Psychiatry vs. psychology

Psychiatry is a branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of mental and emotional disorders. Psychology is the science of mind and behavior. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor. Psychologists may work with patients in a variety of therapeutic contexts, but they generally can't prescribe medication (at least in the U.S.). Examples The board suspended the doctor from practicing psychiatry and ordered him to take a medical ethics class. [] In one remarkable … [Read more...]

U.S. state demonyms

StateAlabama Alaska Arizona Arkansas California Colorado Connecticut Delaware Florida Georgia Hawaii Idaho Illinois Indiana Iowa Kansas Kentucky Louisiana Maine Maryland Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota Mississippi Missouri Montana Nebraska Nevada New Hampshire New Jersey New Mexico New York North Carolina North Dakota Ohio Oklahoma Oregon Pennsylvania Rhode Island South … [Read more...]

Chasten vs. chastise

Chastise means to punish or castigate. Chasten means to discipline or subdue. Chastisement is harsher, and chastening can be subtle and event gentle. Only chastisement would involve physical force or violence (though these are not essential to its meaning). Chastening usually comes in the form of verbal or social cues or formal rebuke. Both verbs are rooted in the adjective chaste, and they were interchangeable until the early 19th century, when they began to differentiate. They have not … [Read more...]

Marshal vs. martial

Martial is only an adjective, and it is narrowly defined. It describes things that are (1) of or related to war, (2) related to the armed forces, and (3) characteristic of or befitting a warrior. Marshal (with one l) is broader. It can serve as a noun referring to (1) a person holding one of various official positions, (2) a military officer, (3) an officer of the law or fire department in the U.S., or (4) a person in charge of a parade or ceremony; or as a verb meaning (1) to arrange or … [Read more...]


Participles are versatile adjectives (sometimes adverbs) formed by adding -ing or -ed to the stem of an infinitive verb. Participles like laughing, breathing, and stunning are present participles, and words like baked, blanketed, and cracked are past participles. While there are no irregular present participles, irregular past participles are numerous---for example, eaten, written, sung, hung, done. These are irregular because they don't end in -ed as most past participles do. Participles … [Read more...]

Lightening vs. lightning

Lightening is a present participle corresponding to the verb lighten, where to lighten is to make light or lighter. For example, we might say that a person who has been losing weight is lightening, or that an aging man's hair is lightening to gray. Lightning refers to an abrupt, discontinuous natural electric discharge in the atmosphere---i.e., the flash of light associated with thunder. Examples Lightening Besides lightening the mood with bright colours, fun shapes and pretty patterns, … [Read more...]

Pompom vs. pompon (vs. pom-pom etc.)

The term for a decorative tuft of material such as wool or ribbon was originally pompon, which came to English from French in the 19th century, but the misheard form pompom has gradually gained ground. Today, the two are used about equally in English. Two-word spellings such as pom pom and pom pon have never been standard, though they appear in informal contexts, and hyphenated forms such as pom-pom are likewise nonstandard. There's no reason for the word to have a hyphen. Examples Although … [Read more...]

Underway vs. under way

Under way is conventionally two words when it functions as an adverb or a predicate adjective (E.g., "The ship voyage is under way."). It is usually one word, underway, when it is an adjective preceding its noun (E.g., "The underway voyage was interrupted."). But English's compounding impulse may eventually make underway the preferred term in all contexts. And in fact, many edited publications already use only the one-word form, even as a predicate adjective. Examples These publications buck … [Read more...]

Throw under the bus

The clichéd expression throw under the bus means, roughly, (1) to betray, (2) to callously dispose of, or (3) to pass blame onto another for selfish reasons. It has been ubiquitous in the U.S. media for several years. While the expression might work in rare circumstances, it reeks of hyperbole and introduces violent imagery where it usually isn't called for. In our search for examples in the news, about half the instances of under the bus dealt with actual vehicular violence, which to us … [Read more...]


A clause is a group of words containing a subject (a noun or noun phrase) and a predicate (a verb, its qualifiers, and its object). Some sentences are made of single clauses. For example, This clause is a sentence. Others are made of multiple clauses. For instance, this sentence has three clauses: Since no one could pick us up, we had to take a cab, which cost almost $70. A clause is different from a phrase in that it is a self-contained unit with both a subject and a predicate, while a … [Read more...]

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