A good friend of mine asked me the other day if it was correct to say, "taken back" as an expression of surprise. The answer is "no"; the correct phase is "taken aback." That may sound funny to some people, but it is correct.
For most people, it is difficult to know when and how to use "affect" and "effect." Their meanings and uses have stabilized in recent years, so let's sort this all out. It's really not all that difficult.
We are now in the midst of the general election. And now it's time for both President Obama and Governor Romney to reveal their true muchness -- to tell us voters who they really are, what they really stand for, and what we can truly expect of them.
Just before a radio or TV commercial break, newscasters frequently will refer to a story of considerable interest saying it will be "next" after the commercial break. But after several commercials, three or four other stories will be reported before the reporter zeros-in on the story.
After spending nearly half an hour using my computer to learn more about whack, I contacted several professional acquaintances, asking them where I should go to the find the definition of "whack." Every one of them said: "Look it up on the Internet."
Here are a few more terms I find useful, amusing, or just flat-out wonderful. They are as American as apple pie and Richard Nixon, but better for your health. Use them in your tweets, toasts, and testimony as needed.