Dr. House's clinical metaphors, Tony Soprano's menacing proverbs, Homer Simpson's outrageous figures of speech. Along with eponyms and euphemisms, family slang and mondegreens, these are just some of the odd, amusing and provocative topics covered on the lighter side of language at About.com Grammar & Composition.
The poet Walt Whitman described the English language as the "grandest triumph of the human intellect." But now and then the language seems to run amuck (our favorite loan word from Malay, by the way). Or maybe it's the language users who run amuck (also spelled "amok"). In any case, we've kept a record of those linguistic encounters that have left us smacking our foreheads--in amazement, vexation, or unabashed delight.
Here, culled from the hundreds of articles at Grammar & Composition, are 25 of those head-smacking moments. So please join us on a tour of the lighter side of language. (And to keep up with these eccentric events, register for the free Grammar & Composition Newsletter.)
Pop Goes the Culture
Monty Python, Figuratively Speaking
The anarchic members of Britain's favorite comedy troupe have revitalized countless figures of speech over the past 40-odd years.
Homer Simpson's Figures of Speech
Though Homer's rhetorical turns sometimes take odd detours, he's undeniably Springfield's master rhetorician. Woo-hoo!
Language Lessons From The Simpsons
Can wisecracks from the likes of Sideshow Bob, Krusty the Clown, and Linguo the Grammar Robot endure alongside passages from Shakespeare, Twain, and Churchill? Probably not. But for your momentary edification and amusement, here are some brief language lessons from The Simpsons.
Humaphors: The Top 10 Metaphors of Stephen Colbert
As you'll see, comedian Stephen Colbert knows a thing or two about drawing surprising comparisons and uncovering concealed relationships.
The Story Behind the Spell-Checker Poem
Meet Mr. Mark Eckman, originator of that well-traveled spell-checker poem, "Candidate for a Pullet Surprise."
House Calls: The Metaphors of Dr. Gregory House
Before you can ask if there's a metaphor in the house, Dr. House will oblige.
The Rhetoric of Tony Soprano and Uncle Junior
We may have said "ciao ciao" to The Sopranos, but let's never forget our favorite crime family's gifts to the ancient field of rhetoric.
Puns, Peeves, Plurals, and Mixed Metaphors
Store Name Puns: 200 Punny Shop Names
A liquor store named Boo's, a clothing shop named Knit Wit, and a portable-toilet rental service in Chicago named (get ready) Oui Oui Enterprises.
Ghost Poop, Woozies, and Foochacha: Family Slang
What do you think is the proper term for the tube of cardboard inside a roll of toilet paper: daw-daw, taw taw, doot-do, der der, hoo-hoo, or to-do to-do?
Grammar Crackers: Jokes, Riddles, and Word Play From the Lighter Side of English
Gather the children and suspend your long-preserved maturity: you're about to visit the lighter side of the English language.
200 Words and Expressions That Tick You Off
When invited to submit expressions that ticked them off, readers responded enthusiastically--with usage errors, redundancies, misspellings, mispronunciations, and specimens of slang, jargon, and textspeak.
The Lighter Side of English Plurals
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
Metaphorical Overkill and Other Disfigured Figures of Speech
Are you ready to step up to the plate and fish or cut bait?
There Must Be a Word for It
M&M's and Other Eponyms
If you look up "eponym" in Webster, you'll find that using "Webster" as a synonym for dictionary is a perfectly eponymous thing to do.
Fifty Reasons You'll Never Be Told, "You're Fired"
Apparently those day-long seminars in workplace sensitivity have paid off: "firing" is now as outdated as a defined-benefit pension plan.
The Language of Baseball
Any jelly bean with a pole can cork a meatball out of hard cheese.
Merriam-Webster Welcomes the Mondegreen
From "Barney's the king of Israel" to "Doughnuts make your brown eyes blue."
There's a Name for It: Twenty Weird, Witty, and Wonderful Language-Related Terms
Even diehard language lovers may be surprised by some of the curious linguistic items we've collected, from eggcorns and verbal hedges to whimperatives and the bathtub effect.
There's Another Name for It: More Witty and Wonderful Language-Related Terms
Another collection of highly unusual terms, including playful words like squish and gadzookery alongside such obscurities as iterative, antonomasia, and matrix.
What Is a SNOOT?
After reading this article, decide if you are a SNOOT: one of "the Few, the Proud, the More or Less Constantly Appalled at Everyone Else."
The Long Campaign to Abolish the Apostrophe
Are you ready to eliminate this much-abused mark of punctuation?
Punctuation Matters: A "Dear John" Letter and a Two Million Dollar Comma
Here are two cautionary tales that demonstrate just how correct punctuation can make a big difference.
Please Don't "Quote" Me
On the widespread abuse of quotation marks: wayward quotes, leering quotes, sneering quotes, and (ugh) snotty quotes.
Stock Up Now: Periods in Short Supply
Back up your Word documents, assign a password to your dictionary, and lock down your Times Roman font: according to Steve Martin, we're running out of periods.
Waffle, Claptrap, Bafflegab, and Poppycock
George Carlin's Essential Drivel
"Good, funny, occasionally smart, but essentially drivel"--that's how comedian George Carlin described his own writing.
Top 10 Worst Student Essay Topics
Open-ended essay assignments can lead to some fine writing. But sometimes the strategy backfires--as demonstrated by this unofficial and highly improbable list of the 10 worst student essay topics of all time.
The Myles na Gopaleen Catechism of Cliché
Brian O'Nolan's "unique compendium of all that is nauseating in contemporary writing."