Hurrah for the Lowly BUG

When I lived in England, my colleagues quickly taught me that I must say “insect” (not “bug”) unless I specifically meant “bed-bug.” In the U.S., bug applies to every conceivable type of insect. Bug also does duty as both noun and verb in many contexts–and not only in the U.S. NOTE: When I pick up … Read more

It’s Me vs It is I

Reader Ali Abuzar wants us to: elaborate the difference and usage of 1.It is me. 2.It is I. 3.This is me. 4.This is I. 5.This is Mr. XYZ. Items 1. and 2: It is me. It is I. Back in the 18th century, when scholars were fiercely debating English grammar in an effort to “ascertain” … Read more

How Can a War Be “Civil”?

Reader Dottie remarks: I’ve never understood the term “Civil War.” It does sound like something of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Considering that one meaning of “civil” is “courteous,” calling a war “civil” does not compute. Blowing out one’s neighbor’s brains is not very polite. In fact, the apparently contradictory meanings of the word civil already … Read more

Aesthetic or Aesthetical?

I noticed the following use of aesthetical in a comment on an English site: Thus I use the incorrect case [object form instead of subject form] as my domain name for aesthetical reasons. The correct word here is aesthetic. The writer is not concerned with the science of aesthetics, but with his personal aesthetic feelings … Read more

The Difference Between “Phonics” and “Phonetics”

Reader Ali Abuzar wonders about the difference between phonics and phonetics. In popular usage the words are often used interchangeably, although phonics [fŏn’ĭks] is the term usually employed when speaking of a method of beginning reading instruction. In this use, phonics is regarded as a simplified form of phonetics [fə-nĕt’ĭks], which is the scientific study … Read more

Does “Mr” Take a Period?

A recent DWT post about hyphen use (Chocolate covered or Chocolate-covered) prompted a discussion about the use of a period with the titles Mr. and Mrs. Here are some of the comments: i was taught not to type a full stop after Mr and Mrs, but a few decades earlier that would have been incorrect. … Read more

Practice or Practise?

Mike Stone asks about the difference between practice and practise, defence and defense. Are they UK/US differences or is it something to with their use as nouns/verbs. I’ve never been able to find a good simple explanation. Differences between some -ce, -se words do reflect a difference between British and American spelling. British: defence, offence, … Read more

From Our Readers – Sneak/Snuck and WH

Sometimes I get comments via the Contact box that I wish had been posted in the comments for everyone to enjoy. Sneaking up on Snuck Here’s what A.G. of Clearwater, Florida had to add: Ah, the wonderful vagaries of the English language! Sneak/sneaked is in line with leak/leaked, peak/peaked, peek/peeked, or reek/reeked. On the other … Read more

Taking Another Look at Strunk and White

April 16 was the 50th anniversary of the publication of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, a slim grammar reference that is recommended to students and writers everywhere. I wrote a post on it not too long ago, saying that it “deserves its long popularity as a concise guide to correct usage.” This … Read more

Not Good or No Good?

Deborah H. has a question about one of my recent post titles: Maeve, the title on today’s DWT reminds me of a question that I have wanted to ask for a long time: How do I choose between “no” and “not?” You wrote, “Not Winning a Contest Doesn’t Mean Your Writing is No Good.” I … Read more

Eating Humble Pie

The old expression eating humble pie remains alive and well in cyberspace: From a father who had to cope with his wife’s duties when she was ill: I am once again reminded of all the little things my wife manages so well and how I really should make a better effort not to take her … Read more

Words beginning with “homo-“

Although Latin is no longer part of the general curriculum, it persists in so many mottos and expressions that everyone probably knows a few words. One commonly known Latin word is homo (“man”). Many Bible translations quote Pilate’s comment about Jesus in Latin: “Ecce Homo!” (“Behold the Man”). And of course, anyone who has ever … Read more