The Word Guy from Creators Syndicate Creators Syndicate is an international syndication company that represents cartoonists and columnists of the highest caliber. en Mon, 14 Oct 2019 21:42:55 -0700 The Word Guy from Creators Syndicate 498cb4e4bd6287277800d0a3d2210603 Now, That's Double Talk! for 10/09/2019 Wed, 09 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>The Department of Repetitive Redundancy, led by its leaders Pete and Re-Pete, who are a pair of twins, has generated a new innovation: a quiz designed to closely scrutinize your ability to detect repetitive words and phrases. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Can you find five redundancies in this paragraph, as well as 25 in this speech by a worried company president?</span></p> <p>My fellow colleagues, today we find ourselves surrounded on all sides by many challenges. This will require us to collaborate together throughout the entire company.<p>Updated: Wed Oct 09, 2019</p> e67bc69198ed2f65c0d6b86540a0c494 Lock, Stock and Peril for 10/02/2019 Wed, 02 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>&#8212; Answering a Loaded Question: President Donald Trump's recent description of the U.S. military as "locked and loaded" triggered my curiosity about the origin of this phrase.</p> <p>This American term, which first appeared during the late 1700s, originally referred to a flintlock rifle. Because its hammer had to be locked first to prevent an accidental discharge while loading ammunition, a ready-to-fire flintlock was said to be "locked and loaded."<p>Updated: Wed Oct 02, 2019</p> ed9ab94dcd2f9b26b859f921166f2fdd Reading Between the Lines for 09/25/2019 Wed, 25 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Bing Crosby once crooned in a classic song, "You've got to accentuate the positive/ Eliminate the negative/ Latch on to the affirmative/ Don't mess with Mister In-Between."</p> <p>He sure got that last part right. Perhaps no preposition causes more problems than "between" does.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 25, 2019</p> 1c133b2b4e19538ee1b5eed84117dd9f Should We Put 'Ahold' on Hold? for 09/18/2019 Wed, 18 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In reviewing a documentary about TV journalist Mike Wallace, critic Kenneth Turan noted that the film's director had "gotten ahold of exceptional footage." That prompted Henry McNulty of Cheshire, Connecticut, to ask whether "ahold" was acceptable in standard English.</p> <p>To answer this question, let's take Mike Wallace's dig-deep, investigative approach and get a hold of some linguistic history.<p>Updated: Wed Sep 18, 2019</p> 2069da6395846b303be320e98a44f476 Grinding Out the Origin of 'Emolument' for 09/11/2019 Wed, 11 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>President Donald Trump's recent suggestion that the G-7 hold its next meeting at his Doral golf resort near Miami has punctilious pundits grinding their molars. Having foreign officials spend millions of euros, Japanese yen and Canadian loonies at Trump's property would be a big no-no, they claim, <span class="column--highlighted-text">not only because these dignitaries won't tip well for room service but also because it could possibly enrich Trump's personal coffers, which would violate the Constitution's emoluments clause.</span></p> <p>Emoluments clause? Isn't that the warning on a jar of skin cream? Actually, that's the emollients clause: "FOR EXTERNAL USE ONLY."<p>Updated: Wed Sep 11, 2019</p> c404b2d7edd53061cff35ba70f3c41d1 Reader Offers a Clever 'Why's Crack?' for 09/04/2019 Wed, 04 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: Why is the adjective "crack" used to describe someone who's good at something, as in a "crack shot" or "crack troops"? &#8212; Chris Ryan, New York City</p> <p>A: This is a tough question, but I'll take a crack at it. "Crack," which derives from Old English "cracian" and the Middle English "crakken," first appeared in English as a verb meaning "to make a sudden, sharp noise." Some linguists believe that the word "crack" arose echoically, that is, as an imitation of a startling snap; <span class="column--highlighted-text">think of a breaking branch.</span><p>Updated: Wed Sep 04, 2019</p> 1b25edfe6bfbc3cf6c0ad75d1a6ac85d Newspaper Nomenclature Has Nautical Nature for 08/28/2019 Wed, 28 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I've noticed that the word "masthead" is often used to refer to the name on the front page of a publication, but I learned years ago that this was properly called the "flag." The masthead for me has always been the inside box of information that lists a publication's staff. Can you provide some clarification? I'm also wondering why there is a nautical flavor for both "masthead" and "flag." &#8212; Lillian Kezerian, Hartford, Connecticut</p> <p>A: Wow! You've done a terrific job of clarifying these terms yourself. And you're right about their salty tang.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 28, 2019</p> 7bfeb6a3a1c6540ecc6d86442c710dff Using 'Times Less' Subtracts From Clarity for 08/21/2019 Wed, 21 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: I see the following two phrases all too often: 1) "Three (or two or four) times less." I would think "one times less" means it is free, and that "two times less" means you get paid the value of the item if you take it away! 2) "One of the only," as in "one of the only car dealers to offer this." One of the only what? &#8212; Francis Charest, East Hartford, Connecticut</p> <p>A: You are a shrewd consumer, Francis, and a savvy grammarian as well. Both of these usage slips involve counting, and you're right on both counts.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 21, 2019</p> 301ab4ed5084d960141bf63031400385 'Trooper' Trope Troubles Troupers for 08/14/2019 Wed, 14 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: The lead character in the comic strip "Rex Morgan, M.D." recently referred to someone as a "real trooper." That confusion seems to happen over and over again. A "troupe" is not a "troop," but I wonder if they stem from the same antecedent. &#8212; Brock Putnam, Litchfield, Connecticut</p> <p>A: Lay on, Macduff! You're right on both counts. The correct term is indeed "real trouper," and "troop" and "troupe" do derive from the same word.<p>Updated: Wed Aug 14, 2019</p> feb7d9b0efebfcaceaf105c84fba908f Turn On, Tune In, Drop Album for 08/07/2019 Wed, 07 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Q: Musicians used to "release" a new album, but now a new album is "dropped." What the heck is that? &#8212; Randy, Green Bay, Wisconsin</p> <p>A: Indeed. <span class="column--highlighted-text">Whenever I hear that a group has "dropped a new album," I always picture an old-fashioned 78 rpm record falling to the floor and shattering.</span> Am I showing my age? Am I starting to sound like a broken record?<p>Updated: Wed Aug 07, 2019</p> f673bd8f1377ffebb68e51656ba59403 When Modifiers Unbuckle, They Give Us a Chuckle for 07/31/2019 Wed, 31 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>"Watch the birds as they hunt for fish using your own binoculars." Will the birds swoop down and grab your binoculars?</p> <p>"(A suspect) pleaded guilty to criminal tax fraud for improperly pocketing $5 million in state tax money in Albany County Court." Right in front of the judge?<p>Updated: Wed Jul 31, 2019</p> 4ff0e5bdb853295d290eac086a4aac78 New Verb Provides an 'Other' Perspective for 07/24/2019 Wed, 24 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>In a recent op-ed piece urging us to welcome and celebrate differences among people, Trinity College senior Jessica Duong wrote, "Empathy also includes holding others accountable in situations where people may be othered."</p> <p>Othered? This was a new term to me. Scurrying to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, I found that the verb "to other" means "to treat or consider (a person or a group of people) as alien to oneself or one's group (as because of different racial, sexual, or cultural characteristics)."<p>Updated: Wed Jul 24, 2019</p> 8673b20bd905a864ca661d7a895c0458 Full Speed 'Ahead'! for 07/17/2019 Wed, 17 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Some random dispatches from the Word Front ... </p> <p>&#8212; Off With Their "Aheads": When did "ahead of" start to replace "before"? A recent New York Times headline proclaimed "Xi Jinping Will Make First Visit to North Korea Ahead of Meeting With Trump," while NPR noted that the "Philippines' Duterte Remains Popular Ahead Of Midterm Elections," and a Washington Post weather report called for "some peeks of sun today ahead of rainier conditions Sunday."<p>Updated: Wed Jul 17, 2019</p> 779cdd17397d3132578030147ef045c8 Space Age Lingo Is Still in Orbit for 07/10/2019 Wed, 10 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>As the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing blasts off, commentators will surely cite the space program as the launchpad for a huge payload of technologies, from freeze-dried food to memory foam. What's often overlooked are the many NASA terms that achieved ignition and liftoff, and then splashed down to a soft landing in our lexicon where they're still all-systems-go.</p> <p>Half a century later, Apollo-ese is still A-OK. Congress is launching probes; retro items are rocketing to market reentry; business execs are pursuing mission-critical objectives and shooting for product launch windows; and people are still moonwalking on the dance floor.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 10, 2019</p> 5f1f769268911f4db94fa21c8d19c1ad One Small Misstep for a Man? for 07/03/2019 Wed, 03 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Did Neil Armstrong flub the first sentence spoken on the moon? The audio transmission of his words seems unambiguous: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." But Armstrong himself always insisted that he had said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."</p> <p>The indefinite article "a" makes a big difference. With it, the intended contrast between the single step of one man and the huge stride for all human beings is clear. Without it, "man" seems to mean "mankind," so the antithesis is lost. How can a small step for mankind also be a giant leap for mankind? The sentence doesn't make sense.<p>Updated: Wed Jul 03, 2019</p> 8b4ec9097046dd6c02ffd7c2710346ec Similes Swing Open Doors of Meaning for 06/26/2019 Wed, 26 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Well-placed similes are like well-oiled hinges, allowing readers to open doors of meaning with ease and grace. By making a direct comparison using "like" or "as," a simile connects an abstract concept to a familiar object or experience.</p> <p>Some similes can be sharp and sudden. New Yorker writer Anthony Lane, for instance, once observed that the sparkling swords and spears in a film's medieval battle scene "looked like an uprising in the cutlery drawer."<p>Updated: Wed Jun 26, 2019</p> 0fddfd42bccb8f3a35c0fca1e86543d5 This Word Sails to Many 'Ports' of Call for 06/19/2019 Wed, 19 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Like a wandering sailor, the Latin root "porto" has a girl in every ... well, port. <span class="column--highlighted-text">"Porto" means "carry," and this roamin' Roman root has sailed into scores of English words, serving us both the steak ("porterhouse") and the sizzle ("sports").</span></p> <p>The Latin verb "portare" (to carry) toted many obvious derivatives into English: "portable," "transport," "export," "porter" (a person who carries something), "portfolio" (a case for carrying papers), and "portage" (lugging boats overland), but it also smuggled in less apparent descendants as well:<p>Updated: Wed Jun 19, 2019</p> bc9ab5da4ed9a2f9f2373d791db40ce4 Are You Booked for the Summer? for 06/12/2019 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>If you're bound for the beach, boardwalk or boat this summer &#8212; or just the back porch &#8212; pick up one of these new books about language.</p> <p>Anyone who writes anything should grab Gary Provost's "100 Ways to Improve Your Writing." First published in 1985 and updated for the first time, this handy guide is a writer's Swiss Army knife. Suffering from writer's block? Make a list of your key points. Want your words to pack punch? Be specific and use active verbs. Seeking to engage your readers? Write about people and use anecdotes. Need inspiration? Read and eavesdrop.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 12, 2019</p> f3c6126806b612ff776cd19934bbe762 Dogged Readers Snarl at Pet Peeves for 06/05/2019 Wed, 05 Jun 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Every so often, I like to unleash my readers' pet peeves, aka 'pete noires, 'cur'sed terms and 'dog'gerrrrrel.</p> <p>Emailer Phyllis Aronson unleashes an entire kennel of curs. She hates it when people: 1) use "shrunk" instead of "shrank" as the past tense of "shrink"; 2) insert "of" into "not that big (of) a deal"; 3) use "further" instead of "farther" for physical distance.<p>Updated: Wed Jun 05, 2019</p> ee214396376c7cf7ca70aa01a6f31b32 Unzipping the Origin of 'Fly' for 05/29/2019 Wed, 29 May 2019 00:00:00 -0700 <p></p><p>Why is the opening on men's trousers called a "fly"?</p> <p>Before your speculation starts to soar too high, please note that "fly" refers not to the zipper but to the piece of fabric that covers the zipper.<p>Updated: Wed May 29, 2019</p>