Category Archives: Diction

Anyway, Any Way, or Anyways?


by Jacquelyn Landis

“We writers often have to contend with compound words that begin their life as two words only to eventually morph into one. “Backyard” is a good example. It originally was two words, “back yard,” used to describe the area behind a house. Sometime in the mid-1600s, it successfully made the transition to a single compound word.

Then there are other compounds that are in limbo, somewhere in the midst of the transition from two words to one. Consider “health care,” a topic on everyone’s mind these days. If you Google it, you’ll get about 63 million returns for the two-word compound but a whopping 129 million for the single word “healthcare.” That’s a good indicator that the single word will soon be standard. However, most style manuals still mandate the two-word version.

To complicate matters even further, we have words with separate meanings as a single-word compound or as two individual words. “Anyway” and “any way” are two that often…”

Advertisements Breaking Bad? Word Stories Behind Four Popular TV Shows

Television has a habit of repurposing and repackaging common sayings into names of shows, from Three’s Company to Orange Is the New Black, and it’s easy to understand why: idioms are packed with rich associations that resonate instantly with viewers, and when applied to titles of the small screen, they quickly communicate the sensibilities of the shows they name. This year’s Emmy roster was ripe with familiar expressions borrowed from the wild. Today we’re going to take a look at how some of these idiomatic phrases were used before we came to associate them with binge-watching and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and explore the insights they offer about these critically acclaimed shows.

Breaking Bad
Break the ice means “start conversation,” break bread means “share food,” break a heart means “cause great sorrow,” and break a story means “publish it first.” But what does breaking bad mean? The mastermind behind Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan, chose this title because he thought the phrase was widely used to mean “raising hell.” The Dictionary of American Slang notes break bad as a…