Category Archives: Miscellaneous


February, the month of valentines and Oscars. Like the other names of months in the Gregorian calendar, February has Roman origins. The ancient “day of purification,” dies februatus (februare means “to purify”), observed on the fifteenth day of the month (the ides of February), was part of the festival Lupercalia or Februatio. (Februa were thongs made from the skins of sacrificed animals; women were struck with these thongs to promote fertility.)

Though Saint Valentine of Rome was martyred on February 14 in the third century, it wasn’t until the end of the fifth century that the Feast of Saint Valentine was established by Pope Gelasius I—who also abolished the Lupercalia.* (The Catholic Church recognizes three martyrs by the name of Valentinus, and legends abound but few facts are known about their lives.)

Just as the origins of Valentine’s Day are shrouded in the mists of time, the origin of the nickname “Oscar” for the golden statuette officially named the Academy Award of Merit is unclear. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences made the nickname official in 1939.)

Note that the name Oscar remains capitalized, as does Academy Award (both are trademarks). But you send a valentine to your sweetheart (not a Valentine), just as you make a mark on a page (not a Mark).

“Meryl Streep has won three Oscars.”

“Do you plan to watch the Academy Awards this year?”

“Will you be my valentine?”

“I got a valentine from a secret admirer.”

Of course, if your name happens to be Valentine, then it would be capitalized. So, you might sign a card:

“With love, from your Valentine.” (Or from your Romeo or your Lucretia or whatever “your” name is.)

Valentine’s Day, like other holidays, is capitalized:

“I’ll send you a card for Valentine’s Day.”


*The Catholic Church removed the Feast of Saint Valentine from the liturgical calendar in 1969.




Refuting misinformation

When I see an error on a blog or website, I can’t be certain whether the problem is a misspelling or a misunderstanding. (Sometimes, the incorrect spelling of the intended word is the correct spelling of a different word.)

When a word that is out of place (i.e., the meaning of the sentence doesn’t make sense) sounds or looks a lot like another word that would make sense, in context, the improperly used word is called a malaprop (or malapropism).

Malaprops can be humorous—but they can also be embarrassing (especially when they are unintentional). 

Incorrect use of “refuted” as seen on a website

Refute means to deny or reject. Thus, the sentence is saying the exercise under discussion is not a valuable tool. (I don’t think this is the meaning the writer intended.)

What might have this writer intended?

Reputed is an adjective meaning something is widely known or believed and assumed (think “reputation”). Example:

The city is reputed to be the filthiest in Europe.

If something has been reported, it has been discussed or mentioned but not confirmed or verified.

The exercise is reported to be a valuable tool for maintaining good health.

Rewriting unclear sentences (and paragraphs) may require changing more than one word. For the above excerpt, stating the source of the information might be helpful.

My teacher, Ahara Lamb, showed me an exercise that is designed to . . . 

Or, an indication that the assertion is hearsay or an opinion might be warranted.

I’ve heard reports from those who practice this exercise that it can help alleviate . . . 

In my opinion, this is one of the best exercises for . . . 

In my experience, this exercise is important for . . . 

If you are uncertain about the meaning of a word, look it up in a dictionary or find examples of correct usage. (The Internet makes this step quick and easy!)

To be effective, communication must be clear (at a minimum!). Don’t allow carelessness (or laziness) to undermine your efforts.