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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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Friday, February 23, 2018

Just stop thinking and praying already

This week on Wordlady's Empty Pious Platitudes Watch....

No, you're not imagining it. The use of that annoying phrase "thoughts and prayers" really has increased exponentially in the last couple of decades, especially in North America. Here's the Google Books chart for American English, 1850-2008:

The British are not so guilty, but they have also increased their use of this cliché

The evidence on the corpus of Contemporary American English for "thoughts and prayers are with" is even more striking (the third column of numbers is occurrences per million words):

1990-1994 5 104.0 0.05
1995-1999 6 103.4 0.06
2000-2004 13 102.9 0.13
2005-2009 23 102.0 0.23
2010-2014 20 102.9 0.19
2015-2017 42 62.3 0.67

Photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash

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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.