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Which is correct? Just Deserts or Just Desserts?

My daughter recently asked me whether the correct word in this idiom was “deserts” or “desserts”.  Feeling cocky, I asserted that the right word was obviously “desserts”, as in the sweet reward for a job well done. Well, I was wrong. And my teenager was gleeful.

The word “desert” means “that which is deserved”.  It comes from the French.  And it is used today only in this idiom.  Since in every other case the word “desert” is pronounced with the emphasis on the first syllable and intended to imply a landscape with little water, I and countless others assumed that the Sahara DESERT scenario was the only usage of the word.  How wrong we were.

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What's the Best Way to Deliver Bad News in Business Writing?

What’s the best way to break bad news? As the old torch song goes, “Break it to me gently.”  If your reader is likely to be upset or angry about your message, do not state your message in the first paragraph. Instead, give the basis and reasons for your bad news first. Give the reader the opportunity to figure out the message himself before you hit him in the face with it. By delivering the blow at the end of your document, you will raise the likelihood that your reader will actually read the reasoning behind your message.

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Shaving Off Excess Words

I have a dog named Marko. He is a German shepherd and weighs over 75 pounds; people generally consider him to be a big scary-looking dog.  The mailman would rather walk around the block than come all the way to our door with the mail if Marko is nearby.  And you can forget about the meter reader. Recently, we took Marko to the groomers and told them to shave off his excess hair.  A few hours and many dollars later, we picked up what they said was our dog.  Bereft of his shaggy mane, Marko looked like a weakling. We could see his ribs, and he looked frail and vulnerable. Without all that hair, the truth was revealed: fierce Marko is actually a 14-year old canine with arthritic hips.  This shaved-down version of our dog did not look scary anymore.

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Notes from the Demise of the English Language

On September 19, 2010, Gene Weingarten published an article in The Washington Post titled “Goodbye Cruel Word: English, It’s Dead to Me.”  Here are some excerpts.

The end came quietly on Aug. 21 on the letters page of The Washington Post. A reader castigated the newspaper for having written that Sasha Obama was the “youngest” daughter of the president and first lady, rather than their “younger” daughter. In so doing, however, the letter writer called the first couple the “Obama’s.” This, too, was published, constituting an illiterate proofreading of an illiterate criticism of an illiteracy. Moments later, already severely weakened, English died of shame.

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