Team vs. teem


team (noun): a number of persons associated together in work or activity
teem (verb): to become filled to overflowing

You are, no doubt, familiar with the noun team, but the same-sounding verb is less popular. Today’s post will help you use and spell it correctly.

Here are examples of both words:
The zombies worked as a team to capture the humans.
The city is teeming with zombies.

The zombies’ deadened brains teemed with thoughts of carnage.
The team of humans couldn’t fight back the zombies.

Both words are related to the Old English word team, which means “offspring, lineage, group of draft animals.” Interestingly, an archaic usage of teem is to “give birth to,” a usage that seems more aligned with its Old English origin.

Fill in the blanks with either team or teem.

1. The golf course is _______ing with tees.
2. The baseball history museum _______s with photos of old _______s.
3. My favorite baseball _______ is the Minnesota Twins.
4. The wrestler’s heart _______ed with thoughts of winning the match.


1) teem 2) teem; team 3) team 4) teem

Erbs and herbs

British people call those green things you keep in your spice rack herbs, pronouncing the H. Here in America, We call ‘em erbs, without the H sound. Is one way more correct than the other? Well, no. Different pronunciations happen within different dialects of one language. But, how we got to our different pronunciations is pretty interesting.

The word herb began being used in the 1300s. It came from the Old French word erbe, which came from the Latin word, herba. When herb came into being, Latin had lost its H sound, and it also was not pronounced in French. So, originally, herb didn’t have the H sound. (Point one, Americans.)

Move ahead to the nineteenth century. Britons decided to go with a technique called “spelling pronunciation,” which means they pronounce the H in herbs because, as Eddie Izzard explains, “there’s a fucking H in it.” (Point one, Brits.)

According to The American Heritage Dictionary’s usage note on herb, this means British people also pronounce these related words with an H: herbaceous, herbal, herbicide, and herbivore. However, this is not the same for Americans. We pronounce herb and herbal without the H sound; but, we pronounce herbaceous, herbicide, and herbivore with the H. Even stranger, we pronounce the male name Herb with the H.

So, if we were to pronounce herb as history had it originally, the American pronunciation would be on target. Yet, at least the British people are consistent with their hard H pronunciations. Bully for them.

Easter etymology

Today’s lesson: learning the history of the word Easter and the names of its traditions


Regardless of your faith (or lack thereof), it’s likely you know the biblical story behind the Easter celebration. Jesus. Judas. Kisses. Pontius. Blood. Capital punishment. Death. Resurrection. That story. But do you know the history of the word Easter and the names of Easter traditions? That’s what we’ll learn in today’s post.

Easter etymology
Easter had quite a long journey before it looked like it does now. If you were around when we were still speaking Old English, Easter would have been Aestor, Aestur, Aeuster, Eastor, Eastra, Eastro, Eastur, Eostor, Eostro, Eostru, Eostur, Estur, Euster, and/or Eustur. (Source: Oxford English Dictionary Online) And if you were speaking Middle English, it would have been Aster, Astere, Astur, Astyr, Eester, Eestir, Estir, Estre, Eystere, Hester, Hestur, Hyster, Yestre, Ystyre, Estur, Estyr, Astr, Eister, Aister, Aisther, and/or Haster. (Source: Oxford English Dictionary Online)

Whew. This sure makes me glad people decided to start spelling English words the same way. (Well, minus the subject of British versus American spellings.)

Fun fact: Nearly all neighboring languages use a variant of the Latin word Pasche instead of Easter, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary.

Easter’s other meaning
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Easter has another meaning, which is: “the action or act of receiving the Holy Eucharist during the season of Easter, as required of members of the Roman Catholic Church.” In this sense, Easter is usually used with the verb “to make,” as in “to make one’s Easter.”

baskets and bunnies
In the United States, we have the Easter bunny—that magical little furry creature that delivers candy and eggs to children, who then turn around and eat chocolate reproductions of that very animal. (Pretty cruel, if you think about it.) The Oxford English Dictionary Online cites the first printed reference to the Easter bunny as being in 1900 in The Frederick News in Frederick, Maryland.

But before the bunny, there was the hare. The Easter hare, to be exact. Or in Germany, where the hare makes its most visits, the Osterhase. The website says that the hare started being used as a symbol for Easter in the sixteenth century, with the first bunny-shaped pastries arriving a century later. Yum.

If you’re lucky, the Easter bunny, or Osterhase, will leave you treats that you can collect in your Easter basket. According to the OED, the first written reference of the Easter basket in the United States came from the city of Philadelphia in 1881.

Set your phasers to learning!

This phaser will teach you vocabulary (and maybe stun you).

phase (noun): a particular appearance or state in a regularly recurring cycle of changes; a distinguishable part in a course, development, or cycle
phase (verb): to adjust so as to be in a synchronized condition; to conduct or carry out by planned phases
faze (verb): to disturb the composure of

Phase and faze sound the same. But this is where their similarities end. For instance, phase (both as a noun and a verb) deals with time; faze deals with emotion. Also, you can go through a phase in your life, and you can do the action of phasing in a new idea; however, someone else has to be the person who fazes you.

Let’s look at their etymologies to learn more about how they differ.

Phase comes from the Greek word phasis, which means appearance (such as of a star). The stem is phainein, which means to show, to make appear. English began using phase in 1812 to describe lunar cycles (phases of the moon).[i]

Faze comes from the Old English word fesian, which means to drive away.[ii]

We can see that from the beginning phase dealt with cycles of time, and faze dealt with actions that disturb.

Using phase and faze
Now let’s look at some examples of phase and faze.

phase (noun): Five years ago, Kirk went through his awkward goth phase.
phase (verb): Kirk will phase in the new weapons technology.
faze (verb): Kirk is so self-assured that nothing can faze him.

Do you think you have the differences down yet? Test your knowledge with this quiz. Fill phase or faze in the blanks. The answers are below.

  1. In three months, the space ship will _______ in the new rules.
  2. “That didn’t _______ me,” the alien said, even though she was shaking.
  3. It’s time to _______ in the new telescope upgrades.
  4. Do you remember that _______ you went through when you’d only eat space hot dogs?
  5. In five seconds, when he shouts “Evacuate!” he will _______ the crew.

Answers: 1. phase (verb) 2. faze 3. phase (verb) 4. phase (noun) 5. faze

An aside for Star Trek fans
I’ve been wondering why the Star Trek weapons are called phasers and not fazers. It seems to me that since they have the ability to stun (faze) people, they should be called fazers. But maybe it has something to do with cycles (phases) of energy the weapon produces—thus phasers.

If you happen to have ideas about this conundrum, would you please let me know? It’s, like, really important.


Is it “pour over” or “pore over”?

This is Worf. He is a Klingon. And he will help you learn about idioms.

Nancy pours over her Klingon textbook the night before the big test.
Nancy pores over her Klingon textbook the night before the big test.

This is an idiom that confuses many. So which is correct? Pour over or pore over?

Answer: pore over

We can find the reason this idiom uses pore instead of pour by looking at the definition and etymology of the two words.

Merriam-Webster defines pore as “to read or study attentively.” Though this word is spelled the same as the word that means those little openings in your skin, it has a different history. It is believed that pore is a combination of two Old English words: spyrian, which means “to investigate,” and spor, which means “a trace.”[i]

Meanwhile, Merriam-Webster defines pour as “to dispense from a container.” As for its etymology, it is believed that pour comes from the Old French verb purer, which means “to sift (grain), pour out (water).” Purer comes from the Latin word purare, which means “to purify.”[ii]

When you look at these differences, you can tell that it should be pore over because this meaning of pore is “to read or study attentively.” If Nancy from our example pours over her textbook, the only thing she’s going to accomplish is getting a wet book. However, if she pores over her textbook, she’s going to accomplish some learning.

Do you understand the difference between pour and pore? Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in either pours or pores in the blanks. The answers are at the bottom.

  1. Nancy really wants to learn the Klingon language, so she _______ over her Klingon – English dictionary every night.
  2. Nancy learned a Klingon ritual involving a glass of bloodwine that she _______ over a special basin.
  3. Once the rubbing alcohol _______ over the cut, Nancy’s Klingon battle scar will be disinfected.
  4. Once Nancy _______ over her lecture notes again, she will have a good understanding of the Klingon future tense.

Answers: 1. pores 2. pours 3. pours 4. pores