Do not heap up empty phrases.
- as a matter of fact
- at any rate
- for all intents and purposes
- in a manner of speaking
- in a very real sense
- in my (personal) opinion
- needless to say and it goes without saying
- the point I am trying to make
- what I mean to say is that
- uh, like . . . you know?
More About Clutter and Claptrap:
This year, for the first time since the event was established in 2008, I didn't celebrate National Grammar Day on this website. Like a true-born Irishman who refuses to guzzle green beer on St. Patrick's Day, I decided not to compete with ardent amateurs--or with grammar ranters like Mr. Wagner, who recently shot me this email:
You're a moron if you think ending sentences with prepositions is acceptable. People who end sentences with prepositions appear uneducated. Like yourself, (probably a stinking left-wing liberal) these buffoons probably think it's also acceptable to re-distribute wealth from those who write properly to those with English degrees.
I imagine that Mr. Wagner's analysis of preposition stranding
was incited by my article Is It Wrong to End a Sentence With a Preposition?
But what that has to do with the redistribution of wealth leaves me perplexed.
Fortunately, most visitors to this site are more thoughtful than Mr. Wagner. Though I don't always have time to reply to emails, I'm grateful for all the fresh examples of figures of speech, the clarifications from scholars I've foolishly misinterpreted, the original specimens of word play, the gentle corrections of typos, the news of forthcoming articles and books, the amusing examples of family slang, and the encouraging expressions of thanks from students and retirees alike.
So for the benefit of those readers, I've decided to mark the day after National Grammar Day with these celebratory posts from years past:
My thanks to everyone who visits About.com Grammar & Composition.
Blackboard: Kirk Fowler on name-calling, in Potty Training for Liberals: Realistic Solutions for Today's Problems (Tate, 2011)
You know the drill: ten questions, two minutes, correct answers at the end of the post. (For explanations, examples, and exercises, follow the links to our Glossary of Usage: Index of Commonly Confused Words.)
- Amend or Emend
Alberta plans to _____ one of its main privacy laws this fall to comply with a Supreme Court of Canada judgment that found the legislation unconstitutional.
(GlobalPost, January 29, 2014)
- Comprehensible or Comprehensive
The scene certainly fit the official slogan of these Games: Hot. Cool. Yours. The motto was about as _____ an advertising line as the sign that offered "honey with uterine milk" at a kiosk outside my hotel.
(The Boston Globe, February 23, 2014)
- Connotes or Denotes
The word principle _____ a moral rule or belief that helps one to know what is right and wrong.
(Zimbabwe Independent, February 21, 2014)
- Demur or Demure
Mayor Ed Murray regrettably chose to have his Income Inequality Advisory Committee meet in secret. If you ask what they've been talking about for the past two months, they _____, saying they've been sworn to secrecy.
(The Seattle Times, February 25, 2014)
- Precipitate or Precipitous
Even now Blackpool's decline remains _____, with the numbers of visitors to the town almost halving since 1992.
(Daily Mail [UK], February 28, 2014)
- Reeked, Wreaked, or Wrecked
Britain is to be hit by a fresh onslaught of gale force winds, heavy rain and snow as storms _____ havoc across the country, felling trees and power cables and causing further flooding.
(The Daily Telegraph [UK], February 14, 2014)
- Regime, Regimen, or Regiment
Texas Rangers first baseman Prince Fielder says he's gone from lifting weights to an MMA-style workout _____ that he believes has him in the best shape of his life.
(The Dallas Morning News, February 13, 2014)
- Shudder or Shutter
Across the Island, a growing number of districts are grappling with the question of whether to _____ schools amid shrinking enrollments and tighter budgets.
(Newsday, February 26, 2014)
- Tasteful or Tasty
Never substitute "trendy" for _____--or for durable. Good taste lasts forever, no matter what the latest style is.
(The Times [Shreveport, Louisiana], February 26, 2014)
- Whoever or Whomever
_____ said Canberra was boring obviously hasn't had a meal at Eightysix. (In fact, they probably haven't been to Canberra recently.)
(The Sydney Morning Herald [Australia], March 1, 2014)
More Quizzes on Commonly Confused Words:
It's time for our end-of-month roundup of language-related items in the news--from the linguistically profound to the lexically ridiculous.
- The Influence of Welsh on English
When English was taking shape, linguists now believe, its speakers continued to rely on patterns of grammar that made sense in their old language. The syntax of English is built on a partially Welsh base. . . . Read more
(Mark Abley, "Watchwords: Welsh Had Lasting Impact on English." The Gazette [Montreal], February 26, 2014)
- Digital Punctuation
Ending a sentence with ellipses . . . presents a friendlier alternative to the angry period. But it can convey a passive-aggressive or irritated tone that you may or may not intend. . . . Read more
(Sara Boboltz, "These Things You Do Every Day Have Changed the English Language as We Know It." The Huffington Post, February 20, 2014)
- 800,000 Words and Counting
If you thought you had a big vocabulary, think again. The average English-speaker knows between 25,000 and 40,000 words, Oxford English Dictionary Chief Editor Michael Proffitt told CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Thursday. His organization--which bills itself as the "definitive record of the English language"--has recorded 800,000 words and counting, he said. . . . Read more
(Mick Krever, "Thought You Had a Big Vocabulary? Think Again." CNN, January 30, 2014)
- Lil Wayne Lyrics Not Cool for School
A Florida teacher has been suspended for three days after assigning students Lil Wayne lyrics to analyze for homework. . . . [S]chool principal Wayne Owens said the assignment "did not meet school standards" and was a failed attempt to pick material that her pupils may be able to relate to: "The lesson was for students to learn to identify literary devices." . . . Read more
(Olivia B. Waxman, "Middle School Teacher Suspended for Assigning Lil Wayne Lyrics as Homework." Time, February 5, 2014)
- Borrowed Words
Although English is now borrowing from other languages with a worldwide range, the number of new borrowed words finding their way into the shared international vocabulary is on a long downward trend. One big reason for this is the success of English as an international language of science, scholarship, business, and many other fields. . . . Read more
(Philip Durkin, "Does English Still Borrow Words From Other Languages?" BBC News Magazine, February 3, 2014)
- The Enduring Influence of Good English Teachers
Great English teachers boost their students' achievements in math, a very different subject, according to Stanford researchers. The researchers found that students of good language arts teachers had higher than expected math scores in subsequent years--a crossover effect. . . . Read more
(Clifton B. Parker, "Stanford Research Shows Long-Run Benefit of English Instruction." Stanford News, February 24, 2014)
- An English-Only Workplace in the UK
Foreign workers employed by arts and craft chain Hobbycraft have been told to speak English or face the sack. . . . Staff were told the firm's policy was they should only use English during work hours and, if caught doing otherwise, they could be disciplined. . . . Read more
(Ben Endley, "Speak English or You're Fired!" Daily Mail [UK], February 14, 2014)
- On the Loss of a First Language
There came a time when I couldn't think of the synonyms of certain words in Gujarati, and even when I tried to speak in Gujarati, I could not communicate a few sentences in it without mixing them with English. My original medium of expression, so close to my heart, was going away from me. . . . Read more
(Kanan Dhru, "Killing Them Softly." The Huffington Post, February 3, 2014)
- Trilingual Confusion in Lebanon
[F]or Lebanese of all stripes, the lack of cohesion among what language to speak in Lebanon--and how uneven the literacy is among the three languages--has long been a source of confusion when opening a business or trying to launch a political campaign. For a large number of Beirutis, English is their mother-tongue and many are unable to read Arabic, while Arabic in the north and south is the only language for most and French is holding on strong in some mountain ranges. . . . Read more
(Maria Abi Habib, "Lebanon's Trilingual Confusion Underpins Identity Crisis." The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2014)
Back Issues of Language in the News: