Monthly Archives: October 2016

Beside or Besides?


When you’re angry or frustrated, are you beside yourself or besides yourself? Here’s the difference:

BESIDES means in addition to.
Besides me, only three people showed up at the meeting.

BESIDE means next to, alongside.
At the meeting, I sat beside a woman I had never met before.

However, the expression beside myself (with frustration, for example) strikes me as odd. Obviously, it’s idiomatic; you can’t physically get next to yourself, no matter how hard you try. But if you are sufficiently frustrated, you might feel as if you have been torn into two people. I’m just guessing here.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Three Words Often Confused


                      Daniel on slice #2

These words look quite similar but they serve different purposes:

RESPECTABLY means being worthy of respect or admiration. Misty Copeland, a prima ballerina, performed far more than respectably in “Swan Lake.”

RESPECTFULLY means showing respect or admiration for another. After eating two slices of cake, Daniel respectfully declined a third.

RESPECTIVELY refers to a series of items taken in the order listed. Pat and Corey, a teacher and scientist respectively, first met in college.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Hello, Hello!



The focus of my blog is the English language, but the gestures we use are a strong form of communication in addition to the words we speak. As Americans we need to understand that gestures we take for granted may have very different and sometimes offensive meanings in other cultures. I know many of my readers live in other countries, and you, too, need to be aware that everyday gestures in your society might be interpreted differently around the world.

I was recently in Japan and quickly learned to slightly bow my head when acknowledging others. In Asia, kissing or touching strangers is a no-no, while in America we very often shake hands or even—OMG!—kiss: a quick peck on the cheek or the good-old-American air kiss.

In Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia, greet others by pressing your palms together and bowing. Be prepared in Tibet: you may well be greeted by others sticking their tongues out at you.

In New Zealand, if you meet Maoris, you might be greeted with a nose rub on the forehead. In Rio de Janeiro, three cheek kisses are obligatory, but in São Paulo, one kiss will do the trick. Same country, different custom.

French kissing in France is variously interpreted, and not as it is in the U.S: When visiting Nantes, expect four kisses, but only two in Toulouse, and a measly one in Brest. Be sure to make a quiet smooching sound, but do not let your lips touch another’s cheek.

Among strangers, a handshake is common in most of Northern Europe, while in Russia you might be brought to your knees by a more-than-firm handshake. In India, handshakes between men are quite the opposite: make them limp, and never shake hands with a member of the opposite sex. To greet an elder male in India, bend down and touch his feet.

Now you know.


1 Comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Time to Groan

Here are puns sent to me by my friend Cami; she found them on a site called Lexophilia (love of words). I generally don’t care for puns, but these are very clever.

• Venison for dinner again? Oh, deer!

• How does Moses make tea? Hebrews it.

• England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

• I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

• They told me I had type-A blood, but it was a typo.

• I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

• Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

• I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

• I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

• This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.

• When chemists die, they barium.

• I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.

• I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.

• Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.

• I didn’t like my beard at first, then it grew on me.

• The cross-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils.

• When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

• Broken pencils are pointless.

• A dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary is called a thesaurus.

• I dropped out of Communism class because of lousy Marx.

• I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.

• Velcro, what a rip off!

• Don’t worry about old age, it doesn’t last.

Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

How I Miss “Calvin and Hobbes.”


Leave a comment

October 17, 2016 · 12:53 PM

My Feelings Exactly. Literally!

As always, thank you, Brian B.



Leave a comment

Filed under All things having to do with the English language

Don’t Call Me Maiden

When I got married, it was quite unusual for a woman to continue to use the surname she was born into. Even though I became a Birnberg, my husband and I continued to use my original name, Stone, when we made dinner reservations. Otherwise, we’d have to spell Birnberg several times. In fact, when someone asked our daughter, when she was about three, what her name was, she answered, “Joan Rebecca Birnberg BRNBRG.” Obviously, she had heard us spelling our last name repeatedly and, despite omitting the vowels, she thought the spelling was part of her last name.

After my marriage, though, I never referred to Stone as my maiden name. It conjured up a damsel-in-distress to me, so I referred to it as my unmarried name or my birth name. Birth name seems more appropriate to me now because both males and females change their last names for various reasons, whether or not they are or have been married.

Do I wish I had kept my birth name? Yes. If you could only see how our mail has been addressed: BRINBERG, BEINBERG, BIENBERG, BIRENBERG, BRINBAUM and many other creative attempts, including our favorite, BIZENBERRY.



Filed under All things having to do with the English language