Words used incorrectly: Alas

iStock
iStock

It never ceases to amaze me how many people (smart people, mind you) don’t know the meaning of the word alas. I know people who were accepted to Ivy league schools (okay, one person) who thought alas meant but, until I corrected her. Just this past weekend, I received an e-mail that went like this, and I quote:

I was a little bit busier this week than I thought originally but alas- here it is!

This sentence seems to imply that this (again, smart) person thinks that the word means finally. Giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, perhaps his spell-check changed “at last” to alas, though this wasn’t typed/sent via smartphone, so, er, alas, I'm not so sure.

This post is to set the record straight: alas is an interjection and usually used to express regret, like in the last sentence. Another example would be as follows:

There is a beautiful pool at the hotel where we are staying, but, alas, I cannot swim.

So it’s truth time _flossers: how many people reading this post did NOT know the correct definition? It’s okay; that’s partly what you count on us for here at the blog, no? Leave a comment anonymously if you must, but it would be fun to know. You can also tell us if there’s a word, like alas, that you find people using incorrectly all the time.

11 Versions of “Average Joe” From Other Countries

santypan/iStock via Getty Images
santypan/iStock via Getty Images

Average Joe, Joe Schmo, John Doe. He’s bland and average. Faceless, but not nameless. Every country needs a way to talk about just “some guy.” Here’s what 11 countries call that typical guy, who might have no specific qualities, but is still “one of our own.”

1. Germany: Otto Normalverbraucher

Literally, Otto “normal consumer."

2. China: Zhang San, Li Si

This translates to “Three Zhang, Four Li”—a reference to some of the most popular Chinese surnames.

3. Denmark: Morten Menigmand

"Morton Everyman."

4. Australia: Fred Nurk

Sounds pretty normal to me.

5. Russia: Vasya Pupkin

With a name like that, it’s hard not to be a typical schmo.

6. Finland: Matti Meikäläinen

Meikäläinen looks like a typical Finnish surname, but it also means “one of us.”

7. Sweden: Medelsvensson

Just your average Svensson.

8. France: Monsieur Tout-Le-Monde

“Mr. Everyone.” Also goes by Jean Dupont.

9. UK/New Zealand: Joe Bloggs

Still an average Joe (but can also be a Fred).

10. Italy: Mario Rossi

In Italy they just use a common name.

11. Latin America: Juan Pérez

The same is true in various Spanish-speaking countries in Central and South America.

A version of this list first ran in 2014.

When Are the Dog Days of Summer?

Dorottya_Mathe/iStock via Getty Images
Dorottya_Mathe/iStock via Getty Images

The official “dog days” of summer begin on July 3 and end on August 11. So how did this time frame earn its canine nickname? It turns out the phrase has nothing to do with the poor pooches who are forever seeking shade in the July heat, and everything to do with the nighttime sky.

Sirius, the Dog Star, is the brightest star in the sky. The ancient Greeks noticed that in the summer months, Sirius rose and set with the Sun, and they theorized that it was the bright, glowing Dog Star that was adding extra heat to the Earth in July and August.

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