The Vocabula Review

January 2008, Vol. 10, No. 1 Friday, July 25, 2014


Letters to the Editor
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The Vocabula Review welcomes letters to the editor. Please include your name, email address, and professional affiliation. Send your letters to editor@vocabula.com. We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

Praise and Criticism


I love your spirit and your language and your "The Vocabula Review" project.

Christine Mowat
Wordsmith Associates

As used in behavioral terminology, the definition of "consequate" is not consistent with that given in your publication. To consequate, is to deliver or provide a consequence (con-sequence: with-following, that which follows). The consequence can be reinforcing, extinguishing, or punishing. Although common vernacular implies that consequences are aversive, technically, it is a generic term for a contingent result of behavior (i.e., the availabilty of the result is related to the occurrence of the behavior) and it is not necessarily aversive.

Chauncey R. Parker, Ph.D.

You have created a marvelous website. I have referred several others to it since discovering it recently ....

David Cay Johnston
Reporter, The New York Times

Mock Merriam


W00t did you say? I see that Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary defines itself as "a reference book containing words usually alphabetically arranged along with information about their forms, pronunciations, functions, etymologies, meanings, and syntactical ‘and idiomatic uses." It defines idiom as "the language proper or peculiar to a people or to a district, community, or class." For idiom's etymology, I was referred to "idiot."

Feeling like one, I searched through Merriam-Webster's listings for the phrase "hubba-hubba," an expression used during the Second World War by drill sergeants, when exhorting recruits to greater efforts. Diaries and letters from the era, and subsequent histories bear witness to this fact, but Merriam-Webster missed seeing those. It defines the phrase as "an expression of approval." I suppose the meaning changed some time after V-J Day.

This left me cold, until I found "duh" identified correctly, but any warmth I felt at this discovery dissipated when I learned that "argh" no longer means what I thought it did. ...

Since Merriam-Webster thinks a dictionary is a record of every grunt emanating from anyone with an overactive set of vocal chords, it needs to exert more care in how it updates it entries. For more proof of its laxity, look up "ho" and you will see it afforded a dozen different meanings; none of which would be of any help at all in the Red Light district.

My suggestion to Merriam-Webster is that it quit wasting paper on outdated "reference books" filled with jargon, slang, and idiom. Publish on the web exclusively; this will allow for the continual, almost daily revision made mandatory by the transient nature of its product. That way, when "oops" ceases overnight to mean a mild expression of dismay and acquires instead a sexual connotation, Merriam-Webster's website will quickly alert me not to use it in front of the pastor the next time he drops the collection plate.

With this on my mind, and with a sense of dread, I searched for "w00t." In my yesteryear, it was an acronym born of a dot-prompt's limitations. Sadly, I got "oot" instead; the pronunciation of which is "üt" and "being chiefly (of) Scotland, variant of out."

I feel cheated. The folks at Merriam-Webster should get oot more often, and come by my hoose in Northern Virginia. We need to speak aboot this.

Ralph Abercrombie

Vocabula Free for Students


I subscribe to Vocabula and am interested in having the 12 students in my History of the English Language course receive a 3-month subscription to Vocabula. The course is an upper division linguistics course, and Vocabula would be a good resource for them and a way to introduce them to the journal.

Dr. Linda Gray
Professor of Linguistics
Oral Roberts University

Thank you for the free trials for the students. My hope is that the site will inspire some good discussion, or at least some greater interest in the English language.

John Reinhart
Denver Waldorf High School

Any student may have a free three-month subscription to Vocabula so long as his or her teacher or professor subscribes. Ask for details.


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