In contexts unrelated to poetry, an ideogram is a character or symbol that represents a thing or an idea without expressing its pronunciation. For example, many street signs---such as those in the U.S. representing "construction ahead," "handicap parking," or "no parking"---are ideograms. Ideograms … [Read more...]

Affect vs. effect

Affect is usually a verb, and effect is usually a noun. To affect something is to change or influence it, and an effect is something that happens due to a cause. When you affect something, it produces an effect. Here are a few examples of the words used correctly in these senses: The storm knocked … [Read more...]

Who’s vs. whose

Who's is a contraction of who is or who has. Whose is the possessive form of who or which. Think of it this way: If you were to replace it with who is or who has, would its meaning change? If no, you want who's. If yes, you want whose. Here are a few examples of the words used … [Read more...]

French numbers

French uses the same numbers as English, but the spellings and pronunciations are quite different. There are no simple memory tricks for remembering French numbers, so they just have to be memorized. Zero through … [Read more...]


In modern poetry, an anapest is a foot composed of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. In Classical verse, an anapest is two short syllables followed by a long one. Anapests are rare in spoken English, and in English-language poetry anapests are far less common than dactyls, … [Read more...]

French days and months

The French months are easy to remember because they all sound similar to their English versions.  French Pronunciation … [Read more...]

Fewer vs. less

The conventional rule for less and fewer is simple: less applies to singular nouns (including mass nouns), and fewer applies to plural nouns. For example, to have fewer dollars than someone else is to have less money, and to have fewer books is to have less reading material. Money and material, in … [Read more...]


The noun zeitgeist, meaning the spirit of the time, is a loanword from German (translating literally to time ghost).1 It's a useful word because there is no one-word English equivalent. Zeitgeist has been in widespread use for a long time (at least a century and a half),2 so it no longer needs to … [Read more...]


In modern prosody, a dactyl is a metrical foot composed of one accented syllable followed by two unaccented ones. These words are dactyls: poetry suddenly particle Longfellow Classical dactyl In Classical prosody, a dactyl is a foot composed of one long syllable followed by two short ones. … [Read more...]

French greetings and salutations

If you want to be polite in a French-speaking country, memorize these common French words and phrases and use them liberally in your routine interactions.  French Pronunciation English à  bientôt ah bee-ehn-toe see you soon à  demain ah deh-mehn see you tomorrow à  toute … [Read more...]

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