Word Nerd: Vice Grip


Today’s pair of words is uniquely American; the British are sensible enough to spell both words the same way. We have vice and vise, but in England, it’s vice and vice. If you’re British, you can ignore this week’s installment if you like. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Guilty Conscious


This week’s Word Nerd is one of those that actually surprised me; I thought that because the two are relatively harder to spell than most of our frequently-confused words, fewer people would mess them up. Of course, the fact that they evolved from different conjugations of the same Latin word may have something to do with the confusion. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Heroine Overdose


This week’s Word Nerd is another that I’ve seen recently on Facebook, and it may be yet another autocorrect failure; perhaps your iPhone would prefer you discuss Wonder Woman rather than narcotics. It’s an example of that old nemesis, the silent e. Heroin and heroine. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Weary of Change


The New Year typically brings thoughts of change and new beginnings. Sometimes people look forward to these things, but sometimes they approach them with hesitation, and when they do, some of them use one of today’s words when they actually mean the other. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Grace Us With Your Presents


Merry Christmas! Today’s Word Nerd is holiday-themed because it seemed like a good idea at the time. Egg nog may have been involved. As it happens, both of these words apply to the holiday season. Presence and presents. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Up a Creak


Today’s Word Nerd is not a terribly common one, though it pops up from time to time. Maybe it’s due to autocorrect, or maybe it’s apathy, but it’s one I’ve seen a few times online, usually in the form of people talking about “hearing the door creek” or “fishing in the creak.” Continue reading

Word Nerd: I’m a Looser.


We’re back! And with three different illustrations this week. Here’s another one of those words that a lot of people get wrong simply because spellcheck doesn’t catch it, and it’s another of those in which the mistake typically only goes one way. People often write loose when they mean lose, but I’ve never seen anyone write lose when they meant loose. Continue reading

Word Nerd: The Bear Facts


Here’s yet another in the endless parade of homophones (or heterographs, if you prefer) that spellcheck happily ignores. This time we’ll cover the distance between carrying a heavy load and taking off your clothes, and we’ll throw in a big scary animal while we’re at it. We’ll look at bear and bare. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Flushing Out


Today’s Word Nerd is one of those cases where two very similar phrases exist, and because of being misheard, the wrong one gets used. Yes, it’s a mondegreen. Like “for all intensive purposes” or “all the sudden” (and please don’t ever say either of those), “flush out” crops up where it makes no sense, due to people having misheard “flesh out.” Continue reading

Word Nerd Index


This week marks the one year anniversary of the Word Nerd feature, and it finally occurred to me (after a few people emailed suggesting words I’d already done) that there really ought to be an index, so that those who are interested can find previous installments. So here it is. New installments will be added to the list as they are posted. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Insure Yourself


Today’s Word Nerd is an exercise in specificity. All three of these words are closely related, with the same root. At some point they separated into distinct but similar meanings. We’ll look at the difference between insure, ensure and assure. Continue reading

Word Nerd: St. Patty’s Day


Today’s Word Nerd strikes close to home for me. I’m half-Irish; my grandfather was from Galway and my grandmother from Cork. My grandfather’s name was Patrick, which is also my middle name, which brings us to today’s topic: St. Patrick’s Day. Continue reading

Word Nerd: Guerrillas in the Mist


Friday is National Gorilla Suit Day, a holiday invented by MAD‘s Maddest Artist, Don Martin. In honor of such an auspicious day, we’ll look at a problematic misuse of the word gorilla and its homophone, guerrilla. Continue reading

Word Nerd: That’s Not Cannon!


Today we come to the one word that was the cause of the Word Nerd feature coming into existence in the first place. A friend on Facebook had posted a comment about a comic book story plot-point and said “that’s not cannon.” I responded “people who talk about the Marvel cannon should be fired out of one.” Continue reading

Word Nerd: Be Wary


Today’s Word Nerd was a gift from Fox News, via Facebook. One of my friends posted an article about a Fox story on homeless panhandlers, and it included a screenshot. There for all the world to see was a laughably bungled word choice: “Donors should be weary of who they give money.” The word they are looking for is wary. This is one of those rare cases where two similar words have nearly opposite meanings. Continue reading