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Title cover of "Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President from Washington to Trump" by Edwin L. Battistella, published by Oxford University Press

Is it a noun or an adjective?

The distinction between nouns and adjectives seems like it should be straightforward, but it’s not. Grammar is not as simple as your grade-school teacher presented it.

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Title cover of "Dangerous Crooked Scoundrels: Insulting the President from Washington to Trump" by Edwin L. Battistella, published by Oxford University Press

In praise of phrases

Writers need to love words—the good, the bad, and the irregular. And they need to respect syntax, the patterns that give words their form. But when writers understand the power of phrases, their sentences shine.

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Word Origins

Dangerous neighbors: “sore” and “sorrow”

Quite naturally, speakers connect words that sound alike. From a strictly scholarly point of view, “sore” and “sorrow” are unrelated, but for centuries, people thought differently, and folk etymology united the two long ago.

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“Lying” in computer-generated texts: hallucinations and omissions

There is huge excitement about ChatGPT and other large generative language models that produce fluent and human-like texts in English and other human languages. But these models have one big drawback, which is that their texts can be factually incorrect (hallucination) and also leave out key information (omission).

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