A few intriguing items for you this week: eavesdropping on writers, reading writers’ minds, invisible nautical terms brought to light, and the thrilling conclusion to a mystery. Plus, an intriguing bonus item ...
March is never very springlike in my neck of the woods, but each year I hold out hope for a warm and verdant first day of spring. Today, I continue to hold out hope for next year. I come from a patient people. A patient, spring-loving people.
The words till and until appear in Middle English about 700 years ago. Till came first in Old Norse, where it was combined with und, which meant something like “as far as” or “up to.” Or "till." One can imagine Old Norse purists decrying the inherent redundancy of the word until, but the interchangeable till and until both worked their way into English.
In youth, my friends and I found the need to create a word for the practice of finding an obvious path up the side of a building and making an ascent, an activity that was rarely practiced but often spoken about. The word that sprung to mind was clabbing, close to climbing, emphasizing the b in building and possibly influenced by clambering.
With National Grammar Day on Wednesday, there was much talk of peeves: things that irk us, perhaps excessively. If we accept the evolution of language, we try to keep our grammatical peeves to ourselves, but on National Grammar Day, it seems we are given license to admit those things that have the effect of nails on a chalkboard.
Rob Siedenburg has been editing and teaching English for several years, most recently as a university English instructor for ESL students. To celebrate National Grammar Day, Rob tackled our AnaGrammar contest (getting full marks; you have until Wednesday, March 4, 9 p.m. Eastern to submit your own) and agreed to talk grammar and language matters with us.
The Associated Press Stylebook suggests treating none as a singular pronoun when referring to the absence of individual people or things: “None of us is perfect.” That’s a style choice consistent with what many consider good writing, but there is little to suggest that “none of us are perfect” is any less valid a construction.