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By Mike Bowler and Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF | December 13, 1998
JOHN M. MORSE WANTS to have a word with you. If you have access to the Internet, he'll offer it for free.Morse is president of Merriam-Webster Inc., publisher of dictionaries and other reference works. He was in Baltimore last week for an unusual book-signing -- unusual in that Morse could not possibly be the author of the century-old Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary.The 1998 version of the book contains 160,000 words and 215,000 definitions in 1,557 pages. It's yours for $24.95. Its "author," of course, is our forebears and all of us who keep inventing words and recommending them to Merriam-Webster's "definers" in Springfield, Mass.
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NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | September 28, 2014
We have become depressingly familiar with the term birth cohort , as we assess the relative merits and demerits of the finally passing away baby boomers, along with Generation X and the millennials. (Good luck, kids, we've dealt you a dodgy hand.)  The word in its original, Roman sense was a unit of six centuries, or a tenth of a legion. Those of you who studied poetry in school may recall Byron's "Destruction of Sennacherib": "The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold, / And his cohorts [military units]
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NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | January 25, 2013
At harm-less drudg-ery , the nonpareil Kory Stamper of Merriam-Webster reflects on what wany people want of a dictionary : Authority, Morality, Law-giving, Bet-settling. She contrasts that with what dictionaries humbly offer instead: words and how people use them.  Here's a key sentence: We enter the words “murder” and “headcheese” into the dictionary, but that shouldn't be read as advocacy for trying either one of them.  I commend the entire essay to you. It is an hoot.   
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | August 23, 2014
Not long ago a person self-described as "an old English teacher" generously offered to school me at Facebook on terminology, suggesting that I should research the meaning of homonym .  "Lead and led (along with hundreds of other examples) are homophones, not homonyms. Homonyms are words that are spelled alike, sound alike, but have a different meaning, such as bear (the animal) and bear (to endure)," she wrote. Never shy about looking things up, I took up the challenge and discovered from the Oxford English Dictionary  that homonym originally meant "words having the same sound, but differing in meaning," or homophones.  But the sense of the word has expanded since the late seventeenth century.  Webster's Third  lists both  homophone (same sound, different meaning or spelling)
NEWS
By GREGORY KANE | October 19, 1997
Before readers start hurling slings and arrows at me for using certain words in this column, just remember: I didn't bring this subject up.This subject started in Michigan -- far from my stomping grounds -- when two women took a look at Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary's definition of a certain word. Heretofore I've referred to it as the "N-word," but since no one else is being bashful about this subject, there's no reason I should be.The word is nigger. Folks at Merriam-Webster defined the word as "a black person -- usually taken to be offensive."
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | August 3, 2013
Prescriptivists admire, advocate, and long for precision in language. That is a good thing, in the main, but the longing can easily slip into a false precision. We see that when prescriptivists insist that words must keep strictly to their etymological roots or argue usage from logic rather than practice.  One of those fine points of usage has, I think, finally fallen by the wayside. Raise your hand if you have been schooled to think that the adjective another  can only legitimately refer to one more of the same thing, as when you tell the bartender, "I'll have another.
FEATURES
By John Blades and John Blades,Chicago Tribune | December 27, 1993
Of all the latest "ghost words," the one most likely to haunt Joseph Esposito for years to come is "cyberpunk."Understandably, Mr. Esposito would rather refer to it as the "c-word," because every media reference only legitimizes its usage and makes its omission from the 10th edition of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary all the more indefensible.Mr. Esposito is not the editor of Merriam-Webster's newly rehabbed college dictionary, so he isn't directly accountable for the exclusion of that or any other ghost words (which his dictionary defines as those "never in established usage")
NEWS
March 3, 2014
School of the Incarnation seventh-grader Isabelle Simmons outlasted 30 other spellers to win the 26th annual Anne Arundel County Spelling Bee and earn a trip to the national competition later this year. She correctly spelled the word “infinitesimal” in the 12th round to win the title. Campbell Jones of Severna Park Middle School finished second in the bee, and four spellers - Alyssa Hall of Annapolis Area Christian Middle School, Eelaaf Zahid of Annapolis Middle School, Becca Hewitt of Arundel Middle School and Madison Williams of George Fox Middle School - tied for third.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | October 22, 2012
Fifty years ago, people in the United States had very real fears of the possibility of nuclear annihilation in an exchange of nuclear missiles with the Soviet Union. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 brought that fear very close. But the year before, Americans had endured a potentially graver threat, not to their physical security, but to their culture. That threat, to the demise of American culture and perhaps to language itself, came from a book. And the book was a dictionary. David Skinner, writing in The Story of Ain't: America, Its Language, and the Most Controversial Dictionary Ever Published  (Harper, 349 pages, $26.99)
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 29, 2014
When Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown declined to participate in a debate this week with his Democratic rivals for the governorship Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur, his name was placed on a vacant lectern flanked by lecterns for the two participants.  But WBFF, the Fox affiliate the broadcast the debate, did not call the furniture lecterns , and neither has anyone else. Everyone refers to the vacant podium .  Podium  started out as a raised platform or dais, and its meaning was implicit in its etymology, from the Greek podion , a diminutive of the word for "foot.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | August 22, 2014
A while back, at my most recent appearance on Sheilah Kast's Maryland Morning show on WYPR-FM, she asked me about my attacks on the peeververein: Are not your posts just as dogmatic and extreme in tone as those you deplore?  My wife got a throaty chortle out of hearing me challenged.  I summoned my wits to offer a distinction: that I consult lexicographers and linguists for evidence on usage rather than relying on mere personal opinion. But yes, the attack mode is congenial.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | July 31, 2014
A reader writes that hearing people say different than  grates on her. Having been taught that different from  is correct, she looks for validation.  Well.  As is so often the case in English, the actualities are more complex than what people recall that they were taught in school.  We'll start out with what Bryan Garner says.  " Different than  is often considered inferior to different from ...
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | July 10, 2014
You go to work with the language you have, not the language you want.  The Fowler brothers thought that English would be tidier if we used that to introduce restrictive clauses and which  to introduce nonrestrictive clauses. Prescriptivists have seized on that suggestion and persuaded many editors and some writers that it is a Rule rather than a recommendation or pious hope.  The redoubtable Kory Stamper, in one of her excellent Merriam-Webster videos on usage , explains that merely thinking it's a rule does not make it one. Similarly, before you start to peeve about what a Wicked Thing the passive voice is, you might want to take the time to look at how frequently you use passive constructions yourself.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | June 11, 2014
Jonathon Owen has laced into the Chicago Manual of Style at his blog Arrant Pedantry  over the fading  nauseous/nauseated  distinction . His post prompts me to think about how we go about makling usage distinctions. But first let's dispose of nauseous/nauseated . Like a good little copy editor, I started out insisting that nauseous  must mean "causing nausea," not "experiencing nausea," Woody Allen's dialogue notwithstanding.  But I have long since given up on it, for the reasons that Jonathon Owen states: "If 99 percent of the population uses  nauseous  in the sense of  having nausea , then who's to say that they're wrong?
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | June 10, 2014
In what should be a cautionary example of being careful what you ask for, the Associated Press Stylebook  has tweeted an invitation to identify what people like and dislike in the new edition. The Lord has delivered them into my hands.  When I first picked up my copy of the 2014 edition, it fell open to the page bearing the convince, persuade  entry. You know, you may be convinced that or convinced of  but you must be persuaded to . ( Persuaded  can also take that , Garner's Modern American Usage  points out, but let that pass.)
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 29, 2014
When Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown declined to participate in a debate this week with his Democratic rivals for the governorship Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur, his name was placed on a vacant lectern flanked by lecterns for the two participants.  But WBFF, the Fox affiliate the broadcast the debate, did not call the furniture lecterns , and neither has anyone else. Everyone refers to the vacant podium .  Podium  started out as a raised platform or dais, and its meaning was implicit in its etymology, from the Greek podion , a diminutive of the word for "foot.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | April 7, 2014
Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:  PALAVER People will talk, and a lot of it does not amount to much. So we have palaver  (pronounced puh-LAV-er), which Merriam-Webster's Unabridged  identifies as "profuse, idle, or worthless talk," or chatter. It can also mean "misleading or beguiling speech. "  The word, which came into English in the mid-eighteenth century from the Portuguese palavra  ("word," "speech")
FEATURES
By Thomas W. Waldron and Thomas W. Waldron,Sun Staff Writer | March 9, 1994
There are plenty of words that bug Brian Sietsema. Not the words, actually, but the way Americans tend to mangle them.There's "pundit," which many people want to pronounce "pun-dent." Or "heinous," which Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, among others, turns into "hee-nous."But the worst could be "specific," which often comes out "pacific.""That's the one that really drives me crazy," says Mr. Sietsema, whose name rhymes with "Heats-ma," and whose job is pronunciation editor for the Merriam-Webster dictionaries.
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 23, 2014
The holiday weekend has started, and many of you are undoubtedly trapped in slow-moving traffic on your way to the beach or the mountains. And because it's a holiday weekend, those of you who are not trapped on the road won't be reading anyhow, but enjoying summery drinks on the verandah.  That makes it more the pity that you will be missing these links to some choice pieces of writing about language by my friends and colleagues. Check them out when you get back. Item:  So you think you know something about grammar?
NEWS
By John E. McIntyre and The Baltimore Sun | May 1, 2014
My estimable colleague Mark Allen, tweeting today as @EditorMark, reminds us: " You 'lay' something. But, annoyingly, 'lay' also is the past tense of 'lie.' Lay an object down. Lie down. He lay down. (It was laid down.)" I learned the  lie/lay  distinction in the fifth grade under the firm direction of Mrs. Jessie Perkins, who brooked no dissent over usage, and I have diligently observed it without fail for the past half-century as teacher's pet, college student, graduate student, and copy editor.  But Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage  points out that though the distinction, first established in the eighteenth century, has been maintained stolidly by grammarians, schoolteachers, and editors in formal written English, they have had little effect on spoken usage.  Thus "the conflict between oral use and school instruction has resulted in the distinction between lay  and lie  becoming a social shibboleth--a marker of class and education.
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