I before e, except after c.
I before e, except after c.
Today’s New York Times Magazine had a blurb about a school in São Paulo, Brazil that has a novel way of teaching English. Here’s the article in its entirety:
TWITTER AS A SECOND LANGUAGE, by Hope Reeves
“Hi, @rihanna. I love your songs. My name is Carolina. I’m 11 years old,” began the tweet, which went on to correct Rihanna’s grammar. “It’s not to she, it’s to her,” Carolina wrote. Her tweet was part of an initiative at the Red Balloon School in São Paulo to teach English by correcting celebrities’ sloppy Twitterish. “So far no celeb has replied,” the school has said. “Hopefully they’re busy learning English.”
I could be a pedant and point out that the person who wrote that message for the school used “Hopefully” incorrectly. As written, it means that the celebrities are hopeful when, in fact, it is the school’s participants in this program who hope they will get a reply. But I have given up on this use of “hopefully”; common usage has emerged victorious.
Granted, my tolerance for substandard and iffy English is lower than most people’s, so bear with me.
Here is an example of a fancy-schmancy word that adds nothing to your message; this one you can throw away:
1. Gift—“My grandmother gifted me with her small gold locket.” Why use “gifted” when we already have a perfectly good word that is understood in every instance?
The following words don’t need to be discarded, but remember to use alternatives every now and then.
2. Purchase—Realize a clear, everyday alternative exists. As a fan of the “Antiques Roadshow,” I never, ever have heard anyone say they “bought” an object.
3. Prior to—Where, oh where, has “before” gone? Again, “prior to” appears 97.2% of the time (my estimate). It gets annoyingly repetitive.
4. Proceed—No one “goes” anywhere these days, but a whole lot of “proceeding” is taking place. Is “go” too simple? If you think so, tell me why. Do you think others might decide you are simple minded? Will they think you are Einstein’s heir if you always “proceed”?
5. Exit—I think it is perfectly fine to “leave” a building or a car or anything else you get out of.
These two adjectives are used as pejoratives: cheesy meaning something cheap or cheaply made, and corny meaning trite or schmaltzy. (Schmaltz is chicken fat in Yiddish. Go figure.)
Apparently, cheesy originated in the mid-19th century and alluded to the smell of overripe cheese. Perhaps that cheese was sold at a bargain rate, hence the adjective.
Corny arose when mail-order seed catalogs appeared in the early 1900s, and to fill out the spaces, seed companies would scatter the pages with cartoons and jokes. I imagine these were not of the highest level of sophistication, and the adjective corny became attached to them and their ilk.