Tag Archives: English

An Important Distinction

I was driving next to a truck on the infamous 405 freeway.  The company installs audio and visual components and proudly displayed its name in various places on the truck: SIMPLISTIC SOLUTIONS. I was in no danger of driving off the freeway since my maximum speed at the time ranged from 5-10 mph. But I did swallow my gum.

Being the crank that I am, I sent the company an e-mail:

To Simplistic Solutions:

 I saw one of your trucks on the 405 and almost croaked. It appears you do not realize that “simplistic” and “simple” are not synonyms.  You know what “simple” means; “simplistic” means overly simple, too simple—it is most definitely a NEGATIVE.  I am certain that is not the idea you want potential customers to have about your company.

 Cheers anyway—

 Judi Birnberg

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We Now Turn to Malaprops

Following in the awkward steps of Mondegreens and Spoonerisms, we meet Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan’s play of 1775, The Rivals. That unfortunate woman had a strong tendency to use words that sounded quite similar to the words that were actually called for. For some more recent examples of malaprops, enjoy the following:

The magazine New Scientist claims an employee referred to a colleague as “a suppository (repository) of knowledge.”

In Huckleberry Finn, Aunt Sally declares, “I was most putrified (petrified) with astonishment.”

The late mayor of Chicago, Richard Daley, called a tandem bicycle a tantrum bicycle.

Basketball player Drew Gooden remarked, “I’ve had to overcome a lot of diversity (adversity).”

And Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees could always be counted on for a startling turn of phrase. Of another player he said, “He hits from both sides of the plate. He’s amphibious (ambidextrous).”

 

 

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Clever Definitions

Thanks to my friend Paul:

The Washington Post’s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

Here are the winners:
1. Cashtration (n): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.
2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
3. Intaxicaton: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
5. Bozone (n): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
12. Decafalon (n): The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
13 Glibido: All talk and no action.
14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
16. Beelzebug (n): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
17. Caterpallor (n): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

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Looking for a Job?

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Conventional wisdom (I use that term advisedly) has held that résumés should be no longer than one page. However, BusinessInsider.com revealed the results of a study that found two-page résumés were greatly preferred to a one-page version.

Twenty-thousand résumés were sent to almost 500 recruiters, who were asked to screen them for a simulated hiring decision. Over 7,700 résumés were approved and of those, 5,375 were two pages. In the next round of evaluations, 74% used the two-page format. The results held for both management and entry-level positions.

Take this study for what it’s worth. Padding your résumé will serve no purpose; all your information must be relevant, concise, and clear. If it takes two pages to show your skills and experience, don’t hold back. However, don’t go onto a third page. TMI.

 

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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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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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You’ll Groan But Will Love These

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My friend Cami knew I would love these definitions and ideas. I do, I do. I think you will, too.

WHO ON EARTH DREAMS THESE UP?
A lexophile, of course!
(Definition: a lover of words and wordplay)
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.
 Did you hear about the cross-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?
 Broken pencils are pointless.
 What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary?   A thesaurus.
 I dropped out of communism class because of terrible 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.

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Editing Goes Beyond Proofreading

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Surely you know how often I urge you to proofread everything you write. Proofreading will turn up careless errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, as well as typos. Yes, you should still check for all of these, but editing goes beyond that.

Editing makes certain your writing is clear. Are you sure you are conveying the message you intended? Have you assumed your readers know what you know? If so, then why are you writing? You are imparting new information. But you have to be confident you are not confusing your readers, that your information that is new to them is presented logically and cogently.

Editing makes certain your writing is concise. Look for digressions and extraneous words. Get rid of redundancies: last but not least, at this point in time, absolutely complete, true fact, four P.M. in the afternoon, new innovation, blue in color, exactly identical, etc.

I have noticed that when I edit and change wording or move things around, when I then reread what I’ve written I often find I have left a word out or need to remove a word I had inadvertently left in when I revised. This is the time to read your text out loud (quietly, but still audible to you) and one. word. at. a. time. That way you will send your document out without embarrassing glitches. If you read at your normal silent speed, you will very likely speed over them.

Remember, revise comes from the Latin, to see again. 

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A Vexing Word

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Last night I read a brief book review in The New Yorker (yes, The is an official part of the title of my favorite magazine). The book is called A Flag Worth Dying For, by Tim Marshall, which the reviewer described as “an entertaining survey of vexillology….” Tell me that isn’t a word to stop most people in mid-stride. I am certain I have never come across this word before—and I daily come across a lot of words. Fortunately, the reviewer immediately enlightened me and, I’m guessing, most readers, by explaining that vexillology is the study of flags. (The Latin word for flag is vexillum. Who knew? I didn’t.) This sounds like a fascinating book, covering the flags of 85 countries as well as those of the Islamic State, the LGBTQ community—and pirates. Haven’t you always wondered what constitutes a good pirate flag? You can find out in this book.  Aaaargh, matey!

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Um….

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I’ve been dipping into Michael Erard’s book, Um. Yes, that’s the title. The subtitle is Slips, Stumbles, and Verbal Blunders, and What They Mean. Chances are you won’t be surprised to know that in American English, um and uh are the most common blunders, or fillers, accounting for 40 percent of what Erard calls “speech disturbances.” Those are words that interrupt the smooth flow of sentences.

In other places, people have their own fillers: in Britain, they say uh but spell it er (think of a Brit saying water or butter—you won’t hear an R at the end of those words). French speakers say something close to euh. Germans say äh and ähm, Hebrew speakers use ehhh, and Swedes say eh, ah, aaah, m, mm, hmm, ooh, a, and oh. Very versatile.

The point is that around the world, linguistic blunders exist, no matter the language. However, if you want to be a citizen of the world, um is pretty much universal.

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Top 10 Spelling Peeves (from Grammarly)

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October 8, 2013 · 12:59 PM

How Committed Are You?

How often do you come across people saying or writing they are going to give 110%? Have you ever stopped to think what that means?  If they give a mere 100%, what are they giving?  Everything!

Q: How can you give more than everything?

A: You can’t. So don’t say you will. You will only sound trite, and we don’t want that to happen. Giving 150% is no better. Your limit is 100%.

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