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All contents herein (except the illustrations, which are in the public domain) are Copyright © 1995-2011 Evan Morris. Reproduction without written permission is prohibited, with the exception that teachers in public schools may duplicate and distribute the material here for classroom use.

Any typos found are yours to keep.

And remember, kids,
Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


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An update from The Word Detective

Dear friends,

I’ve been meaning to post an update to my original message from February, but I’ve discovered that there really isn’t such a thing as a quiet moment in this sort of situation, and it’s easy to let things slide when you’d rather not think (let alone write) about them. But several people have, understandably, asked for an update, so here we go. [For the full back story, see my original post at]

First of all, my profound thanks to everyone who responded to my fund appeal in February. Your contributions have made a huge difference in our morale during my ongoing cancer treatment as well as our ability to pay bills, fix failing plumbing, and keep the lights on. We’ve also been greatly moved by the good wishes, prayers and messages of support you’ve sent in all forms, from email to handwritten cards. It’s beyond my capacity to respond individually to each of you, but I would if I could.

Fortunately, thanks to contributions from readers (and my family), we have replaced our death-trap 1997 Toyota with a more recent used Toyota, which makes a huge difference on trips to chemotherapy sessions 40 miles away (e.g., it no longer takes a five full minutes to get up to 55 mph, a big advantage on the freeway, where everyone else is doing at least 75). I realized in retrospect that some of my initial reluctance to embark on chemotherapy several times a week was due, unconsciously, to the strain of our trying to drive that rickety old heap to the hospital. That’s scary.

The chemo appointments themselves are not entirely unpleasant. I sit in a recliner in a small room for a couple of hours watching Law & Order reruns (or House reruns, which are weird to watch in a hospital). Everyone is very nice and very competent, and I even get free tuna sandwiches from the hospital cafeteria. I was fully expecting nausea after each session, but they’ve apparently made great progress on that front in recent years, and I’ve been mostly nausea-free. My hair is, predictably, falling out, and I had to shave off the beard I had grown earlier this year when it became so wispy that I began to look like a wizened wizard in some sword and sorcery epic.

One effect of the chemotherapy that’s apparently unavoidable is an absolutely staggering physical exhaustion; I’ve been dealing with “multiple sclerosis fatigue” for years, but now I sometimes have difficulty lifting my arms above my waist or walking across the room. Chemo can also trash your immune system, so even a simple cold could become a real danger. Hello, hand sanitizer, and when we go shopping I often just wait in the car. Small children, or people who associate with them, must keep back at least 300 feet. I also can’t drink our well water because of agricultural runoff from nearly fields. Worst of all, I am no longer allowed to sift and change the kitty litter, a mundane task many people say I had raised to an art form. In fact, at least in theory, I’m supposed to wash my hands after every time I touch a cat. Yeah, that’s gonna happen.

I’ve also been dealing with multiple sclerosis brain fog for many years, but the severity of “chemo brain” is truly disturbing. My short-term memory is completely shot. On days I have a medical appointment I drive Kathy crazy by asking “So what time do we have to be there?” at least ten times. I am often completely wrong about what day of the week it is. More disturbingly, I was briefly under the impression that it’s 2017, which might not matter that much if I weren’t writing it on checks.

As for our financial situation, The Word Detective website had been supporting itself for years through subscriptions and donations, along with some revenue from ads. With my diagnosis and the financial reversals of last year, that income suddenly played a much larger role in our household budget. Unfortunately, the fact that I am no longer updating the site has reduced that small income at the worst possible time. All of which brings me to ask for your continued support via our page at

Contributions via any of the PayPal links on that page will be gratefully accepted; the easiest option is the “One-time Contribution” link on the page, which lets you fill in any amount, and you can also designate that amount as a continuing monthly donation. The “Awesome Sustainer Subscription” option a bit above it on the page automatically sends $5 per month via PayPal, and the “Super-Awesome Sustainer Subscription” sends $10 per month. Sustaining monthly contributions of any amount make an enormous difference, and many thanks to readers for continuing theirs. But whatever you can afford will be deeply appreciated. And if PayPal isn’t your cup of tea, checks can be sent to Evan Morris, PO Box 1, Millersport, OH 43046. Please make checks payable to Evan Morris. (Not to “The Word Detective.” My bank lacks imagination.)

(I should emphasize again, however, that the Word Detective mailing list is a dead parrot, not even pining for the fjords; thus you will not receive any Word Detective columns by email.)

Of course, there are, as I mentioned in my note in February, more than 1,500 full-text columns available for free on, which should keep any sane person busy for a year or two. I’m also going to be tweeting links to favorite columns from the past (which may be new to you) on the @word_detective Twitter account.

Again, thank you for your continuing support, your good wishes, and just for continuing to read and enjoy the site.

Evan Morris
PO Box 1,Millersport, OH 43046

A Message from The Word Detective

Dear friends,

You have probably noticed that The Word Detective has become, shall we say, somewhat sporadic in recent months. I need to explain that.

Over the past ten years, as many of you are aware, I have been fighting the advance of progressive multiple sclerosis. At this point, I have difficulty walking, my vision is unreliable at best, and my left hand is close to useless.

For the past two months, however, I have been undergoing a series of tests that indicate a much bigger problem. I have Stage 4 (i.e., metastatic) cancer.

Under the circumstances, I’m going to have to suspend The Word Detective in both its web and email forms. The Word Detective website will remain online for the foreseeable future, but will not be updated. Comments will be disabled because I won’t be able to moderate them.

Continue reading this post » » »

September-October 2015 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


As observant readers will have noticed, this issue of TWD spans two months, rather than the usual one (although the most recent issue was also a two-monther, and a bit late to boot, as is this one). I apologize for the delay, but my MS has made my vision very unreliable lately, making getting anything done quite difficult. On a good day, my visual field resembles an old analog TV with bad reception: constant visual “noise” and fluctuating sharpness. On a bad day it’s all that plus flashing lights at the edges and big patches of fog or (my fave) total blackness drifting across my field of view. My eye-hand coordination has also decreased to the point where I make constant typos even with my new two-finger hunt-and-peck.

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