Grammar Moses: D.C. glossary a capital idea

  • Final inaugural preparations are made Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, at the Capitol in the capital.

    Final inaugural preparations are made Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, at the Capitol in the capital. Associated Press

Updated 1/23/2021 5:16 PM

Welcome to my D.C. glossary that, come to think of it, would have been more helpful a week ago.

• "Capitol," with a capital C, is the building in which the legislative branch conducts its business. That goes for the building where the federal legislative branch does its thing in Washington, D.C., as well as where the General Assembly does its thing in Springfield.


Collectively, statehouses are referred to as (lowercase) capitols.

The Capitol -- in most cases domed -- sits in capital (lowercase, and a instead of o) cities.

• You've all seen the photograph of the yahoo in the ski hat carrying Nancy Pelosi's podium around the Capitol, right?

Aha! Gotcha. He was carrying Pelosi's lectern. From my research, Facebookers tend not to know the distinction.

That guy did look semi-menacing, but probably not powerful enough to lift a podium.

If you need a visual, you stand on a podium and behind a lectern.

• I watched an interview with pillow tycoon Mike Lindell, who described his recent visit to the White House to tell then-President Trump his latest theory about how Trump ended up on the losing end of the election. He says he was told by one of Trump's lawyers that he was making too much of a ruckus.

"You got a little voiceterous," he phonetically quoted one of them as saying.

If you only hear words but never see them written, you might speak the way you hear things. That's common.

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I've heard this one abused before. The word he was reaching for is "boisterous." Or perhaps he conflated "vociferous" and "boisterous."

If you're not in the habit of writing "boisterous," you might think the word comes from raising your voice.

And that's something Mike Lindell knows a lot about.

Perhaps he can refocus his efforts on pillow talk now.

• In the Good News Sunday column I cobble together each week I referred to President Barack Obama giving a local high school kid an attaboy for his social justice work.

Anne Walker wrote to remind me Obama is no longer president (note the lowercase p) but "former President Barack Obama."

I stand corrected. I forgot the AP style on that.


Should we refer to Donald J. Trump again, and I'm certain with his upcoming trial we will, he will be referred to in these pages as "former President" Trump.

Feel free to click your heels or cry in your beer over that.

• There was a great deal of teeth gnashing during the summer over whether Black Lives Matter gatherings/marches were "demonstrations," "protests" or "riots."

I shan't debate that here other than to say it depends on your perspective, and we've tried to use words that split the difference in describing them.

So, is there a difference between a riot and an insurrection? How would you describe the melee at the Capitol (capital C) on Jan. 6?

A riot is a violent disturbance of the peace by a crowd that can rise out of all manner of things: political protest, complaints over food shortages, the outcomes of sporting events.

But an insurrection or insurgency is a more specific kind of riot: one meant to overthrow authority, in the case of Jan. 6, the federal government.

• U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia wore a face mask that read "CENSORED" to the Capitol during then-President Trump's impeachment hearing, owing to the fact that Twitter and Facebook had suspended her accounts for proliferating QAnon hooey.

But the great irony is she wore that mask while standing behind a lectern before a microphone, telling the world on seemingly every TV channel but Nickelodeon why she supported Trump.

So, not exactly censored.

• "Censure," on the other hand, is formal disapproval for one's actions -- something that some in Congress sought to impose upon Greene.


I imagine you know what a palindrome is by now: a word or a sentence that is spelled the same backward as it is forward: Think "mom" or "Able was I ere I saw Elba," which was apocryphally credited to Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled on that island in Tuscany.

But there are palindrome dates, too, and we're right in the middle of a string of them!

Today, it's 1/24/21. That string lasts from 1/21/21 to 1/29/21.

You won't see another palindrome date until December, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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