1. n. The love of language

Answer to yesterday’s short grammar quiz

by Louise

Yesterday was National Grammar Day, and Glossophilia published a short grammar quiz. We asked how many of these eleven images depicted a grammatical mistake. The answer is:


Here’s why:



This is not a question of grammar, but rather of vocabulary or word choice. The use of the word infer here is correct: the pumpkin (and the audience) infers from what it sees that it will soon be made into a pie.




This is not a grammatical mistake, but one of spelling. The plural of Oreo is “Oreos” — without the apostrophe.



This sign originally contained a grammatical mistake: the verb “drive” needs an adverb (“slowly”) rather than an adjective (“slow”) to modify it. But thankfully someone corrected it. So there’s no error here, grammatical or otherwise.




Although an infinitive (“to be”) has been split with the adverb “really”, placing the adverb anywhere else in this particular title would be convoluted and might possibly change its meaning. This is a good example of when it’s OK to split an infinitive, even though it’s desirable to avoid doing so whenever possible. (See Glosso’s recent post on split infinitives.)





This sentence is awash with spelling and punctuation errors, but not grammatical mistakes. You’re needs an apostrophe; it’s needs an apostrophe; a comma would be nice after the word this; and the sentence could probably do with a period at the end. And does it really have to be spelled in all caps?




“Between you and me” is grammatically correct. The objective pronouns you and me are appropriate for the objects governed by the conjunction between.




“Clam” is a typo: a simple spelling mistake. It is not a grammatical error.




Using over instead of more than to indicate greater numerical value was a no-no for a while.   It used to be that if you were discussing countable quantities, you would use “more than” to describe a greater amount, and if you were talking about spatial dimensions, you used over to indicate greater dimensions. However, last year the Associated Press announced a change to the AP Stylebook, joining most other usage guides in determining that more than and over are both acceptable in all uses to indicate a greater numerical value. And anyway, isn’t this a case of word choice rather than grammatical standards?




The use of the word literally in this advertisement is questionable. But this is a matter of vocabulary or word choice, and not a grammatical faux pas. You might argue that the one-word sentence, “Literally.”, is a grammatical error, but you’d be wrong. Totally.




Assuming that Rachael Ray doesn’t enjoy cooking her family or her pet canine, there is a comma missing after the word cooking. This is a punctuation error, not one of grammar.




How can a company named “apostrophe” insert a rogue apostrophe in it(‘)s advertising? Well, this one did. It made a common spelling error, but not a grammatical mistake.

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It’s National Grammar Day: take a short grammar quiz

by Louise

It’s National Grammar Day! To celebrate the occasion, take Glosso’s short quiz to find out if you know your grammar. Have fun and good luck!

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How many of the eleven images below depict a grammatical mistake? Post your number (no spoilers please) in the comments section; the answer, with explanations, will be published tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »