Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

2020

 

I call apostrophe catastrophes “prepostrophes.” These crimes against civilized punctuation include house signs that read The Smith’s when they should read The Smiths or The Smiths’. Other folks promiscuously throw in an apostrophe before an s at the end of a word that’s a plural, not possessive, as in (gasp!) apple’s. The violators spy an s at the end of a word, so they figure they have to throw in a squiggle. Ack!

In 2001, John Richards, a retired British copy editor, started the Apostrophe Protection Society. For nearly two decades, Richards dedicated his life to protecting an endangered species: the correctly placed apostrophe. Now at 96, he’s calling it quits.

Writing on the APS’s website, he announced: “Fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English language. We, and our many supporters worldwide, have done our best; but the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!”

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Welcome to 2020, which I hope will be the year of perfect vision and focus.

Speaking of the eyes, have you heard about the cross-eyed teacher? She couldn’t control her pupils.

That pun plays on the two meanings of the word pupil. The first, “a student,” is borrowed from the Latin pupillus, “orphan, ward, minor.” A second meaning boasts a more enchanting etymology: In ancient Rome, the pupilla, “little doll,” was a diminutive of pupa, “girl.” When the Romans looked deep into each other’s eyes, they used the same word for the tiny doll-like images of themselves reflected there. They called the part of the eye that the image could be seen in the pupil.

The year 2020 is the first decade to have a name since the 1990s. With parties and look-backs at the events of the past 10 years, we’ve just celebrated the end of a decade. But were those wing dings and reminiscences premature?

Purists will point out that Christ was one year old at the end of the first year C.E. and that the first decade C.E. was not over until the end of the year 10. Each new decade, therefore, begins with the start of a year ending with the number one, not zero. so the next decade won’t begin until the year 2021.

These precise chronologists stayed home on the night of December 31, 2019, while we yahoos were dancing in the streets to celebrate the end of the “Teens.” On December 31, 2020, around midnight, the literalists will gather to ring out the decade, but they will find only a small minion of themselves.

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A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget’s Thesaurus crashed as it left a San Diego book distributor.

Witnesses were aghast, alarmed, amazed, astonished, astounded, bewildered, blown away, boggled, bowled over, bumfuzzled, caught off base, confounded, confused, dazed, dumbfounded, flabbergasted, floored, flummoxed, frightened, gobsmacked, horrified, jolted, mind-blown, numbed, overwhelmed, perplexed, rattled, shocked, staggered, startled, stunned, stupefied, surprised, taken aback, thrown for a loop, thunderstruck, traumatized and unnerved.

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I’m button-burstingly proud to report that three weeks ago, a word quiz of mine showed up in “Ask Marilyn,” Marilyn vos Savant’s perennially popular column in Parade magazine. I invite you to try to solve the poser.

Other than having six letters, what do these words have in common: abhors, almost, begins, bijoux, biopsy, chimps, chinos and chintz? Hint: Focus on the pattern of letters in each of the eight words.

Answer: The letters in each word appear alphabetically.

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The word yes is a wonderful word, but there are plenty of other ways you can offer someone a verbal go-ahead. So if you feel like dipping your toes into the wild waters of alternative affirmations, take a gander at this list: absolutely, affirmative, agreed, all in, all right, amen, aye aye, by all means, fo’ shizzle, okay, okey-dokey, righto, right on, roger, sure, totally, uh-huh, yea, yeah, yep, you bet, yup, 10-4.

Sometimes a negative response can also be useful, and there are many ways to deliver that response: forget about it, include me out, naw, nay, negative, negatory, never, nix, no, no can do, no dice, no go, no sale, no soap, not, not on your life, nope, no thanks, no way, no way, José, nothing doing.