The other day I saw a headline in the Los Angeles Times: “Ex-state senator finishes sentence.”
If you know me, you know how I read that. My first thought was, “What kept him from finishing his sentence? What was he speaking about?”
I finally realized that the no-longer-a-California- state-senator had been sentenced to prison and had completed his required time in the pen.
Such is the hazard of being a word nerd.
Yogi Berra, New York Yankee catcher with a 19-year career, was (almost) as famous for his turns of phrase as was for his catching. Here are some of his most famous, listed in today’s Los Angeles Times:
• The future ain’t what it used to be.
• When you come to a fork in the road, take it.
• You can observe a lot by watching.
• Never answer an anonymous letter.
• We made too many wrong mistakes.
• It’s deja vu all over again.
• Baseball is 90% physical. The other half is mental.
And when Yogi’s home town, St. Louis, staged a “Yogi Berra Day” in 1949, Berra announced to the crowd, “I want to thank everybody for making this day necessary.”
As I do every morning, I scanned the obituaries in the Los Angeles Times (just to make sure my name wasn’t listed) and came across a posting for a doctor who was described as “respected and renown….”
I see this error often enough that I thought I should mention that “renown” is a noun: “This man’s renown was recognized among others in his profession.”
“Renowned” is an adjective: “This man was respected and renowned in his field of medicine.”
Thanks for reading.
This is the title of a new film that was reviewed in today’s Los Angeles Times. Does the title make you wonder if the pronoun is correct? In fact, it depends what the filmmakers wanted to say.
“Dior and I” is correct if you are using “I” as the subject pronoun it always is. For instance, “Dior and I collaborated on many shows.”
But “Dior and Me” would be correct if you’re using “me” as the object pronoun it always is. For instance, “The Winter 2000 show was produced by Dior and me.”
If you are uncertain about when to use “I” and when to use “me,” I hope this helps.
Take a look at the following sentences:
1. I wonder how long this meeting is going to take?
2. Guess how many jellybeans are in this jar?
Just this morning I saw errors such as the ones in those sentences in both the LA Times and the New York Times.
Did you just reread those sentences and decide neither one contained an error? I’m guessing most people would think that. But look what those sentences are doing:
The “wonder” sentence shows that the writer has a question about how long that dreaded meeting will take. But, in fact, that sentence merely states a fact, the fact that the writer does not know the length of the meeting. It is a simple declarative sentence.
The “guess” sentence is a command: “I am telling you to guess how many jellybeans are in the jar.” The people being addressed have a question in their minds, but the speaker/writer of that sentence is issuing an order, not a question.
When you need to write “wonder” or “guess,” do not automatically throw in a question mark. Only if those words are contained in an actual question (Do you wonder how Igor ever was hired as the chief lab manager? Can you guess how many jellybeans are in this jar?) should you use a question mark.
(That can be an abbreviated question, “Do you understand?” or a command, “You must understand.” It’s the first; you knew that.)
Here is a giggle (or a groan) to start your week:
In Sunday’s LA Times I saw an ad for free lunch and information meetings put on by the Neptune Society. In case you don’t know about that company, it performs cremations. I noticed that one of their sessions is being held in a Sizzler restaurant. Say no more.
I’d like you to look at the following link. It contains good advice about how to conduct yourself in the workplace, both in speech and posture, so that you are not diminishing yourself without realizing you are doing so. To this list, I would also add the ubiquitous use of “like” and starting sentences with “So” when it adds no information but is merely a dull and repetitive filler.
And to end with a laugh, by now you probably have seen the Al Yankovic video about “Word Crimes.” Many, many people sent it to me this past week, knowing it was something I would love. It seems to have gone viral, but if you haven’t seen it, here is the link: