Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Year 2012 in Language & Writing

January The Los Angeles Times reported on local poet and journalist John Tottenham’s crusade against the pandemic overuse and abuse of the word awesome. The British expat has launched what he calls the Campaign to Stamp Out Awesome, complete with … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries. spill / spilled / spilled. So inflected. The archaic past form "spilt" still sometimes appears in metaphorical references to "spilt milk" ("Don't cry over spilt milk"), but "spilled milk" is somewhat more common. spiral, vb., makes "spiraled" and … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries. speechify = to deliver a speech. The word is used in a mocking or derogatory way. speed / sped / sped. The best past-tense and past-participial form is "sped," not *"speeded" — except in the phrasal verb "speed … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: spasmodic; *spasmodical; *spasmatic; spastic.

spasmodic; *spasmodical; *spasmatic; spastic. "Spasmodic" = (1) of, relating to, or characterized by a spasm; or (2) intermittent, sporadic, unsustained. *"Spasmodical" and *"spasmatic" are needless variants. "Spasmatic" is labeled "rare or obsolete" by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, but of … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: spartan; sparse.

spartan; sparse. "Spartan" is the antonym of "luxurious," and "sparse" the antonym of "luxuriant." But there the similarities end. In ancient Greece, the people of Sparta were known as being stoical, frugal, simple, laconic, brave, disciplined, and indifferent to comfort … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sow, vb.

sow, vb. Part A: Inflection: sow / sowed / sown. In the past participle, *"sowed" is a variant form. In modern print sources, "sown" predominates by a 6-to-1 ratio. Part B: Sowing wild oats. To "sow" is to scatter seed. … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: sour grapes.

sour grapes. This is one of the most commonly misused idiomatic metaphors. It is not a mere synonym of "envy" or "jealousy." Rather, as in Aesop's fable about the fox who wanted the grapes he could not reach, "sour grapes" … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Miscellaneous Entries.

Miscellaneous Entries. sound bite. So spelled — not *"sound byte." E.g.: "Although this was a fairly logical prediction to make, knowing the teams, their styles, and their media sound bytes [read 'bites'] throughout the week, Kawakami hit the nail on … Continue reading

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LawProse Lesson #99

Why did the late David Mellinkoff object to using “last will and testament”? The phrase last will and testament is a common legal doublet — a ceremonious phrase with ancient resonances. Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) referred to an ultima voluntas … Continue reading

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Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: Sound of Prose (2).

Sound of Prose (2). Today: Awkward Repetition. Too much repeating of sounds can enfeeble your style, especially if two different forms of the same root appear close together — e.g.: o "The major role of legislative liaisons is to answer … Continue reading

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