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Thee, Thou, You, and Ye

Mark in Indianapolis, Indiana, wonders about the history of the second person singular and plural in English. At one time, thee and thou were singular, and you and ye were plural. By the early 17th century, thou and thee as familiar terms of address...

Premise vs. Premises

A listener who works with computers asked about the difference between premise and premises, especially when it comes to the idea of on- or off-premises computing. Going back to the 1600’s, the term premises has meant a “location”...

Can of Worms

What do you call a guy with a bald pate? A chrome dome? Maybe the lucky fellow is sporting a solar panel for a sex machine. Also, which would you rather open: a can of worms or Pandora’s box? Plus, ordinary vs. ornery, versing vs. versus...

Alumnae vs. Alumni

Alumnae is the plural for a group of all-female former students, while alumni is the term for all-male groups, or co-ed groups. The male singular is alumnus, and the female is alumna. In informal settings, you can just use alum or alums. This is...

Third Person Singular, Unknown Gender

What’s the rule on using they and their in place of his and hers? Grammarians a couple of centuries ago may have misapplied some Latin rules of grammar to the unruly English language, but the issue is clear today: the word they functions...

Pie in the Sky

Looking for a book to read with the kids, or maybe a guide to becoming a better writer? Why are leg cramps called charley horses? And where’d we get a phrase like pie in the sky? If you happen to be tall, you’ve no doubt heard plenty of...