EPITHET [EP-uh-thet] : an especially apt description or label, or, a slur or abusive term

Words are frequently mis-understood, especially in the heat of argument.   How’s that for an understatement? But when a word is mis-characterized due to an overabundance of abuse and ignorance, the mis-understanding is regrettable but correctable.  Such is the case for the word epithet. Epithet is a word commonly understood to mean a negative or abusive […]

REPORTAGE [rep-awr-TAHZH]: a written report of an act, based upon actual witnessing or research

It is possible to pronounce reportage as [ri-PAWR-tij], but I love the way the more French pronunciation sounds, so I prefer [rep-awr-TAHZH], with the accent on last syllable.   It is a 19th century word, obviously from the French language.   Its meaning is simple:  it means to report something, usually in writing. I mention this word […]

IMBROGLIO [im-BROHL-yoh] : a confused or perplexing political or interpersonal situation

I’ve always considered the word imbroglio to mean a “battle.”   It seems that the occasional time when the word appears it is about a heated debate or even an outright fight. But it turns out that the word has a much broader meaning, referred to a confusion or a misunderstanding.   It is derived from an […]

DEBUNK [dih-BUHNGHK] : to expose the falseness of a statement

There is a lot of energy out there among people who are into debunking stories such as those about Sasquatch, the hairy half-human being who supposedly inhabits forested areas throughout the country.   I read this past week that a specially-equipped surveillance plane is going to be used to hover over suspected domains where Sasquatch is […]

STRATAGEM [STRAT-uh-juhm]: a plan to overcome an adversary

There really isn’t a great difference between the words stratagem and strategy. According to the sources I researched, it is a matter of age.  Stratagem is the more ancient term, having come into use in English in the 15th century, and the more common strategy having emerged in the early 19th century.*  In contemporary American […]

PULLED OUT ALL THE STOPS: make every possible effort

When Rick Santorum blasted his way through Iowa on Tuesday to attain a virtual tie for the most vote-getters in the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus, someone commented that he had “pulled out all the stops” over a concentrated period of time.  It seemed to pay off as the candidate who had been running in the […]