Sir: I read in a column about the writer's friend that certain words "do her the same way fingernails scratched across a chalkboard would." Is this use of "do" correct? It rubs me the wrong way.

- Rosetta B.

Answer: Why? "Do" is used in so many ways it's almost impossible to do it wrong. One can do good, do to death, do honor, do in, do dishes, and on and on. All I can say is, if "do" does you wrong, don't do it.

Sir: A teacher friend told me that "w" is a vowel when it is at the end of a word, following "o" or "e." When did this happen? This is news to me! I would also like a good definition of what makes a letter a vowel.

- Nancy B.

Answer: What's a vowel? It is, to quote a leading dictionary in part, "one of a class of speech sounds in the articulation of which the oral part of the breath channel is not blocked and is not constricted enough to cause audible friction." Now that that's clear, let's take your question about "w." I haven't the slightest notion. But I can offer you the perfect response to all questions about vowels. Just explain, as I do, that you don't do vowels.

Sir: A person in my newspaper is quoted as follows: "I know that I and some other people are dipping out the Atlantic Ocean with a teaspoon, but I and a lot of other people just keep on dipping." Please comment on those uses of "I." Could it be that everyone has thrown away the book on the English language?

- Marilyn J.

Answer: Well, golly, you got me. I can see that dipping out the ocean with a spoon is pretty tiresome as well as nutty, but what has "I" to do with it? As far as I can see, every bloomin' "I" in that quote is correct. Why don't we complain about the size of the spoon instead?


"My newspaper told me about an accident that occurred when `a van carrying nine people and a pickup truck collided at an intersection.' But what did it collide with?"