In this week's brand-spankin'-new episode: Ever wonder what's up with the term "meteoric rise"? Don't meteors plummet? Also, "myriad" vs. "a myriad of," "enamored of" vs. "enamored with," "Well, butter my buns and call me a biscuit," and what's in a "Fibber McGee drawer."
It all comes tumbling out here:
Regarding "myriad," Grant cites David Foster Wallace, who said that anyone who scoffs at "a myriad of" is "both persnickety and wrong." Which reminds us that Wallace's unfinished, posthumous novel "The Pale King" is newly out.
New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani says the book is by turns "breathtakingly brilliant and stupefyingly dull." It's definitely headed to our nightstands:
And for something really fascinating, take a peek into Wallace's library of self-help books.
Another new book of interest: "You Are What You Speak: Grammar Grouches, Language Laws, and the Politics of Identity" by Robert Lane Greene. Linguist Geoff Nunberg calls it "a very readable survey of all the ways our received ideas about language can lead us astray."
Even if you don't get the book, Nunberg's essay is, as always, well worth reading.
Last month, the Associated Press itself became the subject of news by decreeing that henceforth, there would be no hyphen in "e-mail." It's about time.
When it comes to the language of the cyberspace, many news outlets have been slow to catch up. Until recently, The New York Times was telling editors to use the term "an e-mail message" instead of "an e-mail." Their reasoning? If you wouldn't say "a mail," you shouldn't say "an e-mail."
But as language columnist Jan Freeman notes in the Boston Globe, "this sort of logic rarely makes a dent in usage."
BEHIND THE SCENES: Maybe you've seen the TED talk video making the rounds about the amazing puppetry in the new production of "War Horse," now in previews on Broadway.
As it happens, there's "A Way with Words" connection here.
When Quiz Guy Greg Pliska isn't puzzling all of us on the air, he works as a professional musician. If you go to Lincoln Center's site, and scroll all the way down on the right, you'll see Greg's credit as musical director for this stirring new play.
If you see "War Horse," tell us what you thought of the music!
Martha and Grant