The Oxford comma wins (or loses?) the day!
Punctuation is important; just read this news story on how the Oxford comma (or lack thereof) played a pivotal role in a legal dispute. A missing Oxford comma was determined to make overtime laws in Maine too ambiguous.
Dictionaries regularly add new words. But does that mean the words are brand new, never been used? Nope. It just means dictionaries are catching up with usage and documenting “new” words that may have been around for decades, or recording new usages for old words. Here’s an article on Merriam-Webster adding more than a thousand words in its most recent update.
Puns in other languages
Believe it or not, puns are part of the human condition. Well, maybe I shouldn’t go quite that far, but they are part of every single language. Here is a great article on how puns work in Chinese — taking homophone word play to a whole new level.
What better way to spend the holidays …
Than arguing over language and grammar. The OED blog has handily provided a list of 12 such arguments:
What’s that you said?
Do you have problems understanding English, even as an English speaker? Turns out people who communicate in English, particularly those who are English-as-a-first language speakers, are more likely to be misunderstood. Lennox Morrison explains the phenomenon for the BBC here: http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20161028-native-english-speakers-are-the-worlds-worst-communicators?
Three ways to halve something?
Half of something: is it a hemi? a semi? a demi? Yes – all three prefixes denote half, but they have different origins and different meanings. Mental Floss explains the three here: http://mentalfloss.com/article/59521/semi-hemi-demi-whats-difference.
I have a host of words that I misspell regularly. The OED has compiled a list of the top 10 most misspelled words in English. Only one of my regular misspellings is on this list, and it’s a word I defiantly (I mean definitely) double-check each type I write it. Check out the list here: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/08/corpus-misspellings/.
Languages from English
English is seldom described as the mother of any other language, but apparently there are some languages out there that have derived from English—a language that’s a mishmash of many others. Read more about it on the BBC Culture blog here: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20160811-how-english-gave-birth-to-surprising-new-languages
Help for Scrabble?
Have you ever at the letters C, R, A, C, Y while playing Scrabble and not been able to figure out how to play them? Luckily for you, the Oxford Words Blog has compiled a list of 60 words ending in “cracy.” Unluckily, most of those words would still be impossible to play in a game of Scrabble, which might just drive you cracy.
Check out the list here: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/07/words-ending-with-cracy/
If you every find yourself at a word-themed trivia event, these tidbits, compiled by Geraldine Stevens at Every Word Counts, might come in handy. I am pretty sure that I’ll be using “Euouae” in a Scrabble game the next time I have all vowels in my hand.
It turns out not every cute animal has a cute nickname. Check out this video from Haggard Hawk to learn about ten animal nicknames:
When did English start making sense?
Mental Floss has this shared this video, which says modern English speakers would have to go back to at least 1400 before English stops making sense. Obviously, it’s premised on the assumption that English makes sense now—something that is debatable.
Canadians aren’t the only people who have a strange fascination (obsession, even) with weather forecasts. But shipping forecasts? Apparently they’re different from the plain old weather and are a British fascination. Read more about them on the Oxford Dictionaries blog here:
In Canada, different regions often have their own lexicon or vocabulary that you won’t generally won’t hear on a regular basis anywhere else in the country. Canada is hardly unique in that respect. Places like the United Kingdom probably have an even broader range of regional lexicons when you think of all think of the various dialects through England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Here’s a lovely blog post discussed Scotland’s unique lexicon.
Contronyms are words that can mean their opposite. Mental Floss has compiled a list of 25 of these contradictory words here:
Regional Lexicons and Weather
Emily Urquhart at Hakai Magazine has written a great article on Newfoundland English, which covers off a few things I love: regional lexicons/dialects, weather, and Newfoundland. It’s fascinating. You should check it out:
It’s beginning to be that time of year again: Christmas cookie season! In honour of the start of my favourite baking season, here’s some information from the Oxford Dictionaries blog on where some cookies got their names.
Undue Care and Attention
I find this blog post on the Editors Canada site dovetails quite nicely with my studies in law school. Victoria Neufeldt discusses how to avoid clunkers in your writing and editing that your eyes might just skip over without even noticing. Check it out:
Just as people sometimes are not who you think they are, words are often not what you think they are. The Oxford Words blog has compiled a helpful guide to the false friends, or words that look the same in different languages but have different meanings, in Shakespeare. In Shakespearean English, the false friends are English words that have shifted meaning from 16th- or 17th-century English to modern English.
Shakespeare and Iambs
Here’s a super neat video on poetic metre, Shakespeare, and all sorts of fun stuff, including pirates!
It can be tricky to figure out how to order adjectives and if they need to be separated by commas. Here is a great article explaining some of the nuances of ordering adjectives.
The answer to this isn’t in the mouths of Canadians; it’s in the brains of the non-Canadians who hear them, and it’s a thing called categorical perception. – See more at: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/how-canadians-really-pronounce-about?page=1#sthash.9pzwjPY7.dpuf
Most people who have studied English literature are well aware that Shakespeare invented more than a few words . . . it’s one of the reasons I use to justify the continued invention of new words and their inclusion in dictionaries (although I’ll admit, I’m quite unlikely to use the word “twerk” anytime soon). Here are two neat articles on Shakespearean words and phrases that are now part of everyday life that few people may even realize Shakespeare invented.
Report a typo
I know I’m not perfect, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. If you spot a typo, error, or mistake on this website, please let me know and I’ll fix it (because typos are embarrassing, especially for someone who calls herself an editor).