Banished words list: fun for a slow news day




You have probably noticed an article or two about the annual banished words list. Did you notice that it came out on January 1? The public relations department of Lake Superior State University has issued the list since 1976. It’s a lot of fun for word lovers. New Year’s Day is a slow news day, so when the list was new, it seemed a good day to get some press. I thought it would be fun to look back at previous lists to see if our society has actually stopped using any of the words. … Continue reading






Where’s the proof? In the pudding? Clichéd confusion




I just heard someone else say, “the proof is in the pudding.” What’s that supposed to mean? Sayings become clichés for a reason. They express a thought in a short, easily memorable form that people over a wide range of time and geography want to express. So it gets used over and over. Sometimes people get careless and don’t say it correctly. All meaning goes out the window, but unfortunately, the mangled version sometimes takes on a life of its own. It becomes as common as the correct, meaningful version, or maybe even more common. … Continue reading






Eggcorns, a new word for misused pears




Children eventually stop growing. The English language does not. Most new words catch popular fancy for a while, and then drop out of site. Quite a few eventually get recognized by major dictionaries. Merriam-Webster just added 1,700 new words. “Eggcorn” now takes its place alongside malapropism, spoonerism, and mondegreen to describe a losing battle with using or understanding words. A malapropism substitutes a completely wrong word, as when Mrs. Malaprop (in the third act of The Rivals by Richard Sheridan) declares, “Sure, if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice … Continue reading






Queue the violin music and other misused pears




I subscribe to several email newsletters. A couple of them are valuable for more than the information they convey. Their authors have a delightfully hard time choosing the right word from a pair or more of homonyms. One of these authors admitted to being stressed by something and apparently figured most of his readership wouldn’t be especially sympathetic. So he added, “queue the violin music.” “Queue” is a much more common word in British English than American English. It means a line of people waiting, say, to buy a concert ticket. As a classical music lover, it saddens me that … Continue reading