INCENTIVIZE [in-SEN-ti-vahyz] : to provide (someone) with a good reason for wanting to do something

The creation of verbs from other parts of speech  is as ancient a practice as language itself.  We activate, organize, rehabilitate, and decentralize all the time and never think about it.   As society becomes more and more complex, it requires language to articulate that complexity. Such creations are called neologisms, meaning new words. One of […]

HIGHFALUTIN [hahy-fuh-LOOT-n]: pretentious, pompous

There are debates about how to spell highfalutin, but this seems to be the preferred form.  Its origin is sketchy, but seems to have something to do with the root word flute. Hifalutin, highfalutin or highfaluting is what we call o.o.o. , that is “of obscure origin.” It may derive from the participle of the […]

DEMOTIC: pertaining to the common people

I ran across the word demotic while reading the recent posting of John McIntyre in his blog You Don’t Say. Demotic is a word used with some regularity, it would seem, in the world of linguistics.  It means “common language” as opposed to “formal language.”   Over decades and centuries of use language changes.   Formal usages […]

CATACHRESIS: misuse or strained use of words, as in a mixed metaphor, occurring either in error or for rhetorical effect.

I am not a trained linguist. If anything, I’m just an amateur wordsmith. I enjoy words, and I get a kick out of editing pieces.  I pay attention to the way words are used, and get the kind of appreciation from good usage the same way an art buff gets appreciation from the clever use […]

EAVESDROPPING: listening in on a neighbor's conversation.

When I took a writing course at Brown University two years ago we learned the techniques of eavesdropping in normal, everyday experiences. It was a good exercise in listening carefully to the ACTUAL way conversations emerge…not necessarily the way writers frequently like to depict them. Actual conversations between people aren’t on point much of the […]