Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

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.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!


Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The lady doth protest too much

A faithful Wordlady reader has inquired about the usage of the verb "protest": does one protest something or protest against something? She had been taught that adding "against" was redundant. In fact, the verb "protest" has been used with "against" since the verb first started being used in the "utter an objection" sense in the 1500s, and in Britain the usage is still always with "against". In the US, however, people started dropping the "against" in the late 1800s; some claim that the usage came about because newspapers wanted to save space. Whatever the facts of the matter, "protest something" is now firmly established in North American usage and is now as common as "protest against something". One cannot say that either is wrong.


  1. Hello,

    I wish I had read something about the etymology of this "protest" term.

    Naively, the word seems (to me, at least!) as being ... FOR something (testing ?!) ... :)

    Thank you.

  2. E.T.: some of my posts are about etymology (the ones I post on Fridays) and the others are about usage. I may mention etymology in the usage ones but it is not always necessary (and requires much more time to research). Please stop reproaching me for not writing more than I write in my posts. I am not a lady of leisure with nothing to do but this.


About Me

My photo
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.