‘Violence Flaring, Bullets Loading’ — The Militarization of Our Cities

You’re probably not old enough to remember first-hand Barry McGuire’s song “Eve of Destruction,” in which he laments, “Violence flaring, bullets loading. You’re old enough to kill but not for voting.” (Actually, I’m pretty sure all those gerunds got their ending g‘s removed during the song, but I left the g‘s on because they made the […]

If We Have ‘Continuously,’ Do We Need ‘Continually’?

Okay, I get it. If something happens continuously, then it never ceases. There’s no interruption. “The Mississippi River flows continuously.” So how does continually distinguish itself from continuously to justify its existence? My first thought was, “Okay, it happens repeatedly but not ceaselessly, like a dog barking each and every night.” Partially right, except dictionary.com […]

Octopi or Octopuses?

Now, we probably don’t use either the singular or plural form of octopus very often unless we own or frequent sushi bars, but most of us have long been mistaken about how to pluralize the critter. I’ve heard octopi used a lot, but that is a completely erroneous pluralization. The word comes from Greek, not […]

Like, You Know, I Mean, Um, Uh

A study now suggests that people who sprinkle their sentences with repeated uses of “like,” “you know” and “I mean” are not being ditzy or mundane but actually are “thoughtful” and “conscientious” in their conversations. This is the result of a study whose results appear in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology. “When having […]

Children Who Can’t Write But Only Type

The so-called Common Core of education that drives the curriculum in most states de-emphasizes the teaching of cursive writing except in kindergarten and first grade. After that, students are expected to learn keyboard skills. My initial thought: Is Apple behind this shift? Did Steve Jobs pay someone off at the Department of Education? Anyway, studies […]

History of ‘Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny’

I’ve probably read or heard the phrase “can neither confirm nor deny” umpteen zillion times when someone in government is being asked about a certain painfully obvious secret operation or unwanted development. The phrase has now been dubbed “a non-denial denial,” an artful dodge when one is caught with one’s pants down. “I can neither […]