Category Archives: Word of the Week

Get Into the Spirit with A Word With You


/ˈmɪs əlˌtoʊ/  misuh l-toh] 


  1. a European plant, Viscum album, having yellowish flowersand white berries, growing parasitically on various trees, used in Christmas decorations.
  2. any of several other related, similar plants, as Phoradendron serotinum, of the U.S.: the state flower of Oklahoma.

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Origin: bef. 1000; ME mistelto,  appar. back formation from OE misteltān  ( mistel  mistletoe, basil + tān  twig), the -n  being taken as pl. ending; c. ON mistilteinn


Mistletoe is an interesting little plant, well above and beyond its contributing force for romance. Mistletoe is in fact a parasite which means it grows on a host tree and uses said tree for water and mineral nutrients. Furthermore, the plant begins its cohabitation by sprouting from bird droppings on said tree taking its nutrients from that source. Quite the enterprising little plant.

Mistletoe also killed off the Norse god Baldr is killed by his brother by way of a mistletoe projectile. Pliny the Elder of the Celts considered it a remedy for barrenness and an antidote to poison.

Of course we know it as a Christmas decoration though such use was not widely known until the 18th century. At first it was considered the first fire alarm, guarding your house from lightning or fire, to be replaced every Christmas Eve. Moving on to bringing any two people who meet under a sprig of mistletoe to kiss was described as early as 1820 by Washington Irving. Accordingly, a berry is plucked each time a kiss is exchanged and when all the berries are gone, no more kissing. Mistletoe also happens to be the state flower of the state of Oklahoma. Who knew?

So the next time you pass through a doorway and see a sprig of mistletoe lurking there you will know that it’s not just about kissing.

Grammar Punk Sentence: S E 4 Mistletoe

Hands on hips, Junie viewed the room with satisfaction; every doorjamb festooned with sprigs of mistletoe ensured she would not go unkissed this Christmas. 

All of you teachers of English, grammar, and writing, challenge your students to write a sentence containing the word mistletoe and contains at least four words with the letters S and E. The rest of you can write one too. And share!

Get Into Grammar with A Word With You


[kon-stuhley-shuh n] –noun


any of various groups of stars to which definite names have been given, as Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Boötes, Cancer, Orion.

  1. the section of the heavens occupied by such a group.
  2. a. the grouping or relative position of the stars as supposed to influence events, esp. at a person’s birth.
  3. Obsolete . character as presumed to be determined by the stars.
  4. a group or configuration of ideas, feelings, characteristics, objects, etc., that are related in some way: a constellation of qualities that made her particularly suited to the job.
  5. any brilliant, outstanding group or assemblage: a constellation of great scientists.

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Origin: 1275–1325; ME constellacioun  (< AF) < LL constellātiōn-  (s. of constellātiō ). See constellate, -ion


Not exactly a fancy word, not a complicated word, not even a difficult to spell word, nevertheless it’s a good word, a word that has more to it than meets the eye. So to speak.

When first hearing this word most of us probably think of the sky sort of constellations. I love to look up at the night sky and never fail to feel absolutely humbled, wee even. I’m always aware that what I can see with my eyes is not even a tiny microcosm of the stars above me. It’s good to be humbled now and again.

Then moving onto the other definition, group or configuration of ideas, feelings, characteristics, objects, etc., that are related in some way, this is also why I like this word. It is the constellation of ideas where wonderful things can happen. Putting things together, grouping ideas, allowing pieces to fall into place can be the beginning of wonderful things.

Grammar Punk Sentence: C A 2

Feeling positively humbled by the constellation of cartographers gathered in the auditorium, Cecil hoped to have his map of Bethlehem, PA autographed by one of the attendees.

Teachers of English, grammar, and writing, challenge your students to write a sentence with two words including the letters C and A and the word constellation.

Get Into Grammar with A Word With You

Eminent and immanent and imminent 

I know there are difficult, complicated, even convoluted languages out there, I understand the language of Greenland is a mindbender, but English has definitely got to be up there on the list. Which of course makes the teaching of grammar that much more challenging.

We have altogether too many words that are ridiculously similar in pronunciation and spelling yet mean entirely different things. Take eminent, immanent, and imminent for example.

Eminent: of high standing; superior in position, fame, or achievement

Immanent: within something; existing within or inherent in something

Imminent: about to happen, or threatening to happen

Now the last two are honest to goodness homonyms but the first is so similar in pronunciation I’m throwing it in as well.

It’s easy to look at our language and complain that it’s occasionally overcomplicated but I prefer to think of it as well-rounded. And amazing. And challenging. Seriously, wouldn’t you prefer too many words as opposed to too few?

Awaiting the imminent arrival of the eminent Professor Plum, the class anticipated his lecture on the immanence of “dark matter” in the universe.  

Create Grammar Fun with A Word With You


/kəˈpris / –noun


a sudden, unpredictable change, as of one’s mind or the weather.

  1. a tendency to change one’s mind without apparent or adequate motive; whimsicality; capriciousness: With the caprice of a despotic king, he alternated between kindness and cruelty.

A whim, a quirk, fancy, impulse or fad. All perfectly workable words, all perfectly familiar and commonly used words; caprice, not so much. My question is why is that? Caprice is such a cool word. It looks cool, it sounds cool, it is cool. It’s also not used so much. Not anymore. And yes, English has just too many words that mean approximately the same thing, which is not the point.

The point is my point is that we oftentimes pick the most…boring ones. Like awesome, my least favorite word—at least for the past few years when it has become ridiculously overused—in the dictionary. Synonyms are also a very cool concept, certainly with our language, and since we have so much redundancy (superfluous, outmoded, disused, surplus, unnecessary) built right in we may as well take advantage of it. 

So here’s to caprice instead of whim. Here’s to spectacular instead of awesome. Dim-witted instead of stupid. You get the idea.

This message is especially aimed at all you teachers of English, grammar, and writing. We encourage you to egg on your students to reach for that unusual word. Push for the synonym rather than the over-used, strive for the creative rather than the mundane.

Grammar Punk Sentence: C E 2

Familiar with her great Aunt Sheila’s caprice for odd hats, Sophie braced herself for the shopping trip.

Get Into Grammar with A Word With You


muh-TRIK-yuh-leyt verb;


To enroll in a college or university as a candidate for a degree.


To register (a coat of arms), used esp. in Scottish heraldry.


Origin: 1480–90 for earlier sense; < ML mātrīculātus (person) listed (for some specific duty), equiv. to mātrīcul(a) list (see matriculant) + -ātus -ate1


It doesn’t seem possible that it is nearly graduation time again. Unless of course you’re the one graduating then it probably feels as if this time of year would never arrive. For those about to matriculate, we salute you! For those who have successfully matriculated we congratulate you. And for those who matriculated long ago (or not so long ago) aren’t you glad you’re done?


We’d like to remind all you college teachers out there that Grammar Punk isn’t just for K-12 studies. We know how many English freshmen and sophomores show up who can’t remember for the life of them (or never quite learned) all those pesky parts of speech and punctuation rules, or who need a refresher to strengthen their writing skills. Grammar Punk is the answer. Our 9-12 program is in use in many college classrooms and our GP Creative writing course is a great addition as

Get Creepy with A Word With You


  1. a strange or horrible imaginary creature
  2. something that is extremely or unusually large
  3. a powerful person or thing that cannot be controlled and that causes many problems

In this instance I’m going with the horrible creature aspect of this definition. I’m not agreeing with the imaginary part so much. There are truly monsters, just watch a crime show and you can’t argue that fact. Or watch the news or read a history book. Monsters exist.

I myself prefer the fictional ones which are much safer and easier to handle Tis the season for monsters. I’ve created a few of my own, on paper, and it’s exhilarating. I can make them mean and scary and terrible and they do what I tell them—because I made them. Heady stuff.

Grammar Punk Sentence: R E 6

That was the problem with monsters, they rarely stayed where they were put and never obeyed the rules, she really must stop creating them.

Write a Grammar Punk Sentence that includes at least 6 words that contain the letters R and E and the word monster.

Teachers, challenge your students to create their own monsters. Then put them in a story.

Make Grammar Fun with A Word With You

Emendations: to correct or alter a text in order to improve it; correct mistakes in writing before printing. To correct mistakes in something, especially a piece of writing before it is printed

Not to be confused with the word amend—though they are similar in sound and very similar in definition. Amend: to make changes to something, especially a piece of text, in order to improve or correct it.

Emend is a transitive verb where amend is merely a verb. A transitive verb requires one or more objects in a sentence. Amend also has other meanings. All in all, this is one of those words that don’t see a lot of use but it’s still a good one to have on hand. Especially if you want to vex someone in your next Scrabble match.

Grammar Punk Sentence: N E 5 emend

Against her vehement objections, Clementine’s text was emended in the second draft.

Give it a try. Write a Grammar Punk sentence that includes at least 5 words that contain the letters N and E and the word emend.

Make Grammar Fun with A Word With You


  • to suppress or alter (as a vowel or syllable) by elision
  • to strike out (as a written word)
  • to leave out of consideration

I like this word. It of course calls to mind its near look-alike, elude, to evade or escape. I’ll admit to having never used it myself, I just ran across it while reading an article. It’s a good word to add to your vernaculars. It says what it means and it will make you look smart using it.

Grammar Punk Sentence: R E 5 elide

With a ruthless stroke of her red pen, Mrs. Calcutta elided every last trace of imagination and whimsy from her students’ essays.

Write a Grammar Punk sentence that includes at least 5 words with the letters R and E and the word elide.

Go to for more ideas to make teaching grammar fun.

Create Grammar Fun with A Word With You

Quondam: former or sometime

I really hate to admit but I’d never heard of this one. Which is a shame because it is a handy little word. It comes from 16th century
Latin. Quondum which means at one time or formerly.

Teachers of English, I strongly urge you to fit this handy and little used word as well as many others I’ve illuminated in his blog
into yours—and your students lexicons—lest they disappear forever which would truly be a shame. Make a fun grammar lesson out of it by challenging them to use the word in several sentences.

Grammar Punk Sentence: G I 3 quondam

Hoping to regain his quondam days of glory, Jenkins refused to give up bowling.

Write a Grammar Punk sentence that contains at least three words with the letters G and I and the word quondam.

Teaching Grammar with A Word With You

Asperity | as·per·i·ty | əˈsperitē

 1.    harshness of tone or manner

  1. 2.    something that is hard to bear because of its harshness or severity
  2. 3.    a rough edge on a surface
  3. 4.    physics a region of contact between two load-bearing flat surfaces

This is another word that is not used as much as it should be. I like to think it’s also one of those words that sounds like its definition. Just say the word aloud and your mouth curves into a kind of sneer that would fit using the word in irritation.

Teachers, check yourself next time you’re using your tone of asperity to catch the attention of a rowdy class. Then give them something to write about.

Grammar Punk Sentence: W E 2

As her patience began to ebb, Constance allowed more than a trace of asperity to color her tone, there were limits, after all.

Give it a try. Write a Grammar Punk sentence with at least 2 words that contain the letters W and E and the word asperity.