What do Mark Twain, Virginia Woolf, Niccolo Machiavelli, and Don Quixote all have in common? Each has been described in print as possessing "an aquiline nose." Many readers might translate the word aquiline into something akin to "beak-like," but the word is more specific than that. Aquiline means "of, like, or pertaining to an eagle."
An infant on an airplane, assaulted by the dual discomforts of air pressure shifts and teething, screams its head off. The infant's mother applies a gum-numbing ointment to the child's mouth while the child's father doles out candy and apologies to the other passengers. In short, while the mother soothes the child, the father smoothes things over with their fellow travelers.
Or he smooths things over. Which is it: smoothes or smooths?
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.
Where would editors be without words? In today’s News Roundup, learn the history of a common phrase, check out the runners-up in Oxford Dictionaries’ WOTY contest, and rethink all those slang words you love to hate.
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.