September 27, 2011

Here's Mud in Your Eye!

I love learning new words. Sometimes when I look words up, I find out that they don't mean what I thought they did or that I've been saying them wrong for years. Again, I challenge you to use these in daily conversation, then come back and post comments on how your colleagues reacted. As usual, my source is No, I'm not confessing which words I didn't have right. I don't want to blush again.

 Akimbo [uh-kim-boh]

 –adjective, adverb

with hand on hip and elbow bent outward: to stand with arms akimbo.

 Quagmire [kwag-mahyuhr] 


1. an area of miry or boggy ground whose surface yields under the tread; a bog.
2. a situation from which extrication is very difficult: a quagmire of financial indebtedness.
3. anything soft or flabby.

 Curmudgeon [ker-muhj-uhn]


a bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person.

The curmudgeon stood in the quagmire with his arms akimbo.

September 20, 2011

Discreetly Discrete

Today's homonym pair is often abused in written communication, probably because both "discrete" and "discreet" are real words, so they don't trip the spell check. They are very different words, with very different meanings.

"Discrete" means separate and apart. A leper colony, for example, is a discrete group, because they live apart from others in order to quarantine the disease.

"Discreet" means sneaky and secret. If you're trying to do something discreetly, you are hoping nobody notices what you are doing.

The easy way to remember how to spell the one you are looking for: Look at the letter "e" in the word. If you mean separate, then separate the e's. Discrete. If you mean sneeeeeeky, then put the e's together. Discreet. Easy, right?


September 13, 2011


"Gob" being a British term for mouth, apparently, my friends and I are more British than I realized. Or at least, they are. I moved back and forth between British and American English for years before I found out there was a difference, and that many of the words, spellings, syntax, and punctuation I habitually use are British rather than American. Maybe it's just that I watch too much British television. Wait, I'm not sure it's possible to watch too much British television. At any rate, here are three words you can add to your vocabulary this week. I challenge you to work them into your normal daily conversation. As an added challenge, come back and tell us how people reacted to the words. As usual, I'm getting my definitions from

Gobsmacked (ˈɡɒbˌsmækt)

--- adj

flabbergasted, astounded, shocked; also written gob-smacked
from gob 'mouth' + smacked 'clapping hand over in surprise'

Defenestrate [dee-fen-uh-streyt]

–verb (used with object), de·fen·es·trat·ed, de·fen·es·trat·ing.

to throw (a person or thing) out of a window.

Discombobulate [dis-kuhm-bob-yuh-leyt]

 –verb (used with object), -lat·ed, -lat·ing.

to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate: The speaker was completely discombobulated by the hecklers.


1825–35, Americanism; fanciful alteration of discompose or discomfort

—Related forms

dis·com·bob·u·la·tion, noun

I was gobsmacked when they defenestrated the discombobulated old man.


September 06, 2011

Too Hard for Two to do

Is it too difficult to keep these two (or three) words straight?

Apparently, it is extremely difficult. I can't count how often I see people going "too" the store "too" get "two" bottles of whatever. I also see people who like something, and their friend likes it "to".

The word "to" is a preposition. It shows direction. If you are moving in any direction, then you are moving to something, and away from something else. Remember it this way: "to" and "from" each have only one letter "o".

The word "too" is an additive. You have something, then you add something else; as in, "having you cake and eating it too." Remember it this way: if you are adding one thing to another thing, then you need to add one "o" to the other "o".

The word "two" doesn't seem to get mixed up as much. Everyone seems to remember that the number is the one with the "w" in it.