(His name probably isn’t Mr. Fisher.)
Did you know that chandlers are candlemakers and coopers make and repair barrels? Here is a partial list of occupation-related last names from a Wikipedia list. These days, many are being used as first names as well.
If you go to the list at the website below and click on any name, it will tell you the occupation associated with it. The list includes many German, Italian, Spanish and French names as well as a lot from other ethnicities. Being a word geek, I love things like this—and I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
It’s common for people to use these two words interchangeably, but an important distinction exists. You know both of them involve making false statements about another. But slander is spoken defamation and libel is written. It’s easy to remember which is which because SLANDER starts with S, as does SPEECH.
Don’t confuse “libel” with “liable”: the latter means either “likely to do something” (She is liable to become the next head of the committee) or “legally responsible”: (He is liable for all charges on his credit card”).
Those flashes of electricity contain no E: “Which do you prefer to watch, bolt or sheet lightning?”
If you include an E, you may or may not hear that letter, but the meaning is very different: “Have you noticed that Bruno has been lightening his hair? Now his beard doesn’t match.”
Faithful correspondent Jeff wrote me about words that have confused him in the past. One of them was the distinction between “gray” and “grey.” If you are American, chances are overwhelming that you spell that color with an A. But did you know that the rest of the English-speaking world spells it with an E? If you decide you like the E-variant better for the color, go ahead and use it; you won’t be wrong. Just be consistent in any one document.
Oddly enough, even though in the United States we spell “gray” with an A, as we do with “graybeard,” “gray-haired,” “gray matter,” “gray wolf” and “gray market,” we spell “greyhound” with an E. That’s a word you can’t spell with an A. Go figure.
“The new mall would be phased in over a period of months and will require several parking adjustments, depending on the number of users.”
That sentence uses both “will” and “would.” Aside from being grammatically confusing, it refers to two different situations:
“Will” says something is going to happen. The parking adjustments WILL be made. “Would” is provisional; the mall MAY be built—but it may not. This sentence requires that both parts use either WILL or WOULD.
Odd words, these, both used for discarded goods.
FLOTSAM refers to wreckage or cargo from ships that is found afloat or washed up by the ocean. It is also used for people and things considered worthless: “Before putting their house on the market, the owners cleared it of all magazines, newspapers and other flotsam. The root is in the Anglo-Norman French from the verb “to float.”
JETSAM isn’t normally used for people but rather for unwanted cargo that has been thrown overboard and then has washed ashore. It derives from the 16th century English word “jettison.”
Interestingly, when Googling for an image, I discovered a rock band exists called Flotsam and Jetsam. I wonder if they were tossed off a ship.
These two words look similar and may even sound alike depending on where in the US you live; however, their meanings are quite different:
IMMINENT means about to happen: To date, seismologists cannot tell us when an earthquake is imminent.
EMINENT, when used about a person, means great fame or importance within a particular field: Yo Yo Ma is perhaps the eminent cellist of our time. Some may argue that other cellists are better. PREEMINENT is used when there is no doubt about a person’s manner of standing out (either in a positive or negative way): Vladimir Putin is the preeminent politician in Russia today.
When EMINENT is used about an object, it describes a particular positive quality: When introduced many decades ago, seat belts immediately became the eminent safety feature in vehicles until that time.