|Thursday, December 05, 2013||Robert Hartwell Fiske, Editor and Publisher|
|July 2013, Vol. 15, No. 7||There are now 262 people reading TVR.||ISSN 1542-7080|
Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English
A Compendium of Mistakes in Grammar, Usage, and Spelling with Commentary on Lexicographers and Linguists
Today's popular dictionaries often fail to define words correctly or to distinguish between them; some dictionaries even maintain that one word means the same as another simply because people who do not know the correct meanings of the words confuse them. Robert Hartwell Fiske's Dictionary of Unendurable English a supplement to whatever dictionary you own or use is an attempt to combat this nonsense, to return meaning and distinction to the words we use.
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing
The essential guide to writing succinctly
To the Point: A Dictionary of Concise Writing is the perfect reference book for anyone who wants to communicate more effectively through clear and beautiful prose. In this freshly updated edition that features hundreds of new entries, Robert Hartwell Fiske lays out multiple lines of attack against verbiage. He starts by training writers, new or experienced, to tackle wordy trends in their work. His "Dictionary of Concise Writing" helps them identify and correct or delete thousands of specific redundant phrases. In addition, writers can turn to the new "Guide to Obfuscation: A Reverse Dictionary" to build a more pithy vocabulary. Filled with real-world examples that provide clarity and context for Fiske's rules of concision, this is a writer's sharpest weapon against verbosity.
by Skip Eisiminger
The French spell NATO backwards but pronounce it forwards. The Wordspinner
In 1950, Fred Iacocca chose not to bestow a "junior" on his son, Ed, but perhaps he should have. Fred was named by his father, Luigi, who had joined FIGHT REDS, EXPAND DEMOCRACY, which was long before ERECTILE DYSFUNCTION shriveled into ED. Ed's mother, Jan, had approved the name because, as she told friends, "I'm JUST A NURSE," and she was. However, to her patients, she was the woman with the MILK OF MAGNESIA; to Fred, she was the MASTER OF MAGIC, and to Ed, she was the MAKER OF ME.
When Fred's second cousin took over at Chrysler years later, Jan said it was clear he was perfect for the job given that "Iacocca" stood for "I AM CHAIRMAN OF CHRYSLER CORPORATION OF AMERICA." (To Ed, however, Fred was "Dad," the DEPUTY ASSISTANT DIRECTOR of something slightly less ambiguous than his title.) However, Fred, who'd always driven Fords, was torn by his cousin's success. He favored Fords because they were FIRST ON RACE DAY, but Jan, who loved the Dodge, countered with her own etymology: FOUND ON ROAD DEAD. Fred was ready for her, however, claiming that Dodges were DEAD ON DAY GUARANTEE EXPIRES. More ...
by Bill Casselman
The earliest word in Old English for a hole in a wall that let in air, wind, and light was eyethurl or, as Anglo-Saxon scribes wrote it, éagþyrel = éag, "eye" + Old English noun þyrel thyrel, thurl, thyrl, "perforated hole, pierced opening, aperture" < through a noun use of an adverbial form "orifice, made hole" + -el, English suffix chiefly diminutive, so that the compound thyrel means "small cut hole in some object."
Has the word thurl totally disappeared from contemporary English speech? Not quite. One of the two external holes in your nose to speakers of older English was nosþirl, later nosðyrl, later still in Middle English noistrell, and by 1677 in Paradise Lost John Milton spelled it nostril, "nose-thurl, nose-hole." More ...
by Mark Halpern
I've tried to be kind to John McWhorter, but there's a limit to my patience. I've explained the facts of language usage to him at length,1 in simple words, yet he shows no sign of having listened, let alone reformed; this makes me grumpy. But I may not have the right to call myself so; he has apparently preempted the term grumpy for descriptivists, calling his language-usage column in The New Republic "The Grumpy Grammarian," even though the standard claim of the descriptivist linguists is that we, their prescriptivist opponents, are the grumpy ones,2 while they are the serene and quietly confident ones. Why then does McWhorter call himself grumpy? I suppose it's the lure of alliteration; perhaps the only adjective he could think of that starts with "gr" was grumpy, so grumpy it was, despite its meaning the opposite of what he really thinks (I suggest "groovy"). But this must not be allowed to distract us; on to more important points. More ...
by Richard Lederer
Since 1777, Americans have associated red, white, and blue with their flag, the Stars and Stripes. As Charles Sumner explained in "Are We a Nation?" (1867), "white is for purity, red for valor and blue for justice."
Colors color our language and that's not just a pigment of my imagination. Here's a red, white, and blue quiz that I'm confident you'll pass with flying colors. Using the clues that follow, identify each common expression in English that contains the color red, white, or blue.
Let's start by seeing red:
1. In debt.More ...
by Robert Hartwell Fiske
Write in sentences, not in phrases.
Writing phrases is unremarkable, talentless. If you want to write engagingly, if you want to write distinctively, if you want to write well, avoid writing flat phrases as though they were inspired sentences.
A sentence is a selection of words that includes a subject and a verb and that expresses a complete thought. One other measure of a sentence is that it can be well or badly written; a phrase can be neither. More ...
Vocabula RevisitedPlease Don't Say What You Mean
by Amalia Gnanadesikan
A linguist colleague of mine says that when he was in graduate school he and his classmates used to play a certain unusual party game. Linguists are known (to themselves, at least) for their unusual party games, hilarious to themselves and entirely uninteresting to others. This particular game involved thinking of the most unusual thing to say that would get someone to close a window without ever mentioning the window. The winning utterance was apparently, "Cheetahs are retromictural."
It helps to know that retromictural means "urinating backwards." If, therefore, there were a cheetah outside your open window, the statement "Cheetahs are retromictural" might indeed get you to close the window very quickly, depending on which way the cheetah was facing.
The scenario might be fanciful, but a disconnect of this sort between what we say (a simple statement of fact in this example) and what we intend to communicate (such as an instruction to close the window) is extremely common. More ...
"Oddments and Miscellanea" is a collection of musings about language, quotations from the enemies of English, archival material, and more. More ...
Free in VocabulaGotcha Grammar
Here are quotations from well-known people, all of whom have used words ungrammatically or unstylistically. These are unnotable quotes, a collection of solecisms, by well-known people who speak as though they should be unknown. More ...
Free in VocabulaBest Words
Love a word? Tell us what it is and perhaps we'll add it to our list of Best Words. There need not be any well-reasoned analysis of your high regard for a word; emotional reactions to the sound or meaning of words are welcome. If a word you love is already listed, you are welcome to tell us why you, too, love the word. The Best Words have an aura of fun or majesty. More ...
Free in VocabulaWorst Words
Hate a word? Tell us what it is and perhaps we'll add it to our list of Worst Words. There need not be any well-reasoned analysis of your distaste for a word; visceral reactions to the sound or meaning of words are welcome. If a word you hate is already listed, you are welcome to tell us why you, too, hate the word. The Worst Words have an aura of foolishness or odium. More ...
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