How to Pronounce the digraph AE in English

In English, the digraph ae functions chiefly as a suffix to denote the plural of Latin borrowings that retain a hint of their original “Latin-ness,” chiefly in the realm of scientific vocabulary. The rule for forming the plural of scientific terms ending in –a is to change the –a to –ae. Ordinarily, the pronunciation of … Read more

The Preposition “Amid”

This post was prompted by a headline in the Washington Post: US deports former Nazi guard whose wartime role was noted on card found amid sunken ship The phrase “amid sunken ship” struck me as peculiar usage—not because an article was missing— it is a headline, after all—but because I couldn’t understand why the headline-writer … Read more

Uses of “Rhetoric”

Rhetoric is one of those academic words that has migrated into the popular vocabulary and is frequently used as if it can be defined as “empty words.” For example, in the aftermath of the storming of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021, statements threatening violence and death were defended and excused as “mere rhetoric,” … Read more

Words in the News: tropism, coalface, logorrhea and parrhesia

Not since I read Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy have I accumulated so many words in my reading that are new to me. These words are not coming from antique works of fiction. They pop up almost daily in the news sources I read. Sometimes the words are vaguely familiar, like something I may have learned … Read more