All-purpose Corpus

Corpus is just one of thousands of everyday Latin words that have not only outlived their original speakers, but have replicated in English like amoebas. Latin corpus means “body.” It entered Old French as cors and passed from there into Middle English. From then on the spelling and pronunciation fluctuated until the various spellings and … Read more

Hue and Cry

The following comment set me wondering how widespread the misspelling of hue in the expression hue and cry has become: Where’s the hew and cry [in the mainstream media] about the way women are treated? A web search turned up a great many examples of “hew and cry,” but it’s not always easy to tell … Read more

If Only I Had Known

Have you ever noticed how many websites offer lists of things their authors wish they had done differently in the past? The Workplace Tips I Wish I’d Known From the Start Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married 67 Things I Wish I Had Known At 18 What I Wish I’d Known Before … Read more

Kudo vs. Kudos

Some English speakers use the word kudo as the singular of kudos. What makes this usage problematic is the fact that kudos is already singular. Kudos is a Greek word meaning “glory, fame, renown.” It entered the language as student slang back when undergraduates were still required to study Greek at the university. Presumably the … Read more

Apply to, Apply for, and Apply with

How does one know which of these three idioms to use? Does an undergraduate apply for a graduate program or to it? Does a job applicant apply to a company or with it? The following examples illustrate mistaken use of “apply for” and “apply with” in contexts calling for “apply to”: Winston is applying for … Read more

Lo and Behold!

A football fan posted the following: I decided to watch the Duke vs Miami game and low and behold Duke is successful this year… Naturally the “low and behold” caught my eye. Was it just a typo? I hopped on my search engine to see what I could find. Apparently a lot of English speakers … Read more


A word one hears and sees a lot these days is the verb to balkanize. Especially common are impassioned warnings about something described as “the balkanization of America.” Note: the Merriam-Webster entry for balkanize is lowercase, with the notation, “often capitalized.” Balkanize was coined about 1918 as a geopolitical term to describe the political fragmentation … Read more

The Magic of Grammar

Glamor/Glamour: a magical or fictitious beauty attaching to any person or object; a delusive or alluring charm. Perhaps glamor is in the eye of the beholder, but in general, some things are felt to have it and others not. For example: Names: Marilyn Monroe vs. Norma Jean Baker. Occupations: actor vs. plumber. Fields of study: … Read more

The Connotation of Opportunistic

Thanks to reader Rob Wright for pointing out the problematic use of the word opportunistic. He offers two examples of its misuse: 1. A radio advertisement telling listeners, “now is an opportunistic time to invest in real estate.” 2. A television host defending someone against the charge of “being opportunistic.” The host argued, “everyone should … Read more

Prepositional Idioms with “of”

The other day I read a letter supposedly written by a literature professor. It contained what struck me as the unidiomatic use of the preposition to attached to the adjective ignorant. Note: An expression is idiomatic when its meaning is not deducible from the meanings of the individual words. In idiomatic usage, the exact same … Read more

Quotation Marks and Punctuation

Several readers have asked about punctuation at the end of a sentence that contains quotation marks. The first question asks me to choose which of the following is correctly punctuated: “I’m awesome. You should probably follow me!”.   “I’m awesome. You should probably follow me”. My answer: Neither. The exclamation mark at the end of the first statement is sufficient … Read more

Main Verbs and Simple Sentences

Many grammatical concepts that U.S. students used to learn in school have slipped into a twilight of things vaguely understood but still sometimes wondered about. Among the most basic concepts that high school students once graduated knowing were the four kinds of English sentence: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Because of its name, a simple … Read more