A powwow is an American Indian social gathering, which usually includes dancing and singing. In previous centuries it was also a time when they gathered to discuss things that pertained to the whole tribe. Today, it is mainly for social reasons. The powwow can last for days. It's plural is powwows.  It is sometimes spelled with a hyphen or as two words, but this is incorrect. The term has come to be used for any gathering of people who need to talk about a particular topic that will … [Read more...]

Hands on or hands-on

As an adjective hands-on should be hyphenated. It describes something as using one's hands or being learned by physical action rather than theory. The compound is sometimes confused in the phrase be hands-on, however, since one can be an adjective, the hyphen is still used. A similar, though unrelated, verb is to hand on or to pass along something. In the second person this verb makes hands on, however, the distinction between the adjective and the verb should be clear from context. One … [Read more...]


A rigmarole is a long and complicated process or story. One can be put through a rigmarole if a process is made difficult intentionally. Because of the sometimes added spoken syllable (e.g., /ˈriɡ(ə)məˌrōl/), the term is commonly misspelled as rigamarole. It should be noted that some dictionaries do list rigamarole as an alternate spelling, but it is not universally accepted. The plural is rigmaroles, though the term is usually used in the singular form. Rigmarole comes as an alteration … [Read more...]


As a noun, a halcyon is a kingfisher, or at least a bird which we have associated with the kingfisher. It is part of a Greek legend in which it calmed the sea. As an adjective, halcyon describes something or someone to be joyful, peaceful, or prosperous. The most common use is to describe a period of time as the halcyon days, which is a reference to the myth. According to the Greeks, the Halcyon days come every January. The seas would be calm so that the kingfisher's eggs were protected … [Read more...]

Leaned or leant

To lean is to slope or be diagonal from the ground. Someone or someone can lean on something else for support. An alternative is to put pressure on an object by leaning on it. The progressive form is leaning. The past tense and past participle make the form leaned. Lean belongs to a list of irregular verbs which have a past tense option which adds -t instead of -ed. Learnt, leapt, dreamt, crept, dealt, dwelt, lent, rent, smelt, spelt, spilt, spoilt, and bereft are also included in this group. … [Read more...]

Youth or youths

Youth is the age range when a human is young, or before the person reaches adulthood. The word youth can also be used to describe a group of young people, regardless of age. It is also a common adjective for things that are created specifically for youth. Something can be in its youth if it is newly created. A youth is also a teenage boy or young man. Only this last definition has a plural form of youths. All other uses of the word are already plural or a mass noun. Sometimes it can be … [Read more...]


Folderol is a noun for idiotic actions, words, or ideas. It can also be spelled falderal. And with the two spellings it can be pronounced two ways, either /ˈfäldəˌräl/ (fall der all) or /ˈfôldəˌrôl/ (fole der ole). It is a mass noun which has no singular form. The o spelling is more commonly found. The term originated as a refrain in songs, literally "fol-de-rol". Folderol previously could be used in terms of a useless or idiotic item, and therefore you could have … [Read more...]

Actualise vs actualize

To actualize something is to accomplish or complete it. It is always used with an object. British English spells it actualise.  The spelling change extends to all forms (e.g., actualises, actualizes, actualised, actualized, actualisation, actualization, actualising, actualizing). A related term is self-actualized (self-actualise) which means to accomplish or complete oneself to your fullest potential. It has all the same forms as actualize and all the same spelling … [Read more...]


Git-go is a variation of the word get-go, which means at the start or beginning. It is usually found in the phrase from the get-go. As a compound noun it is always hyphenated. Get-go is used vastly more often than git-go. The word was first used in the United States in the sixties by an African American writer. There is no conclusive evidence for where the term derived from. One guess is the phrase from the word go and another is a shortened version of get going. Git on its own can be a … [Read more...]

Letter names

Each letter of the English alphabet can be spelled as itself (e.g., a DJ or T-shirt) or it can be spelled out using its name (e.g., a deejay or tee-shirt). Vowels still stand for themselves, and while very rare, the plural of vowels are made by adding -es. In the capitalized form the plurals are made by either -s or -'s (e.g., L's or As). Spelling letters usually occurs in compound names or derivatives. These spellings are different than the phonetic alphabet used to distinguish similar … [Read more...]

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