries I consulted limit the meaning of "namesake" to the person or entity named for another.

So the use of "namesake" for the person whose name inspires another's is still, as Emily herself might have put it, frowned upon in polite company.

— reverend — Another restriction that appears to be easing is the prohibition on using "reverend" as a noun. Traditionally, "reverend" has been regarded exclusively as an adjective, meaning "revered, honorable" as in "the Reverend Kenneth Morris."

Using "Reverend Morris" or "the reverend" has long been considered a "clerical" error. But English speakers have been using "reverend" as a noun since the 1600s, and this practice has become more common in recent decades.

Kenneth Morris, by the way, was the minister of the Episcopal church I attended as a boy. He would have wanted me to remind you that "Episcopalian" is a noun and never an adjective. So it's "Episcopal minister," not "Episcopalian minister."

Puzzler answer: If you take the first letter of each word, place it at the end of the word and read the word backward, it will be the same word.

Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via e-mail to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Rob Kyff and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Other similar columns
Paul Paquet
Trivia Bits
by Paul Paquet
peter rexfod
Treasure Hunt
by Peter Rexford
Andy Seamans
The Answer Man
by Andy Seamans
Rob Kyff
Nov. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month