Literary Device Resurrection

Buffy_the_Vampire_Slayer_by_uberwekknessIt’s been quite a while since we last talked about literary devices, so I thought it would be fun to tell you about a few more of the lesser-known devices. As you read their definitions and examples, you might discover a device that you use in your own writing that you never knew had a name. For me, that’s the first device we’re going to look at. Continue reading

The Copious Configurations of the Future Tense

headless_horseman_by_adamguzowski-d30oq2oWelcome, dear readers, to the fourth and final installment of my posts about verb tenses. I know I’ve been slacking off lately, but things have been a bit hectic, what with setting up Grammar Ghoul Press and dealing with a variety of other real world commitments. Continue reading

S is for…


Well, dear readers, April is finally here. Unfortunately, my backyard is still covered in snow. So, in an attempt to cheer myself up I thought I’d focus on my Vocabulary Series and bring you some of the best words beginning with the letter S.

I think this was the toughest choice yet. There are so many superb and scintillating choices. Words like scissors, snuggle, soap, slither, and squalid, just to name a few. After much agonizing, I managed to select three scrumptious words for you.

The first word I chose is a great adjective, in part because it’s so much fun to say. But it also sounds a lot like the behaviour it’s used to describe.

Salacious (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the 1660s. Comes from the Latin word salax (from the genitive form salacis), meaning lustful. Likely originated from the Latin salire, meaning to leap, as in a male animal leaping on a female in a sexual advance.

Definition:  Lustful or lecherous; having undue or indecent interest in sexual matters; tending to cause sexual desire.

Example:  Buffy stared at Angel, a salacious look in her eyes. As he moped about his vampire nature, she thought about getting him out of his shirt.


This next word I chose especially for one of my friends. You know who you are. This animal is disliked by some, but I love watching them frolic in my backyard and figure out new ways to get at my squirrel-proof bird feeder.

Squirrel (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in the early 1300s. Comes from the Anglo-French esquirel, which came from the Old French escurueil, meaning squirrel or squirrel fur. This, in turn, came from the Vulgar Latin scuriolus, which is a variant of the Latin scurius, both meaning squirrel. (Squirrels belong to the Family Sciuridae.) The Latin came from the Greek skiouros, which literally means “shadow-tailed” and is a combination of skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail. Oura comes from the Proto-Indo-European root ors, meaning buttocks or backside.

As a side note, the Old English word for squirrel was acweorna, which became aquerne in Middle English, before it was replaced with squirrel. Is it just me or does acweorna sound kind of like acorn?

Definition:  Any of a variety of slender, agile, arboreal or ground-dwelling rodent with a long bushy tail and furry coat, typically feeding on nuts and seeds.

Example:  Fortunately, the vampire squirrel was only interested in sucking the life out of acorns, and the occasional tomato.


The bonus word this week is something we couldn’t live without. It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to say!

Synapse (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in English in 1899, from medical Latin. It was introduced by English physiologist Sir Michael Foster at the suggestion of the classical scholar, Arthur Woollgar Verral. Comes from the Greek synapsis, meaning conjunction, which comes from synaptein, meaning to join or bind together. Synaptein combines syn-, meaning together, and haptein, meaning to fasten.

Definition:  A junction between two nerve cells (neurons), consisting of a minute gap across which impulses pass.

Example:  They waited for Igor’s synapses to start firing. It was a long wait.


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.


Linking up with the Moonshine grid over at yeah write.


Image credit: Joanna


Literary Devices Revisited


Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about some of the literary devices that didn’t make the first cut. To refresh your memory, a literary device is a standardized writing technique, used to achieve a particular effect.

The device of allegory is used to describe an abstract concept in a way that is more concrete and relatable. It is sometimes described as an extended metaphor, as it often takes a narrative form and is commonly used in literature. Here is an example of an allegory:

  • A bad relationship is like putting out the garbage. If you take it to the curb on time, you won’t even remember it was there, but if you don’t, eventually your whole house will smell.

This is a neat little literary device that comes to us from Old English and Viking writing. Beowulf is full of them. Kennings use a mixture of imagery, usually in the form of a compound modifier, to describe something in a creative, often enigmatic way. Here are some modern examples:

  • Tramp-stamp (tattoo)
  • Ankle-biters (small children)
  • Information highway (Internet)

This device refers to the deliberate misuse of a word in order to create confusion and amusement. Typically the word that is used as a substitute sounds very similar to the word that should have been used, so the reader will catch what was intended. Here’s an example:

  • Oscar was so proud of himself for overcoming his stigmata against clowns.

Okay, so this literary device definitely has one of the best names, but it’s also a pretty cool device. We use verisimilitude to lend truth and accuracy to our writing. It is what makes a story believable; what allows readers to suspend their disbelief. Here’s an example:

  • When Buffy drove the stake through the vampire’s heart, the vampire crumbled to dust.

Even though a vampire is a mythical creature, the example above has verisimilitude because it adheres to generally accepted ideas about vampires. If the vampire broke into dance instead of crumbling to dust, it probably wouldn’t have verisimilitude.

And there you have it. Four more literary devices to add to your roster.


Image credit:  jérôme caffin /

Pronoun Pandemonium: Part 1

Heloise, Demon Hunter

Today, dear readers, we’re going to look at pronouns, which is the only part of speech I have yet to cover in detail. (See the bottom of this post for links to the other seven.) As with nouns and verbs, I will break pronouns into two chunks, so as not to overwhelm you.

Okay, so pronouns are sort of like shorthand for nouns. We use them to stand in for nouns that have already been expressed. For example:

  • Buffy scraped vampire goo off her face.

We also use pronouns in situations where the noun is understood. So, if you were reading a story in which Heloise, the Demon Hunter, is talking to her sidekick Abelard, you would know who is who in the following sentence:

  • She tossed him the crossbow and said, “Make sure you aim right between the demon’s eyes.”

So, as with nouns, pronouns have the following four properties: case, number, gender, and person. Pronouns and their antecedents (the word the pronoun in standing in place of) must match when it comes to number, gender, and person, as in the following examples:

  • Number: The demons and their minions. vs. The demon and its minion.
  • Gender: Buffy fixed her hair. vs. Damian put down his copy of The Omen.
  • Person: We should test our new bullets before the rest of the werewolves arrive. vs. I want my mommy!

When it comes to the property of case, there are three subcategories, and they are: nominative, genitive, and objective. In the nominative case, the pronoun is the subject of a finite verb (I stubbed my toe). In the genitive case, the pronoun indicates possession on the part of its antecedent (Heloise used her axe). And in the objective case, the pronoun acts as the object of a verb or a preposition (Abelard staked him right in the heart).

Finally, there is one area of case that often causes confusion and that is whether to use you and I or you and me. The former is nominative, while the latter is typically objective (you and me is a compound object). Consider the following examples:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for you and me.

People often go with the first example, probably because of some well-intentioned indoctrination that took place in childhood. But the second example is actually correct because, in this sentence, you and me is the object, not the subject. An easy trick to deal with sentences like this is to try it with only the first person pronoun. Check it out:

  • 1: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for I.
  • 2: Binding a demon with the spell would be easy for me.

The second example makes more sense when you look at it that way. (I hope you are all nodding in agreement…)

Okay, so that’s it for Pronouns: Part 1. Come on back next week to learn all about the six classes of pronouns. In the meantime, check out my posts on the Eight Parts of Speech:

Nouns: Part 1
Nouns: Part 2
Verbs: Part 1
Verbs: Part 2


Image credit: © Jesse-lee Lang /