I love you, a bushel and a peck…a kenning and a quart…and a pint and a firlot?

A bushel? A peck? A dry quart? What exactly are these, and other common (and less common) units of measure? How do they compare to each other and to other common measures (such as a “wet” quart, or a liter)? Let’s find out.

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Beneficiation: It probably doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Yes, I continue to encounter, investigate, and explain obscure words—so that you don’t have to!

In this installment: beneficiation.

Continue reading

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A Little Practical Hawaiian

A couple of months ago I started putting together what I had expected would be a pair of posts to bookend my (long-planned and nearly cancelled) family vacation to Hawaii. The idea was that I would look at Hawaiian words in English (and some English words in Hawaiian) with a before and after perspective: “before” would cover those Hawaiian words that seemed to be common and useful for a visitor; “after” would be the correction post, showing where the first one was wrong and also adding useful words observed in the wild during my visit.

For various reasons, the first post didn’t happen. Posting “Part Two of One” might not seem to make a lot of sense, but the general idea of these posts is still a good one, especially since the first one (not posted) would have been more wrong than right. Here is the follow-up without foreword: an anecdotal and unscientific account of Hawaiian words that visitors to the islands should know.

Aloha! Mahalo in advance for clicking to read more.

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Tour de force? Coup de grace? Maybe coup de force or tour de grace?

A weird error crossed my desk the other day and it was interesting enough that I’m devoting this post to it.

You’ve probably encountered both of these phrases: coup de grace and tour de force. A coup de grace (the circumflex—coup de grâce—is considered standard by most dictionaries, but for this post I’m encouraging an acceleration of Garner’s Law of Loanwords  and have dropped it) is the literal death blow dealt to a dying opponent, or the figurative finishing stroke that puts an end to something. A tour de force originally indicated a great show of strength or power, but now commonly also describes a feat of great skill.

While originally French, both phrases have been used in English for a long time: coup de grace since just before 1700, tour de force since the first decade of the 19th century. They’ve been around long enough that it’s rare to see either italicized: you shouldn’t call them out that way, and the only reason I’ve done it is because that’s the  style I use to emphasize the key words covered in a post.

So what was the weird error?

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A Fortune Cookie? With Footnotes?

A couple of days ago, I had a dream that probably only an editor can truly appreciate. So I made this image to share. Enjoy!

I dreamed I opened a fortune cookie, and the fortune had footnotes!

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