Sing a song of Phrase Finder

Just a few moments ago I used the phrase “Katy bar the door” in a tweet to a colleague, and no sooner had I sent it than I said to myself, “Now where did that come from?”

Not as in “Why did I say that?” I knew why I said it. It was appropriate for the moment, topic, and audience (REGISTER!), and it provided the touch of levity I was after in the context of the brief conversation. It’s a phrase I’ve known since I was a child.

No, I wanted to know where it came from. Its origin. And for that kind of question, my favorite website, hands down, is Phrase Finder.

I’m not going to bore you with the origin of the phrase I used (even though Dante Rosetti plays a part, as do a poem from James Whitcomb Riley and a Scottish folk song). It’s easy enough for you, if you really want to know, to click that link and find out for yourself.

Just don’t blame me when you look at the time and realize you forgot to feed yourself, your dog, the hamster …

What do you mean by “careful?”

Last week I saw a post from Grammarly that asked the question “Have you become more or less careful with your writing?” (That’s the gist. I don’t recall if there was a time span mentioned, nor does it really matter.) My first thought was: That all depends on what you mean by “careful.” Continue reading “What do you mean by “careful?””

Book Discussion: Accidence Will Happen, by Oliver Kamm

Right off the bat, let me say that there isn’t a typographical error in the title. I wager most of this blog’s followers know that, but some might not. My college-student stepdaughter winced when she saw my copy of this lying on the table, and said, “That typo on the cover, though.” I set her straight immediately.

Accidence is that portion of grammar that deals with inflection. Inflection is the way a word changes to denote a specific grammatical category. For example: “Sang” is the past tense of “sing.” We know that because it changes form. It changes again for the past participle “sung.” Of course, that’s an irregular form. The same process happens with regular verbs, like talk/talked/talked, but by adding a suffix instead of altering the spelling of the root form. It happens with nouns, too: cat/cats, goose/geese. Now you know, if you didn’t before.

Now that I’ve concluded the brief grammar lesson, on to the discussion. Continue reading “Book Discussion: Accidence Will Happen, by Oliver Kamm”

Registering register

I’m going to blather a little bit about register.

The fact that I used the word “blather” is a cue that the register of this post is informal. If I wanted to be formal, I’d say “This post is about register in writing.”

See the difference? The latter is stuffier, less conversational, more like what you’d expect to see in an article or a textbook, perhaps.

When I blog, post, or tweet, I get pretty informal. (See? I did it again. “I get pretty informal.”) I use acronyms and abbreviations and IDGAF who gets upset by them. I also curse, obviously. However, I can write in a very formal tone if that’s what’s required of me. Continue reading “Registering register”

It’s green, but which one is it?

“Green with envy.”

“O, beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” (Yo, that’s from Shakespeare. Othello, Act III, scene 3.)

There’s envy, and there’s jealousy, and while common usage has conflated them to where perhaps it really doesn’t matter much to anyone anymore, there are times it’s worth knowing which is which. If you’re writing in a more formal register, or perhaps your fiction is a “period piece” with slightly dusty conventions, you might want to know how to use these words in the old-fashioned way. If you don’t care, you can stop reading here. Seriously. Don’t waste your time.  Continue reading “It’s green, but which one is it?”