HomeAbout UsFeaturesGrammarParts of SpeechUsagePunctuationCollege Courses

All the English You Will Ever Need


The English language is constantly evolving, both the words we use and the rules that control the usage of those words.  Therefore, it is impossible to ever have a definitive grammar guide, or, if you will, a Complete Guide of American English.  And that’s our excuse.



Word of the Every So Often

August 17, 2019

leman:  (noun)  (pronounced like the fruit)  a lover or a sweetheart.  His leman left him sour.


What's New...

What's Old...

Archive Newer | Older

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Many Stops Do Not Follow

Punctuation matters.  While waiting on a bus the other day, I saw one of those three-wheeled traffic enforcement vehicles putter by me.  On the back of that vehicle was the following notice:  "Many Stops Do Not Follow."  Perhaps it's because I teach English, but I couldn't help but think that, perhaps, just maybe, that notice could've used some clarifying punctuation.  If they are wanting to let me know that the vehicle makes a lot of stops, and that following too closely might be a problem, then they needed something after the word "Stops."  A period, a dash, even a comma would've worked.  As it is, they are telling me that while that vehicle might be making a few stops, it will not be making many:  These (many stops) do not follow.

10:33 am pdt 

Friday, April 20, 2018


It can often be very difficult to pinpoint the origin of a word or a phrase.  For instance, who said, “Groovy!” for the first time?  What deprived mind conceived such a combination of letters?  Sure, you can trace its use back in documents, but that can take you only so far.  You may find that its first recorded use was in episode 62 of “Gilligan’s Island” (or not), but that doesn’t tell you that a writer for that show created the term, although I wouldn’t doubt if one did.  The word could’ve been in use in limited circles for years before then. 

When trying to decide on the origin of the term 4:20, it’s even harder.  Those in the best position to know probably can’t remember.  4:20, for those of you who don’t know or can’t remember, has come to represent the entire marijuana smoking, weed toking, pot ingesting, and cannabis molesting sub-culture.  Just as every good beer drinker dutifully recognizes beer-thirty, every die-hard stoner recognizes bong-twenty.  4:20 – the time of the afternoon to get high.  And thus, the twentieth of April, the twentieth day of the fourth month, 4/20, has become the most sacred of all days for every red-eyed, munchie-craving stoner everywhere, who will all be happy to show you how they put the high in high holy days.

But why 4:20?  Why not 2:15?  9:37?  Noon?  All the above?

When trying to figure something such as where the term 4:20 originated, perhaps one of the best places to start is by eliminating the possibilities.  One rumor of where the term comes from is that there are 420 chemicals in pot.  Not true, says Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana advocacy group.  According to them there are “...483 different identifiable chemical constituents known to exist in cannabis.”  (Medical Marijuana)  And then they go on to list them, but you’ll just have to take my word on that. 

Another possibility was that 420 was the police code... somewhere... for weed addicts.  “We’ve got a 420 in Progress at the Disc Golf Course.”  Never mind that that’s redundant.  There’s one way to find out if that’s true.  In the terms of modern parlance, google it!  I simply put in:  “Is 420 a police code?”  It’s a well asked question, according to Google.  And the answer I found at an entire site devoted to squashing rumors was, “No.”  There are no police departments in the country that use 420 as a code for a couple of brothers passing a spliff.  (Mikkelson)

On the other hand, Senate Bill 420, which became law in California in 2003 made it legal to use medicinal marijuana.  (Senate Bill)  However, the term 420 was around long before 2003.  And I know that because while searching for the police codes, I stumbled across a site where somebody else had already done the work for me.  Aside from having found what they claimed was the right answer, they also debunked many others that I hadn’t even thought of, such as that the 20th of April is the best time to plant marijuana (as if a weed needs a best time!), or that when the Grateful Dead toured they always stayed in room 420.  (Mikkelson)  Wow.  Some people have really put a lot of effort in this.

According to a quasi-reliable source, 420 is believed to have come into existence in 1971 at San Rafael High School in San Rafael, California.  There were these twelve dudes, you see, and they all got into the habit of getting high every day at pretty much the same time after school... by the statue... at 4:20.  And that became their code.  You’re sitting in second hour algebra... or is it French... hard to tell, you can’t speak it... and your buddy nods and says, “420.”  Enough said.  And from there, quite naturally, it spread.  (Mikkelson)  All the cool stuff starts in California.

But is that true?  I mean, it’s not that I don’t trust Ms. Mikkelson, or Ms. Witmer, or Mr. Grimm, or any of the other numerous sources on the Internet that all confirm Mikkelson’s story.  But it’s just what my mama always told me:  Trust, but verify.  So I did.  I looked it up on Wikipedia.  And, by golly, there is a San Rafael High School.  And the High School has a statue of Louis Pasteur on its campus... the same statue where those darned stoners used to hang out each day at 4:20.  And get this!  Louis Pasteur has nothing to do with marijuana!  And if that’s not enough, it’s a high school.  And, really, if it’s on Wikipedia, then you know it must be true.


Work Cited

Grimm, Ryan.  What 420 Means: The True Story Behind Stoners' Favorite Number.”  25 May 2011.  The Huffington Post.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/20/what-420-means-the-true-s_n_188320.html

 “Medical Marijuana.”  7 Dec. 2006.  Pro/Con.org.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/view.answers.php?questionID=000636

Mikkelson, Barbara.  “Claim:  The Term ‘420’ entered drug parlance as a term signifying the time to light up a joint.”  13 June 2008.  Snopes.com.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://www.snopes.com/language/stories/420.asp

“San Rafael High School.”  2 Dec. 2011.  Wikipedia.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Rafael_High_School

“Senate Bill:  SB 420 Chaptered Bill Text.”  12 Oct. 2003.  California State Government.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/03-04/bill/sen/sb_0401-0450/sb_420_bill_20031012_chaptered.html

Witmer, Denise.  “What Does ‘420’ Mean?”  2012.  About.com:  Teens.  19 Apr. 2012.  http://parentingteens.about.com/cs/marijuana/a/420meaning.htm

9:05 am pdt 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Figuring Out Titles

Titles for an Internet site can often be confusing, to say the least.  It's not like any site is going to come right out and tell you that this is the article title, that one's the website title, and the one over there is the institutional title.  That would be too easy.  But your instructor wants you to find them just the same.  Luckily, there are some tricks to help you figure out which is which.  Let's use the following site as an example. 


First, remember that the author's name (last name first) will always be first in your work cited... assuming that there is an author.  The author will be followed by the three required titles, and they will always be in this order:  "Article Title" (in quotes), Website Title (in italics), and Institutional Title (plain).  Remember:  If there is no author, then the article title will come first.

Perhaps the easiest way to sort out which title is what is to go to the site's home page.  Try it with the URL above.  Click on it, and when you get to the site, click on the tab in the upper left hand corner for "Home."  The title at the very top of the home page is, generally speaking, going to be the website title, which will go in italics. 

Finding the institutional title can be a bit more challenging.  The institutional title is often embedded in the URL (but it will not be the URL).  For instance, for this site, the institutional title is The Holy Grail Press (not in italics or quotes).  Another place to look for an institutional title is at the very bottom of the home page.  Here, you will see that the site is hosted by Web.com.  Truly, that's not the institutional title.  It's advertisement from the company that "rents" the space to me.  However, had you used that for the institutional title... who's going to know the difference?  Well, I would, but I wouldn't call you on it.

If you truly don't know what the institutional title is – if there is no additional information at the bottom of the home page, or you're not sure if the information there is truly the institutional title, and if there is nothing in the URL that looks like a possibility – then you will repeat the webpage title as the institutional title (only this time not in italics). 

And that leaves the article title.  Now that you have the other titles eliminated, go back to the page you are citing.  In this case, it's the only title on that page.  However, on some sites the website title is also on each page.  Therefore, the article title, once again generally speaking, is going to be the biggest title (often in bold) closest to the article that you are citing. 

The article title that you put in your work cited will also be the entire title that is given at the site.  For instance, if you follow that URL, "Today in Grammar" or "The Semi-Colon" will not be the entire title.  Either of those, by itself, is only a part of the title.  You must have them both.  And that title will be in quotes.  Stick it in front of the other two titles, and you should be OK.  But it's always a good idea to check your titles to be sure.

When you are checking your titles, the article title, generally speaking, will not be the same as any of the other titles.  However, the home page title may be the same as the institutional title.  No title should be a complete URL, but a webpage or institutional title may be part of a URL.

Finally, keep in mind that this is the Internet.  There is no standard way to put titles on a website.  There is no title page, for instance, that one can easily find in a print source where the publication date and the publisher are all neatly grouped together.  Therefore, if it's really not that clear which title is which, nobody (which includes me) is going to question that her or his guess is better than yours.

11:26 am pdt 

Archive Newer | Older

This site  The Web

Web site hosting by Web.com