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Queens and usurpers

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Usurp, mesurp:

"Despite the help, Mustain couldn't usurp Barkley, and when Carroll left for the Seattle Seahawks, new coach Lane Kiffin stuck with the incumbent." To usurp is "To seize and hold (a position, office, power, etc.) by power or without legal right." One usurps things — thrones, for example — not people.

Our boys will outshine tonight:

"Jean Segura produced a memorable piece of baserunning that outshined Ryan Braun's three-run home run."

"We were particularly smitten by the grilled pork chop plate ($23). The pork loin itself was remarkable — tender and flavorful. But it was the bed of pillowy goat-cheese grits that really took our breath away. ... Rarely is pork so completely outshined on a single plate."

I would have used outshone in both of the examples above, but according to the Random House, either outshone or outshined is acceptable.

Don't bother to curtsy:

Last week, while discussing the "loaded" language of political debate, we mentioned that it was Ronald Reagan who popularized the word entitlements as a derisive term for the benefits that Americans receive from programs like Social Security and Medicare. I've since been reminded by an article in Harper's magazine that Reagan also "coined the phrase 'welfare queen' in his 1976 presidential bid." The man had a talent for saying mean things without seeming mean himself.

When do you use ohsure?

The headline said, "UA System lets insured go to former counselors," and the lead sentence said "The University of Arkansas System will ensure its employees remain covered for counseling appointments while it continues investigating whether a new third-party administrator is offering enough mental health-care providers as well as accurate provider listings, a UA official said Monday."

Did the headline writer and the reporter disagree on the spelling of insure/ensure? No, they followed the Associated Press Stylebook, which says:

"Use ensure to mean guarantee: Steps were taken to ensure accuracy.

"Use insure for references to insurance: The policy insures his life."

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