OK, not really travel related, but you’re writers and I know you love puns and such. (The stats don’t lie.)

  1. How do you catch a unique rabbit?
    Unique up on it.
  2. How do you catch a tame rabbit?
    Tame way.
  3. How do crazy people go through the forest?
    They take the psychopath.
  4. How do you get holy water?
    You boil the hell out of it.
  5. What do fish say when they hit a concrete wall?
  6. What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?
  7. What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work?
    A stick.

How to identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance

January 18, 2017 | Comments Off on How to identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance

Can’t tell your Devanagari from your Gurmukhi? Here’s an article from The Week that will help you identify Asian, African, and Middle Eastern alphabets at a glance.


More puns …

February 20, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Because I know you all love them:

  • I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
  • I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the Vegetarian Club, but I’d never met herbivore.
  • I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.

Texting“The evidence is, for language, that every time a new technology arrives, it expands the expressive richness of the language in a way that wasn’t there before.” Here’s how the internet is making English better.

Too-cute video of a little girl and her nonna speaking Italian (thanks to Colleen Putnam for the link):

Photo: Gabriel Amadeus/Flickr

Photo: Gabriel Amadeus/Flickr

Not that we need it here in northern California, but if you’ve ever wondered how people living at high latitudes manage to get through all those dark winters, here’s a clue: Hygge.

Russell McLendon explains: “Hygge, originally a Norwegian word for “well-being,” first appeared in Danish near the end of the 18th century…. It has evolved into a big part of Danish life since then, absorbing connotations over time like a semantic snowball. The dark winters of Denmark helped turn hygge from a mere word into a kind of cultural panacea, manifested in various ways to buffer Danes against cold, solitude and stress.”

Photo: terra2025/Flickr

Photo: terra2025/Flickr

“OK”—in honor of its 175th birthday on March 23, Russell McLendon explains how this uniquely American acronym went viral.

huhIn case you missed it: Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics have determined that the expression “huh?” is practically universal. Here is The Atlantic’s article about why this finding is so fascinating to linguists.

In celebration of slang, Mental Floss brings us a list of 19 delightful obscure words from around the U.S. that you’ll want to start working into conversation. My favorite is:

1. whoopensocker (n.), Wisconsin
You know when something’s wonderfully unique, but the words “wonderful” and “unique” don’t quite cut it? That’s why the Wisconsinites invented whoopensocker, which can refer to anything extraordinary of its kind—from a sweet dance move to a knee-melting kiss.

jayusAlthough the headline calls them untranslatable, Ella Frances Sanders’ Huffington Post article illustrates and explicates.

“We will definitely be trying to incorporate a few of them into our everyday conversations, and hope that you enjoy recognizing a feeling or two of your own among them.”

jumper“Here in the United States, we speak the same language as our ye old predecessors in Great Britain, but we don’t always speak it the same way.” Bigstock Images presents twenty words (and accompanying images) that have different meanings in Great Britain than they do in the U.S.

ConnieHaleI enjoyed Connie Hale’s personal essay, The Languages in My Heart, on growing up “bilingual in English” and how it shaped her as a writer. It pubbed on Outrigger.com, a Hawaii-based website.

Here’s how it starts: “When you grow up as I did, in the 1960s, on Oahu’s North Shore, amidst cane fields and cattle ranches, plantation shacks and tumbledown beach houses, you don’t realize the richness you possess, especially when it comes to language. I called the annoying kid in class bakatari. I loaded up on Li Hing Mui before stepping onto the bus after school. I sat on the seawall ‘talkin story’ with Mr. Tamura, understanding every word of his Japanese-accented Pidgin as he pulled fish like kumu and manini from the reef. And when my auntie looked at me and asked if I had eaten the last malasada, I said, ‘No, I nevah.’”

SPRSue Collier at Self-Publishing Resources offers this list of places to find lists of unusual words, including xenoglossia.


shakespeareLove Shakespeare? You’ll love him even more after you realize that he invented more than 1700 of our common words by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, and performing other acts of creative grammatics (is that a word?). Here are some of the words Shakespeare Invented.


September 28, 2010 | Leave a Comment

Paraprosdokian sentences—my literary lesson for the week. (Thanks to Dad for forwarding this email, which is making the rounds.)

A paraprosdokian (from Greek meaning “beyond expectation”) is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe the first part. It is frequently used for humorous or dramatic effect, sometimes producing an anticlimax. For this reason, it is extremely popular among comedians and satirists.

  • I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

I enjoyed Ed Hasbroucks’s recent article on the intricacies of learning a foreign language. Here are a couple of excerpts:

“We tend to think of the problem of understanding a foreign language in terms of “knowing what the words” (or maybe sentences) mean. But If that were true, all we would need anywhere would be a phrase book. Anyone who’s
ever tried, and failed, to use a phrase book to communicate in a completely unknown language has quickly realized that there are multiple layers of coding that one must master before one can look up a foreign word in a dictionary or phrase book.

“One layer down in a spoken language, which groups of sounds or syllables

US and UK spellings

February 16, 2010 | Leave a Comment

If you need to write using UK spellings, here’s a good resource.

Thanks to Michael Shapiro for the link to UnnecessaryQuotes.com, a delightfully satisfying site that provides a “Wall of Shame” for unnecessary (if exuberant) use of quotation marks. 😉


Thanks to April Orcutt for forwarding this article from the Huffington Post. It was posted by Andy Borowitz on November 18.

Obama’s Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy: Stunning Break with Last Eight Years

In the first two weeks since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has broken with a tradition established over the past eight years through his controversial use of complete sentences, political observers say.

Millions of Americans who watched Mr. Obama’s appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” on Sunday witnessed the president-elect’s unorthodox verbal tick, which had Mr. Obama employing grammatically correct sentences virtually every time he opened his mouth.

Thanks to April Orcutt for sending this link to the Times Grammar Blog.

A recent post discussed correct usage of the term, “begs the question” (hint: it is not equivalent to “raises the question”) and includes a link to the website BegTheQuestion.info, where you can order BTQ T-shirts and mugs, as well as business cards to hand out to people who misuse the term. (They begin: Oops! You used the phrase “begs the question” in an improper manner!) “Drop one in the offering plate at church after a pastor’s BTQ-laden sermon, send them to the newscaster or advertising copywriter in your life, or hand them to the president after his inaugural speech. (If Secret Service lets you, that is.) Just remember: these cards are meant to discreetly inform them of BTQ abuse, but they are no substitute for candor and respect.”

“WARNING” the site reads. “This game may make you smarter. It may improve your speaking, writing, thinking, grades, job performance… ” The oh-so-addictive-and-good-for-you-too vocabulary game works like this:

  • You’re presented with a word.
  • You click on the answer that best defines the word.
  • If you get it right, you get a harder word. If wrong, you get an easier word.
  • For each word you get right, FreeRice donates 20 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program.

Thanks to April Orcutt for sending the link to this clever site that will surely help you move quickly through writers’ block. She reports, “Newsweek said it lets you send “snarky” messages.”


January 10, 2008 | Leave a Comment

And the winner of the Merriam-Webster Word of the Year for 2007 is: w00t. What, you say? According to the Merriam-Webster website:

w00t (interjection)
expressing joy (it could be after a triumph, or for no reason at all); similar in use to the word “yay”

Check out the website for the rest of the Top 10.

Reprinted with permission from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com

Thanks to Michael Shapiro for sending this link to a New York Times article about the demise of the English hyphen:

By Charles McGrath

THE Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the scaled-down, two-volume version of the mammoth 20-volume O.E.D., just got a little shorter. With the dispatch of a waiter flicking away flyspecks, the editor, Angus Stevenson, eliminated some 16,000 hyphens from the sixth edition, published last month. “People are not confident about using hyphens anymore,” he said. “They’re not really sure what they’re for.”

The dictionary is not dropping all hyphens. The ones in certain compounds remain (“well-being,” for example), as do those indicating a word break at the right-hand margin the use for which this versatile little punctuation mark, a variation on the slash, the all-purpose medieval punctuation, was invented in the first place.

What’s getting the heave are

Ten Best Puns

March 9, 2007 | Leave a Comment

Who thinks this stuff up, anyway?

1. Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss league records were destroyed in a fire. Thus we’ll never know for whom the Tells Bowled.

2. A man rushed into a busy doctor’s office and shouted “Doctor! Doctor! I think I’m shrinking!” The doctor calmly responded, “Now, settle down. You’ll just have to be a little patient.”

3. A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day

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