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Since 2008, I’ve posted more than 2,400 articles for free on Sesquiotica; more than a million visitors have come to read them, and more than 17,500 people have subscribed for free. They include word tasting notes, articles on grammar, serialized fiction, and my new series on coffee joints to sit and work in. I’ve also been making videos such as my pronunciation tips, which you can find here and on YouTube. But why stop at that? Continue reading

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OK, you know refrain, obviously. As in refrain from doing that, meaning ‘restrain yourself from doing that’ or, in common use, ‘I’m asking you not to do that again’. And as in sing the refrain, meaning ‘sing the part that you sing over and over again’. Which therefore means that refrain from singing the refrain means ‘I’m asking you not to sing the part you sing again again’.

So wait. Is the re– in refrain as in ‘restrain’ the re– that means ‘hold back’ or ‘go back’ – and thus ‘double back’ – while the re– in refrain as in ‘repeat’ is the re– that means ‘do again’ – and thus ‘double up’?

Why, yes, that’s right.

So the re and re in refrain from the refrain cancel each other out and leave us with frain from frain.

But what does frain mean? Continue reading

The Porch Light


A place in the sun. Or near the sunbeam, anyway.

Listen to this coffice space review, complete with sound effects, on Patreon

I first came to The Porch Light in mid-winter, quite by whim and serendipity. I was on King Street near Jarvis and had intended to go to a coffice space just a bit farther east on King, but the streetcar that showed up was a 502 bound for Kingston Road and I thought, What the heck. I took it to Victoria Park and then walked back west along Kingston Road until I found this coffice space a few blocks along. It was – and is – bright, sunny, generally calm and quiet. People come here to work on their computers and just sometimes to be social. Continue reading


Is nimbus a contronym? Continue reading


We seem to experience life as a continuum, but when we remember it, it is often more like a series of moments, glances through a window, connecting to a sequence – sometimes a sequence that just repeats itself. Life flickers by in an incessant ring, turning and turning again: a zoetrope. Continue reading

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bemuse, nonplus

When They Found Out What These Words Are Supposed To Mean, He Was Bemused But She Was Nonplussed!

More often than we even tend to admit, we learn words by seeing them in context and figuring them out by what they look like they should mean, with an eye to what the context allows. This is how, for instance, internecine came to have a sense of ‘mutually destructive’: people saw inter and thought ‘between’, when in the original the inter was just an intensifier, sort of like how in English we can say through and through or up one side and down the other or right down or downright or…

But also more often than we like to admit, when we learn that a word has a traditional or original meaning that is different from how many people use it now, we like to use it as a weapon. See decimate for a sparkling example. “You idiot, don’t you know that decimate refers to a practice of killing one in ten? You use it like it means reducing to one tenth, you illiterate barbarian!”

I wouldn’t be surprised if you were bemused by the one and nonplussed by the other. I also wouldn’t be surprised if you were bemused by the one and nonplussed by the other. Continue reading