“Northwest homes darkened by ice storm; rivers bust banks.”
Can rivers bust their banks? Not according to Merriam-Webster Online, which lists bust as a noun only: “A sculptured representation of the upper part of the human figure including the head and neck and usually part of the shoulders and breast” and “The upper part of the human torso between neck and waist, especially the breasts of a woman.” The entry then drifts off into Google ads for “Herbal Breast Enlargement” and similar potions.
Other authorities, more comprehensive and more flexible, say that while the use of bust for the verb burst is nonstandard, it’s recognized as informal or dialectal. That means it’s generally accepted in speech and in some writing. It probably should be avoided in Supreme Court decisions and United Nations treaties. And some people, out of respect for old English teachers, will avoid it entirely.
“A boy enlists tiny rebels in this cautionary tale about the dangers of imminent domain.”
John Wesley Hall Jr. writes: “Imminent domain always makes me think there is about to be a coronation of a new king.”
Kelley Bass saw a newspaper article that quoted an angry father as saying “It got under my craw.” Bass writes: “From experience, I know a guy can get something stuck in his craw, and I know things can get under one’s skin. But I’d never heard of anything getting under someone’s craw. Have you?”
Only when the craw was positioned unusually high. But no, that’s a frivolous answer and we’ll never make our sales quota being frivolous. Bass is right. In normal usage, a thing gets under one’s skin or stuck in one’s craw, and the two should not be mixed. “I didn’t mind when the quarterback left the team, but when he punted a Hog Hat, it really stuck in my craw.”
Craw in this case is another word for crop — “a pouch in the esophagus of many birds, in which food is held for later digestion or for regurgitation to nestlings.”