About The Joy of English


The Australian airline is often incorrectly spelt 'Quantas' or 'QUANTAS'.

QANTAS is an acronym of Queensland And Northern Territory Air Service, so doesn't need to be Latinised with an extra -u-.


Q&As or Q&A's?

Q&As, not Q&A's.


A good word for playing in Scrabble, but not much else.


A lot of writers like to pepper their writing with archaic words that aren't frequently used in speech. Quaff is, arguably, one them. Use this word, by all means. I won't be one to judge, but make sure that you use it correctly. For example, one article in the Independent had the headline 'How to quaff tea like a true connoisseur'. The only problem here is that to quaff means to drink copious amounts in big gulps. This is would not be a good way to drink tea, or any boiling-hot drink for that matter. I don't care how sophisticated you might be. I would, however, suggest that quaffed tea be followed by quaffing a big, cold beer or at the very least a glass of water.

the Queen

One may address her in speech as Your Majesty or Ma'am, and refer to her in writing as Her Majesty, the Queen or HM.

Never 'Queen', 'your highness', 'M’ Lady', 'HRH', 'Queenie' or 'Liz'.

queueing or queuing?

Often spelt the wrong way. The correct spelling is queueing.

quickly or fast?

An admission, until recently I used to get my goat in a twist over fast as an adverb, as in: I like to drive fast. I would have said that I like to drive quickly, but having seen the error of my ways I realise that fast is a better word. Why? Because let's say I was hopped up on sugar and very anxious, making quick and erratic movements in the way I handled the car, I would be driving quickly regardless of how fast the car was going. I drive fast does not have that ambiguity.

quiz or test (noun)?

American school children do a quiz in schools, British children do a test.

quiz or question (verb)?

A quiz is best left for word games and the like; question is the correct verb.


This page last updated: 15 November 2014

Jesse Karjalainen is the author of The Joy of English: 100 conversations about the English Language, Cannibal – the language and history of the discovery of the New World, and Roanoke – the language and history of Early Colonial America.