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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Monday, March 7, 2011

Off with their heads!

Talking to a lawyer about a trademark dispute recently, I was taken aback when he started referring to the traitors who infringe trademarks. Goodness, I know he makes a living defending these suits (I mean that in the lawsuit sense, but I guess it also works in the "guy in a business suit" sense), but isn't that a rather strong word? Then I realized the word he had used was "traders". Yet another example of words that may not be homophones for other English speakers but are for us North Americans with our voiced intervocalic "t" (that's the fancy linguistic way of saying we make our t's into d's when they come between two vowels). I wouldn't have thought these words would be confused in writing, but sure enough, one can find anything on Google. I found 2000 examples of the phrase "accused of being a trader".

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About Me

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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.