As Lewis Carroll's Alice observed, if you drink from a bottle marked "poison," it is almost certain to disagree with you sooner or later. But what about venom or a toxin? Today we'll take a look at these three terms and figure out what makes them different from one another.( With the help of the cast from Star Trek: The Original Series )
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 … )
( This won’t hurt—too much. Let’s get started, shall we? )
( More about those 25 commonly incorrect words... )
Since this comm is Fandom Grammar and no other, what else can I do but use fannish examples to illustrate my answer? This post’s examples come from the characters of The Professionals.
( More under the cut )
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 ... )
( And we'll cover them with help from the masters of survival from 'Resident Evil': )
“What is the difference between "Are you trying to make me laugh?" and "Don't make me laugh!"?
There is little difference between the two besides the fact that the former is in question form and the latter is in command form. Both express a level of disbelief and mockery that vary according to the context and tone of the person who speaks them.
( Let's check in with Sailor Moon and the other sailor soldiers for the answer: )
debirlfan asked us "What are the rules for American versus British usage for 'hospital' and 'surgery'?
It's true that British usage on these common medical terms differs from what's encountered in the United States. We'll take a closer look at how these words work.( With help from the cast of Bleach )
todeskun asked us, "When do you use 'fit' versus 'fitted'? As in, 'it fit him to a T' or 'it fitted him to a T'?"
It turns out that which one you use depends on which side of the Atlantic you live. Let's take a closer look.( We'll be assisted by the cast of Batman ... )
midnitemaraud_r asked us, "Does forward/forwards work the same way as toward/towards?"
Let's take a look, with help from the cast of the movie The Princess Bride.( In fact, it's not inconceivable that someone could be confused by this ... )
With examples from Once Upon a Time
( So what exactly is the difference between 'gold' and 'golden'? )
sosaith asks, "When someone is dead or something doesn't exist anymore, should you ever use the present tense to describe them?"
The answer is "it depends." Let's get down to the particulars with the cast of Rosemary Sutcliff's YA historical novel The Eagle of the Ninth - or, if you prefer, the cast of "The Eagle" (2011). ( Dead and/or gone - but not forgotten! )
campylobacter has a question about the difference between snugly and snuggly. Let's take a closer look at these close cousins with help from our immortal friends from Good Omens, Aziraphale and Crowley.( On with the word geekery! )
The answer is, well, either--and it will take a little more exploration to determine which to use. ( with examples from Alias and James Bond )
Is there, in fact, a distinct rule that applies to this situation? Or does it depend entirely on mood, which can change from one moment to the next?
( Let's find out, with examples from Discworld... )
With examples from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and usage guidelines from Garner’s Modern American Usage.
( Why yes, it does change in British fandoms. )