loxodrome, rhumb line

According to Wikipedia: In navigation, a rhumb line, rhumb, or loxodrome is an arc crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle, that is, a path with constant bearing as measured relative to true or magnetic north. For pretty and interesting pictures showing examples, follow the link. I think I’ve seen rhumb lines on […]

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 Mandarin 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 […]