Or How to Write Well without Going Crazy

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Photo by Ivan Shilov on Unsplash

Grammar and Syntax: Who needs them, anyway?

Well, you do. But not as much as you think you do. But first things first. What are grammar and syntax? Merriam Webster online defines grammar¹ as:

The study of the classes of words, their inflections (see inflection sense 2), and their functions and relations in the sentence.

The change of form that words undergo to mark such distinctions as those of case, gender, number, tense, person, mood, or voice. b : a form, suffix, or element involved in such variation.

The way in which…


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Photo by Anastasiya Vysotskaya on Unsplash

Naches and kvell go together like socks and shoes, so I decided to put both in one post. Kvell rhymes with well. For naches, just be sure to pronounce the ch like in Scottish, not Spanish (loch, not nachos).

Definition

Kvell

v. To gush over the achievements of a loved one, especially a child or grandchild.

Naches

n. Prideful joy, especially over a child or grandchild, but you can also get naches from your own achievements, including the joy of helping others (or of writing a book!)

Etymology

Kvell

Directly from Yiddish. …


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Photo by Candice Seplow on Unsplash

Definition

adj. Intended to create peace. A proposal intended to create peace is an eirenicon.

Etymology

From Greek eirenikos, with the same meaning; that, in turn, is from Greek eirene (peace).

Anti-thesaurus

There are a great many words for “peaceful’’ and similar, but I don’t know of a synonym for eirenic.

Usage

This word is sometimes spelled irenic, but the Oxford English Dictionary says that these are two different words. Without the initial “e’’ it means “pacific or non-polemical,’’ however, other dictionaries say these are just alternate spellings.

Examples

Sometimes even the most irenic acts are viewed as signs of weakness.

Frequency

By one spelling or…


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Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Definition

adj. Producing happiness.

Etymology

From Latin felix (happy) plus ficus (making).

Anti-thesaurus

Eudemonic — This means conducive to happiness.

Usage

It’s odd. There’s no common synonym for this. Okay, the OED lists eudemonic but that’s hardly in everyday use. We have to resort to phrases such as “makes me happy.’’ But we don’t really have to! English does have a word. If you use it, it will become more common. And hearing people use words they read in this book would be highly felicific for me.

Examples

Few things are more felicific to new parents than their newborn’s smile.

Frequency

Felicific is about 1 in…


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Photo by Jacob Morch on Unsplash

’Twas the week before Christmas, when at the White House
The loser could pardon every creep, crook and louse.
Their e-mails were sent to his inbox with care,
In hopes that the pardoner-in-chief would be there.

The POTUS was nestled all snug in his bed;
While visions of justice made him see red.
The country was reeling, and I in my briefs,
Was trying to recover from four years of grief.

When up from his iPhone emerged such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. …


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Formula for the sample standard deviation

On Quora, someone asked about why, in the standard deviation, we square and take square roots rather than use mean absolute deviation. Here’s my answer:

We can do either, but a more common method is the median absolute deviation, rather than the mean absolute deviation (which is what you propose). The median absolute deviation is very robust to outliers. And there are other possibilities for measures of spread.

The term “variance” was introduced in a paper by Ronald Fisher in 1918. It has some nice properties.

First, Fisher used it because it is part of the Normal distribution, and many…


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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Groak: (Rhymes with cloak)

Definition

v. To watch people while they are eating, hoping they will ask you to join them. (from Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words by Josefa H. Byrne).

Etymology

Unknown.

Usage

This is a simply marvelous word. What a great language English is! How many of us have groaked without knowing it, or watched people groak and shunned them?

Examples

Groaking probably peaks in the tween and adolescent years, as cliques try to mark their territory by excluding others.

One difference between dogs and cats is that dogs groak while…


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Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash

Definition

adj.

  • Tending to fall off, especially seasonally or at a particular point in development of an organism.
  • “Having deciduous parts.’’
  • “Ephemeral.’’

Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/deciduous. Accessed 16 Dec. 2020.

Etymology

From Latin decidere (to fall off).

Anti-thesaurus

There are many synonyms for the third sense, but I don’t think that sense is particularly interesting. I haven’t found any synonyms for the first two senses.

Usage

The interesting thing here (at least to me) is that \emph{deciduous} applies to a lot more than trees and their leaves. For example:

  • Humans (and many other creatures) have deciduous teeth.
  • Many fruit trees have deciduous fruit.
  • Deer have…


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Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Definition (adapted from Merriam Webster and other sources).

n.

1. Ethical resolution of conflicts.
2. Specious argument.

A person who engages in casuistry is a casuist.

Etymology

From Latin \emph{casus} (case). The second sense may have come from sarcastic use of the first, or it may have been present from the beginning.

Usage

Until I started research for this book, I was only aware of the second sense and I was mispronouncing the word as kas you ess tray, it’s cash weh stray.

Examples

Some thought it mounted to the lunar sphere, Since all things lost on earth are treasur’d there. There hero’s…

Peter Flom

Word person. Math person. Learning disabled adult (www.IAmLearningDisabled.com). 2E.

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