1. n. The love of language

To boldly go where Byron went before …

by Louise


Are we now safe to boldly go where we weren’t allowed to before? Glossophilia tackles the dastardly split infinitive: here’s most of what you hoped possibly to know — or hoped to possibly know — about grammar’s favorite villain.

Lord Byron’s poem Solitude, written in the early 19th century, opens with these lines:

“To sit on rocks, to muse o’er flood and fell,
To slowly trace the forest’s shady scene” Read the rest of this entry »

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Feb 27)

by Louise


TGIF. Language and usage in the news this month: confessions of a comma queen; the possible death of “uh”; a town torn apart by an apostrophe; the mid-Atlantic language mash-up; some non-translatable idioms; what your pronunciation says about you; and a critique of Wikipedia’s grammar vigilante. Read the rest of this entry »

Poetry in Motion: 9

by Louise



Seen on the NYC subway C train, Feb 25, 2015.

A doozy of a Daisy

by Louise

doozy         daisy

A daisy isn’t just a flower — or a girl’s name. It’s a traditional long drink — a spirit base with lemon juice and sometimes soda, sweetened with grenadine, sugar or a fruit syrup –and it’s been enjoyed in its various brandy and gin incarnations since the mid-19th century. According to WebTender Wiki (yes, there is one), a recipe for Brandy Daisy was listed in Scientific Bar-Keeping by Joseph W. Gibson in 1884, and Esquire professes to have another such recipe from “Professor” Jerry Thomas dating back to 1862, calling for curaçao and fragrant Jamaican rum.

Why is the cocktail called a daisy? Read the rest of this entry »

新年快乐 Xīnnián kuàilè!

by Louise



Xīnnián kuàilè!
Happy New Year!

Read the rest of this entry »

The Oscars: word trivia

by Louise


Words aren’t something that spring to mind when we think of the Oscars: maybe gowns, bling, best performances, best direction and best pics. But there are a lot of interesting words going on there too: in the speeches, and in the movies themselves. For example: Who stole the show at the Oscars in 1999 when one of the winners declared that “I would like to be Jupiter. And kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everyone”? Who said the immortal words “Frankly, my dear, I dont’ give a damn”? And perhaps more to the point, who wrote those words? Who has received the most nominations for best screenplay writer? Who gave the shortest Oscar acceptance speech? And has anyone named Oscar ever won an Oscar?

Answers to these and other Oscar word trivia questions are below. And as for Sunday, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night…” Read the rest of this entry »

Some Valentine poetry for the senses

by Louise

Gabriel von Max (via Wikimedia Commons)

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Desire to us
Was like a double death,
Swift dying
Of our mingled breath,
Of an unknown strange perfume
Between us quickly
In a naked

Langston Hughes Read the rest of this entry »

Well actually…

by Louise


Actually has a bad rap. “Actually, the Worst Word on the Planet is Actually,” claimed The Atlantic a couple of years ago. Just saying the word seems to mean that you’re being snarky or passive-aggressive, that you’ve got a superiority complex, or that you might be telling a big fat lie. But can some of us be forgiven for using it habitually, even if it can mean any one of these things? Read the rest of this entry »

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (Feb 6)

by Louise


Thanks to Ben Finane for the photo of this Park Slope, Brooklyn deli that isn’t going anywhere …

TGIF. Language use and abuse in the news this past month: a discussion about accents prejudice; a typo takes a business down; how to pronounce February; and more …

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Just how are you supposed to pronounce the month we’re in? (That’s February, for those who haven’t caught up yet…) mental_floss has the scoop … Read the rest of this entry »

All of me, all my loving

by Louise


It’s one of those things that some people care about and some don’t: if and when you should say “all of”, and when just “all” will do. Is there a rule about this? Well, it’s more of a well-established recommendation than a firm directive, and it’s generally understood that by following this rule of thumb you keep your prose sounding more lean and poetic.  Read the rest of this entry »