The Word's the Word                       Issue 1, February 2000


  • From the editor
  • Why is It…? Everyday conundrums
  • Help Wanted on the World's Tallest Mountain
  • What's in a Word? Could be trouble....
  • Web Sites of Note…business AND pleasure
  • In the Writer's Corner …
  • "Cyberspace Packets"
The Necessary Fine Print

Welcome. This brand-new monthly e-zine is devoted to those of us who are passionate about words, their correct usage, and the art of old-fashioned communication (even when it uses new technology). Your feedback is always appreciated. Drop us a line at

Why is It…?

…we pay to go to a gym and walk in circles around a track, yet we park as close as we can to the building?

…we don't smile at strangers more often?

…we don't help our senior citizens carry their groceries to their car? Is it partly because we can't be bothered helping a total stranger, and partly because we are a total stranger that they won't trust? Life's getting to be like that.

…we think slapstick comedy is funny, but it's got to hurt?!

…the fewer ingredients, the higher the cost? Unsalted butter always costs more than salted. We know why, but there's something odd about paying extra for fewer ingredients or less processing.

…we think like drivers when we're driving and like pedestrians when we're walking? If we did the opposite, we'd all be better drivers and pedestrians.

…when Windows runs in safe mode, you lose access to your CD-ROM? If you had access to your CD-ROM, you could reload the Windows which crashed, making you run in safe mode. Even my office assistant, Clipit, scratches his head at that one!

Do you have a "why is it…" of your own? You're welcome to submit it for inclusion in the next issue. Send your submission to

Help Wanted on the World's Tallest Mountain

In a recent interview, the publisher of the Guinness 2000 World Record Book mentioned something he'd like some help with. It seems that virtually the entire world mispronounces "Mount Everest" regularly. Named after George Everest (the British Royal Surveyor in India from 1825-1843, and whose name is pronounced EVE-rest), the mispronunciation is now the commonly accepted EVER-est, something that the Everest family has been attempting to have corrected for most of the 20th century. Perhaps we can help out. The correct pronunciation is EVE-rest, not EVER-est. It would also make the Guinness publishing family enormously happy to have this corrected.

Some other interesting facts about this, tallest of the world's 30 highest peaks: It's 8,848 metres (or 29,028 feet) high, and the summit is constructed of marine limestone - imagine the cataclysmic force that drove it skyward. Tibetans revere the mountain as Jomo Langmo, "goddess mother of the world." The Nepalese gateway to Mount Everest, Namche Bazar sits at 3,440 metres (11,290 feet) above sea level, and is home to the famous Sherpas.

The name "Himalayas" is derived from Sanskrit, ("hima" being "snow" and "alaya" meaning "abode"), an apt name for this mountain chain which runs some 2,500 km along the northern edge of the Indian subcontinent. Scientists believe that Tibet may be the fastest rising major landmass in the world at half a centimetre each year. That's an amazing one inch every five years.

The Himalayas are tall enough, in fact, that they alter weather patterns globally. They affect the west-east flow of the Jet Stream into north-south meanders, which in turn influence the climate over much of the Northern Hemisphere. Some of our North American cold snaps and heat waves are precipitated by these events, half a world away.

What's in a Word?

A homonym is a word that sounds the same as another word, but means something entirely different. But the spelling can be very similar, and there's where trouble can creep into what you hope is perfect sentence structure. Here are but a few pairs and triplets with brief definitions to help avoid common embarrassment.

allusion (reference)
illusion (misleading appearance)

all ready (prepared)
already (previously)

ascent (a climb up)
assent (agreement)

bloc (group of persons, companies or nations)
block (noun: group of things, solid piece; verb: obstruct)

born (of birth)
borne (carried)

carat (unit of mass for precious stones)
caret (proofreader's mark)
karat (unit used to specify proportion of gold in alloy)

cast (noun: actors; verb: to throw, as a net)
caste (noun: exclusive social class)

complement (verb: complete; noun: that which completes)
compliment (verb: to praise; noun: word of praise)

councillor (member of a council)
counsellor (adviser, lawyer)

eminent (prominent)
immanent (inherent)
imminent (about to occur)

envelop (verb: to enclose)
envelope (noun: object made of paper to enclose mail or items)

foreword (preface in a book)
forward (ahead)

its (belonging to it)
it's (only can mean IT IS; exception to a rule—here an apostrophe NEVER denotes possession)

meter (a measuring device, as for hydro)
metre (a unit of measurement in the metric system)

principal (chief, main, leading, head of school)
principle (rule)

stationary (fixed, motionless)
stationery (writing material; just remember "e is for envelope")

There are hundreds more of these little tricksters. If you wish to contribute some of your pet misspellings, send them along to and we'll include them. What's The Wordsmith's pet peeve? There are two: the creeping tendency of dropping the double consonant when adding "ing", found predominantly in American spellcheckers (simply select UK in your spellchecker preferences to avoid this problem—unless you WANT American spelling); and the galloping tendency now to incorrectly spell "thank you" as a hyphenated word. Thank you!

Web Sites of Note: Business and freebies

Business before pleasure.

Entrepreneurs and microenterprises are always looking for good sources of information on how to set up a business to run efficiently and effectively, especially cost-wise. Check these out! is the Canada Business Service Centres site. Every province and territory has at least one of these centres, with reference libraries and a wealth of information. Or call 1-888-576-4444 for info on your nearest centre. is Industry Canada's website for small business. Lots of contact info here for more than 2,500 support organizations. This site is a must.

There are specialty sites for both women and youth entrepreneurs, but their information is excellent no matter what your gender or age. Check out for a mentoring, funding and networking system if you're an entrepreneur aged 18 to 29. It's the Canadian Youth Business Foundation site, but the information here is excellent for entrepreneurs of all ages. And is the Women Business Owners of Canada national site. Again, it's a wealth of information, not necessarily only for women.

Get e-mail from a friend warning about a virus? Quite often, these hoaxes are passed on. There are several sources to check for bogus virus warnings. One excellent site is and another is which also has a newsletter full of user-friendly tips. Check them out!

Looking for freebies?

Check out see what you can find at no cost!

Speaking of almost free, check out to discover how you can have a free homestead. The monthly rates for maintenance on this cheerful site are very affordable, and webmistress Marjorie Milliken struts some of her portfolio stuff here as well. If you're looking for a very talented web designer, you've come to the right place!

Educational, Canadian and fun all describe and wonderful maps that morph (metamorphose) from one period to the next. The site runs a little more slowly than some, but there's a wealth of good general information to be found here.

Definitely Canadian is which is Environment Canada's excellent site. Here you can vote for your three most significant Canadian weather-related events of the century, bring yourself up to date on global warming issues, and learn lots of interesting things about this diverse country we call home.

For the military- or peace-minded, some of our troops serving with the UN Forces in Kosovo have a website. Check out to learn more about Serbs and Croats, what our troops are doing and how they're doing it. Might be nice to send a little encouragement their way too! Just "sign" the guest book.

Last, but definitely not least, check out for some excellent freebie ideas. Want to make a butter dish with lid? They'll tell you how. There's something for everyone here, and the site is full of links to take you shopping on-line for all those essential ingredients.

Found an unusual or interesting web site, or is there a favourite bookmarked on your computer? You're welcome to share URLs (universal resource locators), and we'll share them with our subscribers.

In the Writer's Corner…

Barbara Lowery is a writer/editor/proofreader, Internet-based in London, Ontario, with clients across Canada and internationally. This piece is included in Lowery's forthcoming "52 Pick-Up."

Cyberspace, Packets, John, Marsha and Mom

"Hi, Marsha. It's John. What's happening?"

"Nothing much. Just hanging around."

Remember John and Marsha, ever-linked lovers?





It was our earliest joke version of phone sex, 'way before Bill and Monica or Charles and Camilla, long before the Internet. It was back in the 60s.

Breathless pauses. And the Internet has taken them to whole new heights. Because, you see, in those long, steamy pauses between "John!" and "Marsha!" there are strange and wondrous things happening. Yes, even more than that.

Packets. Packets working as hard as Tribbles from the Star Trek of old, where another breathless Bill (Shatner, this time) always got his woman. Packets are jamming themselves boldly off into space, riding your conversation.

Packets. Imagine gaining 10 pounds and wanting to fit into those Dwight-Yoakam-wanna-be skin-tight jeans. You lie down on the floor, wiggle until your thighs are snugged in tight, then you face the zipper. Take a deep breath, and zip fast. That's how hard your telephone line is working, while you're breathlessly imagining John or Marsha struggling into (or out of!) those skin-tight jeans.

Every time you make a telephone call, gazillions of packets are zapping at the speed of sound through YOUR telephone call, squeezing themselves into the pauses in your conversation.

We all know that telephone lines, whether they're slow or fast, are being used to help us connect on the Internet. But each time we compose an e-mail message and send it, a packet (one little part of that little message) is magically (well, electronically) wizarded to the first available pause in the first available phone call.

A 15-word message from Vancouver to Adelaide, Australia can be composed of, maybe, 2000 packets. And each packet, like our DNA, knows and recognizes its sister or brother structure. Perhaps 12 of the packets will go Vancouver-Toronto-Winnipeg-Des Moines-New Orleans-Paris-Beijing-Auckland-Canberra-Adelaide. They should earn frequent flyer points.

Still others take even more circuitous routes, all dissembled as soon as we hit the "send" button, then properly (somehow!) reassembled back into their original format and the chirp in Adelaide indicates "You've got mail."

So, the next time you call your mother - when was the last the last time you called your mother? - imagine how hard you're all working. Your mum, her offspring, and the little telephone line that could. All those packets....

All packets are welcome.

Do you have an original offering you'd like to share? Submit it via e-mail and we'll share with our readers. Offerings of 500 words or less are welcome (the above is 398 words counting the title). Please DO NOT submit by attaching a file; include your offering right inside your e-mail (and nothing fancy in the fonts department, please) and send it to along with how you'd like your contribution acknowledged. While we can't pay you cold, hard cash for your submission, we do promise you a moment of glory.

The Fine Print

"The Word's the Word" is a free and unsolicited offering (all rights reserved) by "The Wordsmith is Barbara Lowery." The information contained herein is for general information purposes only. "Cyberspace, Packets, John, Marsha and Mom" is copyrighted material (Barbara Lowery, 2000) and may be reproduced only with the author's permission. We neither harvest nor sell our mailing list and maintain both proper ethics and privacy. To unsubscribe, send e-mail to with "unsub" in the subject line.

All research, writing and editing done by

Barbara Lowery, 166 Rectory St., London, ON N5Z 2A5

Phone (519) 432-2885; URL

Copyright 2000 - 2011 by The WORDSMITH. All rights reserved.