I have already confessed to loving ridiculous new words. But, like every other editor I know, my word sensibilities can’t always keep pace with the changing language. Emerging new usage often makes me squint. Overwhelm as a noun? Onboard as a transitive verb? I’m just not ready to onboard people to my methods of managing the overwhelm.*
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.
Disco and plaid polyester weren’t the only confusing developments of the 1970s. From 1971 to 1977, Veterans Day in the United States officially occurred in October but in many places was still observed in November.
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.
Bring your Old Scratch vocabulary up to scratch with our devilish vocab. Can you figure out the two dozen devil-filled words and phrases? Fill in the blanks to make the word or expression that matches the clue. Difficulty level: devilishly difficult, of course.
One of the more common changes I make in copyediting is replacing i.e. with e.g and sometimesthe other way around.
I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin id est. Id est hardly needs an abbreviated form, but it’s far too late for that battle. It means “that is,” and it’s used to restate a concept, usually in simpler or more expansive terms:
“We started with the charcuterie (i.e., the cold meat and cheese plate).”
When new words pop up in pop culture, as they do, it never occurs to me to bemoan the state of the English language or the literacy of the current generation. Whether I like a modern coinage or think it’s the worstmanteau ever (surely that one is in the running), my initial response tends to be appropriately learned and eloquent, like “Heck yeah — words!”