Monday Muddle: viola, voilà

“Voilà is used in English to call attention to something, or to present some kind of accomplishment. For example, if you worked all day to plant a beautiful garden, you might present it to the rest of your family with a sweeping arm gesture and an enthusiastic “voilà!” “Viola” clearly doesn’t make sense in this context, but at least senseless violas are better than senseless violins.

“Voilà” is also frequently misspelled in ways that don’t confuse it with another word (but do indicate a mispronunciation). I’ve seen it as wala, wa-lah, wah-lah, and similar variations. Still spelled wrong, but perhaps not as confusing. If you have trouble remembering how to spell “voilà”, remember that it Very Often Isn’t Lettered Accurately.

Monday Muddle: viola: (noun) a stringed musical instrument that is slightly larger than a violin but significantly smaller than a cello voilà: (interjection) loosely translated from the French means "There it is!"; literally means "See there!" from the imperative form of the the verb voir (to see) and the adverb là (there)

Monday Muddle: toe, tow

“To toe the line” figuratively means to conform, submit to authority, obey the rules. The expression started out literally meaning to put your toes against a marked line. It has been used in the discipline of sailors and in sporting events with a starting line among other things. It dates from the 1800s, when “to toe the mark” was also a common expression.

“To tow the line” is not a common expression, but it would mean to drag a rope or something similar behind you.

Monday Muddle: toe: (noun) body part; digit of the human foot; part of footwear that covers front of foot; (verb) push, touch or kick something with front of foot Part of the expression "to toe the line". tow: (verb) pull, drag or haul something (often a vehicle) behind you; (noun) the act of towing; rope or line used to tow NOT part of the expression "to toe the line".

Monday Muddle: letdown, let down

Monday Muddle: letdown (noun) disappointment; frustration; disillusionment; anticlimax; setback let down: (verb phrase) disappoint; lower; begin landing an aircraft; lengthen; give bad news Examples in caption.


His last book was a letdown. (Noun=disappointment)

I let down my friends when I cancelled at the last minute. (Verb phrase=disappointed)

I let down the rope ladder so she could join us in the tree house. (Verb phrase=lowered)

I was still a good distance from the airport when I started to let down. (Verb phrase=to descend before landing an airplane)

I let down the hem of his pants because he has grown two inches this month. (Verb phrase=to lengthen)

We let down the participants as gently as we could when we cancelled the festival for the second year. (Verb phrase=give bad news)

The object of the verb can also be placed between “let” and “down”. If that is the case, then you know it needs a space.

Monday Muddle: barely, barley

“It’s barely there” does not mean the same as “it’s barley there”. The former means that something scarcely exists. The latter is pointing out a plant or grain.

Monday Muddle: barely, barley barely: (adverb) hardly; scarcely; by a very little; sparsely; almost inconceivably; only just barley: (noun) a grain used for food and in the making of beer; the plant from which the grain is harvested

Monday Muddle; about, a bout

For some reason, when a noun is preceded by the indefinite article “a”, people like to delete the space between them and turn them into adverbs or prepositions, for example. It’s a mistake seen frequently with “a part”, but also with other combinations. The most common example of the space elimination trend is “a lot”, but deleting that space doesn’t actually create a new word.

The same problem doesn’t seem to exist with nouns preceded by the indefinite article “an”.

Monday Muddle: about: (adverb) approximately, almost, in the opposite direction; in no particular direction; all around; (preposition) on the subject of; in the vicinity of; (adjective) nearby bout: (noun) contest, match; period of time, especially to deal with something (e.g. a bout of the flu) Often preceded by the indefinite article "a".

Monday Muddle: fell, foul

“Fell” is also a noun, a verb, and the past tense of the verb “to fall”, but that is not what gets mixed up here.

To do something in one fell swoop means to do it all at once. One action can accomplish an entire task. The noun swoop dates from the 1540s, and represents the action that a bird takes when pouncing on its prey. One fell swoop—one deadly pounce—meant that the prey was caught in one shot. No need for further attempts.

Monday Muddle: fell: (adjective) evil, cruel, sinister, deadly Part of the expression "one fell swoop". foul: (adjective) unpleasant or offensive, especially relating to smell or taste; immoral; polluted; stormy, when relating to weather Not part of the expression "one fell swoop".

Monday Muddle: abdicated, abducted

Abdicating is an action that a person chooses to do, and that person is very likely an adult. It is not an action that is done to you. So if you see a sentence that says that the boy was abdicated, it is a safe bet that abducted was meant.

Monday Muddle: abdicated: (past participle of verb to abdicate) gave up or renounced one's duties, position, or power abducted: (past participle of verb to abduct) kidnapped; taken away by force

Monday Muddle: any more, anymore

Monday Muddle: any more: (determiner/quantifier) indicates an indefinite amount. Used in questions asking about quantity. Used in negative statements to indicate there is no more of something. Examples: Do you have any more cake? I don't have any more cake. anymore: (adverb) any longer Example: You have had enough, so don't ask me for cake anymore.

It’s always nice to be correct, but sometimes it is important to avoid confusion and unwanted consequences. “I can’t love you anymore” does not mean the same thing as “I can’t love you any more”. (If you are saying that verbally rather than in writing, you might want to use different words to express your feelings.)

Remember that “any more” as two words relates to quantity, and “anymore” as one word relates to time.

“Any more” (as two words) is used in the same way in negative statements as “some more” (also two words, but seldom confused as one) is used in positive statements. Example: I want some more cake.

“Any more” always comes before a noun, although sometimes the noun is understood without being stated. Example: Would you like more cake? Yes, but I don’t need any more. It is understood from the question that what you don’t need any more of is cake.

“Anymore” always relates to a verb, indicating there is something that you don’t do any longer. Example: I’m on a diet, so I don’t eat cake anymore.

If you can substitute the words any longer, without changing the meaning, use one word. If you still aren’t sure which to use, use two words, because some people (primarily British) still accept the two-word version as correct for both meanings.