Expletives are Real

When I learned about the parts of speech in school, my teacher included expletives in her list.

Maybe this teacher just liked matched columns in the list.

Expletives are expressions of surprise or similar strong emotion, and they generally appear all by themselves and are generally punctuated with an exclamation point. I leave it as an exercise for the reader to make a list of them…

Good Phrase, Bad Phrase

Two things I have opinions about! Panel 1 and panel 2.


The phrase in panel 1 is correct. Do you see it? Many many people get it wrong. Answer below

Panel 2 is grammatical but not true! Lots of people use this phrase incorrectly, too. What is it?


  • Panel one: “all right” two words is correct. Many folks incorrectly use “alright.” ick.
  • Panel 2: Use “can’t wait” only if you describe doing something because you can’t actually wait. If all you want to do is emphasize your desire for something to happen, say “I can hardly wait.” harrumpf.

One of My Rules!

Well, rule of thumb, that is. A recommendation, really. Third panel. He stated the rule a bit more strongly than I do.


My rule is that your writing is generally better if you can think of a good verb and dispense with the adverb. Unless your emphasis is on the adverb, maybe.

I Mentioned This Recently

…about a week ago. But hey, repetition is the mother of learning, right?


Besides, he gives the same definition that I did, so I must be right, right?

And words that sound the same but have different meanings are homonyms, right? Rite?

Shakespearean Neologisms

This is a picture of about 400 of the 1000 words he is said to have invented. Click the link to go see them as links, and big enough to read.


Underneath the picture on the site is a link to a spreadsheet listing the data. Click it there if this link doesn’t work.

Another Who-Whom Lesson

Maybe it’s a subordinate clause lesson, because that’s the key here.

From the June 2021 Scientific American, page 62:

In Lisbon, Portugal, the social centers Disgraça and RDA69,
which strive to re-create community life in an otherwise highly
fragmented urban situation, reached out with free or cheap food
to whoever needed it.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/index.cfm/_api/render/file/?method=inline&fileID=5F31A1C3-AF1A-4CF0-A00D504B5F075088 (probably a paywall)

Last line. Shouldn’t that be “to whomever…”? After all, “to” is a preposition, so we should use the objective case, right? Nope.

Here’s the rule:

  • Go from the inside to the outside.

What’s inside the prepositional phrase? A noun clause! And “who” (well, “whoever”) is the subject of “needed,” so it gets the nominative case!

So there you have it. Sometimes you can say “to who.”

A Dieresis I Don’t Often See

A dieresis is two dots above the second of a pair of vowels to show that you pronounce each vowel; it’s not a diphthong. Perhaps the most common example is in the word coöperative, or maybe naïve.

Here’s another, from the New Yorker, of course:

Last summer, a coalition of environmental groups around the country sent T.N.C. a letter asking it to reëvaluate support for promoting forestry as a “natural climate solution” and, in particular, to come out against burning trees to produce electricity—the so-called biomass energy that scientists now understand to be a major climate threat and that sociologists know to be a prime example of environmental racism.


Usually people use a hyphen because they don’t know how to make a dieresis. Hence, re-evaluate and co-operative. That’s okay.

here’s a picture of the ASCII codes for the dieresis:

An Infrequently-used Punctuation Mark
Hold down the Alt key while you type the appropriate code on the numeric keypad. Then release the Alt key.

Two Technical Terms in Poetry

You know the difference, right?

  • Rhyme means they end with the same sound
  • Alliteration is when they begin with the same sound.

I Agree, I Think, Especially about the last complaint

Here’s the comic:


That kid knows grammar! Elision is when you leave something out that should really be there, usually.

  • In the first panel he left off the subject, “I,” though the cartoonist doesn’t mention that elision.
  • In the second panel, he could also have said “take it along,” but she has a point, I guess.
  • In the last panel, I agree with her strongly. Should be “to be toasted.”

An Unused Plural

At least I’ve never heard the singular…


A commenter brought up the seme question for linguini, tortellini, and rotini.

Any Italians (or maybe chefs) out there who know the plurals of these?