Articles written by: Howard Richler

Courtesy of stock.xchng
Columnists

Word Nerd: Original blackmailers being blackmailed?

“Scottish independence; Navy frigate contract will be held after U.K. split vote,” read an August 2012 headline in The Scotsman. This story related how lucrative contracts to build the next generation of Royal Navy frigates would only be announced after the Scottish referendum on independence scheduled for autumn 2014. Not […]

Courtesy of stock.xchng
Columnists

Word Nerd: What we lose when we lose a language

The adjective “endangered” is usually twinned with the noun “species” as the onslaught of civilization has brought about a diminution in the planet’s biodiversity. But not only are many species on the verge of extinction—many languages are teetering toward oblivion. Of approximately 7,000 languages, it is estimated that anywhere from […]

Courtesy of stock.xchng
Columnists

Word Nerd: The pure gold of synonym chains

Although in the Middle Ages it is unlikely that gold fetched more than $1,500 an ounce, we still should pity the Middle Ages alchemists who futilely endeavoured to turn lead into gold. For all they had to do to perform such a metamorphosis was to create a simple series of […]

Word Nerd: Insidious Britishisms flood U.S. kit
Columnists

Word Nerd: Insidious Britishisms flood U.S. kit

A couple of years ago, the BBC asked its indigenous population to relate which barbaric Americanisms most infuriated them. This plea drew countless entries from Brits angry about the bastardization of Shakespeare’s tongue. Here is but a soupçon of the vituperative replies: “Can I get a …” It infuriates me. […]

Courtesy of stock.xchng
Columnists

Word Nerd: Pronoun envy and the singularization of they

Although the English language offers its speaker a large vocabulary, it is missing some useful words, particularly in the realm of referencing other people. For example, many are not comfortable with referencing their inlaws as Mom and Dad, yet are not comfortable with calling them by their first names. Some […]

Word Nerd: Donkey kicked that arse out of the lexicon
Columnists

Word Nerd: Donkey kicked that arse out of the lexicon

In January, I listened to a podcast at lexiconvalley@slate.com that discussed the proclivity of New Yorkers to drop their Rs in speech. This phenomenon is known to linguists as non-rhoticity and is common to several English accents in North America and abroad. Podcast host Mike Vuolo by way of example […]

Word Nerd: The ABCs of the greatest invention since beer
Columnists

Word Nerd: The ABCs of the greatest invention since beer

If you ask people to name the most consequential inventions of world history, you’ll probably hear a list that includes the telephone, the wheel and, among some of my rowdy crowd—beer. The creation of the alphabet should be on this list if we measure the extent of its use in […]

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

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!
Columnists

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
Columnists

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 […]