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Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

Tiny Stories of the English Language

Many of the words used in today's English language can be traced back to French, Greek, Latin, German, Spanish, and many other languages. Each word has its own genetic makeup that is specifically unique to that one word.These tiny stories are known as Etymology, the study of the origins of words. Below are four words that have interesting stories.

Jumbo

The word Jumbo means extremely large. The word began its call to fame with Jumbo the elephant. In 1882, Jumbo was the world's most famous elephant. Full grown, Jumbo stood twelve and a half feet tall and weighed seven tons. He was the biggest elephant the world had ever seen. On any given day he could eat a barrel of potatoes, 200 pounds of hay, half a barrel of oats, 15 bread loaves, and the occasional whiskey drink. Jumbo became much more a name, it became a word used to describe anything abnormally large like Jumbo the elephant.

Marathon

The word marathon makes its first appearance on the beach of Marathon. In 490 BC, a Persian army decided to be the first to conquer Athens. So they planned to land on the beach of Marathon, kill the entire Athens army, then swing around to the south side and loot the city. It should have been an easy victory, 25,000 Persians against 10,000 Athens. The Athens, realizing that they were completely outnumbered, begged for help from Sparta. Athens sent a military messenger, Pheidippides, to seek help. He ran 140 miles to Sparta, but Sparta refused to send help because they were in the middle of a religious holiday. So Pheidippides ran back.

When Pheidippides returned, Athens decided to just charge into battle. The Persians were completely caught by surprise and suffered massive losses that ended in a retreat.However, they were determined to sack Athens before they fled. On ships, the Persians would have taken 8 hours to reach Athens. Pheidippides sprinted the 26.2 miles all the way to Athens to warn of the oncoming army. On completing his mission, Pheidippides promptly died.

The Athens army had jogged behind Pheidippides to defend their city, battle-weary and exhausted. The Persians arrived and saw the tired troops of Athens waiting for them. They came to the conclusion that these Greeks were either demigods or supernatural beings, and decided they did not want to risk angering the gods. Hence the story behind the word marathon.

Clue

In Greek times, clue was actually spelled as clew and had a completely different meaning. Clew came from the Greek language meaning a ball of yarn. The meaning changed as it was adopted by the English language based on the Greek story of an evil king named Minos and his son, the Minotaur. Minos had built a labyrinth, and every seven years he required a sacrifice of 14 young men and women to be thrown into the labyrinth. No one ever returned from the labyrinth. Then one year a demigod named Theseus decided enough was enough, he was going to kill the Minotaur. Along the way. Minos' daughter fell heels over head in love with him and gave him a clew so that he could find his way out of the labyrinth. Theseus slew the Minotaur and used the clew to escape the depths of the labyrinth. The clew became known as the ball of yarn that points the way, a rough definition of the word clue.

Cell

The smallest building block of any organism is a cell. A scientist by the name of Robert Hooke was very curious about microscopes and designed better microscopes that allowed the viewer to view objects with a magnitude of 50x. He became the first person, in 1665, to actually see a cell. He thought they looked much like cells in prison and named them such. The name has stuck ever since.


Talk Like a Pirate Day Cryptic

Illegal activity, in the main (6)

Answer: PIRACY


Cure Your Ellipsis Addiction

The use of ellipses runs rampant throughout the English language, but never more so than online. You'll notice those three little dots at the end of social media posts, disbursed through blog posts, in professional articles, and dotted (excuse the pun) throughout the written world. But what are they really meant to do?

What Is an Ellipsis?

In appearance, an ellipsis is three dots (…). If you're writing professionally, the style guideline you're using may call for a space between each period or no spaces. There is always a space after the ellipsis.

These marks are traditionally used to indicate missing text. If you were quoting a source, you might use an ellipsis to eliminate unnecessary prose from a longer quote. This can help you pinpoint the idea so that your readers don't get lost.

When you use ellipses to eliminate text, it’s imperative that you don’t change the meaning of the quote by your omission. When implemented correctly, the ellipsis is only meant to help with clarity in this case.

Other Uses of the Ellipsis

The use of ellipses has evolved over time. While an ellipsis can indicated missing text, it can also mean different inflections in speech and even a trailing off of thought from the speaker. These style choices are often made in fiction and personal essay. You can find them in regular use with more informal writing, such as web content and blog posts.

But are you using it correctly? The rules here have relaxed quite a bit. Many people use ellipses at the end of social media posts. This style choice implies a trailing off of thoughts or an open idea. They are also used as a pause in conversation.

Most style guidelines note that ellipses can correctly be used to indicate a pause in speech. This is a grammatically correct way to use the punctuation. However, it’s recommended that you use it sparingly. Overuse can annoy the reader, which is counterproductive no matter what message you’re trying to communicate.


Towel Day Cryptic

Each lot scoured after end of repast - towel required (3,5)

Answer: TEACLOTH


Four of the Most Unexpected Crafters of the English Language

One can be forgiven for assuming that English was crafted in a lab. The stereotypical English teacher, pacing yardstick-in-hand in front of the chalkboard, readjusting glasses on the bridge of their nose ("Actually, it's 'whom,' not 'who'") can certainly give off the air of a backroom chemist, insisting on the rules of our grammar like they're immutable laws of the universe. So rigidly are its rules honored, it can seem that the English language was carefully and intentionally crafted in a controlled environment by academics and professionals. It's one reason why foreigners consider it so difficult to learn. So, it's often a shock when one studies the history of English and realizes that our language as it today exists is the result of rule-breaking and arbitrary creative thinking on the part of individual outsiders and inimitable characters. Here are some:

Samuel Johnson

By all accounts, there was nothing charming in the physical appearance or presentation of 18th-century English man of letters Samuel Johnson. Posthumously diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, gout, depression, and a host of other physical, neurological, and psychic disorders, Johnson was often mistaken for a disturbed vagrant or, as his biographer puts it, "an ideot [sic]," for his legion physical tics and grimaces. He attended university for only one year. Still, Johnson's influence on English is undeniable. His impact is maybe most realized in his production of "A Dictionary of the English Language," an endeavor which took him seven years to complete. It was a project which he undertook alone, and though not the first of its kind, it was universally accepted as the most significant until the production of the Oxford English Dictionary 150 years later. Before Johnson's dictionary, English's rules of grammar and vocabulary were far more regionally dependent. Johnson's dictionary became the universally accepted authority not through careful study of the history or origin of words, but by their most common everyday use. How did a word appear in conversation? In poetry and literature? Johnson's loyalty to common use of a word over its history effects how we use our language even today.

William Shakespeare

The Bard needs no introduction. His words have been translated into nearly every modern language, and his dramatic works are performed on every inhabited continent. His themes are universal and timeless. His genius with the written word has earned him the near-universal distinction of greatest writer that the English language ever produced. Lesser-known, perhaps, is that Shakespeare was not only a shaper of language, but also a creator. According to Shakespeare Online, The Bard invented about 1,700 words that are today part of our vernacular: bedroom, rant, advertising, birthplace -- words that it is impossible not to use. Born in a market town a hundred miles out of London, educated in a second-rate grammar school and beginning his career in theater as the stable boy, it is hard to imagine a more remote beginning for someone who would rise to heights so influential on how we today speak daily.

Joseph Conrad

As we've learned in the case of Shakespeare, a language responds to how it is styled by its artists. Literature was, for centuries and millennia, the fastest way to change how language was used in everyday circles on a massive scale. It's here where we can see the influence of Joseph Conrad, a 19th-century novelist whose treatment of the English language has influenced nearly every major writer since, from Hunter S. Thompson to Salman Rushdie. Even filmmakers have followed his lead: Francis Ford Coppola's film Apocalypse Now is based on one of his novels. Here's the catch: Joseph Conrad did not learn English until he was in his twenties. Born Jozef Korzeniowski in the Russian Empire, his native languages were Polish and French. Despite this, he decided that his late third language would be the best medium for his literary stylings, and he brought with him a foreign temperament which has been present in our literature ever since.

King Henry VIII

Famous multiple-divorcé, first Supreme Head of the Church of England -- mover and shaper of the English language? A great historical challenger to Samuel Johnson's later title as first standardizer of spoken English is Henry VIII. In 1542, Henry standardized the use of a single Latin Grammar textbook, Rudimenta Grammatices, in all schools across the country. It would remain the standard, with some revisions, for 300 years after. To show the expanse of this book's influence: Shakespeare referred to it in two of his plays. And art was not the only place where this book appeared. In 1586, the first academic work on English grammar appeared, entitled Pamphlet for Grammar, and its content was written directly to imitate the Latin grammar in Rudimenta Grammatices. Had Henry selected a different textbook for use in schools, the grammar of our language in the decades following and even today would be drastically different.


Easter Cryptic

Nearest broadcast is from China? (7)

Answer: EASTERN


Very Useful Alternatives To Very

The word "very" is to be avoided as much as humanly possible, except in dialog. It's vague and lazy, and almost always better replaced with something more evocative. Here are some suggested replacements for you to use in your writing!

A

  • Very accurate: precise, exact, unimpeachable, perfect, flawless, correct
  • Very aggressive: forceful, overconfident, insistent, hardline
  • Very amazed: astounded, flabbergasted, astonished, shocked
  • Very angry: furious, irate, enraged, incensed, fuming, livid
  • Very anxious: dismayed, apprehensive, restless, fretful
  • Very aware: conscious, savvy, apprised, mindful, cognizant

B

  • Very basic: rudimentary, primary, fundamental, simple
  • Very beautiful: gorgeous, stunning, exquisite, magnificent
  • Very big: colossal, enormous, gigantic, gargantuan, massive, vast, immense, sizeable, important, urgent, weighty, powerful, prominent, difficult, complicated, adult, grown up, generous, inflated, great
  • Very bloody: gory, brutal, barbarous, savage, murderous
  • Very bony: skeletal, angular, spindly, gaunt, emaciated
  • Very boring: tedious, dreary, uninteresting, mind-numbing
  • Very bright: brilliant, dazzling, radiant, blinding, intense

C

  • Very capable: efficient, competent, adept, proficient, skillful
  • Very careful: meticulous, fastidious, precise, scrupulous
  • Very caring: compassionate, kind, attentive, sympathetic
  • Very civil: polite, courteous, respectful, cultured, mannerly
  • Very clean: spotless, immaculate, stainless, shining, hygienic
  • Very clear: transparent, sheer, translucent, glassy, crystal
  • Very clever: astute, brilliant, shrewd, ingenious, crafty, sharp
  • Very cold: freezing, icy, frozen, frigid, bitter, glacial, frosty, polar
  • Very colorful: vibrant, vivid, kaleidoscopic, variegated, vivid
  • Very competitive: ambitious, driven, cutthroat, bloodthirsty
  • Very concerned: worried, troubled, upset, distressed, agitated
  • Very confident: poised, cool, self-assured, self-reliant, secure
  • Very confused: baffled, befuddled, mystified, clueless, dazed
  • Very conscious: deliberate, intentional, premeditated, willful
  • Very consistent: constant, unfailing, uniform, harmonious, same
  • Very contrary: belligerent, argumentative, confrontational
  • Very conventional: conservative, common, predictable, unoriginal, traditional
  • Very corrupt: fraudulent, crooked, unethical, dishonest, rotten
  • Very creamy: velvety, buttery, rich, smooth, milky, greasy
  • Very creepy: unnerving, skin-crawling, spooky, sinister, weird
  • Very critical: vital, crucial, essential, indispensable, integral
  • Very crunchy: crispy, brittle, crackling, gravelly, crusty, gritty
  • Very curious: inquisitive, nosy, prying, snoopy, quizzical
  • Very cute: adorable, endearing, delightful, pretty, charming, lovable, lovely, attractive

D

  • Very dangerous: perilous, precarious, unsafe, treacherous, dicey
  • Very dark: black, inky, ebony, sooty, lightless, starless, unlit
  • Very decent: civilized, upright, courteous, respectable, noble
  • Very deep: abysmal, bottomless, cavernous, yawning, vast
  • Very deformed: twisted, contorted, misshapen, mutilated
  • Very delicate: subtle, slight, fragile, frail, flimsy, insubstantial
  • Very desperate: frantic, fraught, grave, serious, hopeless, dire
  • Very determined: resolute, adamant, obstinate, tenacious, dogged
  • Very different: unusual, distinctive, atypical, dissimilar, unlike
  • Very difficult: complicated, complex, demanding, arduous
  • Very dirty: filthy, foul, grimy, polluted, squalid, dilapidated
  • Very disagreeable: contrary, obnoxious, offensive, repugnant, rude
  • Very dismal: miserable, cheerless, depressing, morbid
  • Very distinct: clear, definite, patent, evident, apparent
  • Very dramatic: theatrical, histrionic, melodramatic, vivid
  • Very dry: arid, parched, sere, dehydrated, withered
  • Very dubious: suspicious, skeptical, cynical, unconvinced

E

  • Very eager: impatient, ardent, fervent, keen, earnest
  • Very easy: effortless, uncomplicated, unchallenging, simple
  • Very educational: enlightening, edifying, informative, revealing
  • Very efficient: competent, proficient, resourceful, able
  • Very embarrassed: mortified, humiliated, discomfited, ashamed
  • Very emotional: demonstrative, sensitive, temperamental
  • Very enthusiastic: zealous, eager, fervent, vehement, ebullient
  • Very exciting: exhilarating, electrifying, thrilling, breathtaking
  • Very expensive: costly, exorbitant, overpriced, extravagant

F

  • Very fair: equitable, impartial, neutral, nonpartisan
  • Very faithful: loyal, devoted, staunch, unwavering, stalwart
  • Very familiar: common, established, typical, traditional
  • Very famous: renowned, eminent, legendary, celebrated
  • Very far: distant, remote, isolated, secluded, extrasolar
  • Very fast: rapid, speedy, swift, rapid, swift, fleet, blistering, supersonic
  • Very fat: obese, corpulent, overweight, plump
  • Very fertile: prolific, productive, fruitful, rich, lush, fecund
  • Very few: meager, scarce, scant, limited, negligible
  • Very fierce: vicious, ferocious, savage, keen, intense, feral
  • Very firm: solid, hard, rigid, set, frozen, unyielding
  • Very fizzy: effervescent, frothy, foamy, sudsy
  • Very fluffy: downy, fuzzy, fleecy, feathery, cottony
  • Very fond: devoted, attentive, enamored, doting
  • Very fragile: tenuous, unstable, precarious, frail, delicate
  • Very friendly: gregarious, outgoing, chummy, demonstrative
  • Very frustrating: exasperating, infuriating, disheartening, vexing
  • Very full: overflowing, bursting, crammed, packed, sated
  • Very funny: hilarious, hysterical, sidesplitting, rollicking

G

  • Very good: superb, superior, excellent, outstanding
  • Very graceful: flowing, supple, lithe, willowy, lissome
  • Very greedy: gluttonous, avaricious, materialistic, insatiable

H

  • Very hairy: hirsute, shaggy, furry, bushy, unshaven
  • Very happy: ecstatic, overjoyed, euphoric, blissful, elated
  • Very hard to find: rare, hidden
  • Very hard: difficult, solid, tough, dense, involved, puzzling, exhausting, harsh, strict, stubborn
  • Very healthy: hale, hardy, flourishing, fit, robust, vigorous
  • Very heavy: leaden, ponderous, weighty, dense, hefty
  • Very helpful: supportive, obliging, accommodating, invaluable
  • Very high: soaring, towering, steep, lofty, elevated, extreme, acute, great, strong. violent, significant
  • Very honest: candid, sincere, authentic, forthright, frank
  • Very hot: burning, scalding, blistering, scorching, searing
  • Very huge: colossal, enormous, gigantic, gargantuan, massive, vast, immense, sizeable, important, urgent, weighty, powerful, prominent, difficult, complicated, adult, grown up, generous, inflated, great
  • Very hungry: starving, famished, ravenous, hollow, voracious
  • Very hurt: battered, injured, harmed, wounded, upset, distressed, saddened, suffering, woeful, troubled, pained, offended

I

  • Very ill: infirm, bedridden, frail, terminal, incurable
  • Very immature: childish, infantile, naive, jejune, callow, green
  • Very immoral: depraved, decadent, debauched, iniquitous
  • Very important: crucial, vital, essential, paramount, imperative
  • Very impressive: extraordinary, remarkable, awe-inspiring
  • Very inebriated: intoxicated, drunk, soused, smashed, plastered
  • Very informal: casual, unceremonious, easygoing, simple
  • Very intelligent: brainy, clever, bright, gifted, intellectual, astute
  • Very intense: severe, extreme, fierce, overpowering, acute
  • Very interesting: fascinating, remarkable, riveting, compelling

J

  • Very jealous: envious, resentful, grudging, green, bitter
  • Very juicy: succulent, moist, ripe, luscious, fleshy, syrupy

L

  • Very large: colossal, enormous, gigantic, gargantuan, massive, vast, immense, sizeable, weighty, inflated, considerable, substantial, abundant, serious, huge, humongous, mammoth
  • Very lavish: excessive, opulent, posh, luxurious, sumptuous
  • Very lazy: indolent, idle, slack, workshy, passive
  • Very light: buoyant, insubstantial, weightless, airy, ethereal
  • Very likely: expected, imminent, probable, unavoidable
  • Very little: tiny, minute, slight, petite, miniature, teeny, initmate, close, young, immature, juvenile, minor, trivial, petty, foolish, stupid, meagre, scant, limited, insufficient, sparse, compact, short, miniscule, microscopic, wee
  • Very lively: energetic, vivacious, exuberant, spirited
  • Very logical: rational, cogent, credible, consistent, sound
  • Very lonely: isolated, deserted, forlorn, solitary, abandoned
  • Very long: extended, extensive, interminable, protracted
  • Very loose: slack, hanging, relaxed, baggy, wobbly, unsecured, movable, promiscuous, wanton, debauched, immoral, vague, random
  • Very loud: thunderous, cacophonous, booming, deafening, rowdy, ear splitting, garish, flashy, ostentatious, vulgar, boisterous
  • Very loved: adored, precious, cherished, revered, beloved
  • Very lucky: charmed, blessed, favored, fortunate, fluky

M

  • Very mean: cruel, miserly, stingy, tight fisted, spiteful, unfriendly, churlish, malicious, sour, excellent, outstanding, masterly, exceptional
  • Very messy: slovenly, disorganized, grubby, dirty, shambolic, chaotic, dishevelled, rumpled, unkempt, confusing
  • Very moody: morose, temperamental, unstable, changeable
  • Very much so: of course, okay, yes, absolutely, precisely
  • Very much: plenty, oceans, heaps, scads, oodles, loads
  • Very musical: melodic, melodious, harmonious, dulcet

N

  • Very near: handy, close-by, alongside, convenient, nearby
  • Very neat: immaculate, orderly, well-kept, methodical, superb
  • Very necessary: essential, compulsory, requisite, mandatory, inevitable, inescapable, certain
  • Very negative: pessimistic, defeatist, cynical, critical, fatalistic
  • Very nervous: apprehensive, anxious, edgy, tense, uptight, flustered, worried
  • Very new: novel, innovative, fresh, original, cutting-edge
  • Very nice: kind, pleasant, delightful, agreable, charming, enjoyable, obliging, friendly, amiable, polite, couteous
  • Very noisy: deafening, thunderous, booming, blaring, cacophonous, rowdy, ear splitting, boisterous
  • Very numerous: abundant, copious, myriad, profuse

O

  • Very obvious: apparent, clear, evident, plain, visible
  • Very occasionally: seldom, rarely, infrequently, sporadically
  • Very often: frequently, regularly, commonly, repeatedly, habitually, continually
  • Very old: ancient, elderly, mature, venerable, antiquated, decayed, rickety, shabby, outdated, established, traditional, original, primitive, seasoned, vintage, enduring
  • Very open: transparent, frank, sincere, honest, candid, truthful, clear, plain, welcoming, responsive, amenable, exposed, vulnerable, undefended
  • Very opinionated: dogmatic, cocksure, biased, partisan
  • Very optimistic: enthusiastic, buoyant, encouraged, positive

P

  • Very painful: excruciating, agonizing, searing, unbearable, distressing, harrowing
  • Very pale: white, pallid, ashen, sallow, colorless, pasty
  • Very persuasive: convincing, believable, compelling, charming
  • Very pleasant: satisfying, fulfilling, rewarding, gratifying
  • Very poor: destitute, impoverished, broke, penniless, indigent, unlucky, hapless, wretched
  • Very popular: trendy, fashionable, admired, prevalent
  • Very positive: optimistic, upbeat, affirmative, constructive
  • Very powerful: compelling, influential, commanding, authoritative, mighty, vigorous, effective
  • Very practical: realistic, sensible, functional, doable, viable
  • Very presentable: shipshape, well-groomed, tidy, personable
  • Very pretty: beautiful, attractive, appealing, fetching, stunning
  • Very pure: unadulterated, wholesome, pristine, clean

Q

  • Very quick: rapid, speedy, swift, rapid, swift, fleet, blistering, supersonic
  • Very quiet: hushed, muted, faint, whispered, muffled, inaudible, peaceful, silent, noiseless, still, soundless

R

  • Very rainy: pouring, downpour, deluge
  • Very rare: scarce, sparse, unique, exceptional, peerless
  • Very realistic: genuine, credible, authentic, rational, true
  • Very reasonable: equitable, judicious, sensible, practical, fair
  • Very recent: the latest, current, fresh, up-to-date
  • Very relevant: germane, pertinent, appropriate, significant
  • Very religious: spiritual, devout, pious, fervent, dedicated
  • Very responsible: dependable, conscientious, reliable, steadfast
  • Very rich: wealthy, affluent, loaded, well off, properous, full bodied, tasty, creamy, luscious, succulent, luxurious
  • Very risky: perilous, hazardous, treacherous, precarious, dangerous, tricky, uncertain, fraught
  • Very roomy: spacious, expansive, vast, palatial, commodious
  • Very rough: coarse, jagged, rugged, craggy, gritty, broken
  • Very rowdy: boisterous, disorderly, raucous, unruly, wild
  • Very rude: vulgar, insolent, offensive, derogatory, boorish

S

  • Very sad: sorrowful, unhappy, depressed, sombre, dejected, upsetting, poignant, harrowing, pitiable, terrible, miserable, pathetic, wretched, disconsolate, desolate
  • Very safe: harmless, benign, secure, protected, sheltered
  • Very same: identical, matching, indistinguishable, exact
  • Very sassy: impertinent, cheeky, insolent, disrespectful
  • Very scared: petrified, terrified, afraid, shaken, cowed, petrified, alarmed, frightened, nervous, startled, disturbed, apprehensive, daunted
  • Very scary: chilling, terrifying, shocking, horrifying, creepy, spooky, menacing, sinister
  • Very serious: grave, severe, worrying, acute, important, urgent, pressing, significant, thoughtful, profound
  • Very severe: acute, grave, critical, serious, brutal, relentless
  • Very sexy: seductive, steamy, provocative, erotic, sensual
  • Very shaky: tremulous, quaking, vibrating, unsteady
  • Very sharp: keen, honed, quick wited, astute, discerning, bitter, acidic, sudden, abrupt
  • Very shiny: gleaming, glossy, polished, lustrous, sparkling, glimmering, sleek, smooth, satiny
  • Very short: brief, quick, fleeting, momentary, concise, succinct, compact, abridged, diminutive, squat, tiny, abrupt, terse, curt, blunt, brusue, crumbly, direct, scarce, limited, insufficient, stubby, dwarf, petite
  • Very shy: timid, self conscious, bashful, reserved, coy, reticent, hesitant, backward, introverted, withdrawn
  • Very significant: key, noteworthy, momentous, major, vital
  • Very silky: sleek, smooth, satiny, glossy, lustrous, shiny
  • Very similar: alike, akin, analogous, comparable, equivalent
  • Very simple: basic, uncomplicated, coherent, straightforward, managable, unadorned, classic, naive, innocent, green, unsophisticated, humble, modest
  • Very slow: sluggish, sedate, plodding, creeping, snail-like
  • Very small: tiny, miniscule, infinitesimal, microscopic, wee
  • Very small: tiny, minute, slight, petite, miniature, teeny, initmate, close, young, immature, juvenile, minor, trivial, petty, foolish, stupid, meagre, scant, limited, insufficient, sparse, compact, short, miniscule, microscopic, wee
  • Very smooth: sleek, flush, glossy, silky, glassy, creamy, velvety, mellow, pleasant, flowing, calm, peaceful, suave, urbane
  • Very soft: malleable, yielding, spongy, muted, doughy
  • Very sorry: remorseful, repentant, penitent, contrite
  • Very sour: acerbic, tart, vinegary, biting, harsh, caustic
  • Very specific: precise, exact, explicit, definite, unambiguous
  • Very stinky: putrid, fetid, rank, rancid, putrescent, noxious
  • Very strange: weird, eerie, bizarre, uncanny, peculiar, odd
  • Very strict: stern, austere, severe, rigorous, harsh, rigid
  • Very strong: muscular, brawny, rugged, powerful, tough
  • Very stupid: idiotic, dense, vacuous, ridiculous, inane
  • Very substantial: considerable, significant, extensive, ample
  • Very successful: lucrative, productive, thriving, prosperous
  • Very sudden: unexpected, abrupt, precipitous, unforeseen
  • Very suitable: appropriate, fitting, seemly, proper, correct
  • Very sure: positive, persuaded, certain, convinced, absolute
  • Very suspicious: skeptical, distrustful, wary, guarded, leery
  • Very sweet: syrupy, sugary, honeyed, cloying, candied

T

  • Very tactile: touchable, palpable, physical, perceptible
  • Very tall: towering, lofty, multistory, soaring, statuesque
  • Very tame: docile, submissive, meek, compliant, subdued
  • Very tasty: delicious, yummy, flavorful, tempting
  • Very tempting: irresistible, enticing, tantalizing, alluring
  • Very tense: overwrought, rigid, taut, strained, agitated
  • Very terrible: dreadful, horrendous, horrific, shocking
  • Very thin: gaunt, scrawny, emaciated, haggard, skeletal
  • Very tired: exhausted, weary, spent, drained, fatigued, worn out, bored, stale, cliched
  • Very traditional: conventional, established, customary, habitual
  • Very treacherous: traitorous, disloyal, unfaithful, perfidious

U

  • Very ugly: hideous, revolting, repugnant, grotesque
  • Very unfair: unjust, bigoted, prejudiced, inequitable
  • Very unlikely: improbable, implausible, doubtful, dubious
  • Very unusual: abnormal, extraordinary, uncommon, unique
  • Very useful: expedient, effective, nifty, handy, valuable

V

  • Very valuable: precious, beneficial, prized, expensive, costly, priceless
  • Very violent: abusive, savage, barbarous, cutthroat, cruel
  • Very visible: conspicuous, exposed, obvious, prominent

W

  • Very warm: stifling, hot, sultry, sweltering, oppressive
  • Very wary: skeptical, suspicious, leery, vigilant, distrustful
  • Very weak: feeble, frail, delicate, debilitated, fragile, sickly
  • Very well: superb, fine, fabulous, all right, okay, good
  • Very wet: saturated, soaked, waterlogged, sopping
  • Very wicked: evil, sinful, villainous, nefarious, fiendish
  • Very wide: vast, expansive, sweeping, boundless, distended
  • Very widespread: extensive, pervasive, prevalent, rampant
  • Very wild: untamed, feral, unmanageable, uncontrollable
  • Very windy: roaring, blustery, turbulent, howling, wild
  • Very wise: sagacious, sage, astute, enlightened, shrewd
  • Very worried: distressed, distraught, overwrought, upset

Y

  • Very young: undeveloped, fledgling, immature, budding

Z

  • Very zealous: driven, ambitious, motivated, passionate

April Fools' Day Cryptic

Spring pudding as butt of joke? (5,4)

Answer: APRILFOOL


Four Sets of Words That Are Commonly Mixed Up

There is a myriad of words in the English language that are misused every day. Homophones, which are words that sound alike but have different spellings with different meanings, such as "horse" and "hoarse", are easy to mix up. But even though they sound the same, and even though they look similar, they are not interchangeable.

Your pronunciation may help to hide it if you don't know the difference between certain words, but when it comes down to writing them, it's crucial to get them right.

Accept vs. Except

"Accept" is the verb version of this homophone, whereas "except" is usually used as a preposition.

To accept is to approve or receive something, such as to accept a teenager's application for a position at the local grocery store or to accept the money that your grandmother has handed you for mowing her lawn.

"Except" is usually used to exclude something. For example, "She took all of the hand-me-downs from her older sister except the sneakers."

If you excepted the teen's application, you would be bypassing it, and if you accepted the sneakers you'd have a run-on, slightly redundant sentence.

A helpful hint for remembering this difference is that accepting is an action.

Principle vs. Principal

A principle is a fundamental base for something, such as the principles of a religion, or a belief. For example, "Her principles prevented her from cheating on the test."

A principal is a person with high authority, such as the principal of a high school. It can also be used to describe an original or main item of importance, such as a principal amount of a donation, or a state's principal cities.

Your principal could prevent you from cheating on the test, but it's less likely. By the same token, your principles are likely not running your school.

You can remember some of these differences by thinking that a principal should be a pal to their school.

Defiantly vs. Definitely

This is perhaps the most frustrating mix up, since these words don't look or sound all that alike, yet seeing defiance in place of definite-ness is not uncommon.

To do something defiantly is to do it with an air of spite or rebelliousness. Used correctly, you might see a sentence saying, "He picked up his brother's mess defiantly, stomping his feet the entire time."

The word "definitely" means to do something clearly, or to establish no doubt. Used correctly, you might see a sentence that says, "I will definitely meet you at the restaurant after work today."

When these words are switched, you get, "I will defiantly meet you at the restaurant after work today." While the image it paints is comical, as though going out for dinner is an act of rebellion, it doesn't make much sense. You could defiantly meet your friend for dinner, but it's unlikely that that would be the intended meaning.

Wonder vs. Wander

This switch up is also frustrating, because while these two words do admittedly look similar, they are not pronounced the same as each other.

To wonder is to be curious about or amazed by something. For example, "She wondered how life could ever get better," or, "He watched the fireflies flickering in the yard with wonder."

To wander is to explore, or walk at your leisure. For example, "She wandered down the beach, basking in the sunset," or, "He wandered along the edge of the forest, searching for an opening."

You definitely don't wander how life could get better or wonder through the woods, but you don't have to wonder any longer if you're using the right version of these words!


International Women's Day Cryptic

Way female poet has expunged line (4)

Answer: PATH

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