Monthly Archives: August 2018

Brackets

These are parentheses: (    ) Don’t use them when brackets are called for.

These are brackets:   [      ]  Use them to enclose information in a quotation that is not part of the original. For instance, “A Ken Burns documentary shows him [Mark Twain] to have had several financial setbacks, primarily of his own doing.”

Brackets are also used following an error made by another, showing that you didn’t make the mistake yourself: “Trump once said that an accusation against him was unpresidented [sic].”

Sic is Latin for thus or so. Put it immediately after the offending word.

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What Constitutes a Sea Change?

 

Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 o...

Signature of William Shakespeare from Page 3 of his Last Will and Testament. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As an undergraduate English major at UC Berkeley, it never occurred to me to be a STEM major. In fact, that acronym hadn’t been invented. It stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. Word on the street today is that if you are not majoring in one of those areas, you might as well crawl into a cave with your literature, philosophy  and history books and be happy and useless away from society. I contend that liberal arts majors have much to offer, even in today’s STEM-heavy environment: they are well rounded and can think and write clearly and logically.

Which brings me to Shakespeare. As a senior, I took a Shakespeare seminar with the best professor I ever encountered—as an undergraduate, graduate student or as an English teacher myself. (I’m talking about you, Joseph Kramer.) He once made the statement that any three lines of Shakespeare could be read as a microcosm of the world, and went on to demonstrate that point repeatedly and brilliantly.

Which brings me to today’s jargon. Previously, I wrote about clichés and jargon that originated in Shakespeare’s plays. Of course they weren’t clichés at the time of their origin, but they did catch on. A prevalent cliché, a bit of jargon, these days is “sea change.” I see it everywhere; no simple “changes” exist any more. They are all monumental, life-altering “sea changes.” If the price of oil were to drop five dollars a barrel, that would be a sea change. If Donald Trump were to fix his comb-over to the right rather than to the left, that would be a sea change. (If he were to remove the small animal that lives atop his head, I would grant that truly would be a sea change.)

The phrase originated in Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest.” Here is how he used it:

                                                    Full fathom five thy father lies,

                                                          Of his bones are coral made:

                                                   Those are pearls that were his eyes:

                                                          Nothing of him that doth fade,

                                                   But doth suffer a sea-change

                                                   Into something rich and strange.

We’ve lost the hyphen and also lost—or changed—the meaning. Until quite recently, “sea change” indicated an enormous transformation. Now, any old change will suffice. I wish the original meaning were still appreciated.  How long until someone writes about “an enormous sea change”?

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How Urgent?

In a post in my Next-door group, someone wrote about a topic she said was of the “upmost urgency.” I have to smile; it probably makes more sense to most people than the correct phrase, “utmost urgency.” “Utmost” means to the greatest extent; therefore, because “up” indicates an increase, “upmost” could mean the most effort or extent of interest in a topic.

This is how language changes, folks. Maybe “upmost” won’t be adopted this week, but check back with me in 50 years. (I might not be able to answer you, but I’ll try my upmost.)

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Don’t Shun the -sions

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An optical illusion–I see movement and three dimensions. Perhaps I am deluded.

 

Here are a few words that look as if they might be related,  but they have different meanings:

ILLUSION: 1) A false belief or idea. 2) Something that is perceived incorrectly, such as an optical illusion. For example, at times the moon appears to be enormous, but, in fact, it doesn’t change its size. For a multitude of optical illusions, google the art of MC Escher.

ALLUSION: A reference to something without specifically mentioning it. For example, many literary works contain allusions to Shakespeare’s plays.

DELUSION: An idea firmly held but not founded in fact. Paranoid thought can involve many delusions.

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Vivid Headlines

My Florida friend Cami sent me these headlines, as shown in newspapers. I have fiddled around with the images and am not sufficiently tech savvy to be able to show you those pages. I am able to copy the headlines for your entertainment. I’m fairly certain several were written intentionally and somehow got past the newspapers’ censors. Here we go:

Rangers get whiff of Colon

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Barbershop singers bring joy to school for deaf

Miracle cure kills fifth patient

Bridges help people cross rivers

Girls’ schools still offering “something special”—Head

Still unsure why the sewer smells

17 remain dead in morgue shooting spree

Starvation can lead to health hazards

Man Accused of Killing Lawyer Receives a New Attorney

Parents keep kids home to protest school closure

Hospitals resort to hiring doctors

Federal Agents Raid Gun Shop, Find Weapons

Total lunar eclipse will be broadcast live on Northwoods Public Radio

Diana was still alive hours before she died

Meeting on open meetings is closed

Tiger Woods plays with own balls, Nike says

Republicans turned off by size of Obama’s package

New sick policy requires 2-day notice

Statistics show that teen pregnancy drops off significantly after age 25

Bugs flying around with wings are flying bugs

Study Shows Frequent Sex Enhances Pregnancy Chances

Marijuana issue sent to a joint committee

Worker suffers leg pain after crane drops 800-pound ball on his head

Thank you, Cami!

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If I Were a Superhero

I’d be Typowoman. That’s all I’d change.

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Words That Sound As If They Should Mean Something Else

My pulchritudinous furry grandson, Gus

Have you ever come across a word whose meaning doesn’t seem right? For me, a big one is ENERVATE.

The hot weather we are dealing with in Southern California enervates me. That means it saps me of energy. I think because enervate starts the same as energize, it should mean something similar. However, it means the opposite.

Another deceptive word is PULCHRITUDE. Ugly word. Seems to me that it should mean an ugly demeanor or condition. But no! It means beauty. See above.

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