Parlor or parlour

This is another United States and British division. A parlor (or parlour) is a room in the house specifically used to entertain guests. The custom of having a parlor has become less common. More likely you will hear the word in reference to a shop or business that is specific to one type of service (e.g., a massage parlor or a tattoo parlor) or a restaurant that sells one type of food (e.g., ice cream parlor). It can also be used as an adjective. A parlor trick is a simple magic trick, or … [Read more...]

Oases

Oases is the plural of oasis, and it is pronounced \ō-ˈā-ˌsēz\ (oh a ceez).  An oasis is a location with water in a desert, or figuratively can be a happy place surrounded by sadness. This can also be used for a period of time when things were good. It makes the adjective oasitic pronounced (oh uh sit ick), as well as oasal and oasean. Examples My first stint as Miss America for hire had been that September, in the desert oasis of Dunhuang, for the city’s International Grape Festival. … [Read more...]

Mouthfuls

A mouthful is the maximum amount a mouth will contain. It can also mean something that is extremely hard to pronounce, or something said that has a lot of meaning. The plural is mouthfuls. This word falls into the category of words with the suffix -ful. While this suffix means full, it is never spelled with two l's unless it is in the adverb form (e.g., cheerfully). Since an adverb form of mouthful  does not exist, it should never be spelled with two l's. However several mouths full of … [Read more...]

Jones

To jones for something is to want it very badly. It is commonly used with a drug addiction when the addict wants a hit of whatever drug he or she uses. You can also have a jones or a craving. The plural is joneses. The phrase keeping up with the Joneses means to measure yourself or household by what your neighbors do or buy. It started as a comic strip in 1913. If you are referring to the possessive, it would be Jones's. Examples “You know what I see when I look at my wrist. My … [Read more...]

Hijinks or high jinks

  High jinks is a plural noun referring to loud chaotic play, specifically characterized by its high energy and wildness. It can also be spelled hijinks. Some say that high jinks is used within the United States, while hijinks is found outside. However, we found that there is a good mix of either spelled used in all locations. And while the dictionaries list hijinks as the variant spelling, it is growing in popularity as the preferred spelling. The term seems to come from the … [Read more...]

Heyday

  Heyday is a noun which refers to a time when something or someone was in its prime or at the height of its power or influence. In the phrase having a heyday, the meaning can be slightly different. For a company or field of study to be having a heyday, means they are in their prime or at the peak of their influence. For an individual to have a heyday means he or she is having a great time, or be able to use the maximum of their talents. Archaically, heyday was also used to mean … [Read more...]

Fete

  A fete is an extravagant celebration or party, sometimes outdoors. It can also be considered a festival where a large number of individuals gather to honor someone. As a verb, to fete someone is to honor them with a large party. It makes feted and feting. The French word from which fete is derived has a circumflex over the first e—to make fête—but the mark is usually dropped in English. Either spelling is correct. The word come from the Latin festum which meant … [Read more...]

Blew, blown, or blowed

  As a verb, to blow means, in its most common definition, is for air to move either by nature (e.g., the wind or a breeze) or for a person to push air out of his or her mouth. To blow past something is to move quickly beyond it. The past tense is blew an the past participle is blown (e.g., I have blown a tire.). While dictionaries will say that blowed  is a past tense form of blow, however, most readers will see this as incorrect. In some slang blowed is used to mean an event was awful, … [Read more...]

Interview with Lisa McLendon

Lisa McLendon

Grammarist is pleased to introduce Lisa McLendon, aka "Madam Grammar." Please introduce yourself and provide some background information. I’m Lisa McLendon and I teach editing and writing in the journalism school at the University of Kansas. Before this job, I was a newspaper copy editor for 12 years, and before that, I completed a Ph.D. in Slavic linguistics. What inspired you to starting writing your blog, "Madam Grammar?" I wanted to demystify grammar and usage, bust a few … [Read more...]

Brand spanking new

  The phrase brand spanking new means to be entirely new or recently created, and was first recorded in 1860. It evolved from the compound word brand-new and the phrase spick-and-span. Also, spanking, while the main definition is to hit someone on the butt, can also mean to move quickly. So one might say that a brand spanking new object was created quickly or appeared very fast. In truth, no one knows quite how it was coined or what it originally referred to. This idiom is not … [Read more...]

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