Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

#Canadianism of the day: as well

#Canadianism of the day: as well = furthermore, moreover: Only Canadians use "as well" in a sentence-initial position

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

#Canadianism of the day: go to the washroom

#Canadianism of the day: go to the washroom = esp. Cdn euphemism defecate or urinate.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

#Canadianism of the day: make strange

#Canadianism of the day: make strange = Cdn & Irish (of a baby or child) fuss or be shy in company.

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All well and good

Well! 

I was just rather flabbergasted to read this advice in a Forbes magazine piece about appropriate language for customer service: 
Subtly insulting: In an informal business, if a customer asks, ‘‘How are you?’’ the response ‘‘I’m well’’ may make you feel like you’re using proper-sounding grammar—but may not be the best choice. Hearing this Victorian-sounding response may make your customers momentarily self-conscious about whether their own grammar is less than perfect. It may be better to have your employees choose from more familiar alternatives like, ‘‘I’m doing great!’’ or "Super!’’
Victorian???  Hey, buddy, I learned to reply "well (thank you!)" to this question, and that was in the 1960s. A lot of people are still outraged by the new, and previously highly censured, custom of replying "good", which seems to have started its remarkable upward trajectory in the mid-1990s, though it has been around longer than that. 

"Well", meanwhile, has been used to mean "in good health" since the late 1400s. Before that we were "isound" or "hale" or even "whole". I wonder if any customer service gurus in Shakespeare's time were warning businesses to have their staff avoid saying, "I'm hale, thank you!" as being "so Plantagenet!"


"He said he was "hale". That seems so last century to me. Is it ok if I say I'm well?"


The "good" option has probably become the more common one, and I do use it myself, since there is no reason not to. "Good" is an adjective (as is "well" in this usage), and has multitudinous meanings, so there's no reason why "in acceptable health" shouldn't be one of them. But that doesn't mean that we should start condemning "well" as Victorian (not to mention "subtly insulting").

However, this comment is quite amazing as an indicator of the rapidity of language change: a usage which was drummed into children a mere 30 or so years ago as being the only correct one is now itself being criticized. 

How do you react to "well" and "good" as answers to the question "How are you?"? Do you think "well" is stuffy? If someone in a customer service position said, "I'm well, thanks, and you?", would it make you "momentarily self-conscious about whether [your] own grammar is less than perfect"?

Or do you feel that "good" is a solecism and "ungrammatical"? It isn't ungrammatical, by the way; it's perfectly grammatical. But it still may irritate you if it's not the convention you grew up with -- and this type of linguistic interaction is all about convention. 

What advice would YOU give to someone in the service industry? "I'm doing great!"?

Let me know in the comments!

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If you find the English language fascinating, you should check out my entertaining history of the English language courses. More info here



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Thursday, August 28, 2014

#Canadianism of the day: stoop & scoop

#Canadianism of the day: stoop & scoop= (law requiring owners to) pick up after their pets in parks, sidewalks, etc.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#Canadianism of the day: go (or drive someone) snaky

#Canadianism of the day: go (or drive someone) snaky = lose (or cause someone to lose) self-control.

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If you find the English language fascinating, you should check out my entertaining history of the English language courses. More info here

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Canadianism of the day: jeezly

 Canadianism of the day: jeezly used as an intensifier

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If you find the English language fascinating, you should check out my entertaining history of the English language courses. More info here