You Don't Say

You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
Your editor

            Imagine for a moment that you are to receive a major award. You have taken considerable care with your appearance. Your notes of appreciation, written in a wryly self-deprecating tone, are in your hand. You are just about to be called forward before the distinguished assemblage.

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In a word: antimacassar

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a moderately obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar — another brick to add to the wall of your working vocabulary. This week's word:


You have seen the doily, piece of cloth or crocheting placed on the back and arms of chairs or sofas to protect  the fabric from being soiled.

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Murder is most foul, but home is cozy.

In the past year or so there has been a great falling-off in my reading, from four or five books a month to none. The work, fifty hours or more a week at the paragraph factory and two mornings a week at Loyola during the academic year, has left me with less ability to focus at nighttime, my reading time. Too tired, embarrassed to admit to a resort to television.

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Our common language, up to a point

In U.S. English, we use the verb ending –ize, and British English uses -ise. Noted. Nothing could be simpler to understand.

But, Lynne Murphy points out, the –ize suffix was original in British and American spelling, and survives in both.

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Clause and Effect: A Grammarnoir serial in one installment

You Can’t Escape

The sun came up slowly on National Grammar Day, like a feature writer resisting her editor’s changes. Sitting in my rocking chair on the front porch of the Old Editors’ Home, I was not impressed. I’d seen it before.

A black sedan came to an uncertain stop at the curb, and a woman got out. She wore a cloche hat. I stirred from my chair to duck inside but was too slow. She spotted me.

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I tell you again, it's not "St. Patty's Day"

This is a Public Service Announcement.

St. Patrick’s Day is two weeks off, and those who observe it might wish to get the terminology right.

Though the Irish in my genome is the deplorable Scotch-Irish Presbyterian form, I do know this: Do not refer casually to St. Patrick’s Day as St. Patty’s Day, or you will betray ignorance and synthetic Irishness.

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