Head of household?

I recently got voicemail spam in which caller asked to “speak to the head of household, if they’re available.” I was surprised to hear the phrase “head of household”—I think I haven’t encountered that phrase in years, outside of a tax context. (The IRS uses the phrase to refer to an unmarried person who maintains […]

More about colon-as-attribution-signifier

As I’ve noted before (though possibly not here in Words & Stuff), I feel like the common practice of using a colon in a newspaper headline to indicate attribution can lead to amusing confusion. The latest example I’ve come across isn’t quite the same thing; instead of attribution per se, it’s using a colon to […]

The face of Usher

Which of the following attributes did Roderick Usher’s face once have, in the Edgar Allan Poe story “The Fall of the House of Usher”? a cadaverousness of complexion an eye large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison lips somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly beautiful curve a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, […]


I’ve been misreading things even more often than usual lately. Two recent items: …in the difficult time after his resumption of coffee. (Was really “after his assumption of office.” (Magister Ludi, p. 315)) Non-OMG food. (Was really “Non-GMO food.”)

Plausible typos

Some typos are more harder to detect than others. I’m currently reading the 1989 Mandard Paperbacks edition of C. J. Cherryh’s novel Downbelow Station, which is rife with the sort of typos that a spellchecker won’t catch, because the erroneous word is also a valid English word. (Okay, “rife” is an exaggeration; I really only […]


I like the phrase “I know, right?”, but I somehow almost never encounter a situation in which it seems like it would make sense for me to use it. But I think that may partly be due to my not noticing such opportunities when they occur. For example, I just came across a Facebook exchange […]


A 2013 SMBC comic that I just saw suggested that the superlative of Fourier is Fouriest. Which reminded me that in 1998, I found a typo in the dictionary. Here’s the email that I sent to Merriam-Webster about it: Hi. I was just leafing through my copy of Webster's Ninth New Collegiate, and I found […]