Monthly Archives: October 2018

If You MUST Use a Cliché

At least be certain you are using it correctly. Here are some clichés I’ve seen and heard that weren’t quite right:

Ellen burst the candle with both hands.

Brittany said it’s an error to be human.

Last night Rodney slept like a lark.

Taylor behaved like a bull in a china closet.

Zander is rotten to the cork.

The burglar struck Marlie, and she fell down with a thug.

Ramona never takes planes. She likes to be on terra cotta.

Jeremy sticks to his girlfriend like a leash.

That’s Donald’s whole story in a bombshell.

Obviously, your best bet is to avoid clichés like the plague.

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Clever Words for Clever People

Another good one from my friend Nicki N. Thanks, amiga!
 
1. ARBITRAITOR
A cook that leaves Arby’s to work at McDonald’s.
2. BERNADETTE
The act of torching a mortgage.
3. BURGLARIZE
What a crook sees through.
4. AVOIDABLE
What a bullfighter tries to do.
5. COUNTERFEITER
Workers who put together kitchen cabinets.
6. LEFT BANK
What the bank robbers did when their bag was full of money.
7. HEROES
What a man in a boat does.
8. PARASITES
What you see from the Eiffel Tower.
9. PARADOX
Two physicians.
10. PHARMACIST
A helper on a farm.
11. RELIEF
What trees do in the spring.
12. RUBBERNECK
What you do to relax your wife.
13. SELFISH
What the owner of a seafood store does.
14. SUDAFED
Brought litigation against a government official.

 

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Looking at Colons

Fear not, this is not a post about colonoscopies. Here’s how to think about the colon as a punctuation mark: (<—-that’s a colon)

Colons are like the blare of a trumpet (they say, “Ta dah! Here it comes!”). You’ve just written a sentence and you need to expand on it. The original sentence gives you a promise, and what follows the colon is used for three reasons:

  1.  to give an example   We needed only one more thing for our party: a good DJ.
  2. to introduce a quotation  My sister’s words were uplifting: “Your haircut is so good, you could be in a shampoo ad.”
  3. to introduce a list  At Trader Joe’s I bought two essential items for dinner: cheese    and wine.

That’s all, folks. Pretty simple, isn’t it?

 

 

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Singular or Plural?

I often hear people talk about a phenomenon, which refers to one thing or situation, when they need the plural of phenomenon—which is phenomena, referring to more than one thing or situation.

• Global warming is a potentially disastrous phenomenon.

• The phenomena that contribute to global warming are being studied extensively in hopes of avoiding worldwide catastrophes.

Another pair often misused are criteria (plural) and criterion (singular). If you have only one standard that must be met, you want criterion.

But here’s one you can stop worrying about: datum. That’s the singular of data. Today, data is used for both singular and plural.  Why? Because common usage changes all languages. However, if you are using data as a plural, make your verb plural also:

The scientific data are unequivocal that ocean temperatures are rising rapidly.

 

 

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A Word to the —wise Wise

 

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Speaking of locutions that make me cringe (we were, weren’t we?), the suffix “—wise” is near the top of my list. Limit it to a very few situations:

• Clockwise, counter clockwise

• Otherwise

• Lengthwise

Spare others from uses such as “healthwise,” “timewise,” “costumewise,” “stylewise.”

Instead of saying or writing, “Healthwise, I’ve had some problems with my elbow recently,” just drop that silly introductory word. It adds nothing.  Nor does “costumewise”:  “Costumewise, I’m going as Darth Vader as a schoolboy.” Just describe the getup you are planning on wearing to that Star Wars-themed Halloween party.

And so ends my word(s) to the wise.

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