Bedbugs and Bessie Bugs

Bedbugs and Bessie Bugs

The other day, I heard a celebrity say that someone was “as crazy as a bedbug.” I laughed, amused that the person had gone so far wrong with the idiom “crazy as a bessie bug.” As I usually do when struck by some linguistic oddity, I began searching for other examples. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that “crazy as a bedbug” is not only a recognized idiom, it is more common in the printed record than “crazy as a…

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Creative Writing 101

Creative Writing 101

What is Creative Writing? Creative writing is anything where the purpose is to express thoughts, feelings and emotions rather than to simply convey information. I’ll be focusing on creative fiction in this post (mainly short stories and novels), but poetry, (auto)biography and creative non-fiction are all other forms of creative writing. Here’s a couple of definitions: Creative writing is writing that expresses the writer’s thoughts and feelings in an imaginative, often unique, and poetic way. (Sil.org – What is Creative…

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5 Problems with Parenthesis

5 Problems with Parenthesis

Parenthesis is the strategy of setting a word, phrase, or clause off from a sentence to interject additional information into that statement. Despite the name, parenthesis can be accomplished with two commas or a pair of dashes as well as with a brace of parentheses. However, several problems can occur when writers attempt to parenthesize: The punctuation employed is not appropriate, the parenthesis is not framed with complementary punctuation, the parenthesis is misplaced in the sentence, the inclusion of the…

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Deck the Halls with Etymology

Deck the Halls with Etymology

Traditional Christmas songs are a treasure trove of archaisms and words that have changed their meanings through the centuries. “Deck the Halls,” published in 1794, but dating from a much earlier Welsh carol, contains several such words. The melody dates to the sixteenth century. The familiar English lyrics were written by Thomas Oliphant (1799-1873) in 1862. I’ll focus on the relevant lines and avoid all the fa la la la la la la la las. Deck the halls with boughs…

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Illeism and other English Words from Latin Pronouns

Illeism and other English Words from Latin Pronouns

We’ve all noticed it in the speech of celebrities—a tendency to refer to themselves in third person. “Make no mistake, Bob Dole is going to be the Republican nominee.”— Robert Dole. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore…” —Richard Nixon to the Press. ‘Trump hears that you don’t like what Trump is doing.’—Donald Trump to Bill Gates. “I wanted to do what was best, you know, for LeBron James, and what LeBron James was gonna do to make him…

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Indirect References to Questions

Indirect References to Questions

When referring to a paraphrased question, writers often introduce grammatical mistakes in the course of confusing the query for a quoted question. In the following sentences, errors are introduced in the course of posing an indirect question (or, in the case of the final example, a direct one). Discussion of the specific error, and a revision demonstrating a solution, follows each sentence. 1. This raises an interesting question, what is it about current customer service and customer experience management investments…

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Use Correct Tense with Third Conditional Sentences

Use Correct Tense with Third Conditional Sentences

Most English speakers have no difficulty with first and second conditional clauses, but a great many speakers get into trouble with the third conditional. First a review. Conditional clauses take their name from the fact that they place limits or conditions on the main clause they modify. Here are three examples of subordinate if clauses modifying main clauses: First conditional: If you miss the bus, you will be late for school. Second conditional: If I won the lottery, I would…

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Impeachment Latin: 8 Terms Related to Politics

Impeachment Latin: 8 Terms Related to Politics

The phrase at the heart of the current impeachment process, quid pro quo, is unaltered Latin, but several words less obviously Latin have been sharing the spotlight. Their etymology is interesting. castigate More than one person involved in the hearings has been reported as “castigating” someone or other. The verb castigate comes from Latin castigare, “to chastise, correct, reprove.” The Latin verb derives from the Latin adjective castus, “pure.” The original idea is that the person doing the castigating is…

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Reluctancy and Humbleness

Reluctancy and Humbleness

Synonyms are good. They enable us to narrow a concept to the exact connotation we wish to convey. Unnecessary synonyms, on the other hand, weaken writing and speech by replacing a strong word with an invented or obsolete equivalent. Reluctancy and humbleness are two such “unnecessary synonyms” I’ve noticed recently. Recent examples of reluctancy in the media: What we see quite a bit is that there is a reluctancy to change at the end user level. —The CEO of a…

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Interview with David Hauser, Author of Unstoppable

Interview with David Hauser, Author of Unstoppable

Over the coming months we will publish interviews with book authors, focusing on the process of actually writing the book, launching and promoting it. Many of these authors are not professional writers and are publishing their very first book, which should provide valuable insights for people aspiring to do the same. David Hauser is a successful entrepreneur who cofounded Grasshopper, a telephone service company that was sold for $170 million. “Unstoppable: 4 Steps to Change Your Life” is a book…

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