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I'm back again with random thoughts blowing around my brain. Is that what headwinds are?


People have a strange habit when they're describing the color of things.

I'm looking for a car that's blue in color.

Blue in color. What else could the blue signal? Could it be blue in taste? Blue in sound? I'm sure it's not blue in mood.

From the wine pages of The Washington Post: "The 1982 Montbray Cabernet Sauvignon was brick red in color yet still bright and alive on the nose and palate, with spice-box aromas of clove, pepper and fenugreek."

(Wine writing is so, so fancy.)

So the wine is brick red in color and not in flavor? Not in composition?

One reader wrote to the food staff of The Post about the fruit of a quince bush in her yard.

It's small, and yellow in color, and frankly, over the years, I've just let it fall to the ground without doing anything with it.

Yellow in color? Not yellow in terms of cowardice?

The craziest example of all was from a story about football uniforms.

They'll have a darker burgundy jersey, and pants that are actually gold in color.

So, the pants aren't made of the element gold? Thanks for that clarification.

Similarly, an article in The Post recommending wrapping baked goods in “colorful” red, blue, green and gold cellophane.

I have never seen uncolorful or colorless red cellophane, have you?


We have all heard of smallpox. The sometimes deadly disease, also called variola, causes eruptions on the skin that can leave a person with pockmarks. We don't need to worry about catching it now because vaccines have eradicated it, though it had been around for many centuries.

"Currently, there is no evidence of naturally occurring smallpox transmission anywhere in the world," the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reports.

But the American Heritage Dictionary definition got weird. The disease is called smallpox to contrast it to the great pox, which was syphilis. The sexually transmitted disease causes larger pockmarks. (Please trust me when I urge you not to search on Google for images of syphilis. I sincerely regret having done so.) The great pox spread across Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

Because we've been hearing about vaccines every day for months now, I'll inject a bit of history. Smallpox was the virus that inspired the first vaccine that worked.

The World Health Organization explains: "The smallpox vaccine, introduced by Edward Jenner in 1796, was the first successful vaccine to be developed. He observed that milkmaids who previously had caught cowpox did not catch smallpox and showed that inoculated vaccinia protected against [the] virus."


These two words have most of the same letters, but they have different meanings. The difference has grown a little hazy over the years.

Alternately means some things happen by turns. First one, then the other, then back again to the first.

She watched parts of two TV shows alternately because she didn't have a DVR.

The team alternately practices at two high school baseball fields.

Alternatively is following a path other than the original option.

He asked me to phone him. Alternatively, I sent him a text.

We could have Key lime pie. Alternatively, we could have chocolate mousse pie.

(Please note that the much shorter word or could easily replace alternatively.)

Similarly, less conventional music is called alternative music. Alternative medicine offers treatments not found in the mainstream. And, though we see fewer and fewer newspapers each month, an alternative newspaper might offer less formal content and writing style. All three cases offer a different option.

People often use alternate when they mean alternative. From The Post:

The United States risks being left behind by other countries if it doesn't develop alternate energy technologies.

Instead, the writer meant the country needs a different energy source.

Legal proceedings use alternate when describing juries, but alternative is more accurate.

The next day, the 12 jurors and two alternate jurors settled into their jury sections and the proceedings began.

Those two jurors are other options.

Authorities sometimes suggest using a different route from the normal one. So alternative is needed here:

Officials warned drivers to expect delays, saying they might need to use alternate routes.

Naturally, as I often note, things change. Merriam-Webster says alternative is a synonym for alternate, partly because more and more people are using alternate when they mean alternative. Still, most people on the dictionary's Usage Panel say the two words are not synonymous. Each word has its place.


I'll confess that the pandemic has made it hard for me to feel rejuvenated for a while. Though chocolate does help.

When you would like to feel rejuvenated, you do something that makes you feel like your old self again. Or you might rejuvenate a weak football team, a crummy couch or a bad public image.

And yet, juvenate isn't a word. Normally, the prefix re- means something is happening again. I'm trying to find a philosophical reason behind this. You can be made young again, but you can't be made young? Maybe I'll stick with invigorate and reinvigorate.


A news guy this week was asking a guest to opine on some situation:

What's your analysis so far?

Your analysis sounds exactly like urinalysis.

I am so immature.

Sources include Merriam-Webster, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The American Heritage Dictionary, The Washington Post, Society for Applied Microbiology, the World Health Organization. Reach Bernadette at


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