Annunciation vs. Enunciation

I read the following in an NPR (National Public Radio) transcript: I’m articulate, which means that when it comes to annunciation and diction, I don’t even think of it ’cause I’m articulate.  My first reaction was to smile at what I assumed was an amusing typo, perhaps the result of a mechanical voice transcription error. … Read more

Malarkey Doesn’t Mean That

In a recent television ad for a cell phone service, potential customers are shown as being afraid of “hidden fees,” “funny business,” and “bamboozling.” The agent asks, “What is bamboozling?” A potential customer says, “It’s like malarkey.” The ad bothers me because bamboozling is a gerund and malarkey is an ordinary noun. I’d prefer something … Read more

Business Cadence

The meanings of cadence with which I’m most familiar have to do with poetry and music. In poetry, cadence refers to rhythmical construction. For example, “Iambic pentameter has a cadence similar to that of common English speech.” In music and movement, cadence is the measure of rhythm. For example, “The importance of the delayed cadence … Read more

Black Friday: Grab a Pro Subscription with 40% Discount!

As you probably know, last year we launched the DWT Pro subscription. As a Pro subscriber you receive our daily articles via email, with additional perks: 1. A daily English exercise. You may opt to receive the exercise in text format included with your daily email, or you may visit the subscribers’ area to go … Read more

Get Ahold Of

A reader objects strongly to the expression “get ahold of,” viewing it as an example of “the slang [that is] slowly and insidiously debasing English.” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. Both the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster provide entries for ahold. The OED lists ahold as an adverb. The first definition … Read more


I started wondering about the use of the word credence when I noticed the following headline on an entertainment news site: Al Pacino gives credence to James Gunn’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ The noun credence (KREE-dns] usually functions as a synonym for credibility or believability. For example, “The premise of the argument lacks credence.” As … Read more

Verb Review #4: Using Would to Talk About the Past

The modal would has numerous applications. Here are a few. One function is to express the idea of habitual action that took place in the past. For example, “When I was ten years old, I would go to the public library every week with my grandmother.” In conversation and informal writing, would is often expressed … Read more


A reader writes, The other day I heard a radio commentator constantly using the phrase “in that calculus”, something I’d never heard before. [The] commentator was using it in a political context, pretty much as a fancy way of saying “in that situation”; I’d be grateful if you could look into it and cover it … Read more


A reader asks for clarification regarding the word stalwart: I am confused about the meaning of “stalwart” in the following context: “One of the most influential companies in high technology right now may be a 135-year-old industrial stalwart.” According to OED, as a noun, stalwart means “loyalist, hard-working supporter.” Nonetheless, I fail to grasp the … Read more

An Came First

A reader writes: I propose that “an” was invented to prevent us from having to interrupt the flow of speech. And it still fills that purpose before unaccented first syllables starting with h. This comment suggests that the indefinite article form an developed from the form a as a means of facilitating pronunciation. Unlike Esperanto, … Read more

Labor vs. Belabor

A reader asks, Can you tell me which is preferred, “labor the point” or “belabor the point”. I’ve heard them used interchangeably. The Google Ngram Viewer indicates that “labor the point,” (“to continue to repeat or explain something that has already been said and understood”) has been around for about 100 years longer than “belabor … Read more

Pronoun Mistakes #1: TV Characters

When it comes to nonstandard grammar in the mouths of television characters, I expect the professionals–like FBI agents, medical examiners, and college professors–to model standard English. When they don’t, I always wonder if the scriptwriter or the actor is at fault. Here are some examples from my recent viewing: Incorrect: You and me are going … Read more