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Word of the Day: Etymology

Word of the Day:  Etymology

According to Wikipedia, etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time. By extension, the term "the etymology of [a word]" means the origin of the particular word.

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Email Matters

Email Matters

Excerpted with permission from  

Read the full article here:

Emails are not as public as a Twitter tweet, but can lead to grief for the unwary. We’ve all heard the horror stories of the jokester who says something outrageous intended for the eyes of a friend, and then hits the “Reply All” button by mistake.  Because there’s always the chance that an email might go astray, don’t say anything in an email that you don’t want a third party to read.

One way to avoid embarrassing situations with clients or employers is to make a habit of treating every email with care, even the ones you dash off to your friends. Human frailty being what it is, there’s probably no way to avoid saying or typing something stupid at some time or another, but a few tips can save some embarrassment.

Common courtesy is the key to writing an email that won’t come back to bite you.  Courtesy when writing an email means considering such things as the fact that not everyone can read tiny type or understand texting abbreviations. Depending upon the recipient, sloppy English or attempts at humor can prove deal breakers. In these tippy-toe times of political correctness, it doesn’t take much to offend some people. No one, however, is likely to take offence at standard usage and conventional formatting.

Subject Line

Put something meaningful in the subject line. Be as specific as possible, even for your friends. Instead of “Hi” or “Hello,” type something that refers to the message. No one enjoys having to sort through hundreds of emails in order to double check one of them.


Leave the fancy script and colored text for homemade greeting cards. Choose an easy-to-read font and a dark font color. Dark blue is all right, but black is better. Red is the hardest color to read. Big is better than small. Use a minimum of 12-point.

Upper- and Lower-case

Use lowercase type with capitals where capitals are called for. Lowercase is easier to read than all caps, but don’t go to extremes and omit capitals altogether. Friends may not mind, but a business colleague may interpret lack of capitalization as evidence of lack of education or energy.


Spell correctly. Use conventional abbreviations. Save texting code for texting.


It’s easy enough to misinterpret a written message. Reread what you have written before hitting Send. See if the addition of a comma or other punctuation might make your meaning clearer.


Begin your email with the recipient’s name. For a friend or associate, the first name is the obvious salutation. Otherwise, use the full name [or a title such as Mr., Ms., Dr., etc., and the last name].


The way you end your email will depend upon your relationship with the recipient and the nature of the email. If you are reporting bad news or responding to it, you’re not going to close by writing “Cheers” or “Have a nice day.”


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GRAMMAR LESSON: Dispose of vs. Dispose

GRAMMAR LESSON:  Dispose of vs. Dispose


Always use "of" with the verb “dispose” when the intention is to discard or get rid of something.  (The contractor disposed of the sediment in the Jacksonville ODMDS.)  Other meanings of dispose do not require the "of":  a general can dispose his troops (meaning to arrange them), a matter can be disposed in a legal sense (meaning to settle finally), and we can be disposed to illness (meaning to be inclined). 

Authority: Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Electronic Edition, 1996.  See

Washington State University ( offers this explanation:

If you want to get rid of your stuff you may dispose of it on Freecyle or Craigslist.  A great many people mistakenly dispose of the "of" in this phrase, writing sentences like "Dispose your unwanted mail in the recycling bin." You can also use "dispose of" to mean "deal with" ("You can dispose of your royalties as you see fit") or "demolish an opposing argument" ("The defense attorney disposed of the prosecutor's case in less than five minutes"). 

“Dispose" without "of" works differently, depending on the meaning. Whereas to dispose of your toy soldiers you might take them to a pawnshop, to dispose your toy soldiers you would arrange them for battle. Most politicians are disposed to talk at length.


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Grammar 101: May Have vs. Might Have

The terms “may have” and “might have” are often used incorrectly in spoken and written English.  Might is the past tense of may.  Ideally, may is the form to use when talking about a current situation, and might is the form to use in referring to an event from the past.  In practice, the two forms are used interchangeably.  Read the full article at




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Grammar: Kudo vs. Kudos

Used with permission and excerpted from

Some English speakers use the word kudo as the singular of kudos. What makes this usage problematic is the fact that kudos is already singular.

Kudos is a Greek word meaning “glory, fame, renown.” It entered the language as student slang back when undergraduates were still required to study Greek at the university. Presumably the early users knew that it was a singular noun.

The earliest OED* citation for the use of the back-formation kudo is dated 1941. The OED marks the use of singular kudo as “erroneous,” but Merriam-Webster provides kudo with its own entry, taking care to defend its position in doing so:

Some commentators hold that since kudos is a singular word it cannot be used as a plural and that the word kudo is impossible. But kudo does exist…

M-W’s assertion that kudo “does exist” makes me think of the comment made by Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944) about her excruciating efforts at singing opera: “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.”

Inarguably, kudo is a word.

Modern English is filled with words that began as errors only to become perfectly acceptable standard words.

For example, our words newt and apron are the result of confusion over the indefinite article. What we now call “a newt” used to be “an ewt,” but the n of the article became attached to the noun. Conversely, what we call “an apron” started out as “a napron.”

In Chaucer’s day, what we call a pea was called a pease. The plural was pesen. By the 1600s, pease was viewed as a word that, like sheep, could be either singular or plural. Before the end of the 17th century, pease had become pea in the singular and peas in the plural. That the older form persisted for a time is indicated by the nursery song “Pease Porridge Hot,” which dates from about 1765. M-W cites pea in its defense of singular kudo.

Here are some examples of singular kudo on the web:

That deserves a big KUDO! (agricultural site)
Riverfront venue kudo deserved (Mankato Free Press)
That deserves an even bigger KUDO. (product testimonial)
How can I give a kudo to a great comment? (Myspace FAQ)

In a way, kudo is like pea; both are back-formations. But the changes in pease and pesen occurred at a time when other number changes were taking place. English speakers once formed the plural of hose as hosen and tree as treen. I can think of only two nouns that have kept the -en plural: child/children, ox/oxen. We still use the plural brethren in a spiritual sense, but the regular plural of brother is brothers.

It seems to me that kudo belongs with jocular back-formations like kempt from unkempt and gruntled from disgruntled. In these days of universal education and easy access to reference materials, using kudo seriously doesn’t seem any more acceptable than rendering the word as these writers have:

Jane Hamsher deserves Kudo’s. (political blogger)
Director Brown reported the F&B Dept. deserves a BIG KUDO’s. (minutes of a public meeting)
Kudo’s from clients (category on a technology site).

*OED = Oxford English Dictionary

Connie’s note: “Kudo” isn’t recognized by the MS Word spell-checker.


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Grammar: Your vs. You’re

Do you know the difference between you’re and your? Just the fact that you’re reading this article could be your salvation and ensure you will never confuse the two words again.

Your shows possession, meaning it is used to present that something belongs to you. Because this four-letter word is an adjective, it is usually followed by a noun, but not always. 

          Your name is Tommy.

          Red is your favorite color. 

You're, on the other hand, is a contraction meaning "you are." It is often followed by a verb ending in “ing.” 

          You're moving too slowly and you’re going to be late for school.

          When you’re older, you’ll understand why your parents wanted you to be on time. 

To determine which version of the word is correct, try replacing it with “you are.” If the sentence still makes sense, then you’re is the form you want. If it doesn’t read properly, then you need to show possession and should use your.



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