Monthly Archives: February 2015

Do You Know These Words?

images

These are male ecdysiasts.

I was moseying around the Internet this afternoon and came across lists of very unusual English words. Many I am familiar with, and I bet you are too: Klutz, hootenanny, malarkey, ornery, doozy, brouhaha, filibuster and skedaddle. But how about these?

Widdershins—counterclockwise
Troglodyte—someone who lives in a cave (implying cluelessness because so removed from the world)
Borborygm—the sound of your stomach gurgling
Gastromancy—telling fortunes from the rumbling of stomachs
Codswallop—nonsense
Formication—Wrong! It means the feeling that ants are crawling on you
Fard—Wrong again. It’s face paint or makeup
Furphy—a portable water container
Hemidemisemiquaver—in music, a 1/64 note
Bumbershoot—an umbrella
Oocephalus—an egghead, which is what you will be called if you use many of these words. But they are fun to know.

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Proofread Everything!

images

Surely you know how I harangue you to proofread everything. Yes, everything. Are you thinking of getting a tattoo? Tattoos need to be proofread too, preferably before the needle hits your skin. Here are some epic fails I found on the Internet today:

Thenks mather for my life
to live doesn’t mean your alive
Nothing last’s forever
My mom is my angle
God Is A Awesome God
I Love Poo
Living Is The Stronges Drug
No Dream Is To Big
Megan [crossed out] Oops! I Meant “Hollie”
Regret Nohing
Never Don’t Give Up
Stay strong no matter wath happens

Then there is a list of female names, all crossed out: Anna, Rosalie, Jessica, Tina. After those is a new name, Laura. Good luck, Laura.

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Pronouns and Antecedents

Unknown

Fear not: an antecedent is nothing more than a word (or words) that come before a pronoun. The pronoun refers to that word, the antecedent.

You know what you mean, but your reader doesn’t. Problems arise when we use pronouns, but the antecedent either is unclear or missing. Here are some examples:

1. Robert smiled fondly at his brother and said he had saved his life. (Who saved whose life?)

2. Annie told Robin she was confused. (Who’s confused?)

3. Aaron is a good cook, which he practices daily. (What does he practice daily? The missing antecedent is “cooking.”)

4. Rosalie threw her iPhone on the tile floor and cracked it. (She cracked the tile or her phone?)

When you use a pronoun, picture drawing an arrow from that pronoun to the word it refers to. If your arrow goes nowhere, rewrite your sentence to clarify the antecedent.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Was or Were?

images

In “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevya sings, “If I were a rich man….” Why “were” and not “was”? We use “were” when the situation is not true, is contrary to fact. Tevya is poor. He wishes he were a rich man, but he knows he isn’t.

You’ve heard the expression, “If I were king….” But you’re not king, so again you use what is known as the subjunctive voice, using “were” instead of “was”:

“If I were taller, I would date taller women.” (He’s short.)
“If it weren’t snowing, we could go to the movies this afternoon.” (Not another blizzard!)

However, sometimes you want to use “was” instead of “were”; this is when the situation is not untrue:

“If I was talking too loudly, I’m sorry.” (You were blasting us out of the room.)
“If Andrea was at the rehearsal, I must have missed her.” (She was there; you were busy.)

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Before You Forward an Email

images You know you get too many emails every day. Everyone you know gets too many emails. Here are five guidelines to help you be thoughtful and legal about forwarding emails:

1. Before you forward anything, be sure you have removed ALL email addresses of others, both in the address lines and ones that might be in the body of the document. The privacy of others is as important as your own.

2. Forward only the relevant parts of an email. Much of it may be unimportant to those you want to receive it. Don’t make your readers wade through irrelevant information to get to the core information.

3. Take the time to write a personal comment at the beginning of the email. It can be very brief, as in, “I thought you’d want to see this,” but it’s important. Put yourself into the email and not come across just as a forwarding machine.

4. If you suspect the contents might contain a hoax, always check with snopes.com before you forward. You will save yourself a lot of embarrassment. (It’s happened to all of us who were in too much of a hurry to take this one simple step.)

5. If forwarding a message requires sending it to more than one person, if you don’t use BCC: for each person’s address, you may be divulging private information to people they don’t know. If you choose not to use BCC: have no doubt that all who receive your forwarded message will be OK with having everyone else see their email address. Using BCC: also prevents recipients from clicking on Reply All and bothering strangers with unwanted emails.

One more point: if you want to forward an email that was sent to you privately, you must get the original sender’s permission to forward it, to post it on Facebook or on any other form of social media. Emails we write are our private copyrighted property and we must respect the proprietary rights of others.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

My Favorite Kind of Grammatical Mistake

How can you not love misplaced modifiers? Often, they are kneewhackingly funny. I’m currently reading Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and came across this sentence last night:

[Don] Valentine arrived at the Jobses’ garage in a Mercedes wearing a blue suit, button-down shirt, and rep tie.”

I’ve never bought a Mercedes, so I’m not familiar with the options. Perhaps you can buy an entire outfit for your new car. A blue suit would look spiffy against a metallic gray Mercedes body. I’m left wondering what kind of shoes the car had on.

A modifier is nothing more than a word or a group of words that gives information about another part of the sentence. Here’s the rule with modifiers: Put it next to the word or word it’s giving information about. In this case, we intuitively know that Don Valentine was wearing the clothes described. All Isaacson needed to do was begin the sentence, “Don Valentine, wearing a blue suit, button-down shirt, and rep tie, arrived at the Jobses’ garage in a Mercedes.”

Steve Jobs is a fascinating description of an extremely complex person. All it would have taken to avoid this error was proofreading and careful editing. I often wonder if editors no longer exist at publishing houses.

2 Comments

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What is & Called?

images

Chances are you know it’s called an ampersand. It is the symbol for “and,” as in Johnson & Johnson. It is an 18th century distortion of the Latin, “and per se and.” It’s also sometimes found in the abbreviation for “et (and) cetera (the rest),” particularly when it’s written by calligraphers as “&c.”

However, don’t use an ampersand to take the place of the word “and” in your work documents unless it actually is used in a company name.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Before You Click “Send”

Unknown

Most of us have had the horrible experience of discovering one nanosecond after clicking “Send” that we have sent that email to the wrong person. Here is a checklist to help you avoid that and other problems:

1. To make your email sound more human, include a greeting and closing. These can be casual or more formal, depending on the situation.

2. Make sure all names are spelled correctly. You don’t like to see your name mangled; neither does anyone else.

3. Don’t forget to add “please” and “thank you.” These are positive words people like to see.

4. Always use spellcheck, and then always proofread out loud (quietly and slowly) to pick up mistakes spellcheck doesn’t recognize (e.g., “ant” when you meant “any”).

5. Don’t overpunctuate!!!! You want to come across as a professional.

6. Avoid using “Reply All.” We all get too many emails, and “Reply All” clutters up mailboxes with issues that often don’t pertain to the recipient. Be selective in sending responses.

7. If the subject is emotionally charged, after you write your reply do not send it immediately. Do something else. Later, reread your answer and make certain it is responsive to the email you received. If you are satisfied that your answer is appropriate, go ahead and send it. If you’re not sure, either wait awhile longer or else rewrite your response.

8. The last step before sending is to check the TO: field to be certain your email is going only to those you want to see it.

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Punology

images

My dear friend RB sent me these puns. Normally, I find puns corny, but these struck me as particularly clever. See what you think:

I tried to catch some fog. I mist.
When chemists die, they barium.
Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I never met herbivore.
I am reading a book about anti-gravity. I can’t put it down.
I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
They told me I had Type A blood, but it was a Type O.
A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
PMS jokes aren’t funny. Period.
Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
I’m going on a class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there’s no pop quiz.
The Energizer Bunny was arrested, charged with battery.
I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it.
What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
What does a clock do when it’s hungry? It goes back four seconds.
I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me.
Broken pencils are pointless.

You may now groan.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What Do You Call @?

Unknown This mark originally appeared as far back as the 16th century. If you are an American, chances are you call it the “at sign.” But around the world it has other more descriptive names: In the Netherlands, it’s known as “the monkey’s tail.” Russians call it “the little dog” (I’m still pondering that one ) and Italians refer to it as “the small snail.” Israelis see it as a strudel; both are rolled up, but the @ doesn’t taste nearly as good. It does have fewer calories, though. Go to Bosnia and you’ll find it’s a “Crazy A.” I’m wondering how long it will be until the word “at” disappears and we see this sign take its place. Th@ is not something I’m looking forward to.

1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

What’s the Official Name for This?

images

You may call this a pound sign, a number sign, or a hashtag. In fact, the official name for this is an “octothorpe.” Who knew, right? The sign came into common use around 1968, when Bell Labs, once part of AT&T, used the symbol on its touch-tone phones.

The name octothorpe refers to the eight points of the symbol. The “thorpe” part is less clear: “thorp” (no final e) in Old English meant “village,” so perhaps the eight lines surround areas that may have been seen as little villages around a central square.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Travel Plans (and a laugh for you)

Unknown

I love languages and am fascinated and impressed by how cleverly people are able to use words.

A friend sent me this yesterday. When I Googled it to find the source, innumerable versions showed up. I had hoped to give attribution to the author but honestly have no idea where this started. I hope you enjoy it.

If you travel for your work, you may have been in some of these places. I know I have visited several (not saying which, though).

I have been in many places, but I’ve never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can’t go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I’ve also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don’t have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my children, friends, family and work.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I’m not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I’ve been in Flexible but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I’m in Capable, and I go there more often as I’m getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense. It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart. At my age I need all the stimuli I can get.

I may have been in Continent, but I don’t remember what country I was in. It’s an age thing. They tell me it is very wet and damp there.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language