Power and corruption by Angela Caldin

‘Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ Famous words from 19th Century historian and politician Lord Acton to Bishop Creighton. He also said, ‘I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favourable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as power increases.’ I was thinking about these wise words in the wake of the revelations this week in the Pandora Papers which show how the love… Read More

Dangling modifiers by Angela Caldin

Most people know a modifier when they see one. A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that clarifies or describes another word, phrase, or clause. But do they know a dangling modifier when they see one? I like the term dangling modifier because it is so evocative and so unlike any other grammatical term. I imagine someone hanging off a cliff or escaping by clinging on to a window sill. With a dangling modifier, the thing it is meant to modify isn’t even in the sentence, so it seems to modify… Read More

The abstruse apostrophe by Angela Caldin

I’ve been pondering this week on apostrophes. What a sad life she must lead, I hear you sigh. But actually this particular case is quite interesting. It concerns the question of whether there should be an apostrophe after a plural adjectival or attributive noun. Specifically, I was writing up the notes of our recent residents meeting and wondering if there should be an apostrophe after residents or not. I looked it up and it seems that in this case, either would be acceptable: Residents’ meeting – the word residents’ is a possessor. The phrase could be rewritten… Read More

Common expressions often misspelt by Angela Caldin

It’s not baited breath; it’s bated breath. It’s not that your breath has some kind of bait attached to it; the idea is that your breath is held or restrained. Bated is a shortened version of abated which means to lessen. It’s not free reign; it’s free rein. This is a straightforward misinterpretation and an understandable mistake. We have a notion of reigning kings and queens doing as they please, that is, having free reign. But the rein in this expression is the strap used by a rider to control a horse…. Read More

Words sometimes confused – climatic and climactic by Angela Caldin

One letter makes a big difference Climatic is an adjective which means relating to climate and climate refers to the average atmospheric conditions that prevail in a given region making it generally cold and wet or hot and dry, for example. There is still some scepticism about the claim that our carbon footprints are on course to lead to climatic extremes. The climatic conditions led to the heaviest rainfall for many years which caused extensive flooding. Drought and famine in some African countries can be attributed in part to climatic changes. Climactic… Read More