Monthly Archives: August 2013

Antidote or Anecdote?

I went to an event last night at which two different people got up to introduce others, and both of them said they wanted to tell an “antidote” about the people they were introducing.

You have to give me credit for smothering my urge to groan. I can’t guarantee I didn’t roll my eyes.  This is not hard, folks. An ANECDOTE is a brief (we hope), interesting story about another person. An ANTIDOTE is a medicine or other substance used to counteract a poison.

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My Mistake (One of Many)

A reader clued me in today that the headline accompanying the magazine article on Rachael Ray indicating that she was a cannibal and a dog eater had been Photoshopped to remove the necessary commas.

I’m kicking myself that it never occurred to me that might have been the case.

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Parameters and Perimeters

Here’s what my computer dictionary says about PARAMETER:

parameter |pəˈramitər|noun technical

• A numerical or other measurable factor forming one of a set that defines a system or sets the conditions of its operation: the transmission will not let you downshift unless your speed is within the lower gear’s parameters. [I have no idea what this means.   JB]

• Mathematics—a quantity whose value is selected for the particular circumstances and in relation to which other variable quantities may be expressed. [I have no idea what this means, either.  JB]

• Statistics—a numerical characteristic of a population, as distinct from a statistic of a sample. [Ditto. JB]

It then says that the word is often used to mean  “limit” or “boundary.”  Now even though I don’t understand the mathematical or statistical meanings (I got freaked out by numbers when I was in first grade), it annoys me to see people describe the “parameters of a problem.” I’m guessing this happens because of the similarity to the word “perimeter.”  Why not just say the “scope, size or limitations” of the problem? I know why not: because people think “parameter” makes them sound important.  It’s jargon.

English: parameters

English: parameters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Are You Ready for These New Words?

Cover of "The Oxford English Dictionary (...

Cover via Amazon

Every quarter, the Oxford English Dictionary comes out with a supplement containing words it deems worthy of inclusion, words it expects to stick around. The most recent additions include TWERK (verb), a dance motion made popular by hip hop dancers but now, apparently, more mainstream and reported to have been around for close to 20 years; SELFIE, a photographic self-portrait, often pouting, you post to digital media; DIGITAL DETOX, taking time away from social media (it can be done); and BITCOIN, the electronic currency not associated with any nation.

Now you know. I wonder what the next three months will bring.

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This Toilet Won’t Be Getting Much Use

How many disabled, elderly, pregnant children do you know?  Using commas in this sign wouldn’t help. It needs bullet points.  And it would be lovely to eliminate the multiple exclamation points at the end. Such enthusiasm!!!enhanced-buzz-1608-1369835469-8

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Adverbs: Are They Necessary?

I’m not advising you to avoid all adverbs. But so often adverbs are no more than fillers or result in redundancy. Take a look at these:

ALSO:  “In addition, Ronnie is also attending the conference.” In addition/also?  Choose one.

PERSONALLY: If you write, “Personally, I don’t care for pineapple,” you are being redundant.

SIGNIFICANTLY:  When you write that “the horse’s weight dropped significantly,” you are not conveying useful information. Be specific. How much weight did the horse lose?

CURRENTLY: Writing that “Edward is currently living in Chicago,” is redundant.

LITERALLY: You know this is a big annoyance for me; I’ve already written a post or two about it.  It means something actual. If you say someone was “literally blown away by the news,” I expect to see socks and shoes spinning through the air in addition to the body.

ABSOLUTELY: This word adds no meaning. “We were absolutely stunned by the birth of quadruplets” doesn’t make your amazement any stronger. Either you were stunned or you weren’t.

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Rachael Ray, Cannibal and Dog-Eater?

enhanced-buzz-29104-1369834930-5

 

Given Rachael Ray’s love for extra-virgin olive oil (or EVOO, as it seems to be called in many parts these days), I’m guessing sautéing was her preferred method of cooking her family and her dog.

Editor! Find your comma stash currently going unused and put a comma after “cooking.” If you’re in the mood to give up another, put it after family. That one is optional. A period at the end would be nice, but magazine covers have a style that eschews them. However, exclamation points are found in abundance!!!!

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