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Penn State Game Badges for the 2014 Season

Below are my suggestions. Send yours.

Penn State game badges, 2014:
Aug. 30 — Central Florida: “Good night, Knights”
Sept. 6 – Akron: “Akron Gets Zip”
Sept. 13 – Rutgers: “Scarlet Gets Bloodied”
Sept. 20 – Massachusetts: “Over in a Minute, Man!”
Sept. 27 – Northwestern: “No, N’western”
Oct. 11 – Michigan: “Ann Arbor Is Easy”
Oct. 25 – Ohio State: “Deflower the Buckeyes”
Nov. 1 – Maryland: “Shell the Terps”
Nov. 8—Indiana: “Indiana Hoo??”
Nov. 15 – Temple: “What a Hoot!”
Nov. 22 – Illinois: “Scalp the Illini”
Nov. 29 – Michigan State: “Lions Feast on Spartan Diet”



May War on Words

Once again, for my legion (ahem!) of readers, here is an advance look (No, not a “sneak peek” — what a cliché!) at the next column, which hits the streets in O&A Magazine on May 1. Enjoy.

The War on Words
By Bob Yearick
A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Cease and Desist, Please

OK, it’s time to put a stop to the use of the contraction “there’s” followed by a plural noun. E.g.:

— There’s more people using Twitter than ever before.
— There’s a million things to do.
— There’s several ways to look at this.

Stop and think a minute: You would never write or say “there is several ways …” – would you (and you know who you are)?

Literally of the Month
Wichita State basketball coach about his team’s trip to the Big Dance: “It was literally a magic carpet ride.” And no, his name is not Aladdin.

Media Watch
• Headline on MSNBC: “Crisis in Ukraine sure to dominant talks.” The word is dominate. Dominant is the adjective.
• In a case of “say it ain’t so,” a New Yorker article contained this: “He graduated college …” The phrase, as we’ve said again and again in this losing battle, is “graduated from college.” Colleges graduate students; students don’t graduate colleges.
• In our March issue, a Philip Seymour Hoffman film at Theatre N was listed as Before the Devil Knows Your Dead. Should be you’re, of course.
• From a WHYY online story: “The controversy stems over the involvement of Velda Jones-Potter, the city’s former chief strategy advisor.” That’s “stems from.”

Now and then, we tip our hat to someone who rises above the semi-literacy that dominates (there’s that word again) our media. Tirdad Derakhshani of The Philadelphia Inquirer is such a person. In a review of John Leguizamo’s one-man show, he wrote: “Instead of homing in on one topic, as he did in his earlier shows …” Mr. Derakhshani thus becomes one of, oh, five or six people in the western world who use the correct “homing in” instead of “honing in.” To hone is to sharpen.

• Deirdre Imus, a frequent guest on her hubby’s Fox Business Network show, adds a syllable to “athletic.” Like so many people, she inexplicably pronounces it ath-a-letic.
• And did you know? In vehicle, the “-h-” is not pronounced. It’s /VEE-i-kuhl/.

Nomenclature (continued)
Add to the list of people who misuse words common to their profession or hobby: “grammarians” who spell it “grammer.”

Meaningless Plurals
And April reminded us of yet another calendar event that creates an incorrect plural that can be added to “Happy New Years” and “Daylight Savings Time”: “April Fools!” – shouted by someone who has just perpetrated one of those crude, often cruel practical jokes. Yes, it’s April Fool’s (note apostrophe) Day, but the expression is “April Fool!”

Celebrity Corner

Without scripts, actors often mangle the language.
• Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, in her acceptance speech, used “exacerbate” to mean “enhanced,” which has virtually the opposite meaning. She thanked presenter Daniel Day-Lewis with these words: “Thank you, Mr. Day-Lewis. From you it exacerbates this honor and blows it right out of the ballpark.”
• Jane Lynch, the giantess gym coach of Glee fame, was on Jimmy Kimmel, talking about stars mispronouncing names and words during the Oscar telecast. “I felt badly for them,” she said. Now we feel bad for you, Jane. To feel badly would describe tactile problems, to have trouble related to touch.

Less/Fewer/Amount/Number– Again!
From a Concord Pet ad: “February has the least amount of days.” Rather than this awkward phrase, it should be simply fewest days. Or, less succinctly, fewest number of days.

Word of the Month
Pronounced i-DAS-i-tee, it’s a noun meaning greediness; good appetite.

Quotation of the Month: “A man will be forgiven even great errors in a foreign language; but in his own, even the least slips are justly laid hold of and ridiculed.” Lord Chesterfield, Letters to His Son (1749).

Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to
Buy The War on Words paperback at, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.



More quotes

"Lady I ain’t no athlete, I’m a baseball player" - John Kruk, former Phillie and current ESPN analyst

Above is from “Anonymous.” Another good’n. Only there should be a comma after “Lady.”

"Coupon Sail"

Mr. Yearick,

I saw many signs in Great Clips on Route 202 advertising their annual “Coupon Sail”  Fortunately, I still received the lower price despite not have a coupon to sail anywhere.  Thank goodness too, because I had no idea where to sail the coupon.  All I can hope is that the coupon was traveling somewhere warmer than Delaware has been recently.  Hope you can use this in your column!




See the April Column Now

For my faithful followers — both of you — here’s an advance look (not a “sneak peek”) at the War on Words column that will appear in the April issue of O&A:

The War on Words
By Bob Yearick
A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Hard to Believe, Harry
As the Phillies season gets underway, let us hark back to a few years ago, when Comcast commentator Ricky Bottalico uttered the legendary line: “This is a team which just exhumes energy.” Never mind his misuse of “which” (should be “that”), the major mistake was exhumes. It means to disinter, or dig up (as in a body). What the Rickster meant was “exudes.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.
Verizon customer service recorded message: “At the present time, all representatives are currently assisting other customers.”

Media Watch
• On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the co-author of the Hillary Clinton bio HRC said that Bill Clinton’s role in Hillary’s presidential campaign will be “emulated after” his role in Obama’s campaign. It may be patterned after his role in that campaign, and he may emulate that role, but “emulate after” is a grievous grammatical construction from a supposedly literate author.
• From an AP story: “If offense was the only requirement, Auburn would be a shoe-in for the BCS championship.” The term is shoo-in, which means to urge something in a desired direction, usually by waving one’s arms. The idea behind the word is that the person or thing being shooed is such a sure thing that we can shoo him, her or it in without hesitation.

And the Corporate Semi-Literate Award goes to …
Ford, for a trifecta of grammatical gaffes in its TV commercials:
1. “Go Further” – The slogan, introduced two years ago, uses “further,” the metaphorical or figurative form of the word. It would seem more logical for a car manufacturer to use “farther,” which denotes actual physical distance.
2. Another theme is “Ford Can’t Be Beat.” That last word, of course, should be beaten.
3. And there’s a commercial for Ford pickup trucks in which one actor says something like: “I’m a Chevy guy.” [then, referring to another actor nearby] “Him and his brother own Dodges.” That would be “He and his brother.”

Calling a Penalty
Amazing how many TV types (especially on the sports side) pronounce “penalize” as if it were spelled peen-alize, the first syllable sounding the same as in ball-peen hammer. That initial syllable should sound like the word pin.

To Review

We’ve covered these in the past, but it’s time to revisit them:
Averse/adverse – These words are often confused, but their meanings are totally different.
Adverse means unfavorable, contrary or hostile, and is never be applied to humans. Example: “Adverse weather conditions.”
Averse means unwilling, disinclined or loath and is almost always followed by “to.” It applies to a person – e.g., “He was averse to discussing the conference.”
Gamut/Gambit – Gamut is a full range or extent, literally of musical notes, but more often figuratively of anything (“The menu offered the gamut of dining options”).
Gambit is a ploy, maneuver, or strategy, such as “the opening gambit of the chess match.” Misusing “gambit” for “gamut” is an increasingly common malapropism.
Ironic does not mean any kind of amusing coincidence. It means the opposite (outcome) of what was expected; contrary to expectation. E.g., the name of Britain’s largest dog is “Tiny.” Now that’s an ironic name!

Bemused does not mean mildly amused. It means bewildered, confused, engrossed in thought.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?
In which we report the continuing abuse of the apostrophe.)
A reader spotted this sign in a sandwich shop in Elmwood Park, N. J.: “Line form’s to the right.” Really? It never ends, does it?

Nomenclature (continued)
Add to the list of people who misuse words common to their profession or hobby: “Grammarians” who spell it “grammer.”

Word of the Month
Pronounced sen-tient or sen-shunt, it’s an adjective meaning conscious: capable of feeling and perception.

Quotation of the Month:
“I really do not know that anything has ever been more exciting than diagraming sentences.” —- Gertrude Stein, “Poetry and Grammar” (1935), in Perspectives on Style, 1968. (Our comment: Gertie needed to get out more.)

Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to Also, if you need a speaker for your book group, service club, etc., contact me for an entertaining power point presentation about the quirks of the English language.

Buy The War on Words paperback at, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.



March Column

Here, for all you readers of the website (both of you) is an advance look at the March War on Words. Enjoy!

The War on Words
By Bob Yearick
A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Hard to Believe, Harry
In keeping with the Phillies flavor in this issue, we bring back our feature that honors the late, great Richie Ashburn, who used this phrase when describing an unbelievable baseball incident to Harry Kalas, his late, great broadcast partner.
All from the News Journal:
• First, a dangling modifier in an editorial about Wilmington’s former police chief: “Like her predecessor, the difficulty of reducing a continual stream of violent crime …” “Like her predecessor” does not describe the difficulty, it refers to the police chief.
• In a story about donating coats: “Donations will be excepted through February.” The word, of course, is accepted.
• Another editorial column contained this mess of a sentence, which lacked the articles “the” and “a,” a comma, and also included a misplaced comma: “But one thing is certain, [the] city’s residents and its reputation, [no comma needed] are in dire need of [a] well-strategized [comma needed] better path forward on public safety.”
• In an article about a cemetery, there was this: “Markiewicz poured through more than 100 years of cemetery records.” The word is pored.

Correct Commas
Speaking of commas, people insist on putting them after titles – e.g., “Secretary of State, John Kerry”; “Obama worshipper, Warren Buffet.” No comma is needed, folks.

Winter Freeze-Out
The recent snow storms revealed a blind spot in the vocabularies of many TV weather people. Subfreezing temperatures compelled them to describe said temps as ar-tic. The word is arctic and the first c is pronounced — ark-tik.
And a reader overhead these other weather-related gaffes:
“If you have to go out, buckle up and drive safe.” That’s safely.
And here’s a candidate for Literally of the Month: “It’s literally snowing cats and dogs.”
Permutations of “Text”

Being somewhat new to the language, “texting” and its derivations are causing linguistic challenges for some of us. A reader has noticed a number of people who use “text” as the past tense of the verb to text, as in: “He text me the information yesterday.” She writes: “They seem to think that texted ‘just doesn’t sound right’ — at least that’s how one young woman explained it to me.” Sorry if it’s aurally offensive, folks, but “texted” is the correct past tense.
We also heard a radio talk show host refer to “textes” as the plural of text. It’s simply texts.
Here are (not here’s!) a few words we’ve heard recently that simply don’t exist (Remove the prefixes “ir” or “un” and you have the correct word): irregardless, unmercillesly, unrelentlessly, uncategorically.
Also …
Reader Jane Buck adds this one: incidences. “I’ve heard this many times recently,” Jane says, “usually from the mouth of a newsperson: ‘This was one of several incidences.’ Confusion between ‘instance’ and ‘incident’?”
And then there’s …
“Recouping,” as in this quote in Esquire from Jerry of Ben & Jerry fame: “I hit my head and wound up on the floor. Ben, being the good friend that he is, came and lay down next to me while I was recouping.” Getting over an illness (or a head injury), is recuperating. If you are at the roulette table getting back your losses, you are recouping them.

Department of Redundancies Dept.
We heard an ESPN announcer intone thus: “It’s was a harbinger of things to come.” Harbinger: anything that foreshadows a future event.

Nomenclature (continued)
To last month’s list of professionals who don’t know the nomenclature of their professions, add funeral directors who spell it “condolances.”

Word of the Month
Pronounced SOF-ist, it’s a noun meaning one who makes clever but unsound arguments.

Quotation of the Month: “Respecting the difference between words is not about being pedantic or pompous or even perfectionist. It just means we can express ourselves more clearly.”
— John Humphrys, Lost for Words: The Mangling and Manipulating of the English Language.

Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to

Buy The War on Words paperback at, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.



Wilmington News Journal Editorials …

shouldn’t they be examples of writing excellence? Instead, they are often shot-through with bad grammar, bad (or no) punctuation, and missing words, especially the articles “the,” “a” and “an.”
Not to mention redundancies: really, what is the difference between “holy” and “godly”?

Doesn’t happen every day, so we have our suspicions as to which of the two editorial writers I the guilty party. Anyone care to venture a guess?



See the February Column Now

Here’s the February War on Words, a full week before it hits the newsstands.

The War on Words
By Bob Yearick
A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Literally of the Month
A reader quotes Samantha Brown, speaking about France on the Travel Channel: “While in Paris you can dine in restaurants that literally wrote the book for the rest of the world.” Restaurants that write? Only in Paris, apparently.

I before E, Except …
Remember that old saw? Reader Nancy Wingate says she gave her daughter a t-shirt for Christmas that read, “I before E except when eight feisty neighbors seize a surfeit of weighty heifers.”

That’s All, Folks
Using word search, careful writers scour their manuscripts for the word “that” and delete all they deem unnecessary. Generally, this is a good idea. But sometimes a missing “that” can be more annoying than one that’s simply superfluous. Take, for example, this excerpt from a News Journal editorial: “… we have to accept [that] the next couple of months will be troubling.”

Soon Will Suffice
“Sooner rather than later” is a cumbersome, redundant phrase that has become unaccountably popular. Not only that, it’s illogical because the comparison is never completed. Sooner rather than later than what? What’s wrong with a simple “soon”? If that doesn’t satisfy, how about before long, shortly, sooner than expected, in the near future, very soon, as soon as possible, and now?
Department of Redundancies Dept.
• Have you noticed the new go-to phrase of football referees: “The play is under further review”? Meaning it’s been reviewed previously? I think not.
• From a story in USA Today on Alabama quarterback A. J. McCarron: “He has grown in size and mental acumen.” (Acumen: the ability to think clearly and make good decisions.)
It always surprises me when professionals misuse the basic vocabulary of their professions. For instance:
 Chefs who spell “palate” pallet or palette.
 Restaurateurs who don’t know the difference between “complimentary” (free) and “complementary” (used to describe items – a dish and a wine, for instance — that go well together).
 Winemakers who say, “It’s meant to be drank slightly chilled.” The verb is “drunk.”
 Sportscasters who say, “He should have ran.” The verb is “run.”

How Long, Oh, Lord, How Long”
(In which we record the mistaken use of the apostrophe to create plurals)
OK, show of hands: How many of you got Christmas cards that were signed by, for example, “The Smith’s,” “The Miller’s,” or “The Turner’s”? Lots of you? Thought so.


 Rob Beatson, Brandywine Hundred, laments the use of “flush things out” when what is meant is “flesh things out.” Rob says the former is spoken frequently in the workplace by otherwise intelligent people, as in “Let’s flush out some ideas …”
 So much for Rob’s peeve. Here’s my current one: “I’m bored of this book.” This is common, especially among the unlettered. But it is incorrect. You can be bored with or by, but you can’t be bored of.
Media Watch
All News Journal:
 “The officer tried to diffuse the fight…” Diffuse means to spread or cause to spread over a wide area, which is pretty much the opposite of what was intended here. The word the writer was groping for: defuse.
 In letters to the editor, a former teacher wrote: “That was a hardship to we, seniors, on fixed incomes …” Apparently she wasn’t an English teacher, or she would’ve known that the preposition to requires the objective pronoun us. She also would’ve dropped those commas.
 An article about a bus accident included a comment regarding the restaurant where passengers planned to gather. One person is quoted thus: “A lot of these students buss as staff here.” Maybe students do kiss there, but we’re thinking the person was referring to busing tables.

Word of the Month
Pronounced in-i-LUHK-tuh-buhl, it’s an adjective meaning impossible to avoid: inescapable.

Quotation of the Month: “The fact that an illiterate mistake may become the correct form … is no reason for not combating it in its beginnings.” — Jacques Barzun, French-born American historian.

Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to

Buy The War on Words paperback at, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.






The War on Words — Jauary

Can’t find a copy of O&A? No problem. Below is this month’s column.


Just took an online grammar test (Aced it!), which, after each answer, listed the percentage of test-takers who missed that question. It seems the most troublesome poser was the one about the distinction between e.g. and i.e. We’ve covered this several times, most recently in September when we cited the scene in Get Shorty that addressed the problem. Here are the definitions: e.g. — for example; i.e. – that is

The most common mix-up seems to be using i.e. to mean “for example” (although I’ve also seen the opposite mistake). Please note the distinction.


            That grammar test also included a question about the difference between affect and effect. As mentioned many times here, affect is a verb (except for one unimportant instance where it’s a noun) and effect is almost always a noun. The test results, and empirical evidence, indicate that people still have trouble with the difference. Some recent examples:

Sportswriter Matt Gelb, in the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Monday’s decision had no affect whatsoever on those negotiations.”

And Living Well, a local periodical, contained an editorial with this sentence: “We always keep in mind that this time of year can have quite the opposite affect on those who suffer depression.”

Ah, Those Sportscasters (continued)

Last month we listed a couple of flubs by sportscasters. Given the tendency for those in that business to mangle the language, we’re suspecting this may become a semi-regular feature. Herewith, a couple of recent gaffes:

·         Dan Patrick, on his eponymous radio show, called Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice “the penultimate” at his position. Rice is generally regarded as the best receiver and perhaps the best player ever. So obviously, Patrick, like many people, thinks the word means the very best, or something akin to that. As pointed out here previously, penultimate means “next to last.” Perhaps a recent New Yorker cartoon will help. The drawing shows a sign on a fence outside an athletic field. The sign reads:

Ultimate Frisbee, 3:30 p.m.

Penultimate Frisbee, 1 p.m.

·         We’re going to double down on Patrick because the next day he used “inferred” to mean “implied.” We know that’s wrong, right, guys? Imply means to suggest. Infer means to deduce, conclude or surmise.

·         Kudos to Don Imus. Say what you will about the old curmudgeon, whose Imus in the Morning radio show is simulcast each weekday morning on the Fox Business Network, he knows his grammar. Recently, his sportscaster, Warner Wolf, commented that one college quarterback had “less interceptions” than another. “Fewer,” Imus blurted. Good on you, I-Man. More people need to add “fewer” to their vocabulary.

Hard to Believe, Harry

            (Wherein we invoke the spirit of late Phillies announcer Richie Ashburn, who used to make that comment to his broadcasting partner, Harry Kalas, when something unbelievable occurred on the baseball field.) Some hard-to-believes from the local media:

·         A letter to the News Journal about jobs contained this: “… [M]y members suffered undo hardships….” The word is “undue.”

·         In the NJ real estate section, directions to a home in North Wilmington/Arden included this:  “95 to N on Marsh Rd passedSilverside Rd… .” That would be “past.”

·         Then there was this from the Newark Post: “Although she thinks the power plant is efficient for its large size, she said that single factor cannot out way the noise, air and sound pollution the facility will produce.” Out way? Really? The word is “outweigh.” Also, is there a difference between noise and air pollution?

Words of the Month


Pronounced fal-STAF-ee-uhn), it’s an adjective meaning fat, jolly, and convivial — after Sir John Falstaff, a character in Shakespeare’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor.


Pronounced in-tuhr-LOK-yuh-tuhr, it’s a noun meaning one who takes part in a conversation or dialogue, especially as a representative of an organization.


Seen a good (or bad) one lately? Send candidates to


Buy The War on Words paperback at, at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, the Hockessin Book Shelf, or on Amazon.