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.

When he went to the Forum in Roman times, a candidate for office wore a bleached white toga to symbolize his humility, purity of motive and candor. The original Latin root, candidatus, meant “one who wears white,” from the belief that white was the color of purity and probity. There was wishful thinking even in ancient Roman politics, because a white-clad Roman candidatus was accompanied by sectatores, followers who helped him acquire votes by bargaining and bribery. The Latin parent verb candere, “to shine, to glow,” can be recognized in the English words candid, candor, candle and incandescent.

We know that candidates are ambitious, It’s also worth knowing that ambition developed from the Latin ambitionem, “a going about,” from the going about of candidates for office in ancient Rome.


This past week category-4 hurricane Matthew made landfall in Florida and battered the southeastern United States. The word hurricane blows in from the Arawakan (West Indies) name for the Caribbean god Hurrican, “evil spirit of the sea.”

 In 1953 the National Weather Service began conferring female first names on all hurricanes, categorizing those devastating winds as female. When I was a boy, we bandied about a little riddle: “Why do they give hurricanes female names?” “Because otherwise, they’d be himicanes!” Har har! Chuckle, chuckle! Snort!

That riddle doesn’t make sense any longer because, in 1979, the Service started identifying hurricanes by both male and female names alternately: Alma, Bertram, Charlotte, Donald, Elaine and so on. That’s one small step for humankind. It’s the right thing that those meteorological “evil spirits” not be exclusively female.


Early this month, Richard Trentflage died at age 87. Mr. Trentflage was the man who, in 1962, gave the world the commercial song “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener./That is what I truly wish to be./Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,/Everyone would be in love with me.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                      You may be asking if the verb in the opening sentence should be was, rather than were, as in “I wish I was an Oscar Mayer wiener.” The answer is “no.”

English verbs assume three moods indicative, imperative and subjunctive. A verb in the indicative mood shows that the sentence is regarded as a statement about an actual thing or occurrence: “I love you.” Commands assume verbs in the imperative mood: “Love me.” Finally, we cast verbs in the subjunctive mood in statements that are regarded as contrary to fact or highly unlikely: “I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.” As much as you may wish it, you can’t become a genuine Oscar Mayer wiener, so stick with the subjunctive mood.

Syntax is not a levy on alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana. Syntax means word order, and sometimes the syntax of slogans and expressions that we take for granted can be improved. Take the warning printed on the outside rear-view mirrors bolted to our automobiles: “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” But there aren’t any objects in a mirror. Better would be “Objects are closer than they appear in the mirror.”

Then there’s the motto of the United Negro College Fund: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But a mind isn’t a terrible thing. Better would be “It’s a terrible thing to waste a mind.”

Finally, consider the oft-used expression “God only knows.” The placement of the modifier only implies that, while God knows something, He can’t act on that knowledge because He “only knows” it. “Only God knows” would be more precise because that word order signifies that only God — but no mortal being — possesses the sought-after knowledge.


Harvard linguist Bert Vaux has conducted a longitudinal study of regional dialects. Professor Vaux asked his respondents “What word(s) do you use to address a group of two or more people?” Here are the results of his inquiry into dialectal second-person plural pronouns: you guys – 42%; you – 26%; you’all and y’all – 25%; youse – .66%; yins – .37%; you ‘uns – .17%; you lot – .17%; other – 5%,


With which of the following names are you familiar?: Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Vladimir Putin, Jorge Bergoglio, Saddam Hussein, Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

You had trouble with Jorge Bergoglio, right? So you know all the mass murderers and famous cheaters, but you don’t know the Pope? Hmmm,


The other day, I visited the Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park, but there was nothing inside.