Readability tips, literacy news, and English writing advice

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)


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!


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


  • 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


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


  • 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


  • Very young: undeveloped, fledgling, immature, budding


  • Very zealous: driven, ambitious, motivated, passionate

April Fools' Day Cryptic

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


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

Valentine's Day Cryptic

Protective clothing not right for love (5)

Answer: AMOUR

Four Surprising English Food Word Origins

We all know that certain food words, like the foods they symbolize, come from different cultures. The word "sushi," like the raw-fish-over-rice-balls it describes is definitely Japanese, just as "hamburger" is clearly German. But over time some of the origins of words and the foods they describe have been so hidden in the annals of history, that the stories behind certain food words we take for granted end up surprising us, such as:


Dan Jurafsky, linguist and author of The Language of Food, relates in the introduction of his book an anecdote in which a friend's astute child pointed out that a ketchup bottle was labeled "tomato ketchup," not just plain "ketchup." The label seemed redundant to her, as everyone knows that ketchup is always made out of tomatoes...or is it?

Turns out, it isn't. In fact, ketchup originated in China, and used to be made of fermented fish sauce, not tomatoes. The word "ketchup" originally meant "fish sauce' in the dialect of the Fujian people in Southern China. From Asia, ketchup eventually made its way to Europe and then to the Americas, where it lost the fish and took on the form that we all know and love today.


Why is it called a toast when people drink for the newly-married couple at a wedding or an honored guest at a feast? Apparently, according to Jurafsky's research, people used to drink alcoholic beverages like wine and ale with a piece of toast in it. Before this tradition of combining wine and toast died out in the 17th century, English diners began to develop a custom of having everyone at the table drink to someone's health. Hence, the linkage between the original toast (heated bread) and the wedding or other celebratory "toast."


Is it just coincidence that the traditional Thanksgiving bird shares the same name as a country in the Middle East? Apparently no, says Jurafsky. Turkeys originally came from Mexico and in the Aztec language, were known as "totolin" or the more tongue-twister-ish "huexolotl." The turkey emigrated to Europe after Columbus arrived in the Americas, where it grew increasingly popular through the 1500s.

By the mid-1500s, France and England were importing guinea fowls, which look similar to small female turkeys. These guinea fowls were originally called "turkey cock" after the Turkish sultans who first sold the fowl to the Europeans in the 1400s.

Soon, Portugal began to re-import the guinea fowl as they were shipping turkeys from the Americas. But thanks to Portugal's paranoia about its maritime explorations, people could not tell which bird came from where, and began to mix the two up. Eventually, the name "turkey" stuck with the bird from the Americas, and that is why we call the usual Thanksgiving centerpiece a "turkey" today.


The word alcohol comes from the Arabic word "al-kuhl" which refers to black powdered eye makeup which people used since the time of the ancient Egyptians. The makeup was made of ground minerals. Over time, the word "alcohol" came to mean any fine powder or a distilled essence or spirit. Then in the 1700s, alcohol developed the meaning by which it is known today--an intoxicating liquid found in many different drinks.

New Year's Day Cryptic

Looked into beginning to date after kiss on new year (1-5)

Answer: XRAYED

Boxing Day Cryptic

A feature of Boxing Day, going Greek dancing (4,6)


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