The Word Guy from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Fri, 25 Jun 2021 03:22:17 -0700 The Word Guy from Creators Syndicate 6b106c0431d549499d5240ed53c9bc77 An Upscale Version of a Noteworthy Event for 06/23/2021 Wed, 23 Jun 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Did you ever wonder why the names for the notes of the musical scale are "do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do"? And, sorry "Sound of Music" fans, it's not because a "do" is a female deer or a "re" is a drop of golden sun.</p> <p>In fact, these musical terms can be traced to the 11th century when the eminent musician Guido of Arezzo was teaching his choristers a hymn honoring St. John the Baptist. "Take it from the top!" Guido shouted to his singers, apparently oblivious to the fact that John the Baptist had been beheaded.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 23, 2021</p> c79775aa0a1eeba837bb88390ddd461d Meaning of 'Moot' Is a Moot Question for 06/16/2021 Wed, 16 Jun 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>It's 11:45 a.m. at the faculty lunch table. A heated argument breaks out when an art teacher asks: "Is a moot question a question that's debatable or a question that's insignificant?"</p> <p>The responses from her colleagues are quick and emphatic.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 16, 2021</p> 5742071399ca87fdaf69afd61551cb7a Is Converting Adjectives to Nouns an Automatic? for 06/09/2021 Wed, 09 Jun 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The linguistic purist Tradition Al discusses an alarming trend with his more permissive friend Open Mind Ed.</p> <p>Al: As a student of linguistics, have you noticed the appalling practice of turning adjectives into nouns? Let me give you a few examples from advertising slogans: Find your fabulous; Rethink possible; Spread the happy; The future of awesome; Unlock your more.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 09, 2021</p> b93d69161a4619a69ecf1a40b1c15d90 I'll Have a Quarantini; Better Make That 40 for 06/02/2021 Wed, 02 Jun 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>As many of us have discovered during the past year, being in quarantine can really do a number on you. But did you know the word "quarantine" actually contains a number?</p> <p>During the 1300s, officials of Italian ports, such as Genoa and Venice, feared that sailors on ships entering their harbors might be infected with the Black Plague. <span class="column--highlighted-text">So, they required all vessels to wait offshore for 40 days to make sure no symptoms emerged among their crews.</span><p>Updated: Wed Jun 02, 2021</p> 9693765f7b2122b4284ccbab4caa968f Language Books for the Summer Hammock for 05/26/2021 Wed, 26 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p>"Summer made her light escape / Into the Beautiful," wrote Emily Dickinson. Make your own light escape this summer with one of these new books about language.</p> <p>Renowned linguist John McWhorter explores the power and peculiarity of profanity in "Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever." These no-nos, he explains, are "ways of being human." And human they are, expressing our most visceral emotions, from anger to disdain to joy. Citing sources from "King Lear" to Norman Lear, McWhorter brings a comic touch to the evolution and surprising frequency of cursing. Englishmen swore so much that Joan of Arc called them "goddams."</p> <p><span class="column--highlighted-text">Is it ever acceptable for an author to write in the voice of someone of another race? Paisley Rekdal, a writing professor and the poet laureate of Utah, poses that question in "Appropriate: A Provocation." </span>Among the cases she examines is Jeanine Cummins' recent novel "American Dirt," which is a Mexican immigrant narrative written by a white woman. Rekdal's advice is thoughtful and nuanced. "If you approach appropriation with any ethical seriousness," she writes, "you will have to think deeply about aesthetics, history and difference."<p>Updated: Wed May 26, 2021</p> 1c7ba416a2c71594708644281c053c12 U.S. Builds Barriers To Stop 'Title' Wave for 05/19/2021 Wed, 19 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p>"All kings is mostly rapscallions," Mark Twain wrote in "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Twain's royal flush succinctly captures the anti-imperial feelings of most Americans. As enthralled as we Yanks might be by the Meghan-Harry-Pippa crowd, we've just never had much respect for their royal titles.</p> <p>When Queen Elizabeth II visited New York City during the 1960s, for instance, a mob of news photographers shouted to get her attention. While most of the photogs politely (and unsuccessfully) called out "Your Majesty!" or "Your Highness!" one paparazzo yelled in classic Brooklynese, "Hey, Queenie! Ovaah heeaah!" Her Majesty turned his way, and he got his shot.</p> <p>Likewise, when the plain-spoken U.S. athlete Jim Thorpe received a gold medal from the king of Sweden in the 1912 Olympics, he turned to the monarch and said simply, "Thanks, King."<p>Updated: Wed May 19, 2021</p> 68a8b0313070e3356afdd73759f5878b Where Never Is 'Herd' a Discouraging Word for 05/12/2021 Wed, 12 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p>This spring, we've all been stampeding like panicky buffalo toward herd immunity. But what is it? Will we achieve it? Is there a way to exempt telemarketers from it?</p> <p>I can't answer any of these questions, but this seems like the perfect moment to visit the zany zoo of names for groups of animals. We all know that geese gather in a gaggle, sheep shelter in a flock and fish swim in a school (especially a school with classroom aquariums). But you may be less familiar with an unkindness of ravens, a piteousness of doves and a murmuration of starlings.</p> <p>The technical name for these designations is "terms of venery." ("Venery" is a fancy, French-based word for hunting.) While medieval hunters waited in swamps and forests for their prey, they passed the time with storytelling and healthy draughts from ye olde flagon. Enough said.<p>Updated: Wed May 12, 2021</p> a34b2ef5800737b0d0947683ec2542bc Is Your Mettle Forged From Metal? Take This Quiz! for 05/05/2021 Wed, 05 May 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Let's put the "you" in usage! See whether you can choose the correct word from each pair of oft-confused words:</p> <p>Even people to the 1) (manner, manor) born can't 2) (hone, home) in on all the usage distinctions that make English a 3) (tortuous, torturous) language.<p>Updated: Wed May 05, 2021</p> 4f75b66e17460fa50278012e0d6a40fd Nothing is Perma'meant' but Change for 04/28/2021 Wed, 28 Apr 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>We tend to think of words as immutable objects &#8212; solid rocks we fit together to construct the stone walls of our sentences. But, in fact, words are more like living organisms; they're always adjusting, changing and sometimes completely transforming their spellings, pronunciations and especially their meanings.</p> <p>The meaning of the English word "nice," for instance, has evolved from an ugly larva, to comely pupa, to beautiful butterfly. Derived from the Latin "nescius" (not knowing, ignorant), "nice" meant "foolish" when it entered English during the 1200s.<p>Updated: Wed Apr 28, 2021</p> b86da08c864c5b88430e85b4fbadd192 Pronunciation of 'Kiln' Reveals Wacky History for 04/21/2021 Wed, 21 Apr 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q. A friend recently told me that her pottery pieces were being fired in a "kiln," a word she pronounces with a final "n" sound. But my high school art teacher pronounced the word for this potter's oven as "KIL." What's cooking with "kiln"? &#8212; Chris Ryan, New York City</p> <p>A. "Cooking" is the operative word here, for "kiln" is derived from the Latin word "culina" (kitchen), which also gives us "culinary."<p>Updated: Wed Apr 21, 2021</p> d4d5e0842057a2617d52766476516777 Perfectionist and Pragmatist Form a 'More Perfect' Union for 04/14/2021 Wed, 14 Apr 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The perfectionist Sue Perlative and the pragmatist Ev Reethings Relative visited an antique show on their first date:</p> <p>Ev: Hey, this grandfather clock is very unique.<p>Updated: Wed Apr 14, 2021</p> eebb54cfd8f3db802fb39a5eacf5be74 'Fore!' Ways to Improve Your Writing for 04/07/2021 Wed, 07 Apr 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In golf school, you learn about "course management," and no, it isn't about replacing your divots. It's about achieving the lowest score possible by selecting the shots, clubs and strategies best suited to your skills and limitations &#8212; in other words, to play with your head, not your hubris.</p> <p>Four principles of course management that help the pros can also help your prose:<p>Updated: Wed Apr 07, 2021</p> 09a85a477505324e304e67cad57bbc11 Phoenician Oxen Earn 'A' for Effort for 03/31/2021 Wed, 31 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Why is "A" the first letter of our alphabet? Therein lies a "tail."</p> <p>The ancient Phoenicians, who devised the precursor of our English alphabet some 3,000 years ago, depended heavily on oxen for the necessities of life, e.g., plowing, hauling, clothing, $10 ox milk lattes. The ox was so important that the Phoenicians called the first letter of their alphabet "aleph," meaning "ox."<p>Updated: Wed Mar 31, 2021</p> 6569f14bb2924e4e0afdec362b70199c Avoid Snacking on Linguistic Bonbons for 03/24/2021 Wed, 24 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>We all have our nasty little habits: binge-eating potato chips, chomping on gum and reading columns about words. And we fall into bad habits when it comes to language as well.</p> <p>Instinctively, we pop two-word phrases into our mouths like lollipops: cautious optimism, ongoing relationship, serious contender, rising tensions, spiraling costs.<p>Updated: Wed Mar 24, 2021</p> 9eb26994a133ab5117aafa0393960877 Don't Get Possessive About Attributive Nouns for 03/17/2021 Wed, 17 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q. Should the title of a school club be written "Future Teachers' Club" (with an apostrophe) or "Future Teachers Club" (no apostrophe)? &#8212; Nancy Vallimont, Detroit</p> <p>A. Future teachers take note: No apostrophe is needed.<p>Updated: Wed Mar 17, 2021</p> 3efc4f4509d0042815bdd159fe79fa5b Try Not to H-Bomb This Pop Quiz for 03/10/2021 Wed, 10 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>It's "h" hour! Select the correct "h" words in these sentences:</p> <p>1) The tortoise beat the hare by a (hairsbreadth, hare's breath).<p>Updated: Wed Mar 10, 2021</p> 7f3fe13344d6fbb05dd79e8e149d6b7d '1/6': A Date -- and Term -- That Will Live in Infamy for 03/03/2021 Wed, 03 Mar 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>What term will historians use for the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol?</p> <p>Immediately following the events, a hot debate ignited over what to call the actions of the mob: a revolt? uprising? insurrection? rebellion?<p>Updated: Wed Mar 03, 2021</p> 59df6c6d6a1c343d8662713b20204a26 And Now for a Lesson in 'Onto'logy for 02/24/2021 Wed, 24 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>I, the all-powerful, all-knowing Word Guy, have a confession: I'm sometimes not sure whether to use "onto" or "on to."</p> <p>I know, I know. I should have mastered this skill in second grade, along with how to use "in" and "into," how to choose between "beside" and "besides" and how to keep milk from coming out of my nose while laughing. But I didn't.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 24, 2021</p> e55f5002158203d83eca93ef98a6bc49 This Phrase Produces a 'Lump' in Your Throat for 02/17/2021 Wed, 17 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>A friend recently told me he didn't give a hoot whether a speech he was writing might offend some people. "If they don't like it, they can lump it!" he declared.</p> <p>As soon as he used this phrase (which you don't hear very often these days), we both started speculating about its origin. It means, of course, that if you don't like something, you'll just have to stomach it, i.e., put up with it.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 17, 2021</p> e744c4e79a4b7041177c60c07d6cb3c4 Amorous Word Lovers Pop the Question for 02/10/2021 Wed, 10 Feb 2021 00:00:00 -0800 <p></p><p>Q. Please settle an argument. My position is that one "sees the sights," not the "sites." Thus, it's "sightseeing," not "siteseeing." &#8212; Steve Civitello, Middletown, Connecticut</p> <p>A. Steve, I cite you for your sharp insight. It's true that some of the sights you see while touring might also be sites, i.e., places where something occurred, such as the site of a historic battle between you and the advocate of "siteseeing." But the sights seen by sightseers could also include events, such as the Northern Lights or the running of the bulls, that aren't "sites." So, you win this ex-"site"ing argument.<p>Updated: Wed Feb 10, 2021</p>