Act and Action

Using action and act interchangeably is appropriate only when the sense is “deed” or “thing done.” Action has meanings that do not apply to act, as in the following statements.

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Idem and Ibid

The abbreviation id. and the word idem are often seen in older scholarly works, but modern style guides, like The Chicago Manual of Style, no longer countenance the use.

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Holing Up

This morning I heard an NPR journalist say in elegant, educated accents that Julian Assange “has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for three years.”

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Not That Big of a Deal

The reader is correct in feeling that the “of” in “not that big of a deal” is superfluous. As one of the writers at The Grammarphobia blog points out, “An extra word can be justified if it serves an emphatic or supportive purpose, as in “first time ever” or “three different times.”

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Maven

The word maven—also spelled mavin and mayvin—is from the Yiddish word meyvn (plural mevinim): “expert, connoisseur.” The Yiddish word comes from Hebrew mebin, “a person with understanding, a teacher.”

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How Short Is Short Fiction?

Readers and listeners have enjoyed short fiction since antiquity, but the Web reveals an enthusiastic surge of interest in it, along with various terms to describe it.

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Peruse and Some Alternatives

When I checked the Ngram Viewer to satisfy myself that “peruse through” would not come up, I was surprised to see that it does register, although barely. I stand by my initial response, that peruse takes an object and is not followed by a preposition. One might “pore over a book” but one “peruses a book.”

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How Long Is A Novel?

Before the advent of ebooks, modern fiction writers concerned themselves chiefly with two lengths: long (novels) and short (short stories).

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From Memory and By Heart

The more common idiom for doing something that is recalled and not seen is to do it “from memory.” From is more appropriate than by in this idiom because memory may be regarded as a receptacle and not as an agent.

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Friends and Amici

English boasts numerous words to convey aspects of friendship. Some are Germanic in origin and others, Latin.

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How To Pronounce Divisive

A reader has called my attention to the changing pronunciation of divisive: I am very active in politics and frequently watch television programs which feature political topics. One of THE most frustrating—and very common— mispronunciations I hear is with the word divisive.  I was taught that it is pronounced with a ‘long i’ on the second syllable—ie: resulting in it having the same, ‘long i’ sound as the word divide.

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