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Redoubt

A redoubt is a small area that gives protection to soldiers while under attack. The word can also be used for a figuratively safe place for anyone under attack. It is not a verb. A related word is redan. Also a military defense location, it differs from a redoubt in that a redan has an opening for retreat, whereas the redoubt is completely enclosed. History The word redoubt has been in use since the 1600s. It comes from the French word redoute. As military techniques have advanced to … [Read more...]

Slayed or slew

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...]

Skulduggery

Skulduggery is general underhanded behavior or trickery, usually secret or devious. The plural form is skulduggeries, though the word is rarely used in this way since it means behavior in a general sense to begin with. It can be spelled skullduggery, though the one l spelling is slightly more common. More importantly the one l spelling is listed first in the dictionary. The word seems to be a variant of a Scottish word sculduddery which meant lewd or obscene behavior. The origin … [Read more...]

Sizable or sizeable

Sizable means a significant amount of something. Outside of North America it is spelled sizeable. The spelling change extends to the adverb form sizably and sizeably. Be careful to use the correct form (i.e., do not use the adverb form when the adjective form is required.) Interestingly, the word peaked in popularity in the 1970s and since has dropped off. This is true of both spellings. Examples There's a sizable pool of mainstream Republicans here waiting to be courted, and in a … [Read more...]

Nitpick

To nitpick something is to focus on tiny, unimportant details. When the verb is changed to a noun it is hyphenated, nit-picking. Knitpick is a misspelling. Note: Picking a nit is not the same meaning, as a nit is a small insect egg. And nit-picking can also be used to mean picking actual nits, such as lice. Examples For as good as Cerrone (24-6) has been in 2014 (and he has been very, very good), you could nitpick the fact that he's still getting hit early in fights. … [Read more...]

Demeanor or demeanour

Someone's demeanor is his or her outward behavior, or the way he or she appears to others. It is spelled demeanour outside the United States. The spelling change extends to misdemeanor and misdemeanour. Side note: The United States borrowed the word misdemeanor from the United Kingdom. Misdemeanor adds the prefix mis- which denotes that the subsequent action has been done wrongly or badly (e.g., misheard, misread, misunderstood). In the United Kingdom demeanour was also a verb, so … [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...]

Grudge

As a noun, grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment that lasts for a long time. People hold a grudge. As a verb, grudge is used often as a synonym of begrudge. However, there is a slight distinction. To grudgingly do something is to resentfully do it. The prefix be- changes grudge from an intransitive verb to a transitive verb, which means it needs to have an object receiving the action. So you must begrudge someone, but you can grudgingly do things all on your own. In boxing two … [Read more...]

Tad bit vs tidbit

Tad bit means a little amount of something and is synonymous with tidbit and titbit. Though it is always spelled as two words.  Tad and bit can both be used on their own for a similar meaning. The use of both may seem redundant, however, it is an accepted phrase. It should not be used with another size adjective (e.g., a little tad bit or tad bit little). All terms are usually used with the article a. The phrase a bit can also signify a small amount of time or distance. Be aware … [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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