December 15, 2014
Forming Plurals of Latin-derived WordsTOPICS: PLURALS
Cactuses, cacti? Priuses, Prii? The answers are easier than you think.
Click player above to listen to the podcast
Hoist With His Own PetarPosted by June on December 15, 2014
LABELS: WORD CHOICE
I don’t know much about Shakespeare. Suffice it to say that there are some gaps in my education. So when I learn about an expression like “hoist with his own petard,” it’s usually from a “Simpsons” episode.
And it’s always fun to look up these new expressions.
Garner’s Modern American Usage has some interesting discussion on this term, which the guide describes as a Shakespearean phrase meaning “ruined by one’s own scheming against others.”
“The actual line in ‘Hamlet’ is ‘hoist with his own petar,” Garner’s says. “The form ‘petar’ is an archaic variant of ‘petard,’ meaning ‘an explosive device used in ancient warfare to blow open a gate or to breach a wall.’ Thus, ‘hoist with one’s own petard’ literally means to blow oneself into the air with one’s own bomb. In modern journalistic sources, ‘petard’ outnumbers ‘petar’ by a 66-to-1 margin. So almost every writer who uses the phrase updates Shakespeare by using ‘petard.’”
Garner’s adds that the verb "hoist" is normally “hoisted” in the past tense, but that Shakespeare used “hoist” as the past participle for the archaic verb “hoise” (to raise aloft). But by a 2-to-1 margin, modern writers update “hoist” and make it "hoisted.”
Also, there’s some controversy about whether the preposition is “with” or “by.” Shakespeare’s was “with,” “but ‘by’ now preponderates by a 4-to-1 margin,” Garner’s reports.
Summing up, Garner’s says, “Almost every contemporary writer who uses this popular phrase misquotes Shakespeare in some way and it would be pedantic to insist on ‘hoist with his own petar.’ The usual renderings are ‘hoist with his own petard’ and ‘hoisted by his own petard.’ Some preference might be given to the first of those. But because the second is nearly four times as common, it shouldn’t be labeled incorrect."
June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more
The Best Punctuation Book, Period
A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson
The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more
Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies
A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite
What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more
Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more
It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences
Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more