Monthly Archives: February 2017

Parallelism

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When train tracks or skis are parallel, one of them doesn’t veer off. They stay the same distance apart. When writing, you want your prose to be parallel as well. When it isn’t, your readers will be jarred by the parts that veer off on their own. Here’s an example:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, the driver is careless, and the weather conditions might be dangerous.

It’s easy to rewrite this sentence in parallel form, seeing that all the pieces are of the same grammatical form:

The most frequent causes of snowmobile accidents are mechanical failure, careless drivers, and dangerous weather conditions.

Here’s one more:

Roger is overworked and not paid adequately.

This is very easily fixed:

Roger is overworked and underpaid.

When you proofread what you’ve written, check to see that lists are in parallel form. If something grates on your ear, you’ll know how to fix it.

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The Opposite of “Alive” is …

… just about anything but dead, at least in America. As the great George Carlin observed, in this country we have such a terror of growing old and dying that we rely on euphemisms to assuage some of our fear.

If you read the obituary notices (and I always do, checking to make sure my name isn’t listed), you rarely encounter the words dead, died, or death. Instead, people pass, pass away, pass on, or expire (like a magazine subscription (Carlin again).

As an avid Monty Python fan, I admit I am able to recite the words to quite a few of their sketches. A classic is “The “Dead Parrot,” in which a man returns to the pet store from which he very recently bought a parrot and is claiming it was dead all along. The proprietor insists it’s just resting, but the patron (Michael Palin), unleashes a torrent of euphemisms for dead, trying to make his point that the parrot “is no more”: he is deceased, demised, has passed on, ceased to be, expired, gone to meet its maker, is late, bereft of life, rests in peace, is pushing up daisies, rung down the curtain, and joined the choir invisible. “It is an ex-parrot!

I have tried unsuccessfully to insert the video. This is only a still from it. Just go to YouTube and search for “Monty Python Dead Parrot Sketch” and enjoy.

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My Travels

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Author unknown.

I have been to a lot of places , but I have 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, either. 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 thanks to my friends and family. I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I am not too much on physical activity involving heights.

I have also been in Doubt and in Decisive.  Those are unsettling places to go, and I try not to visit too often. I’ve been in Toxicated, and I woke up the next day with a headache. I’ve been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I’m in Capable, and I seem to go there more often as I’m getting older. One of the most exciting places to be, is in Suspense. It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart.

One place I hope never to be is in Continent.

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What Do You Call a Food Order Removed From a Restaurant?

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In most of America, it’s called “take out,” but in the Midwest, especially in Illinois and Indiana, as well as in Detroit and in Washington, DC, it’s called “carry out.”

This information is documented in a map in Josh Katz’s book, Speaking American.

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Merriam Dictionary’s Word of the Year

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 SURREAL

bizarre: a surreal mix of fact and fantasy

Are we surprised? Interestingly, searches for this word peaked on November 9, the day after the presidential election.

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Are You Thirsty?

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Speaking American, Josh Katz’s book about US regional English, is endlessly fascinating to me.

When I was growing up just north of New York City, my family sometimes made a summer visit to my aunt who lived in Massachusetts. As soon as we arrived, she would immediately offer us a tonic (pronounced tawnic). She didn’t necessarily mean tonic water; she was offering us any kind of fizzy, bubbly, non-alcoholic drink we wanted. According to Katz, tonic was the word of choice, particularly around Boston but throughout most of Massachusetts. Today, that word is declining among the younger generation there but is still strong among older people.

About 60% of the country now calls those drinks soda, with that designation particularly strong on the West Coast, in South Florida, and throughout New England (even among the former tonic people in Massachusetts).

Soft drink accounts for 6% around Washington, DC and in Louisiana. Pop is the word across all the northern United States from Washington State through Pennsylvania up to western New York. Coke is your word if you live in New Mexico, all the way through the deep South. Realize that Coke does not necessarily refer to Coca Cola; even 7-Up, Sprite and root beer are Coke. And (for me, this is the kicker) if you live in Georgia across to western South Carolina, your drink of choice is Cocola. Again, you might want Mountain Dew—but that’s just a form of Cocola.

Bottoms up!

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