Category Archives: Multiple forms



Finagle \fə-ˈnā-gəl\

transitive verb: to obtain by indirect or involved means; to obtain by trickery

intransitive verb: to use devious or dishonest methods to achieve one’s ends

This may be quite a dorky thing to admit, but I love that this can be either a transitive or intransitive verb. In other words, you can use it with a direct object, as in:

Toby finagled that coffee from Steve; don’t drink it!

Here, “that coffee” is the direct object of the sentence: Toby, the subject, “did” the verb, finagle, to it, so finaglehere functions as a transitive verb. It could be rewritten

Toby obtained the coffee from Steve by trickery; don’t drink it!” and the meaning would remain the same. Steve was just a passive victim of Toby’s finagling prowess. Compare that to:

Looks like Toby finagled  Steve out of his coffee. Let’s drink it!

The difference here–besides Steve’s suddenly much less sympathetic (or more coffee-crazed) friends, that is–is in the sentence structure: the verb is still finagle, but there is no direct object. Toby did not “obtain Steve by trickery,” he obtained the coffee by tricking Steve. Poor Steve was the victim again, but this time at least we get that outright: re-writing this sentence would look like

Looks like Toby tricked Steve out of his coffee. Let’s drink it!” which, while not nice, is at least correct.

Annnd look at that, I’m now using this blog as a platform for mini grammar lessons. Hm.

But let’s not forget about our lovely word, finagle! I can finagle my way into the Olympics (if only); I can finagle my dog into trying to catch a nonexistent ball; I can be finagled into voting for someone I don’t agree with. (But hopefully I won’t be.)

And then there’s the loveliness of its origin! I’m going younger and younger on my words, apparently; this one’s from 1924/1926, depending on your source, and comes from straight up American English! There are theories that it came from English dialect fainaigue, meaning to cheat at cards, or else figgle/fiddle, meaning to fidget.

Here’s hoping you don’t get finagledby anyone in the near future, and that you find new and exciting ways to finagle your way into new and exciting places! And, maybe don’t let anyone named Toby near your coffee. Especially if you’re named Steve.



Swelter \ˈswel-tər\

1: (verb) to suffer, sweat, or be faint from heat

2: (noun) a state of oppressive heat

Coming off the heels of what was supposed to be the hottest day of Oregon’s summer yesterday, I couldn’t think of a better word than swelter to initiate this new blog. In particular, I like the noun form, which sees use much less frequently than its verb twin. But just imagine the possibilities of the noun swelter in your daily conversation!

You’ll often hear the verb form this way:

“It’s sweltering outside! I guess this is where all that global warming stuff comes from, huh?”

But how much better is it to see the noun form, like this:

The summer swelter was oppressive to Blaire, who wanted nothing more than to step outside without drowning in his own sweat.

Or, even better, like this:

The swelter of his gaze could have melted ice–or, in any case, made it dribble a little. I wanted nothing more than to talk to him, and I would have–had I not been wearing nothing but a clown wig and bikini.

And where did this wonderful word come from? It’s been in the English language since the 1400s, and comes from Old English sweltan, to die; that, in turn, came from the Proto-Germanic swel, to burn slowly.

Well that’s graphic.

So please, no more “This heat is killing me!” Who needs it, when you can say, essentially, “This heat is burning me slowly to death!” In other words–“This heat is sweltering!