all-purpose gasoline can, red and yellow and old and dirty

Another year’s end has snuck up on us: Happy New Year’s Eve! Let’s take a moment to reflect on the past and look ahead to the future. Let’s do it for old times’ sake! We do it every year; why break a good tradition now? . . . especially since it’s such a wise and valuable tradition.

New Year’s Resolutions

Have you made any resolutions for the upcoming year? If so, I’d love to hear what they are—tell me about them in the comments!

As for me, I’m pretty boring—that is, consistent and persistent and other positive adjectives like those—because I make the same resolution every year. My New Year’s resolution for 2019, as for every year, is to read 50 books. I only rarely achieve this goal, to tell the truth, but it’s good, I feel, to have high aspirations.

This year I read a total of 37 books. Gulp—that’s not nearly as close to 50 as I would have liked. However, I did, this year, read the 1079-page masterwork Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace, from start to finish. That must count for at least 10 or 20 books . . . right?

In any case, I am finding it more and more important, in the digital age, to stake out reading time for myself. Early in the morning and before bed seem to be the best reading times for me. I love, love, love reading—but, still, my phone calls to me softly. Softly, incessantly, it beckons; I have to resist, and to actively decide to read: as opposed to tap and scroll around aimlessly. Does anyone else struggle with this? Any tips?

More Opposites That Are the Same

While writing my post Shopping Cart Wisdom, I was delighted to stumble across another set of opposite words with the same meaning! (See my recent post These Two? Exactly the Same.)

Writing about the categorical imperative, a philosophy developed by Kant, made me wonder about the word categorical. Shouldn’t that, I thought, be uncategorical? The answer is no. Confusingly, the word categorical means “unconditional” or “unqualified.” We modern folk, however, often add -un and say uncategorical when we mean categorical. Technically, these two words are opposites; but in everyday usage, they have, mistakenly, come to have the same meaning. Check out the embarrassing malapropism in this video between 0:30 and 0:40 . . . oops.

This prefix confusion made me think of another duo of opposites! Inflammable means “capable of being set on fire; combustible.” It’s a relative of the word inflame. However, as this word is very important for safety reasons, people started using the word flammable to mean the same thing, fearing that people might mistakenly think that the prefix in- means “not.” And so we have two words that seem as if they could be opposites, but have the same meaning. (See’s Usage note for more info!)

What Is a Blog?

While we’re on the subject of word usage, let’s talk about the word blog. Its etymology is “web” + “log” = weblog, or blog for short. A blog is a log—that is, a diary or journal—that’s on the web. Nobody uses weblog anymore (did anyone ever?), but it’s a good mnemonic device: a blog is a web log containing many entries. Each individual entry is called a post. Admittedly, some dictionaries have a secondary definition indicating that one post can be referred to as a blog; but other dictionaries do not. I’d like to stand by my assertion that a blog is the entire collection, not just one item in the collection.

Auld Lang Syne

I’ll refrain from analyzing the etymology of auld lang syne, as doing so may try the patience of all of us! Besides, we have things to do, places to go, people to meet, and flammable and inflammable objects to ignite . . . or at least watch being ignited. Have a fabulous last day of 2018 and first day of 2019!