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.


Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday commemorating the defeat of the French army at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Today, Cinco de Mayo (“5th of May”) is among the largest and most energetic celebrations in the world.

The recognition of Cinco de Mayo history quickly spread from Mexico to the United States, where it is primarily a celebration of the cultural diversity of America’s southern neighbor. Cinco de Mayo parties are often adorned with brightly colored streamers and Mexican flags flapping in the wind. No Cinco de Mayo bash is complete without a piñata, a decorated vessel, often made of papier mâché, filled with candy, fruit and gifts. Piñatas are hung up for blindfolded people, usually children, to break open with sticks — the perfect way to punctuate a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Here’s a punderful twist on the holiday:

In the early 1900s, the Hellman’s Mayonnaise Company was all set to deliver 12,000 jars of the condiment to Vera Cruz. This would have been the largest single shipment of mayonnaise ever brought to Mexico, but the ship sank and the cargo was forever lost. The people of Mexico, who were crazy about mayonnaise and were eagerly awaiting its arrival, were saddened by the tragic loss. Their anguish was so great that they declared a National Day of Mourning, which they still observe to this day Sinko de Mayo.

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Men and women take different approaches to speaking and reading. The average person speaks at a rate of 120 to 180 words per minute. Professional newsreaders speak at around 150 wpm. Women speak a range of 7,000 to 30,000 words a day and men 3,000 to 12,000 words a day. That’s because women devote more brain power to conversation, speak more rapidly and constantly have to repeat themselves to get men to pay attention and understand what they are saying. This is in part because men are harder of hearing than women, or at least pretend to be.

According to researchers, women readers are four times more likely than men to read the last page of a book first and twice as likely to skip pages and jump ahead in the story. Nora Ephron confessed, “I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish, I’ll know how it turned out.”

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Given the limitations of space in newspapers, headline writers have to come up with trimmed versions of longer words. You can credit these journalists with inventing, or at least popularizing, such shortenings as A-bomb, biopic, biz, champ, dramedy, flu, hype, indie, nix, pix (a clipping of pictures), polio, prof, quake, sitcom, socko, tix (a clipping of tickets) and veep.

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A mulligan is a free shot to compensate for a mishit golf ball, sometimes permitted in a casual game. No one can say for sure how this word came into golf in 1949, but here’s my best guess: In family-type saloons there was always a bottle called Mulligan on the bar. The basic ingredients of this sauce were hot pepper seeds and water. If you were crazy enough to swish a few drops of this concoction into your beer, it ate out your liver, stomach, bladder and finally your heart. In the psychological sense, this is precisely what happens on the course when you accumulate too many mulligans.

An alternate theory asserts that the word derives from the name of Canadian golfer David Mulligan. Each week, Mulligan transported his regular foursome to the St. Lambert Country Club near Montreal. One day in the late 1920s, he mishit his drive off the first tee with hands still numb from steering over rough roads and a particularly bumpy bridge at the course entrance. In appreciation of Mulligan’s driving (of his automobile), his friends gave him a second ball.

So I’m asking if we can all take a mulligan for the year 2020.

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What do you say to comfort a friend who’s struggling with spelling?

“There, their, they’re.”

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I, your user-friendly language columnist, will turn 83 this month. Believe it or not, I have now been alive for more than one third of the life of the United States of America as a nation.