Happy median or happy medium

The correct idiom is happy medium and not happy median. The confusion of a phrase based on its pronunciation is called an eggcorn. Medium is the middle term for size, in between large and small. It is also the name for people who believe they can channel thoughts from the  dead, and the term for materials used by an artist. Median is the middle of a set of numbers, as well as the divider in a road. But while happy median does make logical sense, the standardphrase, which has been in use … [Read more...]


Restive is an adjective used to describe something as restless or fidgety. Politically it is used to describe regions in unrest or without peace. Restive is also used in reference to horses when they refuse to move forward by standing still or sliding backwards. Its derivatives include the adverb restively and the noun restiveness. Restive has seen an absolute reversal in definitions. The original word came from the Old French word restif which meant to remain still. The association with … [Read more...]

Prebiotic vs probiotic

A prebiotic is a non-digestible chemical or ingredient which acts as food for good bacteria and flora in the intestinal tract. It is generally used in its plural prebiotics, since it is rare that only one is added to a food. They naturally occur in foods such as garlic, honey, onions, and bananas. A probiotic is the bacteria itself which lives in the intestinal tract. They naturally occur in foods such as yogurt. They are also normally discussed in the plural probiotics. Both words are not … [Read more...]


Stupefaction is the noun form for the state of being stupefied, which in turn means to be dumbfounded or surprised, or to cause someone to lose their wits or their ability to reason or process information. This noun does not a have a plural form. Stupefactions is incorrect. The peak in popularity for stupefaction occurred around the turn of the twentieth century and has been on a decline since then. The adjective form of stupefy is stupefying.  Most commonly this word is misspelled and … [Read more...]


Learning can be the progressive form of the verb learn, so that you are in the process of acquiring knowledge. Learning is also a synonym for knowledge, or information acquired and retained in someone's mind. It can be an adjective describing an object as something that will give the user more knowledge. Learnings is a pluralization of an erroneous form of learning as a singular noun. Said singular noun (e.g., a learning) does not exist, at least according to most dictionaries. Colloquially, … [Read more...]

Lie or lye


Lye is a harsh chemical used in making soap or washing solutions. The term was vastly more common in the 1800s (see ngram below) because people made their own lye at home. The process includes soaking hardwood ashes for days in water. The water becomes lye, which was then used to make soap. When it became more cost-effective to buy bars of soap in a store, the use of the word lye decreased.   Unfortunately, a common way to hear the word lye is in relation to a crime where someone … [Read more...]

Site vs cite

A site is a location, either used for a specific activity, construction, or important event. It also has come to mean a website. Cite is a verb which means to reference another's work, either by quotation or general idea. To cite someone, or to issue a citation, is to require them to appear in a court of law.  The verb forms include citing, cited, and cites. Cite has the derivatives of citation and citable. Site's other homonym sight is discussed here. Examples Organisers of the town’s … [Read more...]


A redoubt is a small area that gives protection to soldiers while under attack. The word can also be used for a figuratively safe place for anyone under attack. It is not a verb. A related word is redan. Also a military defense location, it differs from a redoubt in that a redan has an opening for retreat, whereas the redoubt is completely enclosed. History The word redoubt has been in use since the 1600s. It comes from the French word redoute. As military techniques have advanced to … [Read more...]


As a noun, grudge is a feeling of anger or resentment that lasts for a long time. People hold a grudge. As a verb, grudge is used often as a synonym of begrudge. However, there is a slight distinction. To grudgingly do something is to resentfully do it. The prefix be- changes grudge from an intransitive verb to a transitive verb, which means it needs to have an object receiving the action. So you must begrudge someone, but you can grudgingly do things all on your own. In boxing two … [Read more...]

Mom vs mom

Capitalization is required for proper nouns, such as names, but sometimes words can be proper nouns or common nouns. Family titles, such as mom and dad, fit into this category. The general rule is to capitalize a family name when it is used as a name, and not to capitalize when it is a common noun. A good tip is to look if there is a pronoun or article (e.g., the, your, his, etc.) preceding the title. If an article or pronoun is there, don't capitalize (e.g., your mother is pretty). If there … [Read more...]

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