Tag Archives: Usage

Tsar or Czar?

In the United States, the term “czar” is sometimes used to denote an extraconstitutional layer of Presidential advisers (among other things). When the office bears no resemblance to its ancestor, the word has scant obligation to do so, and so, in that idiosyncratic context, I have no objection to the term. For all other purposes, […]

Modifying infinitives

Generally, we expect adverbs and adjectives to immediately precede the word that they modify. But what about infinitives? If you shouldn’t split an infinitive, how can you qualify infinitives? One answer is to make the adverb postpositive, as did James Cromwell, playing Zephram Cochrane: “This engine will allow us to go boldly where no man […]

Less and fewer

Helpful guidance on one of those little usage niggles that drive pedants like me crazy: Getting less and fewer right.  

Usage notes from 2011

Over at FB, I’ve been posting an occasional series of friday usage tips. Here’s what we’ve looked at so far: Usage tip #1: That and Which. As a rule, use “that” for defining clauses, i.e. when what follows restricts what preceded (“the book that I wrote”); use “which” when what follows simply gives more information (“the book, […]

Archbp. Williams

Few men can get away with using mutatis mutandis in spoken English, and I appreciate his Grace for being one of them.