Mid-June etymology gleanings

John Cowan pointed out that queer “quaint, odd” can be and is still used today despite its latest (predominant) sense. Yes, I know. Quite intentionally, I sometimes use the phrase queer smile. It
John Cowan pointed out that queer “quaint, odd” can be and is still used today despite its latest (predominant) sense. Yes, I know. Quite intentionally, I sometimes use the phrase queer smile. It [More]

How to use repetition

A couple times a week, I hear someone remark “It is what it is,” accompanied by a weary sigh. I always puzzle over the expression a little bit, thinking What else could it be? The post How to use
A couple times a week, I hear someone remark “It is what it is,” accompanied by a weary sigh. I always puzzle over the expression a little bit, thinking What else could it be? The post How to use [More]

Unity without objecthood, in art and in natural language

What makes something we see or something we talk about a single thing, or simply a unit that we can identify and that we can distinguish from others and compare to them? For ordinary objects like
What makes something we see or something we talk about a single thing, or simply a unit that we can identify and that we can distinguish from others and compare to them? For ordinary objects like [More]

Monthly gleanings for April 2017

The previous post on Nostratic linguistics was also part of the “gleanings,” because the inspiration for it came from a query, but a few more tidbits have to be taken care of before summer sets in.
The previous post on Nostratic linguistics was also part of the “gleanings,” because the inspiration for it came from a query, but a few more tidbits have to be taken care of before summer sets in. [More]

The unprecedented difficulty of B(e)

A dictionary is in indeed a collection of stories and each word entry has a unique tale to tell. If we choose the verb 'be', we encounter a special insight into English, and into the society and
A dictionary is in indeed a collection of stories and each word entry has a unique tale to tell. If we choose the verb 'be', we encounter a special insight into English, and into the society and [More]

Two posts on “sin”: a sequel

The colleague who wrote me a letter is a specialist in Turkic and a proponent of Nostratic linguistics. He mentioned the Turkic root syn-, which, according to him, can mean “to test, prove; compete;
The colleague who wrote me a letter is a specialist in Turkic and a proponent of Nostratic linguistics. He mentioned the Turkic root syn-, which, according to him, can mean “to test, prove; compete; [More]

Sleeveless errand

The phrase is outdated, rare, even moribund. Those who use it do so to amuse themselves or to parade their antiquarian tastes. However, it is not quite dead, for it sometimes occurs in books
The phrase is outdated, rare, even moribund. Those who use it do so to amuse themselves or to parade their antiquarian tastes. However, it is not quite dead, for it sometimes occurs in books [More]

How green became green

The original Earth Day Proclamation in 1970 refers to "our beautiful blue planet," and the first earth day flag consisted of a NASA photo of the Earth on a dark blue background. But the color of
The original Earth Day Proclamation in 1970 refers to "our beautiful blue planet," and the first earth day flag consisted of a NASA photo of the Earth on a dark blue background. But the color of [More]

For want of a comma

The Oxford Comma, so named because it first appeared in the 1905 Oxford University Press Style Guide, is the comma that comes before the word and in a series of three or more listed items. Also
The Oxford Comma, so named because it first appeared in the 1905 Oxford University Press Style Guide, is the comma that comes before the word and in a series of three or more listed items. Also [More]

Spelling and knowhow: the oddest English spellings, part 23

We are so used to the horrors of English spelling that experience no inconvenience at reading the word knowhow. Why don’t know and how rhyme if they look so similar? Because such is life. The post
We are so used to the horrors of English spelling that experience no inconvenience at reading the word knowhow. Why don’t know and how rhyme if they look so similar? Because such is life. The post [More]