Author Archives: Louise


Due to time and usage, “due to” and “because of” enjoy adverbial synonymy

“Due to inability to market their grain, prairie farmers have been faced for some time with a serious shortage of sums to meet their immediate needs.”

That’s not the Queen’s English!, the purists and prescriptivists are beginning to protest (and I have to admit, my ears are slightly cringing in sympathy). Isn’t “due to”, strictly speaking, an adjectival phrase, meant to describe nouns and not verbs? If you can’t replace it successfully with “caused by” or “attributable to”, shouldn’t you be sent to the grammatical corner to gather your thoughts and rephrase your words? Continue reading

16 movie title bloopers



He did? Get game? Or does that mean he has got game — currently — whatever “game”-without-an-article means? As in, “He’s got that thing called game”? Or did he get that article-less game last week, on the same night that he got milk? Maybe it becomes apparent when you see the movie (which I had the chance to do this evening when it popped up on my TV guide), but I think we can safely say that its title lacks clarity — unless game is an abstract quality that he acquired some time in the recent past…

Here are 15 other movie titles that could have done with a good edit. If you can’t work out where they went wrong, check out their copy-edited versions below. Continue reading

Homing in on home


“I’m coming home
I’m coming home
tell the world I’m coming home”

So the song goes, and it’s a familiar refrain. We all know the definition of that abstract four-letter word, whose actual meaning is unique to everyone who uses it. But here’s a funny question: when we talk about “coming home”, “going home”, “getting home” or “being home,” what role in the sentence does the generic place-name play: is it a noun, as most places tend to be, or, strangely, could it be an adverb?  Continue reading

Choate, couth and cognito


Disingenuous seems to be the word of the week at 21C: we’re all at pains to avoid seeming or being it in our work as publicists. But as one of my more literary colleagues pointed out: why don’t we use the word ingenuous* more often — i.e. without the “dis-” in front of it? Is there even such a word, and does it mean the opposite of disingenuous? (See below to find out.) And are there other words like this whose obvious opposites don’t seem to exist? Continue reading

From soup men to grammar nuts: is the name Nazi OK?


In a bizarre story coming out of Russia a couple of months ago (and no, it wasn’t in April), government officials in their zealous drive to purge the country of any symbols or supporters of fascism and Nazism went after a language pedant, probing his links with “grammar Nazis”. According to the Moscow Times, “prosecutors in southern Russia … summoned for questioning Alexei Pavlovsky, the head of Bonus Media, which supports the local branch of the popular Total Dictation educational project. The project tests how accurately people can transcribe a text read orally. “They asked me first about the dictation, about my other civil initiatives, and then politely inquired about what I knew about grammar Nazis, and whether they were financing my activities,” Pavlovsky wrote on his Facebook page.”

It does make you wonder just how right or OK it is for the word Nazi — a name with such abhorrent associations — to be appropriated for more benign or jokey purposes. Continue reading

Tan or tanned, brown or bronzed?


It’s tanning season again, and time for a talk about tan.

“’You’re so tan. Are you out of L.A.?’” asked the former Alaskan governor, Sarah Palin, of a New York Daily News reporter recently. “Palin then confessed that her golden glow came from a salon. ‘Mine’s fake,’ she quietly confided. ‘I mean, I’m Alaskan.'” Continue reading

You say string bean, I say haricot vert …


Most of us know and agree on what “green beans” mean — i.e. what they look and generally taste like. (We also know that beans meanz Heinz — and that’s another story altogether.) But those grass-colored finger-shaped legumes have a lot of names — and not just because of the almost infinite varieties of bean, but also thanks to the inability of the Brits and Yanks to agree on what they should call them (even among their fellow citizens). Continue reading

Mad props


Warning: mildly explicit content

“Ayo I got the mad skills that make you wanna flex
I dominate this track so it’s time to have sex
But just chill while I get all in it
Cause I’m about to rip it, who said I couldn’t kick it
Uh, I get shots off just like a shotgun
Stick a fork in your butt, you’re just about done
I pour you MCs just like a lobster
Cause this hip-hopper gets props just like a mobster”

So rapped Da Youngstas in his song “Who’s the Mic Wrecka” — and I guess he should get props for rhyming “just like a lobster” with “just like a mobster”. Mad props, in fact.

According to Oxford Dictionaries, props means “respect or credit due to a person”. But where does it come from? Is it related to theatrical props? Continue reading

Love, deuce and all that jazz


Glossophilia is posting this one again — for all you tennis fans out there. Djokovic and Murray aren’t meeting tomorrow, but they’re still in the game and due to meet some time next week. Familiar faces, new balls …


They’re meeting tomorrow in what promises to be a nail-biting Wimbledon final (nail-biting at least for the great British public). But how much love will there be on Centre Court between these two formidable sportsmen, Novac Djokovic and Andy Murray? On the scoreboard, there might be a fair amount during the course of the match; perhaps not so much on the court itself. Why is love the name given to the score for zero in tennis? And what the deuce is the story behind the score for 40-all? Continue reading