Building Blocks of English: Part I

I used to start grammar lessons by asking students, "What’s the basic building block of English?"  After getting answers like "the alphabet" and "words," I quickly changed the question.  I was looking for someone to say, "The sentence is the basic building block of English," but I never did. Anyway, whatever you consider the first […]

Why the Parentheses?

I came across this passage while reading the Los Angeles Times and became perplexed as to why the author (Ross Newhan) would use parentheses, to wit: The [Tom] Seaver vineyard is among the smallest.  He is growing cabernet (sauvignon) grapes on 3-1/2 acres of his 115-acre maze of bush, trees and spectacular vistas. Okay, I used […]

Cures for Writer’s Block

Sometimes we sit down at the computer, or take pen and paper in hand, and we hit the proverbial block wall mentally.  We just can’t write. In a previous post on five tips for “perfect” English, I mentioned that [tag]writer’s block[/tag] often originates in our minds as we seek perfection on the first go-round.  Just […]

Spot On: Derivation Please

Now, here’s a term I never use and seldom hear:  spot on. As for definition, it means "extremely accurate or descriptive."  That much I can find in something called the Kernerman Multilingual English Dictionary, whatever that is. However, the dictionary gives no origin for the phrase.  Sounds British to me.  Can anyone clarify?