Saturday, March 3, 2007


This discussion forum was inspired by my high school English classes where we were assigned to write three sentences using our weekly vocabulary words.  The theory was that if you could use the word in three sentences, you owned the word and would be able to call upon it for the SATs as well as in daily conversation.  Many years later, I was working at a law firm during the summer, and met a precocious high school sophomore who was in the throes of studying for the SATs.  We implemented a system of three words a day to be used in three sentences, and she would pop into my office randomly, blurt out her sentence and then we would both go back to our work until she had the next usage.

Years later after I was well into my legal career, and she had successfully graduated from Dartmouth, we renewed our "Word of the Day" ("wotd") exercises, although now we only had to use it in one sentence.  From my vantage point, the exercise gradually morphed into something more interesting for me.  In law, we are taught that there are no true synonyms, so it became my duty to explore the subtle differences of usage of words we thought we knew, based in part on the wotd offerings and some more erudite conversations with my friend.

As you'll learn in the coming postings, I'm an insurance defense litigator with a penchant for statutory analysis and a professional musician.  I use as my daily source, often referred to as "Doctor Dictionary" or "DD" since that's who the emails indicate is the sender.  Occasionally, I take outside submissions of comparison words. The only rule I have is that all words must be English. All phrases, hyphenations, slang, and foreign words will be ignored.

I hope you will find this discussion as intriguing, insightful, and, at times, inane as I do. And now on to the word comparison which gave me the title for this forum:
Parlance v. Vernacular.


April 12, 2016 Update

Hello all,

I am alive and well, and nearly ready to resume this blog after a long hiatus.  I will attribute this in large part to OED not being available free online, and therefore, the nuisance of having to get out the really heavy books and use the magnifying glass just got to me, and from there it was a slippery slope what with moving and the job and moving again and the job again.

In the intervening 7.5 years, a lot has changed.  I practice as a freelance legal ghost writer (civil motion and appellate practice, commercial lease drafting) and I provide litigation support as necessary attendant to the motion and appellate practice (oral argument, discovery).  My friend is now married with two children and much less time for wotd exercises than I.  And Doctor Dictionary is now just, but we'll still call it DD for continuity.   And some things do not change.  I am still a professional musician, I love statutory analysis from alcoholic beverage licensing laws to zoning regulations, and I think I will always sympathize with the defendant's side of the v. since that was how I first came to be introduced to law.

Thank you for your continued readership and comments.   Let the analysis recommence with the forthcoming:
Pertinent v. Relevant



Anonymous said...

One that will never cease to fascinate me is the 'whom'/ 'who' debate.. discuss at will!

Roxani said...

Wow! I found this site by accident because I was looking for the difference between 'facetious vs. sarcastic' and now I am here. I love it, especially since English is not my native language and I still have difficulties with certain words!!

Anonymous said...

What a great blog! I too was looking to understand the difference between facetious and sarcastic....interesting to know it's not entirely clear, even to others who care about the subtle meaning of a word. I bookmarked your site and I'm sure I will be back. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Pleased to have found your blog - thank you.
A quick note - your paragraph on the bottom left hand corner - "Sometimes wotd just doesn't inspire me. On those days, I look to others..." shouldn't it read WORD?
Will be back - found you by looking for the difference between 'facetious vs. sarcastic'

Anonymous said...

Wotd means 'word of the day', it is not a mistake, that is what the author meant to write.

Anonymous said...

What a shame the author has quit this blog. I'm posting this to let her/him know that people are still interested.

Vivian said...

I'm sad that this blog is now inactive but appreciate that it still exists! I plan to read through your posts when I get the chance :)

Anonymous said...

I'm another who arrived on this doorstep through a search (littoral vs riparian in my case).

Should you check in on this blog at some point: thanks for setting this up !

I have it bookmarked as a primary, quick reference.

"...there are no true synonyms..."
That is so true ! To disagree with that is to ignore the fluidity and evolution of language.

Ruthlessontogeny said...

I concur with previous posters. I wish this blogger would take up the mantle again! After all, who else is going to teach me the difference between a moniker and a nickname?

Diane said...

Thank you for this post! I, too, found this by accident - I was looking up "toil versus moil." it is a fascinating column, and it was unusual for me to keep reading the posts. I hope all is well with the blogger.

David said...

6315nice site--cleared up the prickly 'sempiternal vs. eternal' confusion for me--is it still accepting questions?

Anonymous said...

WOW! I found it while I was searching "regardless versus irrespective". Absolutely fascinating! THANKS and I really hope this blog, one of the very few really useful and interesting, will continue for many years to come!

Evan Williams said...

It may be interesting to argue what a debate is.