Hibernating for the Summer? That’s estivating.

Not too long ago, I found myself writing a quick social media message for a seasonal organization that was shutting down for their off-season: a ski club, which has little or no activity between early April and early September.

The group was going dormant for a few months and a word that naturally came to mind was “hibernation.” In the first draft, something along the lines of “we’ll see you in the Fall, when we emerge from hibernation made it to the page.

As soon as I wrote that, I was pretty sure it made no sense. My Latin is exceedingly rusty, but I realized right away that this is a specific seasonal word. ‘Wait a minute,’ I thought. ‘”hibernation” means to sleep through the winter.’ It’s right there in the word — hibernate is from the Latin hiberna (winter quarters) or hibernare (to winter — a verb which isn’t much used in modern English). The Latin for ‘winter’ itself is hiems, if you’re curious.

What then, I wondered, is the correct term? Is there an opposite to hibernate…to describe what an animal does when it sleeps for the summer? Before I could even look that up, new questions followed: hibernation seems a natural strategy for an animal to reduce energy use and go dormant when resources are scarce. Are there reasons why an animal might want to sleep through the summer? And are there any such animals? What are they?

You’re dying to know, so click for more.

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Amidst, Amongst, Whilst: You Stillst Shouldn’tst

A reader recently took issue with my long-standing recommendation to avoid the use of the “-st” variants of amid, among, and while (original 2013 post here). Our exchange about it was growing unmanageably long for the comments section, so I’ve gone and turned it into a full post for today.

The reader’s actual question was, essentially:

“is it more appropriate to talk about being amidst people or amongst people?”

All will be answered when you click here

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Capitalizing the Internet (or internet): big I or little i?

In case you missed it, the big news in writing style this month was an announcement by the AP style book that…

Wait, wait, wait. Hold on a minute. Let’s rethink that. The whole idea of “big news in writing style” seems wrong. Is there ever any “big news” when it comes to writing style?

Click for news, big and small

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n-grams: for fun (and profit?)

In the last post I delved into LSSU’s list of “banned words” for 2016 using the Google Ngram viewer. If you’re interested in modern language use (primarily English, but it dips into a few others), that’s a tool you should know about and learn to use. But what exactly are “n-grams“?

Read more about the power of n-grams

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Banned for 2016?

It’s not fresh news, but I still want to mention this year’s “Banished Words” as compiled by the good people at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. They’ve been at this (admittedly silly) exercise since before most groups began naming a “Word of the Year” — the 2016 list was LSSU’s 41st swing at the curve ball that is our ever-changing vocabulary. As usual, they provided a few interesting things to think about.

Click for some interesting things

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