by Bob Yearick

How long, oh Lord, how long? Crepe’s gets an apostrophe but tomatoes doesn’t, demonstrating once again the inconsistency of apostrophe abusers.


I always thought biopic (a movie dramatizing the life of a particular person, typically a public or historical figure) was pronounced bi-opic, rhyming with myopic. I recently discovered that it’s actually pronounced bio-pic. That led me to consider other common mispronunciations.

There’s a seasonal word that’s being mispronounced almost nightly by weather forecasters: arctic. Many of them (we’re looking at you, Chris Sowers, 6ABC in Philly) don’t bother to pronounce the first c, making it ar-tic. 

 Another seasonal but less current word is Halloween. Some of us say Hollow-een. But remember, it’s derived from “All Hallows’ Eve,” so it should be pronounced Hal-oh-een.     

Then there’s the popular Italian appetizer bruschetta. It’s not broo-shetta; it’s broo-sket-a.

And echelon is not ES-alon, or ETCH-alon, or EK-alon. It’s ESH-alon.

Not that I use it much, but another word I would have mispronounced until recently is ennui (listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement). It’s pronounced ahn-wee.

This & That

•The difference between an acronym and an initialism is simple: The former is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word (NASA, VIN, PIN, OSHA, etc.). An initialism is an abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced separately. FBI, for instance. 

Sooner rather than later is a redundant, rather useless phrase. The sense of the expression is incomplete. Sooner and not later than what? Why not simply say “soon”?

•The term horseback riding, when you think of it, is rather superfluous. How else are you going to ride a horse? I’m told that in England and Ireland it’s simply “horse riding.”

•And finally, and perhaps for the last time (I’ve probably said that before), let’s consider the term begs the question. It does not mean “raises a question,” although that’s the way it’s used in almost every case. It is a scholarly term for reaching unwarranted or unsubstantiated conclusions, or to assume as a fact the very thing you are trying to prove. One example that’s often cited: “Parallel lines never meet because they are parallel.”

Mea Culpa

Reader Mike Logothetis writes to correct our gaffe in the February “War on Words,” in which this appeared:  “Below are a list of open routes in your area. (The subject is the singular below, so the verb should be is.)”

Our conclusion was right but, as Mike points out, our reasoning was wrong. The subject of the sentence is list, not below.

Thanks for being another careful reader, Mike.  

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Stephanie Farr in the The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Her first introduction to music came at age 3 . . .

Reader Debbie Layton came across this in The News Journal:  “The New Castle recipient was a single mother of two twins with autism.”

Media Watch

•Reader Rick Straitman caught MSNBC reporting that conspiracy theorists do not fit the stereotype of the gullible, ignorant yahoo. In doing so, the report concluded: “This is proof that these people run the gambit.” As Rick notes, the correct word is gamut (range, scope). A gambit is a ploy or maneuver.  

The Inquirer gave us this: “Engram replaces the void left by Joe Rudolph, who left for Virginia Tech.” A void (a vacuum or hole) is filled, not replaced. 

•The estimable Inky columnist Marcus Hayes created this rare dangler: “After a 3.5-sack season that graded out as his worst since 2013, Roseman faces this question: Is Cox, now 31, worth the $15 million cap hit he’d carry if he stays in 2022?” Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox had those 3.5 sacks, not Eagles General Manager Howie Roseman. 

•A reader submits this from a story by Xerxes Wilson in The News Journal: “Witnesses called by Drumgo had previously wrote . . .” The past perfect of write, of course, is written.

Literally of the Month

•This month we welcome the GOAT himself, Tom Brady, late of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In announcing his retirement, Brady said: “I have literally given everything to the game.” Everything, Tom? Your houses, your cars, your $6 million yacht? On the contrary, it can be argued that the game has given you those things. 

Word of the Month


Pronounced par-lus, it’s an adjective, meaning full of danger or uncertainty; precarious.

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Bob Yearick
The copy editor of Out & About, Bob Yearick retired from DuPont in 2000 after 34 years as an editor and writer. Since “retiring,” Bob has written articles for Delaware Today, Main Line Today and other publications. His sports/suspense novel, Sawyer, was published in 2007. His grammar column, “The War on Words,” is one of the most popular features in O&A. A compilation of the columns was published in 2011. He has won the Out & About short story contest as well as many awards in the annual Delaware Press Association writing contest.

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