St. John's Passion

Click here to read an article I wrote for Up.St.ART Annapolis about the unique, inspirational music curriculum (which is also a requirement for all students) at St. John's College in Annapolis. The article includes a profile of one of St. John's renowned alums, Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records and Nonesuch Records. Mr. Holzman launched Elektra out of his dorm room during his junior year and went on to do great things in the music industry.


I was introduced to malaprops in my eighth-grade English class, while reading Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 comedy The Rivals. One of the characters in the play, Mrs. Malaprop (likely named after the French term mal à propros, meaning inappropriate), misuses words that sound very similar to her intended words. The resulting dialogue is quite hilarious.

Here are some malaprops that I have encountered around town:

“This will be kept for prosperity (posterity)”

“I tend to be self-depreciating (self-deprecating)”

“I’m ravishing (ravenous); I haven’t eaten in hours.”

“In order to pass, the vote must be anonymous (unanimous).”


Word-Song 4: Myself

I often come across the word myself used incorrectly, in place of I or me: “This is too difficult for someone like myself.” Here, myself should read me.

Compound personal pronouns that employ the word self (such as myself, himself, and ourselves) have two uses. First, they can be used intensively, as in “I wrote it myself.” Here, myself is meant for emphasis; it can be removed from the sentence without altering its meaning. Second, they can be used reflexively, when the subject and the object are the same entity: “I can see myself in the mirror.”

Click here to hear Billie Holiday singing “Me, Myself, and I.”

Word-Song 3: Lay and Lie

Don’t feel bad if you cannot remember the difference between lay and lie. You are not alone. Lay is to put or set down, and lie is to assume a horizontal position. Here are some songs to remind you of proper usage.

“Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar” was made famous by the Delmore Brothers. Alton and Rabon Delmore hailed from Alabama and were regulars on the Grand Old Opry in the 1930s. The song uses lay correctly. (Actually, the expression lay down has its own meanings, but we won’t get into those here.) You can listen to the song by clicking here.

Bob Dylan wrote the anthemic “Lay Down Your Weary Tune,” which uses lay correctly, but he also wrote “Lay Lady Lay,” which does not. To be correct, it should be sung like so:

Lie, lady, lie. Lie across your big brass bed.

And yes, that's what I sing to remember the difference.



When I edit homophones out of a manuscript, I can almost hear the author’s sighs of relief. Here are last week’s homophones:

Flare (a fire or blaze of light) instead of flair (an attractive quality)

Discrete (individually distinct) versus discreet (showing prudence)