The Latin verb pugnare, to fight, has given us a number of interesting and useful words, among them pugnacious and repugnant. Most of them, though, don't necessarily involve actual fisticuffs. Of the following five related words, for example, only one implies physical battle.
All of them, though, belong in your lexical arsenal if you're preparing for a fight — or at least for a good argument. Some of them are nearly synonymous, but there are subtle differences that you should recognize if you hope to wield them effectively.
You can find it in alleyways, in bathroom stalls, and on the walls of prehistoric caves. It’s often ugly, but sometimes beautiful. It can be rude, funny, disgusting, and occasionally even poignant and thoughtful. A few people have somehow even figured out how to make a good living from it.
As we all know, "the Eskimo language" has 17, 31, 251, or 5,711 words for snow. As the Midwest faces its first real snowy weather of the season, we can all expect to see this false little factoid toted out once again.
But when it comes to snow, the English language isn't so shoddy either. We have plenty of words to describe different types of snow; people just don't use them.
The Plain English Foundation, an educational (and sometimes support) group based in Sydney, Australia, that is devoted to eradicating corporate and government doublespeak, has announced its choice for the worst word or phrase of the year 2015.
The “award” goes to the phrase “possible emissions non-compliance,” used by Volkswagen’s American group CEO Michael Horn when he sort of admitted that top executives at VW knew about problems with the car manufacturer’s diesel engines.
Today, more often than not, people use the words celibate and celibacy to refer to an abstention from sex. This has some language "purists" calling foul.
From its earliest written use in the mid-17th century, celibacy, from the Latin caelibatus, meant simply a choice not to marry. Only as a consequence of that unmarried state would a celibate person remain sexually pure. What's more, a person could enter celibacy later in life, even after having children.
Word nerds (like yours truly) love to delve into the hows, whys, and whos of word coinages, coincidences, and evolutions, which makes Allan Metcalf's new book, From Skedaddle to Selfie: Words of the Generations, irresistible. It gives readers a look at how different generations of Americans added or altered and popularized more than 130 words in the English language.
Skill level: Intermediate Instructor: John McIntyre
As vocabulary and usage shift, it becomes a challenge to make editorial decisions. This class looks as such questions as: Embrace or shun singular they? Abandon or hold fast to whom? Does the comprise/compose distinction still work?
Though you probably recognize both noisome and odious as something you don't want to be called, they might not mean what you or your writers think they mean from the way they look. Take note of these deceptive epithets to avoid future malaprops.
Mark Peters's new book plopped onto bookstore shelves yesterday, and it's full of BS.
Bullshit: A Lexicon explores the vocabulary of prattle, twaddle, and gobshite in all its forms. As the author states, "The lingo of bullshit is earthy, silly, bonkers, and fun. And (at the risk of mansplaining) it's a lot bigger than you think."
The Associated Press Stylebook has added to its burgeoning entry on global warming (now 261 words), counseling against the use of skeptics and deniers when talking about those who don’t think global warming is such a big deal or say that we can’t really do much about it.