A rapper goes mononymous

Wikipedia Commons

Back in 2013, the one-and-only Jay-Z dropped his hyphen and decided to become known by his two names. (See Glosso’s earlier post, “Jay Z no longer mononymous”.) Then, four years later, he popped the hyphen back in, and returned to his one-named identity (see “The Return of Jay-Z’s hyphen“.) Today, another unique rapper has done the same thing and assumed a single moniker. In Kanye West’s case, he has become “Ye.” Continue reading

“Vranyo”: a previously untranslatable Russian word …


Vranyo – “Pioneered by the Soviets and perfected by Putin, this is a special word in Russia which means telling a barefaced lie which you do not expect anyone to believe.” — The Sun, UK

“When I recently opened The New York Times and saw Vladimir Putin … walking out of the Black Sea with two nearly intact ancient amphorae in his hands, the vranyo alarm went off. … The smell of vranyo was so strong I had to put down the paper. … Putin was lying to us, we knew he was lying, he knew we knew he was lying, but he kept lying anyway, and we pretended to believe him.” — Elena Gorokhova in the New York Times, 2011 Continue reading

Some sketchy business email language

Wikimedia Commons

We’ve all got our own lists of business buzzwords that set our teeth on edge. Synergy, bandwidth, actionable items, scalable, leverage — and the more recent and ubiquitous “circle back”: these are just a few of my personal bugbears in the boardroom, and I know you’ve got more. (You can get your fill of them from an earlier Glossophilia post on The ubiquity of buzzwords and business speak.) But there’s another category of business-lingo that’s getting some of our backs up: it’s the common misuse in emails of certain standard English words or phrases, which just never will sound or be right, however often they’re typed and no matter how good the intention. They’re not just icky words and phrases: they’re just plain wrong.

“With regards to”:
(When you’re drawing the reader’s attention to a specific issue or changing the subject.)

Reason it’s wrong: “With regards to” is what you say when you’re sending your regards or best wishes to someone. A singular regard is what you’re looking for: a noun meaning “attention to or concern for something.”

Correct/better options: “With regard to” (singular), “concerning”, or “about”. Or what about simply “regarding”, or even “re.”?

“Please advice”:
(When you’re asking someone to tell you how to proceed.)

Reason it’s wrong: Advice is a noun; advise is the verb you’re looking for. In American English there’s sometimes no distinction in spelling between the verb and the noun. For example, it’s practice (noun) vs. practise (verb) in British English, but just practice in American for both. Could that be the rub?

Correct option: “Please advise”

(When you’re asking for or stating the time by which something needs to be done, or even a more general sense of timing of a project.)

Reason it’s wrong: A dateline is either “a line at the head of a dispatch or newspaper article showing the date and place of writing” or — as two words, each capitalized, with “International” in front — it’s the proper name for the imaginary line on the surface of the Earth that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole and demarcates the change of one calendar day to the next.

Correct/better option: Deadline (for a date or time by which something must be completed), or timeline (for an explanation or map of a project’s timing).

“Please revert (back to me)”:
(When you’re asking someone to respond. Is this a Britishism, or more universal?)

Reason it’s wrong: Revert is a verb meaning to return to a previous state, practice, or topic. If you’re asking someone to revert back to you, you’re asking them to be you — again. This does not compute.

Correct/better option: “Please reply.”


Thanks to Gail for bringing the new/email meaning of revert to my attention.

Labor Day: the meaning of labor



Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882

It’s Labor Day here in the U.S.: an annual holiday on September’s first Monday that celebrates the American labor movement and honors the social and economic achievements of workers. Labor Day was first marked in 1882 in New York City. What does labor actually mean? Continue reading

The Many Nicknames of Donald J. Trump


“Rocket Man”, “Lyin’ Ted”, “Crooked Hillary”, “Crazy Bernie”, “Pocahontas”: These are just a few of the many monikers that — having been thrown in the faces of his political rivals and personal nemeses since climbing into his little political sandbox — have earned 45 his only rather dubious oratory honor: that of being President of Nicknames. But, Mr. Don John, it works both ways …

Yesterday, Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, speaking at the funeral of Aretha Franklin, lambasted the “orange apparition” for having the nerve and temerity to claim that the Queen of Soul had once worked for him. “You lugubrious leech, you dopey doppelgänger of deceit and deviance, you lethal liar, you dimwitted dictator, you foolish fascist.” That’s how Mr Dyson addressed POTUS in his eulogy. Here’s an A to Z* of other name-pies — alliterative, uncannily descriptive, and just downright witty — that have been thrown in the face of our reigning Cheese Doodle by celebrated and even distinguished members of the media and public figures of note. Sic and cited.

(*missing only J for Joker, N for Nobody, Q for QLF – pardon my French, and X, Y, Z for End Game)

Nicknames bestowed by media figures: Continue reading

Overleaf …

Is overleaf a Britishism? This morning I received a Glosso-related question from Andrea, one of my American friends. “My friend Mary*, who has written several books, uses the word overleaf (which I have come to find out is an adverb) in this sentence: ‘You can see some alternative models of ‘stuck’ overleaf.’ In this sentence, overleaf must describe a verb — like ‘see’. My brain can’t absorb that word as an adverb. It is more like a preposition+noun. Do you have experience with overleaf? Does that sentence sound normal to you?” Continue reading

I’ve just twigged …

In a recent letter in The Times (of London), a reader described his experience of driving his old Renault 4 through France: “On the road, the beeping by other drivers made me nervous — until I twigged the car was being saluted.” Does the word “twigged” make any sense to you in that context? If you’re a Brit, it probably does. But I’m sure most Americans won’t twig … Continue reading

Aussie dimmos


Dripos, in Aussie speak

English is littered with diminutives — commonly abbreviated words — in standard usage. Phone, bike, fridge, gym, typo, photo: they’re all diminutives* in that sense. Sometimes we add a suffix after butchering a word to give it an even more informal feel: think comfy (comfortable), cardie (cardigan), telly (television), and even brolly (umbrella). OK, admittedly those are all British colloquialisms: we Brits [see?] are more prone than our neighbors across the pond to add weeny appendages back in once we’ve sliced off the fatty syllables. (And see Glosso’s earlier post: “I’ll take that with a side of small words.“) But wait: there’s a country that’s even more inclined to hypocorism (yes, that’s what it’s called) than English-speakers on either side of the Atlantic. G’day Aussies! Continue reading

Answer to yesterday’s Glosso quiz: what do these authors have in common?

Lewis Carroll / Wikimedia Commons

Here’s a rare Glossophilia quiz for you.

What do these seven authors have in common? If you know, or want to take a guess, please mark in the comments section below. The answer will be posted tomorrow.

Hans Christian Andersen
James Baldwin
Bill Bryson
Lewis Carroll
Franz Kafka
Mark Twain
H.G. Wells

Good luck!

The answer is that they were all left-handed. Yesterday was International Left-Handed Day.