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Letting foregones be bygones

I was reading a column in a chess magazine when I came across the description of a game’s finish as a bygone conclusion. “That’s really weird,” I thought, “It should have said foregone conclusion.”

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What are light verbs?

English verbs show tremendous variety. Some have a lot of semantic content and serve as the main predicate of a sentence—as transitive or intransitive or linking verbs.

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Seeing is believing (?)

Today I’ll try to say something about the verb “see.” Once again, we’ll have to admit that the more basic a word is, the less we know about its remote history.

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After a sun eclipse: bedposts and curtains in sex life and warfare

The phrase in a/the twinkling of a bedpost (with the archaic variant bedstaff) means the same as in a twinkling of an eye, that is, “very quickly,” because twinkle, when used metaphorically, refers to a rapid movement. Agreed: eyes and stars twinkle, but bedposts don’t, and here is the rub.

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Getting English under control

Any large organization or bureaucracy is likely to have a style guide for its internal documents, publications, and web presence. Some organizations go a step further and develop what is known as a control language.

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The scars of old stars

The Oxford Etymologist is out of hibernation and picks up where he left off in mid-December. It may be profitable to return to the origin of “star”, but from a somewhat broader perspective.

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Twinkle, twinkle, or stars and sparks

Nothing is known about the origin of the phrase “Milky Way.” By contrast, the origin of the word “star” is not hopelessly obscure, which is good, because stars and obscurity have little in common.

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Down the rabbit hole

If you are a writer, you’ve probably gone down a rabbit hole at one point or another. The idiom owes its meaning to Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, in which Alice literally does that.

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