Articles written by: Howard Richler

Word Nerd: Debunking the whole nine yards, one cubic foot at a time
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Word Nerd: Debunking the whole nine yards, one cubic foot at a time

In 1997, in his Encyclopedia of Words and Phrase Origins, Robert Hendrickson’s entry for “whole nine yards” states: “The expression did not arise in the garment industry but among construction workers, the nine yards referring to the maximum capacity a cement-mixer truck can carry—nine cubic yards of cement.” Hendrickson was […]

Word Nerd: Few Irish words in English? Put a kibosh on that load of malarkey!
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Word Nerd: Few Irish words in English? Put a kibosh on that load of malarkey!

Tis claimed that on Saint Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish. While this may or may not be true, it is a fact that the original Brits were the Celts who arrived in Britain and Ireland by 500 BC. After the Romans left Britain in the 5th century AD, the country […]

Word Nerd: Black English: Where African rhythms resonate
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Word Nerd: Black English: Where African rhythms resonate

In February, in the United States and Canada, we celebrate Black History Month to honour the achievements of black men and women throughout history. As such, let’s reflect on the speech patterns of black people. While negative attitudes toward black English persist, we have to look to yesteryear to see […]

Word Nerd: “Bespoke” crosses the pond. Crikey!
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Word Nerd: “Bespoke” crosses the pond. Crikey!

Some years ago while on a trip to England, I encountered some words and expressions that made me realize the importance of being bilingual in the English languages. For example, I asked someone in London where I could find an ATM. She looked nonplussed, but her companion translated, “he means […]

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Word Nerd: Skunk’s aroma wafts through English words

If a reader peruses this article, should I be a) disinterested, or b) nonplussed? It depends on the meaning ascribed to the three italicized words. Let me explain. Traditionally, “disinterested” meant impartial, but nowadays the majority of people use it to mean “not interested.” I regret this modern usage because […]

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Word Nerd: Don’t read this if you have hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia

Four score years ago, minus one, Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared: “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” Well, it appears Roosevelt was wrong. The site phobialist.com lists more than 500 phobias that might plague someone. Some aren’t widespread, such as cherophobia, the fear of gaiety; leukophobia, the fear of […]

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Prepositions? What are you talking about?

BY: HOWARD RICHLER Freshman: “Sir, can you tell me where the dining hall is at?” Professor: “Don’t you know that you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition?” Freshman: “OK, can you tell me where the dining hall is at, asshole?” From the time we entered high school we were […]

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Word Nerd: Tying the knot, a cross-cultural analysis of bondage in marriage

BY HOWARD RICHLER Ever since cavemen stopped dragging away unwilling partners by the hair, marriage has been a knotty situation. The climax of a Hindu ceremony arrives when the garments of the bride and groom are tied together and, bound in this manner, the knotted couple walk round a holy […]