Category Archives: The Week

How do you say “succinct”?

My latest article for The Week looks at a divide that not everyone is even aware is a divide: how people say the word succinct – and a few other cc words such as flaccid and accessory… and why there would be any divergence on the subject at all.

A succinct but not flaccid examination of English pronunciation

Why the y’s?

My latest article for The Week is on the reason for the many y’s in transliterations of Ukrainian and Russian names, and how to read them:

A word to the Y’s on Ukrainian and Russian

Don’t miss the craic!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and for my latest article for The Week I’ve taken a look at a word you may see in the vicinity of an Irish pub:

Have yourself a cracking St. Patrick’s Day

And while we’re on St. Paddy’s, I’ve made some videos over the years on how to say some Irish things:

When is a staycation not a staycation?

We have a paradoxical view of travel and time off in English. As I’ve already noted, we historically associated travel with unpleasantness. And yet we assume that significant time off will be spent away from home. In my latest article for The Week, I look at some of the other lexical paradoxes we have for leisure time:

There’s no vacation from the quirks of English

Travel or travail?

Last week, I quipped on Twitter, “Says something that English and French looked at a Latin word for ‘torture’ and the English used it for travelling and the French used it for working.” The next day, my editors at The Week emailed to ask if I had a topic for an article for them this week or next, and I said… hmm, yes! It hit the internet today:

The trials and travails of ‘travel’

Decadence: good or bad – or both?

Why is it, exactly, that we use a word for decay (and not tooth decay, but decay of civilizations) for delicious chocolate and other treats? I knew you were wondering, so I wrote about it in my latest article for The Week:

Could your Valentine’s treat be hastening the decline and fall of America?

Don’t be misled or go awry

My latest article for The Week is about book words – words you’ve learned from a book without learning the pronunciation. We’ve all had them, and there’s no shame in it:

Don’t be misled or go awry with ‘book words’

And here’s my companion pronunciation tip video (also embedded in the article):

Tsk, tsk! Or is that tut, tut?

“Tsk!” is a word that stands for something that isn’t a word that we use all the time because it’s not a word, but we mostly don’t use it for what we think we use it for. Here, let me explain in my latest article for The Week:

The not-word you’re always saying

A novel usage

It’s been two and a half years since I last wrote an article for The Week. I’ve been meaning to get back into writing for them (meaning pitching articles to them and, when they greenlight a pitch – as they mostly do – writing it), and I’ve finally found the time and state of mind. This time around, it’s a topic that came up not so long ago on Twitter: the phrase “a fiction novel” – redundant or not? Read the article to get the goods:

Is ‘fiction novel’ the ‘pin number’ of books?

Are accented characters über-cool or passé?

My latest article for The Week is on accented characters, like ü and é. They’re not officially part of English spelling, but they just don’t go away. And in spite of some people’s uncoöperativeness, I don’t think they’re going to go away, either.

In the future, will the English language be full of accented characters?