Changing words by Susan Grimsdell

I know language changes and there’s no going back once words have either been lost or their meaning changed, but, in a no doubt forlorn bid to change things back to how they were, I want to focus attention on two changes that really bother me. Dying words First of all, I mourn the loss of a once-common word – “died”.  People don’t die any more.  They “pass away”.  They “pass”.   I just don’t understand where they’re supposed to have passed to, especially in New Zealand where only a small minority of… Read More

Angela’s ABCs: words often confused – appraise and apprise by Angela Caldin

I often hear these two words confused and though I wrote about them a few years ago, I’m doing a repeat explanation here. The problem seems to be that people will often use the verb to appraise when they mean to apprise. This rarely seems to happen the other way around, i.e., using apprise instead of appraise. It may be that this mistake occurs because some people are unaware that to apprise even exists – it’s a very formal sort of word. Appraise The verb to appraise means to assess or to evaluate. We inspect and appraise pre-owned vehicles before putting them on sale. Managers appraise… Read More

Broken English by Trevor Plumbly

Bad language I notice that newsreaders, once lauded for their command of the English language, are becoming increasingly fond of sloppy Americanisms and tabloid phrasing, to the extent that deee!fence, oh!ffence and other bastardisations are creeping into common usage. When I question this, I am informed by those anxious to gallop past the more demanding aspects of the English language, that this is the ‘modern way’ and thus, ‘evolving’. It also means, according to those same champions of tortured terminology, that I am something of a dinosaur. I’m not ‘well-schooled’ in the… Read More

Proverbs and idioms by Angela Caldin

A few weeks ago, I was pondering on the difference between an idiom and a cliché. I understood that the overall meaning of an idiom is different from the meaning of the individual words used, whereas a cliché is a phrase or expression which has been severely overused so as to become hackneyed and stale. In addition, I realised that many idioms, though by no means all, are also clichés This week I’m pondering on the difference between an idiom and a proverb and finding that, though the distinction is often clear,… Read More

When a comma means so much by Susan Grimsdell

My favourite news item of the year is the one about a comma.  It was all about overtime pay for truck drivers, pay dating back over four years.  Big money was at stake – as much as $10 million. Truck drivers and grammar I love it because I have to confess that I’m one of the “grammar police”: very picky about the way words are used and about things like syntax, apostrophes, and for sure – commas.  So when I heard that the humble comma, placement of, was the key to a… Read More