Saturday, August 25, 2007

Cool Free Stuff

I just added some free word-related do-dads: Word of the Day, Spelling Bee (where you can hear the word and try to spell it correctly), Match Up (where you have to find word synonyms) and a pretty nifty hangman game with really hard words! They all appear below to the right.

Hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My Greatest Scrabble Moment

I love Scrabble. I don't play it much, unless my grandmother's around, but a good game of Scrabble is a blast.

My all-time Scrabble highlight was using all seven letters in two consecutive words (I remember spatulas was one of them). Unfortunately, I was playing my wife and my ensuing boasting caused some marital strife. She has forgiven me since (and I only bring up my stunning victory on rare occasions).

Did you know that it is theoretically possible to score 1,830 points in one turn? This page on shows how. I don't expect I'll ever come across the opportunity.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Another great word...

I just called a friend a nincompoop. He's actually a very intelligent guy (sorry, Don), but it occurred to me how much I like the word nincompoop. Too bad it's not a nicer word. I'd like to use it more often.

And, though perhaps not to the same degree that fell always accompanies swoop, the only appropriate modifier for nincompoop seems to be utter. As in, "My boss is an utter nincompoop."

It does kind of roll off the tongue though, huh?

By the way, it seems there is no credible account of the origin of the word. It was first used in a play by William Wycherly in 1676! That information thanks to

Back At Last

What a few weeks it's been. I've experienced two cases of credit card fraud, and my house got hit by lightning, causing much damage and many insurance company-related irritations. I also spent the weekend in The Woodlands, Texas at a homeschool convention. It was great, but I had a terrible time getting an internet connection. But I am back in the saddle.

Hm. Back in the saddle. That's it--today's blog topic. Let's go with horse cliches! How many can you come up with? I've got the following:

back in the saddle
don't look a gift horse in the mouth
that's a horse of a different color
you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink
so hungry I could eat a horse
beating a dead horse
ride off into the sunset
on your high horse
dark horse
horsing around
hold your horses
putting the cart before the horse
straight from the horses mouth

Hey, that's not bad. Can anyone top that?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Fell Swoop

How come there's only one kind of swoop? Swoops apparently only come in the fell variety. In fact, as far as I can tell, swoops appear to be the only items that are ever described as fell. And they apparently don't come in groups. You never hear about a pair of fell swoops. Just one at at time.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Pleonastic Acronyms

Speaking of redundant pleonasms (get it?), here are a few common ones that I notice on a regular basis. They are all evidence that folks don't understand the acronym they are using:

ATM machine (automated teller machine machine)
PIN number (personal identification number number)
SAT test (formerly the Scholastic Aptitude Test, or Student Achievement Test test)

[Technically, SAT test isn't a redundancy anymore. Early in the 90s the College Board decided that SAT no longer stands for anything. Too much grief from various sides of the political correctness debate.]

10% APR (ten percent annual percentage rage)
AC current (alternating current current)
DMZ zone (demilitarized zone zone)
DOS operating system (disk operating system operating system)
HIV virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus virus)
LCD display (liquid crystal display display)
please RSVP (plese respondez s'il vous plait--please reply please)

Any I missed?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


We've had some fun with oxymora recently, now let's enjoy the opposite of oxymora--the pleonasm.

A pleonasm is a redundant expression--using more words than necessary to communicate the idea (an oxymoron involves contrasting words, while a pleonasm consists of synonymous, and therefore redundant, words). Pleonasms are common in everyday spoken communication--something easy to overlook, but their presence in written work is unacceptable. Look for common pleonasms like those below in your writing:

mix together (you can't mix things apart can you?)
join together
gather together
jump up
fall down
rise up
descend down
absolutely necessary
absolutely essential
repeat again
return back
advance forward
little tiny
A.M. in the morning
anonymous stranger
advance planning
advance warning
boiling hot
close proximity
circulate around
completely blind (deaf, dead, destroyed, empty, full, unanimous)
component parts
constant nagging
definite decision
empty space
blank space
exact replica
free gift
freezing cold
frozen tundra
grand total
handwritten manuscript
individual person
invited guests
knowledgeable expert
major breakthrough
new discovery
original source
pair of twins
past tradition
personal friend
postponed until later
receded back
refer back
resulting effects
safe haven
safe sanctuary
sink down
sudden impulse
surrounded on all sides
sum total
top priority
utimate goal
unmarried bachelor
usual custom
vacillating back and forth

The following pleonasms endure, I suspect, because people are unaware that the word pair is synonymous:

aid and abet
cease and desist
vim and vigor
each and every
null and void
rest and relaxation