Even keel

Even keel is technically an idiom which means everything is stable or under control. A related idiom is smooth sailing. Both idioms have their origin in boating or sailing. For a ship to be on an even keel is for it to be level in the water and sailing smoothly. Even keel may be used on its own or in the phrase on an even keel. The second phrase is found in some dictionaries, while the first is not. It is always spelled as two words with no hyphen. Alternatively, even-keeled is listed in some … [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...]

Slayed or slew


To slay something can mean to kill it or to amuse it. The past tense of the first meaning is slew, while the past tense of the second meaning is slayed. The popularity of the word slayed has grown considerable in the last century, and my guess would be that the colloquially usage of the word will make it into the dictionaries eventually.   Also, keep in mind that slew has other meanings such as, a sudden change in direction. A slew of things is a large amount. Examples "She … [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, and 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 troika is a group of three things, usually three individuals who work together in a leadership capacity. Originally it was a term for Russian sleighs or carriages pulled by a team of three horses. Additionally, Troika is the name of a committee which organized loans to several European countries during the recent economic crisis. And lastly, a troika is a Russian folk dance where one man has two women for his partners. The actions of the dance are imitations of the horses prancing while … [Read more...]

Right-side up

The noun phrase right-side up describes a direction in which the correct side of an object is facing up. Right-side is a hyphenated compound noun, while up completes the noun phrase. In this phrase the word right has the definition of being correct, not the opposite of left. The same is true for the phrase right-side out, and the nouns right-hand and left-hand. Though when you are speaking about the right side of an object, meaning the opposite of the left side, there is no hyphen. The … [Read more...]

Wonder vs. wonderment

To wonder is a verb meaning to feel curiosity, doubt, or admiration. Wonder can also be a noun describing a feeling of admiration, usually caused by something new or beautiful. Lastly, wonderment is a noun meaning a state of awe or respect. Wonderment is a fairly new entry to the dictionary. In most situations, wonder is preferred. Examples Roadtrip on an Australian highway to a land of wonder. [Daily Telegraph] They look around in wonder as I point to various details – plaited camel-hair … [Read more...]


Akimbo describes a body position where hands are on hips and the elbows are out wide. It is an adjective that always follows the noun it modifies, such as arms akimbo. Recently there has been a rise in using akimbo in reference to almost anything that is splayed out or haphazardly arranged. The phrase legs akimbo means the legs are haphazardly splayed. Examples Mr Simusamba said the UPND would not stand with its arms akimbo and continue watching the ruling party violate the electoral … [Read more...]

Obliged vs. obligated

As a transitive verb oblige can mean to restrict by force or circumstances. To be obliged is to be in someone's debt because of a favor or service. Obligate carries a slightly different meaning, which is to force someone (or an organization) to do something because the law or morality requires it. Over the last hundred years, obliged has fallen in use while obligated has risen very slightly, though obliged is still more common. Examples One of the parties with a reporting duty is the … [Read more...]


Hand-wash is a verb meaning to wash something by hand. Hand soap can sometimes be referred to as handwash or hand wash. When talking about the act of washing one's hands, there is not a official listing in most dictionaries. Medical reference books use the spelling of handwashing, but most other sources, including spell check, use hand washing. When describing objects that may only be hand-washed, it is most common to say hand wash only. A water source used for hand washing, usage seems to be … [Read more...]

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