Inconsistent Hyphenation

I have a bad habit (for an American) of looking things up in the OED first and not checking to see if Merriam-Webster agrees. Sometimes this habit results in my changing a spelling that’s acceptable in U.S. usage or hyphenating a word that M-W doesn’t. When I recently encountered online examples of the unhyphenated words … Read more

News and Houses

Lately I’ve noticed that several announcers on NPR (National Public Radio)–both national and local announcers–have taken to pronouncing the word news as [noos]. U.S. and British speakers usually differ in the way they pronounce the vowel in news. Most U.S. speakers say [nooz]. British pronunciation is [nyooz]. The pronunciation [noos] is a new one on … Read more

Answers to Questions About Commas #5

Several readers have sent in questions regarding comma use. I’ll take them in turn. 1. Does a comma always go before the word too? No. Whether or not a writer places a comma before the word too depends upon the desired emphasis. Too is an adverb meaning “in addition, furthermore, moreover, besides, also.” The only … Read more

Hyperbole and Hype

I once thought that the slang word hype was a back-formation of the rhetorical term hyperbole because advertisements that “hype” something are often filled with exaggeration. For example, an untried stage production is advertised as “Broadway’s Biggest Blockbuster.” A shampoo claims it adds “an infinite shine” to hair. A pick-up truck is shown pulling a … Read more

Unlike No Other

I heard a radio announcer say that something was “unlike no other.” I could tell from the context that he meant the thing he was talking about was unique. As I usually do when I read or hear nonstandard usage in a professional context, I jumped on my search engine to see if anyone else … Read more

Which “literally” Do You Mean?

You may have missed all the fuss when the media discovered that the Oxford English Dictionary has added an entry for the figurative use of literally. Among the wails of outrage and dismay was this from a Reddit user: “We did it guys, we finally killed English.” Here’s the offending OED entry: literally: colloq. Used … Read more

Vice Versa and Vis-à-Vis

The following quotation appeared in a newspaper article about a school where parents are encouraged to visit their children’s classroom: the more parent visitors we have, the more they trust us and vis-à-vis.  I think the principal intended to say, “the more parent visitors we have, the more they trust us and vice versa.” The … Read more