Apposition and Anarthrous Premodifiers

A reader wonders if this sentence containing nouns in apposition has enough commas: As a club, we must extend our thoughts and deepest sympathies to John’s wife Hazel, and his children Matthew and Julia. Commas with appositives An appositive is a noun or noun element that follows another noun and serves to identify it further. … Read more

The Name Is not the Person

Words as labels The first principle of semantics is that the word is not the thing. Words are labels for things that exist in the physical world or in our thoughts. The word air is not identical with the substance that we breathe. The word kindness is not the quality we wish more people would … Read more

Inception and Conception

A reader has asked for a post on the words inception and conception, speculating, “Might they be synonymous?” Conception comes from a Latin verb meaning, “to become pregnant.” Inception comes from the Latin verb incipere, “to begin.” Both conception and inception relate to beginnings. Conception The literal meaning of conception is “the action of conceiving … Read more

Words of the Year

Since the 1990s–beginning with the American Dialect Society—various entities, including dictionaries and individual lexicographers, have announced Words of the Year in English. (The Germans started their Wort des Jahres in 1971.) In 2021, the US dictionary, Merriam-Webster, and the British dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary, are almost on the same page. For M-W, the word … Read more