Weird Word: Queue

Interesting – such a strangely-spelled word, but it makes sense when you know the origin.  The English noun queue comes from Middle French queu, quewe, queuue, cueue (with many other variant spellings) and Old French cue or coe “tail,”.  All of a sudden it is not so strange! 

Understanding language is a passion of ours, and we know how to mold it to say what you need it to say!

Skeptical vs. Cynical

Skeptical vs. Cynical

These two words are quite often used to mean the same thing, but there is a real difference.

Skeptical’ – to be doubting, investigating, and inquiring of the truthfulness of validity of something others say is true.  The word came from Pyrrho and his followers in ancient Greece, who thought that real knowledge of this is impossible. 

Cynical’ – to be bitterly distrustful or pessimistic of the motives of others, sneering and sarcastic.  Likely from Kynosarge “The Gray Dog”, the gymnasium outside ancient Athens (for the use of those who were not pure Athenians), and their attitude to the ‘pureness’ of Athens.

Bonus points for understanding ‘Blind Faith’, which doesn’t question at all, simply accepts.

How to choose a professional editing service

How should you choose a professional editing service?  By cost? Quick turnaround? Size of the company?  As a professional editor loving what he does since 2007, I think the best reason is how they listen and how responsive they are.  Smaller firms, like the three people at Greentree, are much more likely to take the time to hear your desires and respond quickly.  I am proud to say that our company is known as one that hears, responds, and still has a quick return time.  We are like a small restaurant, dedicated to only a few specialties, but does them so well they stand out in the crowd.  As the famous Canadian Stuart McLean said, “We may not be big, but we’re small!”.  Try us and see – no foolin’!

The Bitterness of Poor Quality

I have started to see ads for a company who offers private ESL (English as a Second Language) lessons at Cad$15 per hour. This raised a big red flag for me – it is even possible to do a half-way decent job for such a low price? In my opinion, absolutely not.

‘You get what you pay for’ is an old saying my mother used to tell us. Equally true is ‘You pay for what you get’. A qualified professional (and by ‘qualified’ I mean a native speaker who is a teacher with many, many hours’ experience and an expert in the language) will not let their skills go for such low pay. Would you go to a doctor that had the lowest rates in town? He probably also has the least experience and years of study. You just know from experience this is something to avoid.

It bothers me because we are all shopping for bargains, trying to save a bit, but someone will spend good, hard-earned money and get virtually nothing in return, and that is simply cruel. Better to have realistic expectations – and know what you’re paying for.

Greentree has over 2,500 hours of ESL teaching experience with online and in-person, personal and corporate groups and individuals. We have received high praise for the fun environment we provide. We care about our students’ progress in life, and teach lessons that connect with their real lives. Contact us for more details.

July 2nd…umm, July 4th

Why do Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4th?

The Second Continental Congress, formed after the start of the American Revolution in 1775, voted to declare their independence on July 2. However, the Declaration of Independence, largely authored by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted on July 4th. When the Founding Fathers actually signed the document, however, remains disputed.

After the July 2 vote, John Adams famously wrote to Abigail, his wife:

The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Wonderfully said, John. Indeed, Americans commemorate their independence this way—but on July 4th, of course.

Happy 4th of July to all Americans near and far!!


“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900 – 1944).

To me, this is the essence of editing. It is too easy for the main message to get lost in extra and distracting words. People also have short attention spans, so it is important to make your point quickly. A good editor helps remove the extra pieces so the essential message shines through in as few words as necessary. (This post was short for a reason!).

Pro tip: ‘typoglycemia’

Even if you were the reigning spelling bee champ in high school, you could still suffer from ‘typoglycemia’. This newly-coined term refers to your brain’s ability to skip over typos and other errors when reading text, auto-correcting them in your mind. This happens because your brain reads words as a whole and not by the letter.

The best solution is to have someone else (particularly a professional and qualified someone else) go over your material. They must look at the letter order in every word, every piece of punctuation, and every sentence’s meaning to make sure it says what you intend it to say.

Greentree Communications has been doing this professionally since 2007. We have edited books, commercial documents, websites – you name it. We stick with you through the whole editing and proofreading process until your material says exactly what you want it to. Take a look at our website (, and feel free to ask us a question or two – we’ll help you for free. That’s just the kind of Canadians we are.

Phobias! (part 1)

Phobias are fascinating – aside from describing things hopefully not many of us have, the origin of the words can be interesting. Here are a few:

Aerophobia: deceptively simple. It is an abnormal fear of drafts of air, gases, or airborne material. Many people think it is simply a fear of flying, properly called ‘aviophobia’.

Acrophobia: I know a person who suffers from this, it is a fear of heights (think of ‘acrobat’). Acro– is from the Greek meaning ‘topmost’ or ‘highest’.

Ophidiophobia: here’s one that jumped out at me because of its unusual spelling. It means a ‘fear of snakes’.

Turophobia: it’s an irrational fear of cheese. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, so this one is very interesting to me. It comes from a variant of ‘tyros‘, which is Greek for ‘cheese’.

Triskaidekaphobia: having my birthday on the 13th, I’ve known this one for a while, especially as my birthday sometimes falls on a Friday. This is fear of the number 13 – buildings used to be built without a 13th floor (not one marked as such, anyway). The orighin? You guessed it – ‘triskaideka‘ is Greek for ’13’.

JOMO: we all know what FOMO stands for (Fear of Missing Out). Well, this is the opposite of that – the Joy of Missing Out. Missing a boring party or a disease would give me JOMO.

Coulrophobia: this is surprisingly common – the fear of clowns. The origin isn’t precisely known, but the Greek ‘kolon‘ means ‘limb’ with the sense of a ‘stilt-walker’, and from there it’s not a long journey to clown.

If you have any that interest you, let us know! And if you need assistance with correctly and professionally editing, proof-reading, writing support, or upgrading your spoken English, look us up at!

Troublesome Words

Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors (‘A Walk in the Woods’, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’, ‘The Body’) because he somehow knows how to craft the best description to bring an idea across, whether he is being serious or funny. His choice of words have that perfect ‘fit’. Here are examples from his highly-recommended reference-for-writers book ‘Troublesome Words’ – often-confused words explained clearly and quickly:

acute, chronic. These two are sometimes confused, which is a little odd as their meanings are sharply opposed. Chronic pertains to lingering conditions, ones that are not easily overcome. Acute refers to those that come to a sudden crisis and require immediate attention. People in the Third World may suffer from a chronic shortage of food. In a bad year, their plight may become acute.’

adverse, averse. ‘He is not adverse to the occasional brandy ‘ (Observer). The word wanted here was averse, which means reluctant or disinclined (think of aversion). Adverse means hostile and antagonistic (think of adversary).’

amid, among. Among applies to things that can be separated and counted, amid to things that cannot. Rescuers may search among survivors, but amid wreckage.’ (It’s all about the nouns survivors and wreckage – survivors is a ‘count noun’ (things easily countable) like people, buildings, parks, and trees. Wreckage is a ‘non-count’ noun, like milk, sugar, water, wood, traffic, and sunshine).

A couple more confused English word sets

Here’s a bit of useful information – some of the less common English language confusions:

Lose and Loose: spelled and pronounced differently, but we still often don’t use them correctly. Lose (verb) means “to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery.” We don’t usually lose car keys, for example, but merely misplace them. We can lose a job, however, and unfortunately a good many other things. It entered English usage before 900 from the Middle English losen. Loose (adjective or verb), on the other hand, means “to free or released from fastening or attachment.” Coming into the English language between 1175–and 1225, it is from Middle English los, loos from the Old Norse lauss loose, free, empty.

Resign and Re-sign: again sometimes confused, Resign (verb) means “to give up an office or position, often formally (often followed by from)”, coming into English 1325–75 from the Middle English resignen (from Middle French resigner and the Latin resignāre to open, release, cancel. Re-sign (verb) means to “sign again” (such as ‘my first signature was faint, so I re-signed the cheque’). First recorded in 1795–1805.

More to come! Please see our website at and let us know how we can help you with your English issues!