I Had Forgotten this Word

This post is mainly for the language geeks among us. I have occasionally used the expression “verbing a noun” (use the search box in the upper right corner), mainly because I had seen that usage, and had forgotten that we have a technical word for that! Backformation. In fact, to use “verb” as a verb is example of backformation. But there’s more to it than that.

If you’re interested, here’s a pretty good article about backformation:


Sorry, no comic today.


Sandhi is a Sanskrit word meaning “a putting together.” We get our word (ice cream) “sundae” from “sandhi.” Technically, the word refers to the effect that the end of one word has on the beginning of the next. This happens all the time in Sanskrit, I’m told, and sometimes in spoken English. (I suppose the choice of whether to use “a” or “an” before a word could be attributed to sandhi.)

Anyway, here’s a good example of using sandhi to make a joke.


You do know the scout motto, right?

Idioms Depend on Context

Idioms are phrases in a language not meant to be taken literally. When we don’t understand something, we might say “It’s Greek to me,” whereas in Germany you’d say (in German) “It’s a Bohemian village to me.”

Here are some idioms whose meanings depend on context:


What are your favorite idioms? Feel free to put some in the comments.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

New Contraction

I don’t think I’ve run into this one before. I can’t say it’s wrong, but it doesn’t save you much. Last panel:


Lightweight Poetry

Limericks are poetry, right?

I discovered this in my files back from 2014! It’s a cheap lesson in poetic meter. I’ll let you figure it out.

A forgetful old gasman named Dieter
Went poking around his gas heater.
Touched a leak with his light
And blew out of sight!
And, as everyone who knows anything about poetry can tell you, he also ruined the meter.

And here are two of my favorites:

A limerick writer named Drew
Always ended his poems on line two…

A limerick writer, a Hun,

Feel free to send me your worst in the comments.

This post first appeared on The Writing Rag.

What’s an Oxymoron?

Oxymorons are names (usually two words) for things that are self contradictory. Easy post for me today; John Atkinson put together a clever collection of oxymorons.

What Goes with “Different”?

A fair number of my posts discuss a choice of two things, such as the last post about use and utilize. Today you have a threefold choice.


The third choice is “Different than.”

So what’s the difference?

  • Different to is how they say it in England.
  • Different from is how we say it in the US when we compare two nouns. “His bike is different from mine.”
  • Different than is how we say it when we compare clauses, which have verbs. “I cook different meats than you do.”

Use or Utilize?

I see “utilize” a lot in technical writing. A lot of folks seem to think that the fancier word, the better. Not so!


Good expository writing is concise, and that often means using the simpler word if you have a choice. Besides, the words aren’t quite the same. “Utilize” implies that something was used “creatively,” made use of, as it were.

The rule: if use works, use it.

Besides, since that’s a poster, “use” takes up less space and is easier for the audience to read. If they can read.

Another New Acronym

You all know LOL and IMO and a bunch of others, no doubt. Here’s a TLA (three-letter acronym) that’s new to me.