Cause celebre


A cause celebre is a famous cause or incident that draws great public attention. In French it is spelled célèbre, but the accent marks are usually omitted in English, as shown by the ngram below. It is correct either way. The plural is causes celebres. Examples It is a cause célèbre for campaigners determined to save the French from turning into a nation of Coke-guzzling hamburger munchers. [The telegraph] The strike at Greyhound Recycling is now the most bitter and divisive trade … [Read more...]

Devil is in the details vs. God is in the detail


The idiom the devil is in the details means that problems can arise from small things. Usually it is also a caution to pay attention. An older, and slightly more common, phrase God is in the detail means that attention paid to small things has big rewards. The two phrases seem to have originated independently. Below is an ngram comparing the two. Examples The devil is in the details, isn't it? Ever have what seemed like a great idea and then when it came time to make the idea a … [Read more...]


Aberrant describes something as deviating from the norm. Another form is aberrational, which has a slightly different meaning as it is relating to the word aberration. A rare form is aberrative or tending to deviate from norms. Examples Durst family outcast Robert Durst’s aberrant behavior surfaced again in July, when he allegedly urinated on a cash register and candy rack at a Houston CVS store. [Commercial Observer] Various research groups around the world are investigating whether … [Read more...]

Bough or bow

A bough (pronounced /bau/) is a main branch of a tree. Its homonym bow has several meanings including: to quit a competition, to bend the body in an act of submission or reverence, to acknowledge applause, or debut. Bow can be pronounced /bo/ and has an alternate meaning. It can be a tie of a ribbon, a weapon made to shoot arrows, or a rod strung with hair to play a stringed instrument. Examples There is an instinctive fear in all of us, probably dating back to primeaval times, when it … [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...]

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