Underlie or underline

To underline something can be to literally mark a line under it, or it can be used figuratively as a way to stress or emphasize a point. To underlie something is to literally be under it, or the term can be used figuratively as the cause of something or the source of it. This is most commonly found in the present participle form of underlying, as in the underlying cause. Side note: The past tense of underlie is underlay and the past participle is underlain. Examples "If you underlined … [Read more...]

Put on heirs or airs

An heir is someone who receives property, money, or a title from another when the latter person dies. This is not the correct spelling for the phrase putting on airs; however, someone could put on airs about being an heir. Airs, listed under air in most dictionaries, is a fake way of acting. When plural, one can put on airs or behave in a way that isn't true. It is used when people act as if they are from a higher class in society, either by making others believe they have more money or are … [Read more...]

Sweeped or swept

To sweep is to move quickly or to use a broom to move something such as dust. In sporting, especially American baseball, a team can sweep a series of games with an opponent by winning each one. The past tense and the past participle have the same spelling: swept. Unlike leap and bless, this word does not have a less common variation. Sweeped is not a dictionary-recognized word. Some less reputable online dictionaries list it as an obsolete past tense of sweep. If so, it has been obsolete … [Read more...]

Pediatric or paediatric

Pediatric is the medical term designating something has having to do with children, either their care, treatment, or diseases. It is the adjective form. The noun form is pediatrics. As a noun it can be either plural or singular but it always keeps the plural spelling. A person who has gone to medical school to specialize in the care of children is called a pediatrician. Outside of the United States, the term keeps its original spelling … [Read more...]

Laundry list

Laundry list is an idiom that today rarely means an actual list of the things one needs to wash. Instead, it refers to a list that is lengthy, extensive, or inclusive of all possibilities. The items in the set are connected or related somehow, and there is a tediousness associated with the term. It is usually seen in the construction laundry list of, followed by the types of things on the list. The plural for the term is laundry lists. The original usage was in the 1960s in actual … [Read more...]

Helter skelter or helter-skelter

As a noun, adjective, and adverb, this term is spelled the same way: helter-skelter. It means to be disorderly, confused, hurried, or haphazard. Outside of the United States, the noun form can be used as a name for a certain kind of amusement park ride that twists and turns around a tower. Helter skelter, without a hyphen, is often used for the title of songs, books, or movies. The exact origin of the term is unknown but it dates from the late sixteenth century. Examples The backdrop … [Read more...]

Would just as soon or assume

The phrase would just as soon means the user would prefer one option to another. It is a comparative phrase that sometimes leaves off the second half of the comparison. The confusion comes when the phrase is heard instead of read. If the speaker's annunciation isn't clear, as soon can be interpreted assume. In some cases, assume can make sense in the sentence (e.g., I'd just assume it was done.), but the actual phrase is as soon. Examples I’d just as soon been forced to go see the musical … [Read more...]

Apocryphal vs canonical

Apocryphal is an adjective used to describe something, usually a text or tale, as being widely known and most likely untrue. The origins of such works are usually in doubt or completely unknown. The adverb form is apocryphally. The noun form is apocrypha. The term is not capitalized unless it is discussing specific works that have been excluded from the Bible. Those works are part of the Apocrypha and are Apocryphal. Other texts can be Apocryphal if they resemble these specific … [Read more...]

Bone to pick

The idiom bone to pick means to have something you want to discuss with another person or organization. The discussion topic is usually something bad, like hurt feelings or a wrongdoing. All sources agree that it comes from a dog gnawing a bone after all the meat is gone. The phrase is used for a topic or discussion that one person does not want to let go of, even if all the 'meaty' discussion about the topic has already happened. The entire idiom is usually in the construction … [Read more...]

Boondocks vs boonies

Boondocks is a plural noun, with no singular form, that means an extremely rural area, usually without many of the conveniences of a metropolitan city. It can also be a landscape with harsh terrain and lots of dense foliage. The term is most often found in the phrase in the boondocks or out in the boondocks. Boondocks comes from the Tagalog language, specifically bundok, which means mountain. The term is found most often in the United States, but is gaining ground in other countries as … [Read more...]

About Grammarist
Contact | Privacy policy | Home
© Copyright 2009-2014 Grammarist