No Informal Words, Please. But Why?

ONE of the greatest disservice English language teachers in school can do to young minds is to taint the value of informal words. No informal words, please. Stay away from informal words. The poor students hear so much of this, they’ve all developed a kind of paranoia, a built-in lexical thermometer that makes them cringe at the sound of informal words. Take “crazy” or “junkie” for instance, or phrases like “two thumbs up.” Don’t ever dream of suggesting words of this flavor if you’re ever working on an essay with them. No, these words can’t—I mean, cannot—appear in written form. Continue reading

Word of the Week: Captious


captious |ˈkapʃəs|
tending to find fault or raise petty objections: a captious teacher

late Middle English (also in the sense ‘intended to deceive someone’): from Old French captieux or Latin captiosus, meaning ‘seizing,’ (or figuratively) ‘deceiving



Where I First Came Across This Word Continue reading

When “Stupid” and “Idiot” Are Fine Words Indeed

STUPID and idiot aren’t two words you would hear in an interview or see in a news article often, but when you do, they tend to send shudders that could either trigger shock and outrage on the one hand, or pleasure and approval on the other.

Last week, I came across these two words uttered by two very different people—one, a German fashion icon, and the other, a retired four-star general. Continue reading

Word of the Week: Juggernaut

JUGGERNAUT, like shampoo and jodhpur, has its roots in India.

But unlike shampoo (which harks back to the Hindi verb cāṃpo, to press) or jodhpur (named after a Western city in Rajasthan where similar garments are worn by Indian men as part of everyday dress), juggernaut invokes the name of a formidable and all-powerful god, Continue reading