Engineers with Feathers

Instant Quiz

Can you correct the error in the sentence below? Scroll to the bottom of today’s post for the answer.

Because the carton was so heavy, I asked Bob to help me drug it into the kitchen.


I just read a surprising article about – of all things – birds’ nests. In “The Marvel in a Bird’s Nest,” Norman Roberts describes recent studies that explore the reasons why nests are so strong and durable. It turns out that birds are marvelous engineers! Click here to read the article:

The real surprise, though, was this sentence, describing how manmade “nests” were subjected to tests in an plexiglass cylinder: “Then the experimenters shmushed the sticks some more, with additional cycles.”

Good for the New York Times! It’s a New York paper, so why not include some authentic New York words once in a while?

But is shmushed a word? Yes. If a group of sounds has a consistent meaning, it’s a word. If you make up a word right now, and give it a meaning, it instantly becomes a word.

But it won’t be a standard word until it starts showing up in formal writing – articles in the New York Times, for example.

Maybe shmushed is on its way! Plenty of New Yorkers already use it.

Photo by By JJ Harrison (


Short Pencil Point Deviant Art ok

Instant Quiz ANSWER

Don’t confuse drug (a pharmaceutical substance) with drag (a verb). Incidentally, the past tense of drag is dragged.

Because the carton was so heavy, I asked Bob to help me drag it into the kitchen.  CORRECT

What Your English Teacher Didn’t Tell You is available in paperback and Kindle formats from and other online booksellers.
“A useful resource for both students and professionals” – Jena L. Hawk, Ph.D., Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College

“Personable and readable…Jean knows her subject forwards and backwards.” – Adair Lara, author of Hold Me Close, Let Me Go


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