Daily Archives: February 26, 2009

The majority of these second-guesses are wrong

There are some bits of usage that people are more likely to get wrong if they stop and try to get them right. I encountered one of the most noteworthy and commonly confounding cases in a recent edit, when I had to change “the majority was” to “the majority were” and “the remainder was” to “the remainder were.”

In ordinary speech, we generally have a natural feel for these things. Continue reading


Ah, languor! Can you bear it any longer? Are you desperate, like Eva Longoria? Look: you are so weak u can’t even make it past the o. This word will not end as in favour or colour; instead, it has the beginnings of anguish but also of languidity. Such lassitude – confuse it not with lentitude, which may be present, but (to make a Tolkien mention) in Fangorn is no languor. This word starts out with la, which may be a listless note, perhaps sung in a boat adrift at sea, unable to make it all the way to land. The tongue lolls back, touching at the velum. There is the beginning of language, but it fails to come of age, stymied by choice: the or turns it aside, and then we lapse into silence. The very air in the mouth is viscous, as though gummed with guar. The word itself has made a stirring and lain back: it is Latin languor, same in sense, which in Old French tried to eject the o or the u, but they failed to achieve escape velocity. Its kin languish, a verb, managed some change, but this noun… ah, what can be done.