Monday Muddle: when, whenever, when ever

“When” should be used if you are referring to a specific time.

“Whenever” should be used if the time is less specific or repetitive. 

“When ever” should only be written as two words if the meaning is “when, if ever”.
Example: When ever will you answer your email?

Monday Muddle: when: (adverb) at what time; in what circumstance; (relative adverb) introduces a clause that relates to time; (conjunction) at the time that, during the time that; considering that; although whenever: (conjunction) any time that; every time that; at whatever time that when ever: (adverb + adverb) when, if ever

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