Category Archives: Grammar

In the news … (Friday, Sep 16)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

In usage and grammar news this past month: how and why we curse (or swear, if you’re a profane Brit); a new app for grammar snobs; a celebrity scolds Siri for mispronouncing her name; names that parents regret giving their babies; the true nature of the word gypsy; and a grammar rule that we all use without knowing it. Continue reading

In the news … (June 10)


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In usage and grammar news this month: Trump is unaware of the hottest portmanteau of the year; a very sinister punctuation trend; Roald Dahl’s weird words get their own dictionary; a grammar mistake on a London Transport ad (can you spot it?); Texan Republicans either believe that most Texans are gay, or they just can’t string a sentence together; the name of a famous bridge has been spelled wrong for more than five decades; a comedian lands herself in trouble with a mispronunciation; and some awesome Bachelorette malapropisms. (And if you’re not sure what a portmanteau or malapropism is, check out Glosso’s earlier post here.) Continue reading

In the news … (April 29)

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

In the news … (Feb 5)

Sarah Palin gets in a 'squirmish' with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

Sarah Palin gets in a ‘squirmish’ with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

That Gerund Is Funky — Feb issue. Recently in grammar and language news: a Palin portmanteau that NPR’s Ari Shapiro can’t let go of; Oxford Dictionaries faces an accusation of sexism; a grammar quiz from The Independent; how to pronounce the name of a Dutch musician with a Swedish-sounding surname; the new legitimacy of the singular ‘they’; and the end of the road for a punctuation mark? Continue reading

Honey, Obama shrunk his past participle


Speaking at his televised town hall meeting on gun control this evening, President Obama caught himself making a classic linguistic gaffe involving the past tense of the verb “to shrink”. I shrink, I shrank, I have shrunk; it shrinks, it shrank, it has been shrunk. But as Obama talked about the ATF budget in the past passive, he picked the wrong participle — as many people tend to do with the verb these days. “It is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank,” our President said, with a slightly faltering voice that hinted he knew he’d messed up. And sure enough, after skipping just a couple of beats, he provided one of the few moments of levity in the evening’s otherwise deadly serious discussion, when he corrected himself with a smile and an apology for his tardy self-edit: “Has been shrunk. It is a little late,” he said, realizing that he fessed up a bit too long after he made his gaffe, and eliciting the one and only peal of laughter from his audience, “but you knew what I meant.” We know what you meant, Barack. But we’re glad you realized and pointed out your mistake. Even you can be fallible.

See Glossophilia’s earlier post on the shrunk/shrank confusion that gets even the most articulate and eloquent speakers.

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“Grammar slammers: Dems crush GOP”

Chafee       Trump

Yes, that’s a real headline: it appeared in USA Today last month. Glosso is a little behind the curve here, having missed this important political news when it first broke at the beginning of October — but hey: it’s never too late to help educate the electorate, especially in the all-important matter of grammatical competence. If you’re still on the fence about which party or presidential candidate you’re going to support over the coming 12 months (but do hurry up, because you’ve only got a year left to decide), and grammar happens to be an important voting issue for you, we have some useful inside info, courtesy Grammarly. Here’s the scoop. Continue reading

Texas textbooks: it’s not just the facts that distort the truth …


Texas textbooks have been in and out of the news — notoriously — since 2010, when the Lone Star State’s board of education adopted its revised curriculum, which has just recently come into effect in Texas classrooms. These texts have been heavily criticized for whitewashing or rewriting aspects of American history — including most notably the facts and truths about slavery and its role in the Civil War. As Bobby Finger reported in Jezebel last month:

“In 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a revised social studies curriculum that … would “put a conservative stamp on history” once going into effect in 2015. In advance of their debut in Texas classrooms last week, it was widely reported that the new textbooks, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson, “whitewashed” slavery by downplaying the brutality of the facts and treating it as a “side issue.” … Their contents demonstrate a troubling creep away from teaching actual history—and the unpleasant truth of America’s legacy of racism—and toward a sanitized fable of historical white morality.”

But it’s not just the facts or even the vocabulary in these schoolbooks that are loaded with inaccuracies and bias or cleansed of harsh truths: it’s the very manner in which these narratives are phrased that has some commentators deeply concerned. Continue reading

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