Nov 4 2016


When I was growing up I remember hearing the term ‘grease zert,’ and I just assumed it was a made-up word. While my dad was skilled at a lot of things (drawing, aviation, mechanics,welding), he was not always known to handle the English language in a manner consistent with the generally agreed upon principles of usage (he once wrote the word ‘paided’ as a past tense for ‘pay’).

But it turns out that in this case he was pretty darn close:


See more of the etymology here at Merriam-Webster.

Pic borrowed from Currie Enterprises.


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Feb 15 2016

Proud to be ‘Murican

I see a lot of stuff online about, “Welcome to America, now speak English.”

I do think immigrants to America should learn to speak English.

However, I also think Americans should learn to speak English as well. And while we are learning how to write and speak English properly, perhaps we might also learn to be courteous to those who are new here.


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Oct 11 2013


n., PONE-yerd or PWN-yerd for you gamers out there. As you could probably tell from the way the pronunciation doesn’t match the spelling, the word is indeed French. The Anglicized spelling is ‘poniard,’ and in French or English it refers to a small, tapering dagger.

“She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.” –Benedick, from Much Ado About Nothing

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Jul 28 2012

Logos: Ruckman Edition

Logos has long been known for making some of the best Bible study software on the market. They make a number of different packages, designed to match price and needed resources. However, most of their package require the belief a knowledge of Hebrew and Greek–and that exhaustive resources by individuals skilled in those languages– might be at least a teensy bit beneficial. Most packages offer several translations of the Bible, so that you can get a larger picture of how individual words or word groups might be translated into middle and modern English.

But if you are one of those individuals who believe that the King James Version of the Bible represents advanced revelation from God and the only preservation of His word, and you like expressing that “truth with an attitude”–they finally have a package for you:

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Feb 14 2011


A couple of months ago at work one of the secretaries brought a Chinese user down for some assistance with her laptop on the wifi network. The laptop had an English keyboard, but the OS was entirely Chinese.

“Ni hao,” I said, almost entirely exhausting the Chinese I learned at my old job.

“Oh, you speak Chinese!”

“Nope, I just know how to say hello.”

I spent about five minutes trying to figure out what to click, tried issuing English keyboard shortcuts, and finally went the slow point-and-click way through the My Network Places, which I could recognize by its icon.  Five minutes later, we were online.

The user thrust both arms into the air and yelled, “WICTOREEEEEEEE!”

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Oct 6 2010

William Tyndale

On this (traditional) date in 1536 William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake for the crime of heresy, heresy which included translating the Bible into English from the Hebrew and Greek source texts.

“I defy the Pope, and all his laws; and if God spares my life, ere many years, I will cause the boy that driveth the plow to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost!”

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Jun 20 2010

Happy Father’s Day

“One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters.” –English proverb

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Jul 22 2009


Pronounced SHIB-ol-eth. A shibboleth is a word, phrase, or mannerism that a group of people uses as a test to see if other people are members of that group.

It might also be a joke. For example:

There are 10 kinds of people in the world: those that understand binary code, and those that don’t.

If you are waiting for me to tell you the other 8 kinds of people, then it is clear that you fall into the second group.

During World War II a shibboleth that American soldiers used to determine whether someone was Japanese or not was to ask them to say, “lollapalooza.”

The word is Hebrew, and means either “kernel of grain” or “brook,” depending on who you ask; obviously neither has anything to do with passwords. The word’s current use comes from chapter 12 in the book of Judges.

What happens is a bunch of jerks from the tribe of Ephraim come to visit Jephthah (who has just successfully defeated the Ammonites) at his home in Gilead. The Ephraimites insult the Gidealites and threaten to murder Jephthah, and in response Jephthah gathers his army. Being a rather astute student of history, he utilizes a tactic seen years before when the Israelites fought against the nation of Moab (recorded in Judges 3): they sieze the fords of Jordan, preventing their enemies’ escape.

Jephthah then set up a checkpoint, where he asked all passers-through to say the word, “shibboleth,” as he knew that Ephraimites pronounced the word, “sibboleth.” The Ephraimites lost 42,000 men that day.

Some Bible scholars have decried Jephthah’s actions as wicked, but I see it differently: if you bring 42,000 people to someone’s house and make a death threat, you shouldn’t be alarmed when they take your threat seriously. Also, you might not want to threaten someone known to be an effective warrior and general.

While not technically accurate, the English poet John Milton summed it up the most eloquently:

“Without reprieve, adjudged to death, for want of well-pronouncing shibboleth.”

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