A Compliment that Complements

Dead_people_eat_brains_by_rebel_penguinHello, dear readers! It’s been quite a while, I know. Between work, family, turning 40, more work, pets, alien encounters, and more work, life has been a touch busier than normal, making it quite a challenge to get a coherent blog post written. But I’m here now to talk to you about something that came up in conversation sometime last week. Continue reading

Transitive and Intransitive Verbs: Spot the Difference

Got Zombie? by April McGuire
Before you say anything, yes, I know. I’ve been a bad blogger. It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. But I have a really good excuse. In addition to being swamped with editing work, I was also putting together the first issue of The Ghouls’ Review for my other, other job over at Grammar Ghoul Press. If you have some time, you should check out the magazine. There are some really awesome writers featured in the issue. Continue reading

U is for…

zombie-fingersI’ve been a bit lax with my grammar and vocabulary posts lately, for which I apologize. To make it up to you, today I’m going to tackle the letter U, which is the next letter in my ongoing Vocabulary Series. I urge you to unwind as you undulate on the waves and let the unique U-words unfurl around you.

The first word I chose because of its unusual evolution from its original meaning to the meaning we ascribe to it today. Also, it’s a fun word to say out loud.

Umbrage (noun)

Etymology:   First appears in the early 1400s, meaning shadow or shade. Comes from ombrage, a Middle French word with the same meaning, which comes from the Latin word umbraticum, referring to something pertaining to shade or to being in retirement. Umbraticum comes from the root umbra, meaning shade or shadow, which likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European root andho-, meaning blind or dark. The modern meaning appeared in the early 1600s.

As a side note, you probably won’t be surprised to know that umbrella shares the same roots as umbrage.

Definition:  Offence or annoyance; a sense of slight or injury.

Example:  Harold the Zombie took umbrage at Bedelia’s remark about how bad he smelled; for crying out loud, he’d been in the shower when that other zombie bit him!


I chose this next word because it sounds just like what it describes and always makes me feel like I need to wash my hands.

Unctuous (adjective)

Etymology:   First appears in the late 1300s, meaning something that feels oily, greasy, or soapy when touched. Comes from the Old French word unctueus, which comes from the Medieval Latin word unctuosus, both meaning greasy. Unctuosus comes from the Latin unctus, which refers to the act of anointing. Its second meaning, to be overly ingratiating, was first recorded in 1742.

Definition:   Oily, or having a greasy or soapy feel; to be excessively flattering or ingratiating.

Example:   As Harold the Zombie ran a hand through his unctuous hair, he realized Bedelia might have been right.


The bonus word this week is all around us. We wouldn’t be here without it, even though we’re still not sure how it got here.

Universe (adjective)

Etymology:    First appears in the 1580s, meaning the cosmos or the totality of existing things. Comes from the Old French univers, which comes from the Latin universum, both meaning all things, all people, the whole world. Universum comes from universus, which means turned into one and is formed by combining unus, meaning one, with versus, meaning to turn.

Definition:  All existing matter and space as a whole; the cosmos; a particular sphere of interest, activity, or experience.

Example:   Harold the Zombie munched on Bedelia’s delicious brains and marvelled at the beauty of the universe.


As always, etymological information and definitions come from a combination of the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online, and the Online Etymology Dictionary.


Image credit: Meiio @ deviantART

What’s Up With e.g. and i.e.?


Dear Readers: I’ve been negligent in my posting duties lately. My workload suddenly became completely insane, leaving me with barely enough time to sleep, let alone ponder the mysteries of grammar (aside from in my dreams).

As it happens, some of my recent work gave me an idea for a grammar post. It’s a short one, but I think it’s good information to store in your brains — or simply bookmark.

Today we’re going to look at the difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.” Most of us have probably used at least one of those and many of us probably think they are interchangeable. Actually, they have specific uses, along with some rules about when and where you should use them. So, without further ado… let’s get started with e.g.

These two little letters are an abbreviation for the Latin term exempli gratia, which means for example in English. So when someone uses e.g. what he or she is really saying is for example. Contrary to what some people believe, it is not short for ergo (which is another Latin term meaning therefore).

The general rule with e.g. is that you should only use it in parentheses or in reference notes — and it should always be followed by a comma. Otherwise you should write out the English form for example. Here’s an example:

  • Some zombies will eat more than just human brains (e.g., komodo dragon brains, spider brains and spleens from any species).
  • Purebred werewolves come in a variety of colours, for example ours come in black, grey, brindle and steel.

Now let’s look at i.e. This abbreviation comes from the Latin id est, which means that is in English. As with its sibling e.g., it should only be used inside parentheses or in reference notes — and it should always be followed by a comma. In all other prose you should use the English form that is. Here’s an example:

  • The vampire was thirsty (i.e., he wanted to suck your blood).
  • I asked him to wait while I grabbed my friend, that is, my wooden stake.

And that’s that. If you want to impress at BBQs this summer, you could always try sprinkling the Latin versions into your conversation!


Image credit: Oni / Photoxpress.com

Ligature Marks


Here in Ontario we’re celebrating Family Day – you and your kids get to stay home from work and school to spend quality time together. In the dead of winter. When it’s too cold to go outside because your extremities might fall off, so you’re stuck in the house together, enjoying your quality time and wondering if you might have been better off just going to work…

Anyway, for some reason this got me thinking about ligatures. No, not the kind of ligature that you might use to strangle someone – jeez, what kind of monster do you take me for? I’m talking about the sort of ligature that joins two letters together into one mutant letter (not to be confused with typographical ligatures, which are more of an issue for graphic designers).

Now, while there are many ligatures out there, in English, ligatures have more or less gone the way of the dodo bird. They are seen as archaic and their use is generally frowned upon. However, there are a few exceptions. Let’s look at the top three: Æ/æ, Œ/œ and &.

The ligature Æ/æ (also known as Ash) is used in the spelling of Old English words, assuming the context is also Old English. So, for example:

  • Ælfred knew the Black Death had arrived when first he spied the boil on his neck. Wearily, he reached for the bottle of æther.

If the context is modern, then you use the modern spelling of the words, as follows:

  • Alfred knew he was screwed as soon as he saw the lump on his neck. With a sigh, he reached for the ether he’d acquired on the Black Market.

In English, the ligature Œ/œ is used when spelling certain French words, but only in a French context. For example:

  • Today we learned that French song, the one with the line: l’œuf est dans le nid. I can’t remember its name.

Now, the best ligature is also the most commonly used one, and that is the ampersand (&). These days, the ampersand is used more like punctuation, but it originated in Latin and was a combination of the letters e and t (in Latin et means and). Over time, it evolved into the symbol we use today. In fact, in the 1800s it was the last letter of the English alphabet – when recited out loud, school children would say “x, y, z and, per se and.” That’s how the & ligature got its modern name. If you say those last four words quickly, you end up with ampersand.

There are not any hard and fast rules about using ampersands in modern English. They are most commonly used in titles and company names (Evil & Dead, Brains & More Brains, A Brief History of Blood & Blood Types, etc.), but ampersands have also grown in popularity amongst those who text and tweet (why type three letters when one will suffice?). Maybe there should be a petition to return the ampersand to its rightful place in our alphabet…

So there you have it – ligatures in a nutshell. If you would like to learn more about the history of the ampersand, here are a couple of links for you:

The History of the Ampersand and Showcase

How ampersand came from a misunderstanding


Image credit: © Snow QueenPhotoxpress.com