Anyone vs. Everyone

A promotional announcement for an end-of-year review on NPR set me thinking about the difference between anyone and everyone: The year 2014 has been no fun for just about everyone. The construction struck me as odd because the negative “no fun” led me to expect anyone, not everyone. Anyone means anybody or any person. It … Read more

Punctuation Review #2: Honorifics

A reader wonders, Why on earth do we place a period after Ms? It’s not an abbreviation of anything I know of. Americans place a period after Ms. because style guides like The Chicago Manual of Style and The AP Stylebook tell us to. British speakers do not place a period (full stop) after Ms because … Read more

Methinks vs. I Think

An archaic verb form that survives in modern speech, thanks to its presence in a well-known quotation from Hamlet, is methinks. A Google search for “methinks” brings up more than five million hits. The quotation appears in the “mousetrap scene” in Hamlet. Traveling actors are performing a play written to Hamlet’s specifications. He wants to … Read more


A reader was puzzled by the use of clip in the following sentence: Amazon has been adding distribution facilities at a clip. Says the reader, I have typically seen this as “rapid clip,” and in looking in the dictionary noted that “clip” as a noun refers to rate, which means it would need some type … Read more

Stadia and Aquaria

Every so often I receive a comment like this one: Why do you and your countrymen insist on changing the English language? The plural of aquarium is aquaria, stadium is stadia, etc. etc. I like to believe that such comments are meant playfully, to get a rise out of the American. For one thing, the … Read more

The Ubiquitous Butt

The word butt in the sense of buttocks was once considered unsuitable for general use. Comedians used it to get a laugh, but it was not considered acceptable in polite conversation. Children were taught to use less offensive colloquialisms like rear-end or backside. Nowadays the word has become so acceptable that it has largely replaced … Read more

Yellow Card

In response to the rope-a-dope post, I received a clever email response couched in other sports analogies. I understood all but one: “yellow card.” Naturally, I hopped on the search engine to find out what sport that referred to. I discovered that in the sport of soccer, colored cards are held up by the referee … Read more