M is for Maple Bush

Acer saccharum
Once the maple syrup is ready, you can pour a little on the snow. When it freezes, you eat it like candy.

M is for mondegreen and malapropism


Ye Highlands and ye Lowlands,

Oh, where hae ye been?

They hae slain the Earl O’ Moray,

And laid him on the green./

And Lady Mondegreen.

From this poem (the last line misheard by American writer Sylvia Wright), comes the term mondegreen, meaning the misinterpretation of a phrase with a similar sound. Other examples include a line from the Christmas song, “Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer.” My friend Olive was convinced that the line

All of the other reindeer

was really

Olive, the other reindeer.

A mondegreen often makes some sort of sense. It may be years before you realize that you have made a mistake.


 A character in a 1775 play by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Mrs. Malaprop, created light comedy by using words that sound similar but have a different meaning. After that, such crazy errors have been called malapropisms. Mrs. Malaprop herself said,

She’s as headstrong as an allegory (instead of alligator).

Canadian Don Harron’s character Charlie Farquharson made hay with commentary on local and world events, using malapropisms to create double meanings and hilarious satire.

Special reading assignment

  1. In past years, each tree in the maple bush had a spigot and pail. Pails were collected by hand and transported to the sugar shack by horse and wagon.
  2. Now, the spigots drain into tubes that drain into large tubs. The tubs are then transported to the sugar shack by truck.
  3. It still takes about 40 litres of sap to make a litre of maple syrup.


Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published soon.


M is for Monkey

Saimiri sciureus
This Squirrel Monkey watches visitors at the Peterborough Zoo.


mania creates a noun that denotes a mental illness or an enthusiasm.

bibliomania, megalomania

maniac creates an adjective from the noun, meaning affected by mania.


manship creates a noun denoting a skill.

craftsmanship, horsemanship, workmanship

mycin denotes an antibiotic made from fungi or mould.

erythromycin, streptomycin

ment creates a noun that expresses an action, whether the means, the product, or the result of an action.

astonishment, fragment, treatment

ment creates a noun from an adjective to express a state of being.

astonishment, resentment

meter creates a noun denoting something that measures.

barometer, odometer, thermometer

metric creates an adjective relating to measurement.

barometric, geometric

metry creates a noun to describe the procedures or science of measuring.

geometry, trigonometry

Consonant — vowel combinations

ma       mass                                         am       ram

me       met                                           em       embrace

mi        mine                                         im        him

mo       more                                        om       come

mu       must                                         um       yum

my       mynah                                      ym       symbol


  1. Define the words in the list of suffixes.
  2. Make a list of prefixes starting with the letter M.
  3. Think of four new words with a suffix or a prefix starting with M, and make a sentence with them.
  4. Make your own list of words for each Consonant–Vowel Combination. Which combination is the most difficult? 

Special reading assignment

  1. My mother matched most of the Meissen porcelain with melamine dishes.
  2. Amusing monsters marched merrily in the musical.
  3. Most monkeys are long-tailed primates that live in trees. Apes, by contrast, do not have tails.


This blog entry is an excerpt from an upcoming book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published soon.

Note: If you like monkeys and history, you may like to read the e-book, Edwardian Annotated Pets and How to Keep Them. This book, written in 1907, Edwardian England includes information on 17 different monkey species popular as pets.


M is for Mango

These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.
These tasty mangoes are displayed in a local shop.

The Letter M: Significance and Abbreviations

M is the thirteenth letter of the alphabet and the Roman numeral 1,000.

M is the abbreviation for “Monsieur” [French], “medium” in clothing sizes, “middle,” and “Monday”.

As a symbol, a capital M stands for “mega—“ and a small m stands for “metres” or “milli—.”

MA is the code for Massachusetts used by the US postal service. Other US postal codes include ME (Maine), MN (Minnesota), and MO (Missouri).

An M-16 is a rifle.

Titles and Degrees

In contractions, the letter m stands for “my” in m’lord, for “am” in I’m, or for “madam” in yes’m. “Madam” may also be contracted to ma’am.

Ma is a contraction of “mama” or “mother”.

Miss is the form of address for an unmarried woman, Mrs or Mrs. (an abbreviation for “mistress” but now spelled out “missus”) for a married woman. As a compromise for women who choose not to reveal their marital status, there is Ms or Ms., pronounced “Mizz”.

For men, Mr or Mr. stands for “mister,” the title assigned to ordinary men. It is also used to denote a man holding a particular office or, in a jocular way, a man with a certain characteristic.

Mr. Morris

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Nice Guy

An MA or an M.A. is a Master of Arts degree. MD generally stands for Doctor of Medicine. As academic degrees, MD and M.A. are placed after the name.

Mike Morris, M.A.

Murray Jones, MD (or Dr. Murray Jones)


  1. Look for additional abbreviations, acronyms, and codes that include the letter M.

Special reading assignment

  1. Minnie Mouse minced more melons into the mix with mangoes.
  1. My Mazerati made a marvellous impression on the motorway.

Note: This blog post is an excerpt from a book, English Manual: Letter by Letter, to be published in the fall of 2014.