Most of my readers know that my mother was an acclaimed school teacher who taught everything from Elementary school to Business College, and even taught one year in what would later become Lee University, and was recognized in Who’s Who in North Carolina for her work with the state Adult Literacy program. She taught me my alphabet and how to recite 100 nursery rhymes at the age of 2. While I was growing up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural North Carolina she refused to let me speak in the local dialect, and told me I could accomplish anything I wanted in life. Even in early high school an English teacher dubbed me, ‘an aspiring poet.’
But that’s only the roots of my innate passion for writing and proper grammar. After moving to Atlanta I enrolled in a small church-run college, now a major university, where I attended between fall 1965 and spring 1967. That was primarily because my girlfriend, later wife and mother of my children, was the granddaughter of the Chairman of the Board of the organization which ran the school. Of course I took English 101 and sunk in my teeth to getting good grades. Later when I enrolled in a branch of a college / seminary here in Tennessee, apparently my records had not arrived and I was once again enrolled in English 101; so I completed that level twice (and I’m glad I did). It lodged in my thinking and helped me in my later efforts at writing. Then I took a special class in Creative Writing from Tennessee State University, which I was unable to finish because of a temporary illness. Still, I learned a lot.
English is such a strange language that many studying it as a second language have major problems. For instance, there are four different words pronounced the same with entirely different meanings.
- Since: during the time after some other event
- Sense: cognizance; understandability
- Scents: smells
- Cents: what we sometimes call ‘pennies’; the smallest denomination of an American coin
Homonyms are only one difficult part of English, and not just for foreigners. Many Americans have difficulty discerning the difference when writing. Another intriguing form of mystery in our language is the idiom. A phrase which usually means something entirely different from what the words involved usually do. That is where my phrase books come in handy. I have published three, two of which are still in print, and still selling. Another is due out October 1, 2016. The two volumes of Most Comprehensive Origins of Clichés, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions combined will be like an encyclopedia of definitions and beginnings of popular sayings, metaphors and similes—over 2,500 entries, about 1300 pages—which I took pains to be as accurate about as possible, ignoring ‘folk etymology’ which proved incorrect. I hope everyone reading this will soon own both volumes.