October 25, 2011

The Earl's Couch

While I knew a Chesterfield was a couch, and an Axminster was a carpet, I still don't know if the word Chesterfield refers to the earl, his couch, or his suit. Possibly all three; dictionary.com didn't specify. Share the words, and report your colleagues bemused expressions when you come back.

Chesterfield [ches-ter-feeld] 


1. (Sometimes initial capital letter) a single- or double-breasted topcoat or overcoat with a fly front and a narrow velvet collar.
2. A large, overstuffed sofa or divan with a back and upholstered arms.
3. Chiefly Canadian . Any large sofa or couch.


1885–90;  named after an Earl of Chesterfield  in the 19th century.

Ingénue [an-zhuh-noo, -nyoo]

–noun, plural -nues  [-nooz, -nyooz; Fr. -ny] Show IPA.

1. the part of an artless, innocent, unworldly girl or young woman, especially as represented on the stage.
2. an actress who plays such a part or specializes in playing such parts.

Bemused [bih-myoozd]


1. bewildered or confused.
2. lost in thought; preoccupied.

The bemused ingénue sat on the antique Chesterfield, clutching her script in one hand, but not really seeing the words printed on the page.


October 18, 2011

Roll the Role

Time for another well-abused homonym pair. I have no idea how often I see the phrase "roll model" posted online.

A roll, as a noun, is a small piece of bread.

As an adjective, it means some object which has been rolled up, or coiled, such as a roll of garden hose, or a roll of TP. As a verb, it means to turn over. Remember it this way: It has only one vowel, and it takes only one person to accomplish. You can roll a roll in butter, or roll up a roll of TP without any help.

 A role is a part in a play, or a part you play in someone's life. We all need positive role models, people who are models that teach us how to play our role, our part in society. Ideally those role models will come from our family or church group, rather than from among the ranks of dysfunctional celebrities, but that's a post for another time. Remember it this way: this "role" has two vowels, just like you need two people; one to play the "role" and the other to be the audience.


October 11, 2011

The Whole Gamut

Here's one of those words I've been misunderstanding for years. I always thought "salubrious" had something to do with being drunk. I was way off. Thank you, dictionary.com for educating me. It just goes to show that you can teach an old author new words!

I also think it's interesting that we nearly always say "the whole gamut" when "gamut" means "whole", which makes "whole gamut" redundant; but it wouldn't sound right to just say "gamut". English is a funny language. Go out into the world and share the words, then return and share your funny stories.

Salubrious [suh-loo-bree-uhs]


Favorable to or promoting health; healthful: salubrious air.

Suint [soo-int, swint]


The natural grease of the wool of sheep, consisting of a mixture of fatty matter and potassium salts, used as a source of potash and in the preparation of ointments.

Gamut [gam-uht]


1. The entire scale or range: the gamut of dramatic emotion from grief to joy.
2. Music .
a. the whole series of recognized musical notes.
b. the major scale.

The whole gamut of ointments made from suint are salubrious.


October 04, 2011

They're There

Here's another set of easily confused words. I can't even enumerate the number of times I've seen this group abused.

The word "they're" is a contraction of "they" and "are". It seems people have forgotten what contractions are, and what the apostrophe means. In all contractions, the apostrophe is standing in for missing letters. My first grade teacher taught us about contractions this way, and it has helped me keep them straight ever since. (I'm not telling you how long ago that was, however!)

Take the word "they" and the word "are". Smash them together. They spell theyare. Keep smushing. The letter "a" gets wadded up and becomes the apostrophe. "They're".

The word "their" is a possessive pronoun. If something is "theirs" it belongs to them. Remember it this way: It is "theirs", it belongs to "the heirs". "Theirs" contains the word "heirs". (This one isn't actually a contraction, though; it's just an easy way to remember it.)

The word "there" is a location. The object is over there. It coincidentally contains the word "here". If you need a location, the thing you're looking for is either "here" or "there".