A Cacophony of Confusables

An ETR reader writes: “Could your language columnist look into the correct usage of ‘complimentary’ and ‘complementary’?” The word “complimentary,” with an “i,” means free. It’s also the adjectival form of “compliment,” an expression of praise. On the other hand,...

You May Misquote Me

Recently, both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times published letters from readers citing the same familiar expression. Unfortunately, both readers – and the editors of these two distinguished newspapers – got it wrong. The Times letter offered...

Because, Since, As

Writers are sometimes puzzled about whether to use “because,” “since,” or “as” to indicate a connection between two events. An old rule commands that “since” be used exclusively for events involving the passage of time, but this ukase is debunked by most grammarians....

The Game of the Name

Did you ever stop to think about the many words you encounter and use that are derived from the names of real people? Linguists call such words eponyms (EP-uh-nims), from the Greek for “named after.” Eponym can also mean the person who inspired the word. The adjective...