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






6 outdated phrases and their forgotten meanings




Language changes, but technology changes faster. We still keep using outdated phrases long after we’ve left the old technology behind. Sometimes we update their meaning. Sometimes not. Some of these phrases are centuries old. Others, older generations remember the technologies well—fondly, even. But younger people have never used them. Or perhaps never even seen them. But the language lingers. … Continue reading






Rime thyme




A wicked witch long ago cast a bad spell on the English language. Now there are hardly any common words that don’t rhyme with other words that have a very different spelling. Some people get confused. George Hearst, father of journalist William Randolph Hearst, ran for governor of California in 1882 despite having almost no education. In defense against the jeers of political rivals, he said, My opponents say that I haven’t the book learning that they possess. They say I can’t spell. They say I spell bird, b-u-r-d. If b-u-r-d doesn’t spell bird, what in the hell does it … Continue reading






31 tips to improve your writing skills




How long have you been a writer? Since about first grade. As soon as you started to learn to read, you started to learn to write. First you wrote letters, then words, then sentences, then paragraphs. Do I need to remind you of term papers? Many people look forward to graduating as much to turn in their last paper as for anything else. And many people, I suppose, look for jobs where they don’t have to write much. They have no faith in their writing skills. You may have to write a lot more than you anticipated when you started … 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