Our Christmas tree is always a blue spruce that we keep in a box in the basement when we’re not using it. Pine allergies keep us from the ritual of driving to a farm or nearby tree lot to find the perfect tree. This has kept me from receiving a proper education on the differences between pine, spruce and fir.
In my mind, they are all pine trees because they have pine needles. Spruce, fir, and pine are all of the Pinaceae family. But pines are of the pinus genus; the genus for fir is abies; and for spruce it’s picea.
If you want to make a big splash for the word lover on your gift list, you can’t go wrong by wrapping all six volumes of the Dictionary of American Regional English. It will set you back $740, or $650 if you skip the index and supplemental material that comes with Volume VI.
If that seems costive (Ozarks) or spendy (Northwest), you could go with an online subscription. Less impressive than a stack of books that won’t quite fit under the tree but perhaps more useful, the digital subscription to DARE can be had for the holidays for half price: $75.
The prolific commentator Fareed Zakaria is a careless writer. That is a safe statement. To say Zakaria is a plagiarist is a bit more problematic. His past writing is rife with unattributed borrowing, the kind that would get an undergraduate essayist in trouble but maybe not brought before an academic misconduct hearing.
At what point does lazy copy-and-paste writing and sloppy attribution warrant the label plagiarist?
The Associated Press Stylebook sent a summary of recent updates to its online subscribers this week, the first since March. The nine new or updated entries were mostly routine (jack-o’-lantern is so spelled), but there was at least one change of significance:
justify: Smith justified his actions means Smith demonstrated that his actions were right. If the actions are still controversial, say Smith sought to justify his actions.
When I edit for business clients, I rarely see them refer to anything anymore; they reference.
Reference is usually a noun. When it is used as a verb, it traditionally meant to add references. I’ve referenced an article or two in my day, but I never called it that. To reference a scholarly article, by this definition, is not to read it or cite it, but to add citations to it.
The language wars are alive and strong, and Steven Pinker is in the middle of them this week. Pinker, a psychologist and cognitive scientist, wrote The Language Instinct, about the acquisition of language, 20 years ago. Now, he offers advice on what to do with language once you’ve acquired it in The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.
It’s a bit late for this election season, but canvass is the act of seeking votes and canvas is a strong cloth, as used in sails or for a canvas bag. The double s version derives from the single s, in a roundabout way.