“To Cow” and “To Kow-tow”

Although the idiom to be cowed has nothing to do with Elsie the Cow, the use of corralled in a review of The Magical Chorus by Solomon Volkov in the Washington Post suggests a connection: The culturati who would, could or should challenge it are cowed and corralled. The transitive verb cow, meaning “‘To depress … Read more

Addicted “to,” not “with”

Some verbs and participle adjectives are followed by a specific preposition. Different from phrasal verbs, which can be replaced by a single word, prepositional verbs are verbs that stand alone, but are followed by a particular preposition. The verb addict (and its related forms) is one of these. Its signature preposition is to. For example: … Read more

Do You Mean Limbo or Purgatory?

A while back, I made a note of a radio announcer’s comment that Edward Snowden, who had been granted asylum in Russia, “has been in purgatory” in the Moscow airport. Considering that Snowden was simply existing in the airport until such time as he could enter a country, I thought that the more appropriate word … Read more

Gifts of the Magi—Linguistically Speaking

A ubiquitous symbol of the Christmas season is the image of the Magi, the “wise men from the east” mentioned in Matthew 2. Matthew doesn’t say how many magi made the journey, but because they brought three gifts—gold, frankincense, and myrrh—tradition has settled on three. Whereas Matthew calls them merely “wise men,” they have come … Read more