chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Just look at those words! Aren't they wonderful? And as readers who consume a wide variety of literature, we recognize them, don't we? Of course we do!

A more difficult question is "Do we know exactly what they mean?" For my part, I'm not ashamed to say "not exactly, no."

These sorts of words are what author Seth Stevenson calls "bubble vocabulary." In his 2014 Slate article Shibboleth. Casuistry. Recondite., he takes a look at these words at the very edges of our vocabularies and suggests some strategies for attempting to employ them.

Wrestling with bubbles …  )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Anticipation, sang Carly Simon: It's keeping me waiting.

Today's Say What? features a pair of sayings that go well with Simon's famous song. We'll explore them with the help of Gansey III's crew from Maggie Stiefvater's Young Adult series, the Raven Cycle.

We can't wait! )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Today's set of easily confused words is as mellifluous as it is puzzling. We'll try to clarify the situation with the help of the Knight of Lost Words, October ("Toby") Daye, and her friends.

All right, let's go! )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

In today's column, we'll examine a trio of easily confused and closely related words, with the help of the cast of C.J. Cherryh's science fiction novel Merchanter's Luck.

Let's go! )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Last year, Guardian opinion desk editor David Shariatmadari, who often writes about language and communication, considered some of the ways that pronunciation of the English language has changed with time. His article examined eight specific types of changes, some of which are quite recent. I already knew about some of these shifts— for example, that "adder" and "apron" used to start with "n" (nadder and napron)—but others were new to me. In general, I enjoyed the article.

Learn more about Shariatmadari's discussion … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Sometimes languages just don't make sense, do they? Why, for instance, is "backyard" sometimes correct in English, but not always? And why is "frontyard" never correct? Let's take a look at these and similar constructions and see what conclusions we draw.

With the help of the cast of the children's fantasy classics Half Magic and Magic by the Lake, both by Edward Eager … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Even though rain is necessary for life, the fact that raindrops look like teardrops, along with the darkened skies that rain brings with it during the day, make rain an allusion to sorrow or bad luck in many cultures. Let's take a closer look at a couple of familiar sayings about the rain that are really comments about misfortune.

With the help of the cast of the manga and anime series Black Lagoon … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

[livejournal.com profile] badtzphoto was wondering whether run-on sentences are allowed in dialogue. To answer this, we'll first take a closer look at the nature of run-on sentences and then explore what happens when one is used in dialog.

With help from the cast of the classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

"Money makes the world go around," sang the nightclub performers in the musical "Cabaret." This may or may not be true, but there are a certainly a number of wise old sayings about money. We'll take a look at a rather contradictory pair of them in today's column.

With the help of the cast of the manga series Saiyuki … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Before Track Changes or other electronic methods for indicating problems in an article or story came to be, there were proofreader's marks.

Featuring material from the historical novel Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

This past January, over at Vulture (which is an online arm of New York Magazine), columnist Kathryn Schulz compiled a list of The 5 Best Punctuation Marks in Literature. I'm partial to punctuation myself, especially the semicolon, so I was curious about which marks Schulz favored. It turns out that her list wasn't exactly what I had imagined.

What, then, did she mean? )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

An anonymous reader had a question for us about the use of the term "the living" and whether it takes a singular or plural form of the verb. Let's take a look!

Featuring the cast of the Harry Potter series … )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

The law and legal matters loom large in the minds of many. Today we'll take a closer look at a pair of expressions that have their genesis in the courtroom.

Featuring the cast of the manga 'What Did You Eat Yesterday?' by Fumi Yoshinaga… )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Let's explore a curious quirk shared by a very few English verbs. They're all a bit irregular, and they all have to do with putting things or people into position.

With the help of the cast of the CLAMP manga series xxxHoLic ... )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

An anonymous requestor asked us, "Should nouns following a number other than 'one/1' be plural? What about 'no' or 'zero' —should the noun be in plural form? Is there any case when a noun following 'no' or 'zero' stays singular?"

With the help of the cast of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series ... )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

All around the world, traditional proverbs contain a veritable menagerie of animals. Today we'll take a closer look at two sayings that each feature one of our most common household companion animals.

With the help of the cast of Terry Pratchett's Discworld ... )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Reader [livejournal.com profile] garonne asked us "What are the rules for archaic declension and conjugation? (thou, art, etc.)" Although we can't present all the details of Early Modern English in the scope of a Fandom Grammar article, we'll take look at some of the most characteristic features of this romantic-sounding ancestor of the language that we use here today.

With the help of the cast of the classic fairy tale 'Snow White' ... )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

It's a new year, so this is a good time to discuss these two wise sayings about how our time on earth can be perceived. We'll take a closer look with the help of Neil Gaiman's Sandman and his siblings and employees.

Don't worry, this will only take a couple of minutes of your time .. )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Let's take a closer look at these two classic "saws." What exactly do they mean?

With help from the cast of Terry Pratchett's Discworld )
chomiji: Tenpou from Saiyuki Gaiden. with the caption Not necessarily by the book (Tenpou - Not by the book)
[personal profile] chomiji

Let's take a closer look at two words that have a strikingly similar appearance but very different meanings: violation and volition.

With help from the cast of Star Trek (the Original Series) )

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