Define Connotations

dictionary definition of a wordWhat is connotation?  Recently I was giving a presentation, and I talked about a word’s connotation.  “Traditionally, for many, doubt has a negative connotation.”  Someone interrupted me mid-sentence, in front of everyone, “uh, I think you mean denotation.”  Um, excuse me, but I am a lawyer, and I was an English major before that, and an avid reader and word lover/enthusiast always, and I believe I know the difference between connotation and denotation better than you do, thank you very much.  Also, even if you were right (which you’re not), it’s extremely rude to interrupt someone and try to make them look stupid in front of a group.  And it’s especially obnoxious if you’re also wrong.  But then, of course, I went straight home and looked up both denotation and connotation in the dictionary, and this is what I discovered: Continue reading

“The Word Exchange” by Alena Graedon

the-word-exchangeI read this intelligent, suspenseful, and captivating novel a few months ago, and have been trying to figure out how to review it, and do it justice, ever since.  I’m still not sure.  I loved it, but it was almost, and I can’t believe I’m even saying this, but it really was almost too smart.  Too clean.  Too perfect.  Without reservation, I would recommend it highly to anyone.  But it’s intimidating.

Continue reading

Define “dunce”

How do you spell "nihil"?

The second most frequent question we get here at the dunce academy is “how can you become smart if you are dunce?” (for some reason, the first most frequent questions we get are about how to become a csi agent; I don’t know why people keep coming here for those questions; we dunces are nerds, certainly, but not science nerds, and I think that is the number one prerequisite). Continue reading

Define connotations

What is connotation?  Everyone probably has a pretty good working understanding, but let’s look a little bit deeper, just for fun.

The New Oxford American Dictionary (“NOAD”) defines “connotation” as a noun, meaning “an idea or feeling that a word invokes in addition to its literal meaning.” Continue reading

Nauseous, Nauseated, Nauseating

It’s that time of year again.  No fun!  But let’s make it fun with a quick and useful grammar/vocabulary lesson.

What is “nausea”?  The root “nausea” is a noun, meaning:

  1. A feeling of physical unwellness, usually with the desire to vomit.
  2. Strong dislike or disgust.
  3. Sea-sickness. Continue reading

Adventures In Pedantry – The Definition of Decimate



I’m not sure what it is about Mixed Martial Arts writers and announcers, but “decimate” is one of their favorite words. Someone gets a bad beating, like Josh Koscheck getting his orbital smashed up by GSP, and we are treated to lines like “Koscheck was decimated by…”

I know that decimate is understood in this context to be a hellacious beatdown, but what is the definition of decimate? I’m going to venture beyond the safety of Google’s define feature, and I’m even going to go beyond When in doubt, if you really care, go to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Here are four different definitions of decimate: Continue reading

Define “curious”

For some reason, my alarm clock is set to this religious station.  Every morning I am awakened by a booming, enthusiastic sermon about one topic or another.  Despite the subject matter, I always find the voice comforting.  But this morning was a doozy.

The preacher/pastor/rabbi whatever he is was talking about infidelity, and he walked through an interesting progression.  He started out by saying that many people have beautiful bodies, different shapes, different curves, different attributes, and that finding these attributes attractive is not a sin.  Appreciating them is not a sin.  Offering an awed, almost involuntary compliment in manifestation of this appreciation is not a sin.  Thinking about these attributes is not a sin.  Even dreaming about these attributes is not a sin.  But it is close.  Continue reading

Past tense of “sneak”

What is the past tense of “sneak”?  If you’re like me, your initial reaction is “snuck,” right?  But I make a lot of these decisions quickly, and based on my inner ear.  What sounds right?  What sounds familiar?  I grew up mostly in America, mostly among native English speakers, and mostly among American English speakers.  History was not my best subject, but I know we didn’t invent the language.  It’s not called “American,” after all (though I know some that would probably argue for a change there). Continue reading