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Apparently and Presumably

A reader has asked for a discussion of the difference between the words apparently and presumably. A meaning for presumably is easy to pin down. The OED gives one current definition: presumably: Qualifying a statement as likely but not known for certain: as one may presume or reasonably suppose; in all probability. Merriam-Webster’s definition...

“Elite” Is Not a Dirty Word

Used mostly as a noun or as an adjective, elite derives from an Old French verb meaning “to choose.” The elite are “the Chosen.” As a noun, elite is “the pick or choice part of society or a specific group of people thought to be superior in terms of ability or qualities when compared to the rest of society.” When judged according to ability, elite...

“Forecast” and “Broadcast” Never Need -ed

My telephone weather app really mashes on my grammar nerve when it tells me that “rain is forecasted.” Likewise, I find it disturbing when a state supreme court judge, ruling on a misinformation case, begins a sentence with “Even assuming that Fox News did not intentionally allow this false narrative to be broadcasted….” The verb broadcast, meaning,...

Falling Prey to Error

In researching articles for Daily Writing Tips, I stumble upon all kinds of interesting topics and curious examples of usage. One recent search led me to a site dedicated to clinical philosophy, where I found this sentence in an article about the importance of words in the exchange between therapist and patient: Furthermore, we all too readily fall...

Updates to posts Draft

  Update to “Then” or “Than” post: Why Do People Confuse “Then” and “Than”? Unlike some other commonly confused words, such as affect and effect, “then” and “than” have quite different meanings. In some accents, though, “then” and “than” both tend to sound very similar. This tends to be more common in American English than in British English. This...

Butt Redux

Seven years ago, I wrote a post called “The Ubiquitous Butt.” In it, I admitted my own distaste for the word, but acknowledged that butt had by then won a place in general usage: The word butt in the sense of buttocks was once considered unsuitable for general use. Comedians used it to get a laugh, but it was not considered acceptable in polite conversation....

The Many Uses of “Set”

The OED has nine entries for the ubiquitous word set: an acronym, two nouns, two adjectives, two verbs, an obsolete conjunction, and the combining form that appears in such words as setback. Considering how many ways the word is used, it’s surprising that set isn’t misused more often. Until recently, I’d been aware of only one common misuse, that...

May or Might—Does It Matter Which?

The verb may is one of the oldest in English. Through the centuries, it has been used with a variety of meanings that need not trouble modern English speakers. Only two forms survive: may and might. The words are often used interchangeably, but a few distinctions still matter Mother, May I? I’m old enough to have been brought up to distinguish between...

What Does “Mien” Mean?

Until recently, I thought everyone agreed on the meaning of mien. Dictionaries do. Someone’s mien is their general appearance and manner, especially the expression on their face, which shows what they are feeling or thinking.—Collins Dictionary a person’s look or manner, esp. one of a particular kind indicating character or mood.—Oxford Dictionary...

“Bully,” a Word with a Split Personality

Bully is one of many English words that have undergone semantic degeneration or pejoration. Beginning as a pleasant word, bully is now associated with one of the lowest forms of human behavior. The origin of the English word is obscure, but it may come from Dutch boel, “lover (of either sex). Boel could also mean “brother.” Bully’s earliest meaning...

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