Grammar Lesson of the Day: And

From First Thoughts

“Never begin a sentence with  and, ” my college freshmen have been told. This is another one of those rules that somebody must have dreamed up in a rage of vengeance: a schoolmaster named Ichabod, disappointed in love, glowering down on his young charges, and thinking, “Yes, I . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: what

From First Thoughts

I like how hillbillies pronounce this relative pronoun:  hwut. It’s truest to the spelling and the history of the word. Wally Cleaver pronounced it that way, too. He said  hwen  and  hwere  and  hwy? A well-brought-up lad he was. The monks who introduced the Roman . . . . Continue Reading »

Grammar Lesson of the Day: But

From First Thoughts

“Never begin a sentence with  but. ” So my college freshmen tell me. They also tell me that people in the Middle Ages thought the earth was flat (everybody knew it was round), that women in the Middle Ages were no better than cattle (they had more freedom than they would enjoy until . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: wax

From First Thoughts

The verb  wax,  meaning  to grow,  has only a few surviving uses in English. The moon  waxes  and wanes. And people  wax  . . . some adjective, usually describing their gestures or their speech. Note: adjective, not adverb. It’s often misused. If John is . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: fruit

From First Thoughts

There’s a new Bible translation that drives me nuts: “And he sent his servants to them, to gather the  produce  of the land.” How did that boring business-word get in there? The Greek was  karpous, fruits,  literally  things you pluck off a tree. The . . . . Continue Reading »

Word of the Day: dust

From First Thoughts

“Dust you are, and unto dust you shall return,” said the Lord God to Adam after the first sin. It’s a fine translation of the Hebrew, that  dust ; it suggests transience and insubstantiality. By the nineteenth century, in Britain at least, the word came to denote . . . . Continue Reading »