Category Archives: Grammar/Spelling

100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language


Image via Wikipedia

I found this list from a suggestion by StumbleUpon.  The spotter was a fellow named Shonara, and his source is credited at the end.

It’s a lovely list.  Got any favorite words you’d like to add?

Ailurophile A cat-lover.
Assemblage A gathering.
Becoming Attractive.
Beleaguer To exhaust with attacks.
Brood To think alone.
Bucolic In a lovely rural setting.
Bungalow A small, cozy cottage.
Chatoyant Like a cat’s eye.
Comely Attractive.
Conflate To blend together.
Cynosure A focal point of admiration.
Dalliance A brief love affair.
Demesne Dominion, territory.
Demure Shy and reserved.
Denouement The resolution of a mystery.
Desuetude Disuse.
Desultory Slow, sluggish.
Diaphanous Filmy.
Dissemble Deceive.
Dulcet Sweet, sugary.
Ebullience Bubbling enthusiasm.
Effervescent Bubbly.
Efflorescence Flowering, blooming.
Elision Dropping a sound or syllable in a word.
Elixir A good potion.
Eloquence Beauty and persuasion in speech.
Embrocation Rubbing on a lotion.
Emollient A softener.
Ephemeral Short-lived.
Epiphany A sudden revelation.
Erstwhile At one time, for a time.
Ethereal Gaseous, invisible but detectable.
Evanescent Vanishing quickly, lasting a very short time.
Evocative Suggestive.
Fetching Pretty.
Felicity Pleasantness.
Forbearance Withholding response to provocation.
Fugacious Fleeting.
Furtive Shifty, sneaky.
Gambol To skip or leap about joyfully.
Glamour Beauty.
Gossamer The finest piece of thread, a spider’s silk.
Halcyon Happy, sunny, care-free.
Harbinger Messenger with news of the future.
Imbrication Overlapping and forming a regular pattern.
Imbroglio An altercation or complicated situation.
Imbue To infuse, instill.
Incipient Beginning, in an early stage.
Ineffable Unutterable, inexpressible.
Ingénue A naïve young woman.
Inglenook A cozy nook by the hearth.
Insouciance Blithe nonchalance.
Inure To become jaded.
Labyrinthine Twisting and turning.
Lagniappe A special kind of gift.
Lagoon A small gulf or inlet.
Languor Listlessness, inactivity.
Lassitude Weariness, listlessness.
Leisure Free time.
Lilt To move musically or lively.
Lissome Slender and graceful.
Lithe Slender and flexible.
Love Deep affection.
Mellifluous Sweet sounding.
Moiety One of two equal parts.

Mondegreen A slip of the ear.
Murmurous Murmuring.
Nemesis An unconquerable archenemy.
Offing The sea between the horizon and the offshore.
Onomatopoeia A word that sounds like its meaning.
Opulent Lush, luxuriant.
Palimpsest A manuscript written over earlier ones.
Panacea A solution for all problems

Panoply A complete set.
Pastiche An art work combining materials from various sources.
Penumbra A half-shadow.
Petrichor The smell of earth after rain.
Plethora A large quantity.
Propinquity Proximity; Nearness
Pyrrhic Successful with heavy losses.
Quintessential Most essential.
Ratatouille A spicy French stew.
Ravel To knit or unknit.
Redolent Fragrant.

Riparian By the bank of a stream.
Ripple A very small wave.
Scintilla A spark or very small thing.
Sempiternal Eternal.
Seraglio Rich, luxurious oriental palace or harem.
Serendipity Finding something nice while looking for something else.
Summery Light, delicate or warm and sunny.
Sumptuous Lush, luxurious.
Surreptitious Secretive, sneaky.
Susquehanna A river in Pennsylvania.
Susurrous Whispering, hissing.
Talisman A good luck charm.
Tintinnabulation Tinkling.
Umbrella Protection from sun or rain.
Untoward Unseemly, inappropriate.
Vestigial In trace amounts.
Wafture Waving.
Wherewithal The means.
Woebegone Sorrowful, downcast.
Source: So Much To Tell You



That ten-dollar word kinda threw you off, didn’t it?  I received the following in my email from a friend who knows I’m a writer.  I had no idea that these one-liners, so dearly beloved of comics and stand-up comedians, had a name.  Heck, it’s only a couple of years ago that I found out that the name for fear of the number 13 is Triskaidekaphobia (from Greek tris meaning “3”, kai meaning “and”, deka meaning “10” and phobia meaning “fear” or “morbid fear”).  It has taken me a while to get over that.  Anyhow, back to paraprosdokian.


Comedian talking to the audience

Comedian talking to the audience - © Edward Bartel |

A paraprosdokian 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 re-frame or reinterpret 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.
  • Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  • The last thing I want to do is hurt you, but it’s still on the list.  
  • If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.  
  • We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public. 
  • War does not determine who is right – only who is left. 
  • Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • Evening news is where they begin with “Good evening,” and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  • To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism; to steal from many is research.
  • A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  • Dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.
  • I thought I wanted a career; turns out I just wanted pay checks.
  • A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don’t need it.
  • Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says “In an emergency, notify:” I put “DOCTOR.”
  • I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  • Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  • Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?
  • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
  • You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  • The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good ideas!
  • Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won’t expect it back.
  • A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.
  • Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  • I discovered I scream the same way whether I’m about to be devoured by a great white shark or if a piece of seaweed touches my foot.
  • I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not sure.
  • You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  • To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  • Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  • A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as when you are in it.
  • Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

If you enjoyed these, here are some more from Wikipedia:

  • Winston Churchill
    Image via Wikipedia

    “There but for the grace of God— goes God.” —Winston Churchill

  •  “If I am reading this graph correctly—I’d be very surprised.” —Stephen Colbert
  • “You can always count on the Americans to do the right thing—after they have tried everything else.” —Winston Churchill
  • “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” —Dorothy Parker
  • “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.” —Groucho Marx
  • “She looks as though she’s been poured into her clothes, and forgot to say ‘when’.” —P. G. Wodehouse
  • “I like going to the park and watching the children run around because they don’t know I’m using blanks.” —Emo Phillips
  • “If I could say a few words, I’d be a better public speaker.” —Homer Simpson
  • “I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.” —Mitch Hedberg
  • “I sleep eight hours a day and at least ten at night.” —Bill Hicks

Okay, I think I’ve got it now!

Lonely Hearts Club for Unattached Pronouns

Raya's DungeonWelcome back to Raya’s Dungeon, Chamber 3.  In Part 1, we talked about Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers.  These boo boos can cause unintentional hilarity.  Now, comic writing as an art gives writers a great feeling when we have achieved it.  But to cause people to laugh when we don’t mean it sounds the death knell on our lovely dramatic piece.  Part 2 deals with another way to make people laugh when we mean them to shiver, cry, or hold their breath.  I give you…

Unattached Pronouns…or Distanced Antecedents

Here we are talking about it and they and other unattached pronouns that refer to absolutely nothing in the sentence and give entirely the wrong meaning. Better to have too many proper names or real nouns than pronouns bouncing around with no social conscience and very little sense, lonely and misunderstood. (Yup, real life again.)  Take a look.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool while you drink it all in.  (Ewwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

Mt. Kilimanjaro, the breathtaking backdrop for the Serena Lodge. Swim in the lovely pool, relax and drink in all the beauty of your surroundings.

We tear your clothes by hand.

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.  (That’s what makes us the tearminators! muahahahaaaaaa)

We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We clean each piece of clothing carefully by hand.

Tired of cleaning yourself? Let me do it. (Ooooh, kinkyyy!)

Tired of doing the cleaning all by yourself? Let me do it.

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover. (If he’s as antique as the bed, he ain’t getting far!)

Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for a lover of antiques.

Wanted: Unmarried girls to pick fresh fruit and produce at night. (They don’t want much, do they?)

Wanted: unmarried girls to works nights, picking fresh fruit and produce.

See the man with seventeen necks!!

In a clothing store: “Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks.” (Dressing for their jobs at a sideshow?)

In a clothing store: “Wonderful bargains for men with neck sizes of 16 and 17.

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come foreward and lay an egg on the alter. (What? The Easter Bunny was busy?)

This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and place an egg on the altar. (Notice I couldn’t help correcting the two typos either – it’s a congenital condition lol)

In a Los Angeles dance hall: “Good clean dancing every night but Sunday.”  (That’s why the hall is packed on Sundays.)

In a Los Angeles dance hall: “Good, clean dancing six nights a week. Closed Sundays.

So, when you’re finished your writing, put it aside for a minimum of an hour.  One day would be better.  Then take it out and read it.  What looked like deathless prose to you now reveals its hidden laughs.  Enjoy them, then change them, so your prose will now have more of the effect you intended.

Coming up in our next article is Missing or Mutilated Modifiers.  They look horrible, really horrible and not for the faint of heart.  But then, that’s what dungeons are for.  muahahahahaaaa

Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers…Unattached Pronouns and Distanced Antecedents…Dirty Dangling Participles…and Other Messy Mouthfuls.

Welcome back to Raya’s Dungeon.  Today we are visiting Chamber 3:  MUTILATED, MISPLACED AND MISSING MODIFIERS…UNATTACHED PRONOUNS AND DISTANCED ANTECEDENTS…DIRTY DANGLING PARTICIPLES…AND OTHER MESSY MOUTHFULS.  We’ll have four visits altogether.  If you are stout of heart and not squeamish at the sight of a writer’s life’s blood, after a brief introduction, we will be visiting *gasp* Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers.

By popular request, Raya’s Dungeon is featuring a selection of side-splitting and highly inaccurate offerings to illustrate what exactly a misplaced modifier, unattached pronoun, and a dangling participle are.



Man trying to communicate

Before we dive into our mirthful mayhem, let’s take a look at what writing is supposed to do. Anyone? Anyone know what writing is supposed to do? hmmmmm…yes, entertain, that’s a good one. Yup, inform. But what is the basic thing that writing needs to achieve. YES!!! oh yes!! *pumps fist in the air* COMMUNICATE…the more clearly the better. If we don’t communicate, we don’t…really, we don’t exist. We can do all we want but where is the satisfaction unless we communicate? Humans are social creatures and, without communication, our existence is solitary and to some extent unfulfilling.

And we writers…we are the communicators. So let’s all repeat the Hippocratic oath of writing…I promise to excise dirty dangling participles, to exterminate uncoordinated clauses and massacre misplaced modifiers. Good!!! Now on to finding out what these miscreants are.

Mutilated, Misplaced and Missing Modifiers

A modifier is anything that gives some details about something else. I won’t go into whether it is adjectival or adverbial or even noun phrase modifiers, because I can hear the bodies hitting the floor as I even mention them. Instead, let’s resort to hormones…good old standbys:

Modifiers are like teenagers: they fall in love with whatever they’re next to. It’s up to you to make sure these modifiers are placed next to something they ought to modify!

Put another way, make the meaning clear, so that your readers don’t fall out of their chairs laughing, especially when you didn’t MEAN to be funny.

Here are some examples of what we’re talking about. Study each sentence in red for a minute, try to figure out WHY it’s funny, and see if you can come up with a better sentence than I have in small print beneath the original. These hilarious offerings are more common than you think; actually, mending mutilated modifiers could become a life-long hobby.  By the way, ALL the examples are advertisements or signs taken from real life…

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food expertly served by waitresses in appetizing forms. (So don’t drool on the waitresses.)

A superb and inexpensive restaurant. Fine food in appetizing forms, expertly served by our waitresses. (Okay, I got a little creative here, but the meaning is much clearer now, albeit not quite so funny.)

For sale: an antique desk suitable for lady with thick legs and large drawers. 
(How rude!)

For sale: an antique desk with thick legs and large drawers, suitable for lady.

Wanted. Man to take care of cow that does not smoke or drink. (Good lord, what are the other cows like?)

Wanted. Man who does not smoke or drink, to take care of cow.

Have several very old dresses from grandmother in beautiful condition. (Way to go, granny!)

Have several very old dresses in beautiful condition from grandmother.

Mixing bowl set designed to please a cook with round bottom for efficient beating. (Nothing like beating those round-bottomed cooks!)

Mixing bowl set designed with round bottom for efficient beating to please a cook.

3-year-old teacher need for pre-school. Experience preferred. (Is it just me or are teachers getting younger and younger?)

Pre-school teacher needed for 3-year-olds. Experience preferred.

Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community. (Don’t go away mad, k?)

Remember in prayer the many of our church and community who are sick.

On a New York convalescent home: “For the sick and tired of the Episcopal Church.” (They have homes for this?)

On a New York convalescent home: “For Episcopal Church parishioners who are tired and sick.” (This one is tricky…I would actually rewrite this whole thing, but I suspect they wanted to conserve space).


Dancing Bones



. (Nothing worse than hootenannies in the graveyard — and what the heck is a letter lout??)


 I bet you get the idea by now. All of the above examples were misplaced modifiers.


* Lonely Hearts Club for Unattached Pronouns (aka “Distanced Antecedents) – Part 2 to follow tomorrow.
* Missing or Mutilated Modifiers – Part 3.
* Dirty Dangling Participles – Part 4.

Thanks for reading.  If you like these articles, please vote.  To support the ongoing effort, your subscription would be very helpful (see top right of page below calendar).

The Terrible Cries of the Traumatized Comma


The Terrible Cries of the Traumatized Comma

Welcome to Raya's Dungeon - enter if you dare muahahahahaha


The traumatized comma

Probably the MOST maligned punctuation mark in the history of the English language, the comma has been abused, misused, kicked, neglected, and otherwise dealt terrible damage to. And yet it is not a mob [game talk for the enemy in battle], but a veritable fount of helpfulness and aid to breath-saving. Yes, breath-saving. Without commas, we would have to talk non-stop, racing until we reach the period before we can take a breath. And yet, the comma is the hardest working punctuation mark YOU’ll ever see.

I’m not going to go into all the uses of the comma right now because there are too many of them. However, I’ll take a few so that you can start today to save the comma from all this abuse.


No, I am not talking about the next exciting adventure of the Sopranos on TV nor your electrical wiring setup. I’m talking about words and using them in series. Always use commas to separate a list of things in a sentence, such as: I love to eat hot dogs, corn bread, and liver and onions.

In the above example, the comma sets off the items in the list. In modern usage, the comma before the first “and” is optional. You could have written…corn bread and liver and onions.” However, in this instance, it makes the meaning clearer to have the comma before the “and.” This example also illustrates when you do NOT put a comma before the second “and” –i.e. this second “and” (which, by the way is called a conjunction because its only purpose in life is to join words)–when the item referred to is a unit, i.e. liver and onions is a unit.

You can also have a series of phrases, and even full-fledged sentences, which, again, are separated by commas to keep the meaning clear. (Note: In some cases, you get the shy semi-colon (;) which can be used to keep the phrases or sentences separated–however, the semi-colon is not as hard-working as the comma, so we will deal with this miscreant at arm’s length–and mercilessly–in another chamber.)

 My favorite pastimes are playing MMORPGs, walking in the park, and rollerblading with my friends.

 Once you get the hang of punctuation, you can use commas like a pro, you can create masterpieces of sizzling dialogue, and you can dazzle your readers with your unique style.

 Okay, how about a series of adjectives that modify the same noun?  The rule is…if you can replace the comma with an “and,” then you put in a comma, eg: The sly and evil rogue backstabbed his way to success. This is therefore eligible for commatization (made-up word alert!), thusly: The sly, evil rogue backstabbed his way to success.

If, however, you can’t replace a supposed comma with “and,” then you leave the comma out, eg: The cloak cost 50 gold pieces at the tavern. You cannot insert “and” between “50” and “gold.” Therefore, no comma.

After thinking of ALL the uses of the comma, I decided not to go any further here, because I can already hear the bodies hitting the floor as they drop from boredom. However, the comma is probably the most important punctuation mark (perhaps excepting only the period) in the English language.

Super Comma getting ready to work her magic powers.

Therefore, for homework (no no no, I musn’t use that term)…um…for a special excursion into the wonderful world of the superhero COMMA (not to be confused with COMA), please run through the above list of very helpful hints on when to use the comma. Don’t let the names of the word parts bother you any more than you let the names of the different ways to slay your enemies in your favorite MMO bother you. I’m sure you recognize the result, if not the names they are called…remember them. They just may save your dying prose some day.  

If you have any questions about commas, please don’t suffer in silence…put them in a comment below or email me at raya at fantasyfic dot com.