SIR: Why do so many use "whelps" when they are referring to the red "welts" raised by insect stings or bites? I was pretty sure dogs had "whelps," but I looked it up again to be positive and I was right. Could this error be indigenous to south Indiana? - Mildred B.
ANSWER: My goodness, no. People all over claim to have found whelps on their skin. I don't know why, but let's just be thankful they're wrong. Otherwise, the world would be plumb full of puppy-dogs.SIR: I have been engaged in a fierce discussion over a word that may or may not exist: "unsufferable." Webster's does not list it, and Oxford calls it "archaic" and "dialect."
I have been through university stacks looking for a solution to what has become a bitter discussion between two very hard-headed people. Please resolve this issue. Of course, I know "insufferable" is legal. - John S.
ANSWER: And so is "unsufferable," and you'll find it in plenty of dictionaries.
SIR: Recently you objected to the expression, "It was so fun," though you said you couldn't find a rule against it. That's easy. "Fun is a noun, and nouns cannot be modified by adverbs. "So" is an adverb. - Numerous writers.
ANSWER: That's true as far as it goes, and perhaps I should have said so and left it at that. But unfortunately, the noun "fun" is also becoming an adjective before our eyes and is being recognized as one - a fun person, a fun gift, a fun group. And adjectives can be modified by adverbs. So how do we head it off in that case?
WRETCHED RETCH of the week, almost delivered by Irving H.:
"My newspaper said many people `wretched' at something they saw on television. This is an example of such wretched English that it almost made me retch."
Send questions, comments, and good and bad examples to Lydel Sims, Watch Your Language, P.O. Box 161280, Memphis, TN 38186. If you quote a book, please give author, title and page number. Sorry, but questions can be answered only through this column.