We now have a rough consensus that an apostrophe signals the possessive and a plain s the plural, although there is still debate about a few points.
Differences between British English and American English can often be worked out from context and are unlikely to offend. Some, however, have the potential to embarrass.
Like most students in the past 100 years, I was taught to employ exclamation points 'rarely.' Now, though, we are in a period of exclamation inflation, and I have succumbed.
Deadline offers a rare case in which the popular etymology of a word turns out to be accurate. Originally it was a line that promised death if you went over it.
A 1395 translation of the Bible demonstrates that the word 'sad' didn’t mean what it does now.
In 2007, the editors of the Oxford Junior English Dictionary banished a bevy of terms describing the natural world.
The term’s etymology is vexed. It was first used in the Northeastern United States in the 18th century, but that is all we can say with relative certainty.
When tested, most people can name only about 50 percent of even familiar aromas such as coffee, cinnamon, and garlic. But we do know when something stinks. For bad smells, we have a fairly rich, if nonspecific, vocabulary.
It is surprisingly hard for English-speakers to describe the odors that occasion strong emotions. English possesses almost no abstract smell words that pick out links or themes among unrelated aromas.
Central American families walk through dense brush after illegally crossing the Rio Grande river into the United States from Mexico, in Fronton, Texas, on Oct.18.
What do the words politicaster, mongrel, and braggart have in common? They end with a pejorative suffix, a few final letters that change a neutral or positive word into a negative one.
In English, the right to vote itself is sometimes referred to as suffrage. There is a folk etymology on the internet that holds suffrage to be derived from to suffer, in the older sense of 'allow' or 'permit.'
There are so many wonderful campaign words, I feel as if I could go on forever – just like campaign season.
As the term 'prestige construction' hints, hypercorrection is intimately bound up with issues of social class.
A word that starts out as a neutral or even positive term for men feminizes (becomes exclusively identified with women) and often pejorates (gets worse).
It is hard even to imagine hoyden as a meaningful term of reproach and criticism today. Why shouldn’t girls climb trees? What’s wrong with women laughing loudly and saying what they think?
Why, as John Pollack writes in “The Pun Also Rises,” do we consider puns “the lowest form of humor?”
A group of psychologists recently published a paper claiming that nominative determinism actually works. They found that men named Dennis were more likely to be dentists, the theory being that 'people choose – or are unconsciously drawn to – careers that resemble their own names.'
The US Senate is – or was – strongly associated with ideals of comity. Many of the recent articles about former FBI Director James Comey, however, suggest that Senate comity is under threat or already destroyed.
Even if you decide to make a firm distinction between bi- and semi-, these words are used so interchangeably that it’s still confusing.