“Some golfers hardly gung-ho about chance to win Olympic gold,” read a recent headline in the Chicago Tribune. It’s a common enough expression — gung ho — in both American and British English, meaning “unthinkingly enthusiastic and eager, especially about taking part in fighting or warfare” (OED). But it recently occurred to me that being a phrase of Chinese origin, gung ho is fairly unusual in its etymology: I can’t think of many other words or phrases that English has borrowed from that language. So I did some digging … Continue reading →
“I just don’t think it will be grabby enough for [X magazine],” a journalist explained candidly in his response to one of my pitches yesterday. I had never heard, until then, the adjective “grabby” with that meaning — of arousing interest or attention. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard or read the word grabby in any context. I knew exactly what he meant when he consigned my pitch to the ungrabby bin, and it’s certainly not the first time one of my suggestions has been deemed ungrabby — even if they’ve never been labeled as such. But it did make me wonder about the history and pervasiveness of this curious colloquialism, which is quite grabby in its own right … Continue reading →
In case anyone is still wondering about last week’s writers quiz, here are the answers below. Congratulations to Virginia Barder (full disclosure: she’s my sis, but I promise she didn’t get any inside info or extra clues) for being the first to solve it, and an honorary mention to Olivia, who solved the whole quiz within the space of about 10 minutes. Continue reading →
TGIF … In language and usage news this month (and it’s been a good one), we have a Presidential hopeful having some trouble abroad — in pronouncing the name of that place he’s never been to; some landmark capitalization rules (or make that “DEcap” rules) at the AP; how personality is behind grammar nazis; does the name “Jim Wilson” mean anything to you (especially if you’re in the aviation world)?; find out which words were born in the same year as yours truly; the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; some words made famous on an iconic TV show; and some dope on pugs … Continue reading →
A writers trivia quiz for a Sunday afternoon. A couple of the questions are fairly easy; a couple not so easy. (I’ll be interested to see if anyone gets the bonus one; my daughter reckons no-one will.) Answers will be posted here next Sunday, along with the names of anyone who guesses all four (or five) correctly. If you’ve worked any of them out, please write the first letter(s) of the key word(s) summarizing the answer in the comments section below: i.e. be cryptic — no spoilers. Good luck! Continue reading →
That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long
— William Shakespeare, (26 April 1564 (baptized) – 23 April 1616)
Children playing in street, New York / Wikimedia Commons
“Pax!” we would shout, often out of breath and usually with our fingers crossed and held aloft for all our tag-mates to see. It might have been a stitch, or a shoelace that had come untied: something made us have to excuse ourselves from the game — just temporarily, for a brief and necessary time-out — and no-one, not even our arch opponents, could catch us or call us out during the time we had called for our own truce. I’m sure it’s something most of us remember from our playtime in the schoolyard. Continue reading →