Word Facts

  1. Do You Give Presents Or Gifts? Here’s The Difference

    Where do the words gift and present come from? Why does English use both? We’re pretty sure it’s not just so that children can ask for toys in multiple ways… Language is not a linear, predestined development. Even though it may feel as if the language we speak is in some way the logical conclusion of thousands of years of development, every word that we …

  2. The X In Xmas Is Really About Jesus Christ

    Here’s a holiday surprise that only the dictionary can provide. Do you find the word Xmas, as an abbreviation for Christmas, offensive? Many people do, but the origin of this controversial term might change your mind! You won’t find Xmas in church songbooks or even on many greeting cards. Xmas is popularly associated with a trend toward materialism and is, sometimes, the target of people who …

  3. Why Was Z Removed From The Alphabet (And Then Put Back)?

    Poor lonely Z finishes up the alphabet at number 26. But, that’s not the only insult this lonely letter suffers! Z’s history includes a time when it was so infrequently used that it was removed from the alphabet altogether. Where did Z come from? The Greek zeta is the origin of the humble Z. The Phoenician glyph zayin, meaning “weapon,” had a long vertical line capped …

  4. Is It “I Wish I Were” Or “I Wish I Was”?

    Picture it. You’re texting your buddy, and you type out “I wish I were.” But there’s that pesky autocorrect, trying to change it to “I wish I was.” Is autocorrect ducking with you, or are you about to commit a grammar faux pas? First, a little grammar lesson … Were and was are both past tense versions of the verb to be. But were is …

  5. How To Make Your Last Name Plural (And Keep The Grammarians Off Your Back)

    If writing out your holiday cards or ordering a sign for the front of your house makes you break out in hives, you may know a few grammar sticklers who like to poke fun. You know the type: The people who own stock in red ink manufacturing and are quick to point out when you’ve misused that apostrophe and inappropriately pluralized your last name. But …

  6. What’s The Difference Between “i.e.” And “e.g.”?

    What’s the difference between i.e. and e.g.? They may be small, but their power to befuddle writers and speakers of the English language is mighty. The term i.e. is a shortening of the Latin expression id est, which translates to “that is.” It is used to introduce a rephrasing or elaboration on something that has already been stated. The term e.g. is an abbreviation of …

  7. Explain The Difference Between Enemy And Nemesis

    Who do you think would win an epic showdown like this one? We often see these words used interchangeably, but there are some subtle differences between them. An enemy is a foe who’s hostile toward the protagonist (or central character) of a story. A nemesis is an opponent or rival whom a protagonist can’t overcome. The Enemy In literature, an enemy is often referred to …

  8. Why Capitalization Matters When You Write Native American

    These days, social media is glut with excited folks who are sending off their cheek swabs to find out just what’s hiding in their DNA. Will they find out they had an ancestor on the Mayflower? Or, maybe there was a Native American who played a role in their genes along the way. That would make them Native American too, right? Well, the definition of …

  9. Is Veterans Day A Big Grammar Mistake?

    What do apostrophes have to do with this federal holiday? Well, there’s a confusing apostrophe in Veterans’ Day—or is there? Veterans Day is often incorrectly written as “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day.” But, in fact, it’s apostrophe free. “Veteran’s Day” would definitely be incorrect because it means a day for only one veteran. While “Veterans’ Day” does encompass multiple veterans, that spelling is incorrect according …

  10. What’s The Difference Between Morals And Ethics?

    Maybe you’ve heard these terms and wondered what the difference is. A lot of people think of them as being the same thing. While they’re closely related concepts, morals refer mainly to guiding principles, and ethics refer to specific rules and actions, or behaviors. A moral precept is an idea or opinion that’s driven by a desire to be good. An ethical code is a …

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