In my last post, I wrote about the spelling crisis in Kazakhstan and referred to the “Latin” alphabet. I meant to write the “Roman” alphabet. I was thinking of the Latin language, which was written using the Roman orthography. Mea culpa.
Category Archives: All things having to do with the English language
If you recall the “Borat” movie (and who can forget it?), you will remember that Borat came to the United States from Kazakhstan, his native country. Kazakhstan was formerly under Soviet rule and used the Cyrillic alphabet because the Kazakh language has never had an alphabet of its own and has sounds that would be difficult to transpose into either Cyrillic or Latin aphabets.
Alert: CRISIS IN KAZAKHSTAN! The president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has declared that beginning in 2025 the Latin alphabet will be the official way to write the Kazakh language.
About half the Russian population has left the country, so there is no great uproar about the change from Cyrillic to Latin orthography among the populace. What is riling Kazakhs is that Mr. Nazarbayev has decreed that instead of using diacritical marks such as umlauts and other phonetic markers to aid in pronunciation, apostrophes will be used to change the sounds of certain letters. Many, many apostrophes. So many apostrophes that Kazakhs are complaining that their eyes will bleed trying to read the Latin script sprinkled with endless apostrophes. “The Republic of Kazakhstan” will now be written “Qazaqstan Respy’bli’kasy.” Got that?
President Nazarbayev has never been a man to be questioned. However, the uproar against his proposed abundance of apostrophes has been loud and aggressive, and the head of the senate of Kazakhstan has recently said that “a final decision has not been made.” (Note the passive voice.) Nazarbayev is described as a man who wants to be remembered as inventing his own alphabet. There is a good chance he will be. Stay tuned. I wonder where Borat comes down on this issue.
Today, we use decimate to mean destroying the greater part of something. That is a correct usage, except according to the few pedants who still insist on its original meaning.
In Roman times, decimate meant to kill every tenth soldier as a lesson to the remaining soldiers, many of whom were deserting the army. (It strikes me as somewhat counterproductive to kill all those soldiers, thereby ending up with even fewer men in addition to the ones who had already deserted.)
Decimate comes from the Latin word decimare, meaning to destroy or take one tenth. The word for 10 in Latin is decem (with a hard c).
All languages change over time, depending on common usage.
Sent to me by my friend Marilyn, another language maven. Enjoy.
50 Rules for Writing Good
One of the more popular items that circulate through the network of folk faxology is a perverse set of rules along the lines of Thimk, We Never Make Mistakes and (this one runs off the page) PlanAhe…. These injunctions call attention to the very mistakes they seek to enjoin. English teachers, students, scientists and (scientific) writers have been circulating a list of self-contradictory rules of usage for more than a century, and have been collecting and creating them for almost half of one. Whatever you think of these slightly cracked nuggets of rhetorical wisdom, just remember that all generalizations are bad.
- Each pronoun should agree with their antecedent.
- Between you and I, case is important.
- A writer must be sure to avoid using sexist pronouns in his writing.
- Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
- Don’t be a person whom people realize confuses who and whom.
- Never use no double negatives.
- Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. That is something up with which your readers will not put.
- When writing, participles must not be dangled.
- Be careful to never, under any circumstances, split infinitives.
- Hopefully, you won’t float your adverbs.
- A writer must not shift your point of view.
- Lay down and die before using a transitive verb without an object.
- Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
- The passive voice should be avoided.
- About sentence fragments.
- Don’t verb nouns.
- In letters themes reports and ads use commas to separate items in a series.
- Don’t use commas, that aren’t necessary.
- “Don’t overuse ‘quotation marks.’ “
- Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (if the truth be told) superfluous.
- Contractions won’t, don’t and can’t help your writing voice.
- Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
- Don’t forget to use end punctuation
- Its important to use apostrophe’s in the right places.
- Don’t abbrev.
- Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!!
- Resist Unnecessary Capitalization.
- Avoid mispellings.
- Check to see if you any words out.
- One word sentences? Eliminate.
- Avoid annoying, affected, and awkward alliterations, always.
- Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
- The bottom line is to bag trendy locutions that sound flaky.
- By observing the distinctions between adjectives and adverbs, you will treat your readers real good.
- Parallel structure will help you in writing more effective sentences and to express yourself more gracefully.
- In my own personal opinion at this point of time, I think that authors, when they are writing, should not get into the habit of making use of too many unnecessary words that they don’t really need.
- Foreign words and phrases are the reader’s bete noire and are not apropos.
- Who needs rhetorical questions?
- Always go in search for the correct idiom.
- Do not cast statements in the negative form.
Lake Superior State University, of Northern Michigan, released its 43rd annual list of words and phrases that chilled many of us to the core in 2017. Here are the 14 that made the list:
Unpack (not talking about suitcases here)
Let that sink in
Let me ask you this
Impactful (I can still recall the first time I heard this, about eight years ago, and I’m still shuddering)
Covfefe (Did we ever figure out what this meant?)
Hot water heater (It’s a cold water heater—or just a water heater)
Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year is youthquake, while Merriam- Webster went with feminism.
I’d also add “Believe me.” When I hear that, I immediately question the veracity of the speaker. What are your “favorites”?
At least I hope it’s a laugh. I’ll let the Dog/Them disparity go.
Wishing all my readers a better year than 2017 has been (IMO), and hoping for good health and good times for all. (Stay away from fad diets that advocate eating children.)