Buck naked, butt naked

No one knows the exact origins of buck naked, which means completely naked, but the American Heritage Dictionary says it’s from the U.S. South. The earliest example we can find in historical Google News searches (which of course are very limited) is from 1915, and the term gradually becomes more common as the century progresses. Despite what some sources say, butt naked is not wrong. It’s just a newer form. Even that is disputed, though, as some have conjectured that the buck in buck naked … [Read more...]


When the verb cost means to be priced at or to cause loss or expenditure, it is uninflected in the past tense and as a past participle. For example, we might say that the low-cost milk cost less yesterday than it costs today. But when cost means determine the cost of or set the cost of, it is inflected costed. For example, we might say that the store manager costed the milk at a cheaper price yesterday. To people in the U.S., costed might sound funny because this sense of the word is not … [Read more...]

Electric, electrical, electronic

Electrical, electric, and electronic share much common ground, and they are interchangeable in many uses, but it’s possible to sketch rough differences between them. Electrical means of or relating to electricity, and it’s used for things that generate or process electricity---for example, electrical generators and electrical outlets. It’s also simply a broad term for anything that uses electricity. Devices that run on electricity are electric---for example, electric lights, electric … [Read more...]


Klutz, a noun, came to English from Yiddish in the late 20th century, and it has origins in the German klotz, which means a wooden block. In English, it refers to (1) a foolishly clumsy person, or (2) a stupid person, especially one who is socially inept. The word is more often used in the first sense. The plural of klutz is klutzes. Dictionaries record two derivatives: the adjective klutzy, meaning foolish or clumsy; and the noun klutziness, meaning foolishness or clumsiness. And we find a … [Read more...]

Checkout vs. check out

Checkout is a noun and an adjective. The corresponding verb is two words---check out. For example, when you are ready to check out at the grocery store, you wait in the checkout line. Or when you want to check out of your hotel after the standard time, you might ask for a late checkout. The one-word form is sometimes hyphenated---check-out. But the unhyphenated form is more common in all the main varieties of English. Examples Checkout is a noun and an adjective---for example: It's the one … [Read more...]


Irregardless is a century-old colloquial word that means the same as irrespective and regardless, and it may have come about by some fusion or confusion of those two words. The use of irregardless is a common peeve among people who question illogical new words and phrases in English, but the word is not as bad as many people think. The main gripe is that irregardless is an illogical word because it contains a double negative. The prefix ir- means not and the suffix –less mean without, so the … [Read more...]

Ivy League

The small group of venerable, academically well-regarded American universities known as the Ivy League comprises Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. Strictly speaking, the term doesn't apply to any schools outside these eight. … [Read more...]

Macaron vs. macaroon

A macaron is a French confection usually consisting of a creamy filling between two cookies. A macaroon is a light cookie often containing almonds or coconut. The two foods tend to share some of their ingredients---egg whites and almonds, especially---but the finished products differ greatly. Meanwhile, macaron tends to denote a very specific type of French cookie, while macaroon is more general, referring to a variety of cookies made around the world. The French word and the English word … [Read more...]

Paid vs. payed

Paid is the standard past tense and participle of pay. Payed was historically used for the nautical senses of pay and in the phrasal verb pay out where what's payed out is rope. The form still appears occasionally, but paid now prevails even in payed's traditional uses. … [Read more...]

Traveled/traveling vs. travelled/travelling

In American English, the inflected forms of travel take one l---so, traveled, traveling, traveler, etc. In varieties of English from outside the U.S., these forms take two l’s---travelled, travelling, traveller, etc. Related Canceled vs. cancelled According to the ngram below, American English adopted the one-l forms in the early 20th century. Many other verbs ending in -el went through a similar transition around this time. Others, such as cancel, did not change until several decades … [Read more...]

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