Mystifyers

Some word positionings or manipulations or misuse defy explanation, and for the most part are so mystifying that only the most dedicated word-and-phrase detectives can figure out how they sneaked into everyday speech or prose. Even more puzzling than the origin of such trends is the why.

Our first case study ponders why the words death and dying have been made somewhat passé in the name of euphemism. Then follow posts on subjects as varied as the errant (and skyrocketing) pluralization of collective nouns and the flood of decidedly iffy wordplay let loose by advertising agencies. Also getting their due are the growing epidemics of is/are confusion and the rapidly accelerating transformation of nouns into verbs —i.e., verbalization.