Archive for June, 2019

overusedwordsGenius: Ah, ‘genius.’ Once reserved for people of ‘exceptional‘ and ‘extraordinary‘ intellect and/or creativity—Albert Einstein, Shakespeare, and the like—today people use ‘genius’ to laud pretty much anyone who comes up with a helpful solution or performs a routine fix. Deservedly so or no, you may well have been called a ‘genius’ so often that it hardly even seems like a compliment in most circumstances. Is the dilution of ‘genius,’ and the following comparable words, a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing? That certainly depends on who you ask. But there’s no denying that, as the popular, prevailing meanings of words change, they often drift farther and farther away from the ‘correct’ meaning.


34 military terms and their meanings


military_1"Alfa, Bravo, Charlie…" is an alphabet that you may already know and understand. These words represent the letters "A," "B," and "C" in the International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet, or more commonly known as the NATO phonetic alphabet, used by the military to omit misunderstandings over radio. If you aren’t using it already, this would be a good one to adopt for those customer service calls when you need to read your 17-digit confirmation code that somehow is full of letters that sound the same.


toilet_paperToilet paper has a critical job. Although it’s an essential bathroom item, thinking about it usually starts and ends with needing to buy or use some. Meanwhile, people spend hours looking for the perfect towel or shower curtain colors for their bathroom, but toilet paper is just plain white. So what got the white toilet paper trend rolling?


park_1In the 1940s, Coney Island dazzled
You wouldn’t know it from the vibrancy of these pictures, showing the vast array of people enjoying the many and varied pleasures of New York’s Coney Island in the heat of 1948, but the glory years of Coney Island were over.

Forty years before, it had boasted three extraordinary pleasure parks  Luna Park, Steeplechase Park and Dreamland.

Shimmering white against the twilight, Luna Park alone was lit by a quarter of a million separate bulbs.

And until World War II, Coney Island was the most successful amusement location in the United States. But the 1930s and the Great Depression were not kind to Coney, as Americans struggled to survive, let alone pay for entertainment.

In 1944, Luna Park was ravaged by a fire, and two years later shut for good.

After 1945, attendance began an inexorable decline, amplified by the post-war boom in car ownership.

Just a year after these pictures were taken (in 1948), the land along the waterfront was commandeered by Robert Moses, NYC parks commissioner, and rezoned for housing.


flagdayWhen most people think of summer holidays, they think of the big three: Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. But people often forget another important American observance Flag Day.

Flag Day, celebrated on June 14 every year, is the celebration and recognition of the stars and stripes. Although it isn’t a federal holiday, it is a state holiday in Pennsylvania and New York.


mooseThe English language doesn’t always abide by its own rules. It’s a giant melting pot of etymologies, sourcing itself from all over the world. The perplexing silent letters in words like "tsunami" and "rendezvous" are carried over from Japanese and French, respectively. The varying origins of words also produce a lot of strange, irregular-seeming plurals. That’s why we have to look back through the history of English to figure out why the plural of "goose" is geese…but the plural of "moose" is not "meese." If you’re curious about silent letters, learn more about why we What is the plural of moose?have them here.


Common clichés

common_clichesSlang is an interesting linguistic phenomenon. Even if you’re a native English speaker, you may not understand some of the things Americans say if you’re from another anglophone country. Even within a country, slang can vary from state to state or region to region.

But certain slang terms and phrases are common throughout America, or even the English-speaking world as a whole, to the point that they’ve become clichés. These phrases tend to have quite a bit of interesting — and often unexpected — history that may change the way you look at them or give you some clarity as to how to properly use them. You may find yourself quite surprised as to the real meaning behind these 15 common clichés.


dilateWith only six letters, ‘dilate’ really shouldn’t be hard to spell, but the way people usually pronounce it can throw spellers for a loop. Many people say ‘dilate’ as three full syllables, ‘di-a-late,’ leading themselves and others to add in an extra ‘a’ while spelling it. But let’s put this easy misunderstanding to rest—there’s no such word as ‘dialate.’


indictWith ‘indict’ popping up as a buzzword in today’s political climate, for better or worse, many people find themselves doing a double take when they see it written out. Though the word is pronounced ‘indite,’ it has a ‘c’ in it! The legal term, whose first use dates back to around 1620, is a Latin variation on an earlier word that was spelled ‘indite.’ To make things even more confusing, ‘indite’ is actually still a word; it means to write or compose.


sacrilegiousA ‘sacrilegious’ act is disrespectful to something of religious significance, so it makes a lot of sense to just assume without a second thought that the word is spelled ‘sacreligious.’ But that would be too easy, now, wouldn’t it? ‘Sacrilegious’ comes from ‘sacrilege,’ not from ‘religious,’ and the fact that they sound so similar is a pure linguistic coincidence. The word ‘sacrilege’ came to be from the Latin sacri-, or ‘sacred,’ and legere, meaning ‘to gather or steal.’


ingeniousLike ‘sacrilegious,’ ‘ingenious’ is another word that’s so similar to another in both sound and meaning that people conclude that they’re spelled the same way. ‘Ingenious’ means very clever and intelligent. A ‘genius’ is a very clever, intelligent person. But, alas, the final syllables of ‘ingenious’ are not spelled like ‘genius.’ It dates back to a Latin word, ingeniosus, meaning ‘natural disposition.’


minusculeNope, it’s not ‘mini-scule,’ no matter how much logic would suggest. It bears no linguistic relation to ‘mini’ or ‘miniature’ but actually comes from the Latin minus, meaning ‘less.’



onomatopoeiaLike a punchy use of onomatopoeia—a technique where a word mimics a sound—in a comic book, this one speaks for itself. Between the eight vowels, the fact that you only really need half the letters that are there to make the ‘-pia’ sound that the word ends with, or the fact that replacing the ‘t’ with an ‘n,’ and saying ‘onomanopoeia,’ rolls off the tongue slightly better, this is easily one of English’s trickiest offerings.


acommodateWords with double letters are already going to be confusing; knowing which letters you double in words like ‘necessary,’ ’embarrassing,’ and ‘millennium’ is no small feat. ‘Accommodate’ in particular can be tricky to remember since it follows a different rule from ‘recommend,’ another word where the c’s and m’s can be sources of confusion. While ‘recommend’ only has one ‘c,’ ‘accommodate’ has two of both consonants. Not to mention, ‘accommodate”s second ‘o’ doesn’t really make an ‘o’ sound; you could certainly see an ‘a’ or an ‘e’ going in that spot, no problem.


conscientious‘Conscious’ and ‘conscience’ are tricky enough to spell. Take the first eight letters of ‘conscience,’ pronounce them differently, and add another ‘sh’ sound created by different letters, and you’ve got a doozy of a word for ‘moral and principled.’



wednesdayNative English spellers have gotten used to the spelling of ‘Wednesday,’ but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still very, very strange when you think about it. What is that first ‘d’ doing there?! Well, many English names for weekdays come from the names of old Germanic deities. Wednesday was named after the Norse god Woden, better known, at least to comic book fans, as Odin. (We have his hammer-wielding son Thor to thank for Thursday!) ‘Wednesday’ comes from the Old English ‘Wōdnesdæg,’ or ‘Woden’s Day.’


acquiesceThis is simply a word where if you know it, you know it. Looking quickly at this word, which means ‘comply or agree without question,’ you might not think that that first ‘c’ needs to be there; it isn’t in words like ‘aquatic’ or ‘aquiver.’ You may also be tempted to throw a double ‘s’ on the end in lieu of the ‘sc,’ or just write the ‘s’ with no ‘c.’


bolognaThere’s a reason many meat packages spell it ‘baloney.’ The word ‘bologna’ derives from Bologna, Italy, since a similar (but fancier) type of sausage comes from that city. If you want to mimic this fanciness, that ‘-gn’ at the end should be pronounced with a ‘yuh’ sound. But the Americanized, more phonetic spelling seems to better suit thin slabs of Oscar Mayer.


fuchsiaBoth the pairs of letters ‘sc’ and ‘sh’ have been known to make the sound that starts the second syllable of ‘fuchsia.’ But, unfortunately for anyone who likes writing about colors or plants, ‘fuchsia’ uses neither of those pairings, instead taking all the necessary letters and jumbling them up. The plant, whose flowers give the name to the color, was named after esteemed German botanist Leonhard Fuchs.


nauseousThere sure are a lot of vowels in ‘nauseous,’ and it can be tricky to remember what order they go in. Even if you’ve got them straight, you may still second-guess yourself about the consonants, too. The ‘sh’ sound makes it sound like there should be a ‘c’ in there somewhere, like in ‘conscious.’ And, as if the spelling confusion weren’t enough, you’ve probably been using the word ‘nauseous’ wrong too, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.


oranqutanThese poor Bornean primates are the subject of much linguistic confusion. According to Merriam-Webster, their name is the amalgamation of two words in the Malay pidgin language: ‘orang’ for ‘man’ and ‘hutan’ for ‘forest.’ But many people prefer pronouncing an anglicized version that adds another ‘g’ to the end, making the word perplexing for spellers. As if that weren’t confusing enough, some variations on the spelling hyphenate the word and/or add an ‘o’ before the ‘u,’ creating ‘orang-outan.’


paraphernaliaInstead of adding a letter like in the case of ‘orangutan,’ people pronouncing this already-tricky word tend to skip over the second ‘r’ altogether. This mouthful actually comes from a nearly identical Latin word, paraphernālia, which referred to the belongings or property of a bride-to-be, similar to a dowry. Needless to say, the word has modernized, as now it can describe everything from ski gear to musical amplifiers to cell phone chargers.

Ease your word-cluttered mind with these simple spelling rules to remember commonly misspelled words.