“Penpointing” and Other Near-Misses in the Media

Penpointing for pinpointing In my part of the world, many speakers have a hard time hearing the difference between the vowel sounds in pen (rhymes with Ben) and pin (rhymes with sin). The usual reversal is to pronounce pen as pin—not the other way round. For that reason, I was puzzled when I started finding … Read more

Proofreading and Its Pitfalls

Every writer has had the experience of submitting a piece of writing in the certainty that it is free of error, only to find at least one embarrassing typo or other fault in it as soon as it has been published. Sometimes I could swear that the errors that survive numerous proofreadings must be the … Read more

Calques: Linguistic Immigrants in English

English vocabulary includes thousands of words that originated in languages other than Old English. Some of these linguistic immigrants never quite acculturate. They continue to sound foreign, but some English-speakers find them useful in particular contexts. Schadenfreude (German) taking delight in the misfortune of others. bon vivant (French) a person fond of good living; a … Read more

Sarcastic vs. Sardonic vs. Facetious

Reader ApK has asked for a discussion of the words sarcastic, sardonic, and facetious— all examples of verbal irony. verbal irony: the expression of one’s meaning by using language that normally signifies the opposite, typically for humorous or emphatic effect. Sarcastic derives from the noun sarcasm. sarcasm: a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; … Read more