Interview with Constance Hale

Constance Hale

Please meet Constance Hale, writer, hula dancer and author of the very popular grammar and writing blog, Sin and Syntax. Please introduce yourself and provide some background information. I have written three books on writing: The first is Wired Style, the second is Sin and Syntax, and the third is Vex, Hex, Smash, Smooch. The latter is intended as a romp through the history of language and, in particular, English. It is filled with ideas to play with in your writing. Sin and Syntax is a … [Read more...]

Chips vs. fries

North American fries (or French fries) are sticks of fried potato served hot. Outside of North America, namely the U.K., Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, these fried pieces of potato are called chips. (Side note: a chippy is a place that sells fish and chips.) However, to North Americans chips are thin slices of potato served cold. Everywhere else calls this food crisps. Examples Organizers of an annual french fry feed in Grand Forks say they broke their own record. The event dubbed the … [Read more...]


A firebrand is someone who is passionate and enacts change in a particular cause. It can also be a piece of burning wood. Examples Firebrand figures with extremist views about abortion laws, women’s rights and the family unit are controversially backing a families’ forum that three federal politicians are supporting. [News AU] The cash infusions, announced this week, value the firebrand Brooklyn-based news agency at more than $2.5 billion. [CNN] Seething South African firebrand Dale … [Read more...]


The dictionary lists America is the landmass consisting of North and South America. However, we were not able to find one example if it being used in this way, so it is our belief that this definition will become obsolete sooner rather than later. America is commonly used as a name for the United States of America. The continent  of America is more commonly called the Americas, and parts of the continent are determined by adjectives such as North America, South America, Central … [Read more...]


A patriot is someone who supports his or her country, even to defending it against enemies. It is also the trademark name of a missile designed for preemptive strikes. History Patriot comes from the Latin patriota or fellow countryman, and the Greek patris or fatherland. Examples One could be a patriot, but still criticise the government and political system of one's country. [South China Morning Post] A woman dubbed 'Britain's biggest patriot' has dressed up to celebrate every single … [Read more...]



Grammarist is not a dictionary-approved word. The term for a person who specializes in grammar is a grammarian. As you can see by this n-gram, its usage has dwindled over time. Examples The grammar debate in marketing is not new. The Winston cigarette brand was famously taken to task for “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” Grammarians gave them millions in free publicity by arguing that “Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.” [Forbes] Until recently I thought … [Read more...]

Moose vs. mooses

A moose is a large animal with antlers that is found in the northern forests of America, Europe, and Asia. Its plural is moose, not mooses. Though Mooses is a surname. Examples Moose are less likely to move from the road than deer, so drivers are advised to brake when they see a moose in or near the road. Their long legs and top-heavy bodies make moose very dangerous to motorists when struck. [Boston Herald] It was a taste of things to come, as Northern Ontario is famed for its natural … [Read more...]

Psychopath vs. sociopath

While there is some debate in the world of psychology, clinically the terms psychopath (or its abbreviation psycho) and sociopath are relatively interchangeable. Both refer to a clinical diagnosis of someone without guilt, who also has violent tendencies and disregard for others and laws. The slang term psycho is used as an insult meaning something or someone is generally crazy. Examples Psychopath-sociopaths are neither wise nor conscientious, because they lack a capacity for empathy and … [Read more...]


An accoutrement  is a clothing or equipment accessory. The French pronunciation is ackoo-truh-mahn, but the word has been adopted into the English language for centuries, so the anglicized pronunciation ackoo-treh-ment. Examples You could live in the inner city in an apartment shaped by clean, minimalist European lines and immerse yourself within the cultural delights of the city’s finest institutions and cultural accoutrement. [The Australian] The imagery links together the bridge, among … [Read more...]


As a verb, pooped has three meanings. First, to defecate; second, the act of a wave coming over the side of a ship, perhaps capsizing the ship; and third, to be very tired. A related but separate phrase is for something to poop out or stop working suddenly. History The second definition came from the Latin word puppis or stern, which Middle English changed to poop. Incidentally, the highest deck of a ship is still called the poop deck. In the 18th century, the word gained the definition to … [Read more...]

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