Monthly Archives: October 2017


Halloween Etymology

Halloween Etymology

It’s nearly Halloween! I thought it would be a fantastic time to delve into the history of the word itself, as well as the holiday. There are so many different names used for the holiday. It has changed so much throughout history. I’ll list some of them: Hallowe’en (shortened to Halloween, as we know it) All Hallows’ Eve All Saints’ Eve Holy Eve Allhallow-even Old Year’s Night It was called All Hallows’/Saints’ Eve because it preceded All Hallows’/Saints’ Day, which has its own string of names (e.g. Hallowmas, Feast of All Saints). All Hallows’ Eve […]

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Features I Wish the English Language Had

Features I Wish the English Language Had

    English is confusing. I’ll be the first to admit it. As much as studying linguistics has taught me that the English language is very organized and has many rules, it seems that there are just as many exceptions and things that just plain don’t make sense. I’m sure most languages are like this. Most languages have a long and complicated history that involves many other languages, many cultures, and many groups of people who use it. Every language evolves, and it usually gets more confusing instead of less. That’s why it’s best to […]

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Book Review: Shady Characters by Keith Houston

Book Review: Shady Characters by Keith Houston

synopsis From ancient Greece to the Internet—via the Renaissance, Gutenberg, and Madison Avenue—Shady Characters exposes the secret history of punctuation. A charming and indispensable tour of two thousand years of the written word, Shady Characters weaves a fascinating trail across the parallel histories of language and typography. Whether investigating the asterisk (*) and dagger (†)–which alternately illuminated and skewered heretical verses of the early Bible–or the at sign (@), which languished in obscurity for centuries until rescued by the Internet, Keith Houston draws on myriad sources to chart the life and times of these enigmatic squiggles, both exotic […]

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Less vs. Fewer

Less vs. Fewer

  This is an issue that has plagued people for ages. Well, people who know that it is a hotly debated topic, anyway! It’s difficult to remember what is recommended and when it is appropriate or allowable to use “less” instead of “fewer.” I did some research on this a while back and wrote an essay on it. Hopefully this clears things up a little! I now automatically pay special attention to the terms when I see or hear them, but I still have trouble remembering when to make exceptions, so I tend to be […]

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The Literary Present Tense

The Literary Present Tense

    What is the literary present tense? When do we use it? Why do we use it?   These questions did not occur to me for many years. When I had to write papers for school, my teachers told me to use the literary present, and I did so without question. It was just one of those rules you followed blindly, because you trusted the judgment and credibility of your teachers. At least, I did! But recently I heard someone talk about why we use it, and it inspired me to do some research. […]

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The Case For “Should”

The Case For “Should”

  Consider the following phrase. I recommend that you go to the doctor. Now there are some people who think that there is an elided word there. Consider this: I recommend that you should go to the doctor. This really bothered me for some reason. I didn’t want to think about it that way. It seemed like you were trying to cram together two separate thoughts: “I recommend that you do this” and “You should do this.” Those are basically saying the same thing. It seemed like “should” was redundant. I wanted to prove that it was […]

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Book Review: The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

Book Review: The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

I absolutely love this book. When I say that the Chicago  Manual of Style is the editor’s bible—and many agree with me—then it follows that Carol Fisher Saller is the editing god (or guru). She has experience and knowledge of the rules (used very loosely) on her side, but she is just so approachable. She writes as if she is speaking directly to you. This book is filled with anecdotes, good and bad, amusing and cringe-worthy, helpful and simply entertaining. It makes it such a pleasant read, even as I jot down copious notes. (Six pages of them, in fact. To be fair, I skimmed it after finishing so I could take notes the second go-round. I didn’t want to detract from the reading experience the first time.)

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The Creation of a Word

The Creation of a Word

Hello! In my first post on this blog, I thought I’d share an essay I wrote for a college course. It seems like an especially appropriate introduction to this blog and the type of information I hope to impart through it. The topic was how the children’s book Frindle illustrates the process of language evolution, particularly the creation of a word, as rare as it is. Words change meaning all the time, but seldom are new words invented entirely out of thin air. However, Frindle manages to use this premise to very simply portray how a word enters Common […]

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