Foolproof vs. full-proof

The adjective foolproof means infallible or, more literally, impervious to the incompetence of fools. Just as a bulletproof vest makes one invulnerable to bullets, a foolproof plan is designed to be invulnerable to fools. Foolproof is usually one word, without a hyphen (though the hyphenated … [Read more...]

Seldomly

Seldomly is an unnecessary variant of seldom. Seldom is already an adverb, so adding the adverbial -ly doesn't change its meaning. Using seldomly is not a serious error, however. Your spell check probably catches it, and most major dictionaries either don't list the word or list it as obsolete, yet … [Read more...]

Alas

The interjection alas expresses grief or regret resulting from something described. It's essentially an archaic way of saying, "Oh no!" so it should always be associated with something negative. For modern writers, it is difficult to use alas without creating an ironic or pretentious tone, but the … [Read more...]

Thusly

Thusly is a superfluous word. Because thus is an adverb in its own right, the adverbial -ly adds nothing. This doesn't mean that thusly is wrong, however, and there are contexts in which many English-speakers find it simply sounds better than thus, especially where it introduces quotes or … [Read more...]

Beckon call

The phrase at [one's] beckon call is an eggcorn derived from a mishearing of the at [one's] beck and call, which means freely available or ready to comply. The mistaken phrase is sort of understandable because someone who is at your beck and call is ready to be beckoned. Still, attentive readers are … [Read more...]

Catachresis

In poetry, catachresis is the misapplication of a word or phrase to create a (usually) deliberately strained figure or a mixed metaphor. In nonpoetic writing and speech catachresis is often problematic, but poets have used it to achieve great compression and rhetorical energy in both serious and … [Read more...]

Apostrophe (poetry)

In poetry, an apostrophe is a figure of speech in which the poet addresses an absent person, an abstract idea, or a thing. Apostrophes are found throughout poetry, but they're less common since the early 20th century. Poets may apostrophize a beloved, the Muse, God, love, time, or any other entity … [Read more...]

Imagism

Imagism was a short-lived school of poetry that emphasized clarity and precision and rejected verbiage and sentiment. At the center of the movement was Ezra Pound, who was influenced in his thinking by a group of London poets and philosophers, among them T.E. Hulme, whose essay, "Romanticism and … [Read more...]

Close rhyme

A close rhyme consists of two rhyming words that are consecutive or very close together in a phrase or line. Many common expressions are close rhymed---for example, wear and tear, high and dry, double trouble, clip-clop, mumbo jumbo. Here are a few examples of close rhyme in poetry: tingling … [Read more...]

Bard

In Medieval Britain and Ireland, a bard was a professional poet who praised (and sometimes satirized) the ruler of the land. Both the word and the profession have origins in Celtic Europe. Traditionally, Welsh and Irish bards treated poetry as a craft to be learned and mastered. Young poets were … [Read more...]

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