Stupefaction

Stupefaction is the noun form for the state of being stupefied, which in turn means to be dumbfounded or surprised, or to cause someone to lose their wits or their ability to reason or process information. This noun does not a have a plural form. Stupefactions is incorrect. The peak in popularity for stupefaction occurred around the turn of the twentieth century and has been on a decline since then. The adjective form of stupefy is stupefying.  Most commonly this word is misspelled and … [Read more...]

Quay

A quay is a landing place built on the edge of a body of water, used primarily to load and unload items and people onto and from vessels. The plural is quays. It is only capitalized when it is part of a proper name. It is more commonly used outside of the United States, which prefers the term dock. The derivative quayage is the payment a customer would give to use a quay. This word can be pronounced three different ways (e.g., key, kay, and kway). Because of this, it may have a homonym … [Read more...]

Screed

A screed is a long, often boring, and sometimes angry letter or discourse. It is also a device, usually a piece of wood, that is used to level wet concrete or the thickness of a plaster wall. It is not a verb, or the past tense of scree, which is in fact a group of rocks on a mountainside. It comes from the same root as shred, namely the Middle English word screde, which was a strip of something or a small part. Examples Reeling in the wake of James' decision, Grant took Riley's offer … [Read more...]

Learnings

Learning can be the progressive form of the verb learn, so that you are in the process of acquiring knowledge. Learning is also a synonym for knowledge, or information acquired and retained in someone's mind. It can be an adjective describing an object as something that will give the user more knowledge. Learnings is a pluralization of an erroneous form of learning as a singular noun. Said singular noun (e.g., a learning) does not exist, at least according to most dictionaries. Colloquially, … [Read more...]

Lie or lye

lye

Lye is a harsh chemical used in making soap or washing solutions. The term was vastly more common in the 1800s (see ngram below) because people made their own lye at home. The process includes soaking hardwood ashes for days in water. The water becomes lye, which was then used to make soap. When it became more cost-effective to buy bars of soap in a store, the use of the word lye decreased.   Unfortunately, a common way to hear the word lye is in relation to a crime where someone … [Read more...]

Diktat

In the dictionary, a diktat is defined as an order that is harsh and unilaterally imposed on a people without their permission. It is usually used with the connotation of being issued to a defeated country or people. A dictate is simply a command or order, without the necessity of being harsh. The most common place to hear or read the word diktat is India, where it is used for orders which come from military or faith leaders. It still carries its pejorative … [Read more...]

Cleave

Cleave is a verb with two very distinct definitions. In one sense it can mean to break two things apart, split one item into two pieces, or push something apart with great force. On the other hand, to cleave is to stick with something very closely, like a belief or a person. These two opposing definitions also have differing verb forms. To adhere to something in the past tense is to cleaved, clove, and clave, though the latter two are rare and slightly archaic. To break something into two in … [Read more...]

Slayed or slew

slayed

To slay something can mean to kill it or to amuse it. The past tense of the first meaning is slew, while the past tense of the second meaning is slayed. The popularity of the word slayed has grown considerable in the last century, and my guess would be that the colloquially usage of the word will make it into the dictionaries eventually.   Also, keep in mind that slew has other meanings such as, a sudden change in direction. A slew of things is a large amount. Examples "She … [Read more...]

Word to the wise

Word to the wise is a shortened version of the phrase a word to the wise is sufficient. Bascially meaning that I'll say one word and you will be wise enough to know exactly what I'm talking about. There is a connotation of the information being passed in a secret way. It is sometimes used for comedic effect by sharing common sense information. Even when the word is a long sentence, the idiom should not be phrased words to the wise, since the meaning of the idiom is that one word will … [Read more...]

Knee-high to a grasshopper

To be knee-high to a grasshopper means to be very short or very young. Though the second meaning is heard more commonly. The idiom literally means to reach a grasshopper's knee.  It is usually used in reference to a time long ago when someone was younger/littler than the present. The first term is always hyphenated as an adjective describing someone or something's height. History This idiom originated in the United States in 1814 as the phrase knee-high to a toad. Many animals have been … [Read more...]

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