Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Vocabulary Builders’ Category

  • Today is Friday the 13th. Twenty million Americans are feeling unlucky today — people who suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. It’s a 99-year-old word made up of a combination of the Norse and Greek roots words for ‘fear’ and ‘Friday’ and ’13.’
  • Folklorists say that the phobia itself is a combination of two separate superstition-induced phobias — 13 is unlucky in much of folklore and so is Friday. Whenever the first day of a month is a Sunday, there’s going to be a Friday the 13th that month.
  • The number 13 has been unlucky for a long time. Numerologists point out that 12 is a complete number in Judeo-Christian culture: There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a standard clock, 12 Apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 days of Christmas, 12 eggs in a dozen, of course, the 12 Steps of GRAMMARHOLICS (not so) ANONYMOUS, and so on.
  • There’s something unsettling, even repugnant, about going just a bit ‘beyond completeness’ — that’s how academic folklorists rationalize the superstition, at least. The vast majority of skyscrapers have no 13th floor, the room number 13 is missing from many modern hotels, and many airliners do not have a row 13 in their passenger seating.
  • As for Friday, it’s unlucky in a handful of ancient cultures. In Christianity, it’s the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • There have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. The 13th is due out on Friday the 13th of July in 2012.
  • There are always the traditional folk remedies to ward off bad luck today: burning any socks with holes in them, or eating some gristle while standing on your head, or climbing to a mountaintop. And here’s the good news: There’s only one Friday the 13th this year. Some years can have up to three of them.

Enjoy!

References: Dad, CBS News, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, IMDb

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

In honor of the 2010 World Series (and the fact that we love the outcome) … we present the “Giants of Idioms:”

 

 

English language idioms derived from baseball

 

B
ballpark: in the ballpark, ballpark figure, and out of the ballpark
batting 1000 or batting a thousand
big league(s)
brush back
bush-league
C
cat bird seat, cat-bird seat or catbird seat
Charley horse
cleanup hitter
cover one’s bases; cover all the bases
curve, curveball
D
double header
down to the last out
ducks on a pond
E
extra innings
F
foot in the bucket
G
grand slam
ground ball
H
hardball, play hardball
heavy hitter
hit it out of the park or knock it out of the park
hit or miss
home run
I
inside baseball
“It ain’t over till it’s all over.”
“It’s like déjà vu all over again!”
K
knock the cover off the ball
L
late innings
leadoff hitter
left field
M
major league
Mendoza line
N
ninth inning
O
o-fer
off base
on deck
one base at a time
out of left field
P
pinch hit
pitch a shutout
play ball
play softball
R
rain check
rhubarb
right off the bat
S
“Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
screwball
shutout
softball
step up to the plate
strike
swing and miss
swing for the fences
switch-hitter
T
take cuts at someone
three strikes law
took the collar
touch base
W
wheelhouse
whiff
whole new ball game; brand new ball game; (a) whole ‘nother ball game

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

  • Today is Friday the 13th. Twenty million Americans are feeling unlucky today — people who suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. It’s a 99-year-old word made up of a combination of the Norse and Greek roots words for ‘fear’ and ‘Friday’ and ’13.’
  • Folklorists say that the phobia itself is a combination of two separate superstition-induced phobias — 13 is unlucky in much of folklore and so is Friday. Whenever the first day of a month is a Sunday, there’s going to be a Friday the 13th that month.
  • The number 13 has been unlucky for a long time. Numerologists point out that 12 is a complete number in Judeo-Christian culture: There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a standard clock, 12 Apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 days of Christmas, 12 eggs in a dozen, of course, the 12 Steps of GRAMMARHOLICS (not so) ANONYMOUS, and so on.
  • There’s something unsettling, even repugnant, about going just a bit ‘beyond completeness’ — that’s how academic folklorists rationalize the superstition, at least. The vast majority of skyscrapers have no 13th floor, the room number 13 is missing from many modern hotels, and many airliners do not have a row 13 in their passenger seating.
  • As for Friday, it’s unlucky in a handful of ancient cultures. In Christianity, it’s the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • There have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. The 13th is due out on Friday the 13th of July in 2012.
  • There are always the traditional folk remedies to ward off bad luck today: burning any socks with holes in them, or eating some gristle while standing on your head, or climbing to a mountaintop. And here’s the good news: There’s only one Friday the 13th this year and one next year. Some years can have up to three of them.

Enjoy!

References: Dad, CBS News, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, IMDb

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

The Chaos
by G. Nolst Trenite’ a.k.a. “Charivarius” 1870 – 1946

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From “desire”: desirable–admirable from “admire.”
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky.”
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess–it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation–think of psyche–!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing “groats” and saying “grits”?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with “enough”
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of “cup.”
My advice is–give it up!

 Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

We found this yummy goof in a menu at a Chinese restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana.

We ordered something else.

all kinds if meat

Which brings us to a good word of the day:

iffy. adjective.

  • full of unresolved points or questions: an iffy situation
  • doubtful; questionable: An early decision on this is iffy

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Today there is lots of buzz around usage of use vs. utilize. What fodder for us!

The tweets (from Twitter) that got us started …

@phoefling to @GrammarCops: “*grammar rant* Whatever happened to the word ‘long’? A perfectly good word that’s been replaced by ‘lengthy’. Yuck!”

@Ms_Austen to @GrammarCops: “your description of ‘long’ similar applies to the word use,’ a perfectly good word often replaced by utilize.’”

@mightyredpen to @GrammarCops: “Up there with perfectly good word ‘use‘ being replaced by ‘utilize.’ Ugh.”

@mattimago (a Grammar Police Deputy) to @GrammarCops: “Utilise vs. use: I fully intend (split infinitive!) to utilise any pertinent points you post. I have no use for poor grammar.”

Then, the topic quickly turned to split infinitives … (upon which we shall dutifully follow-up and utilize in a future post). he he

@ChristinaGayle to @GrammarCops: “I like to use split infinitives from time to time. It makes me feel dangerous.”

Although the word utilize has origins as far back as the early 1800s, it seems that the computer age has put this term front and center. And, regardless of its standing as an official word in most dictionaries, it gets some people riled. Consider this usage note from dictionary.com:

Usage Note: A number of critics have remarked that utilize is an unnecessary substitute for use. It is true that many occurrences of utilize could be replaced by use with no loss to anything but pretentiousness, for example, in sentences such as ‘They utilized questionable methods in their analysis’ or ‘We hope that many commuters will continue to utilize mass transit after the bridge has reopened.’ But utilize can mean ‘to find a profitable or practical use for.’ Thus the sentence ‘The teachers were unable to use the new computers’ might mean only that the teachers were unable to operate the computers, whereas ‘The teachers were unable to utilize the new computers’ suggests that the teachers could not find ways to employ the computers in instruction.

use vs utilize

Here’s a simple and functional distinction:

Use is the general word: (What is used often has depreciated or been diminished, sometimes completely consumed: a used automobile; All the butter has been used.) As applied to persons, use implies some selfish or sinister purpose: to use another to advance oneself. Utilize implies practical or profitable use: to utilize the means at hand, a modern system of lighting.

Plus, the dictionary definitions:

use. verb (used with object).

  • to employ for some purpose; put into service; make use of: to use a knife. 
  • to avail oneself of; apply to one’s own purposes: to use the facilities. 
  • to expend or consume in use: We have used the money provided. 
  • to treat or behave toward: He did not use his employees with much consideration. 
  • to take unfair advantage of; exploit: to use people to gain one’s own ends. 
  • to drink, smoke, or ingest habitually: to use drugs. 
  • to habituate or accustom.
  • Archaic. to practice habitually or customarily; make a practice of.

use. verb. (used without object).

  • to be accustomed, wont, or customarily found (used with an infinitive expressed or understood, and, except in archaic use, now only in the past): He used to go every day. 
  • Archaic. to resort, stay, or dwell customarily.

use. noun.

  • the act of employing, using, or putting into service: the use of tools. 
  • the state of being employed or used.
  • an instance or way of employing or using something: proper use of the tool; the painter’s use of color. 
  • a way of being employed or used; a purpose for which something is used: He was of temporary use. The instrument has different uses. 
  • the power, right, or privilege of employing or using something: to lose the use of the right eye; to be denied the use of a library card. 
  • service or advantage in or for being employed or used; utility or usefulness: of no practical use. 
  • help; profit; resulting good: What’s the use of pursuing the matter? 
  • occasion or need, as for something to be employed or used: Would you have any use for another calendar? 
  • continued, habitual, or customary employment or practice; custom: to follow the prevailing use of such occasions. 
  • Law. a. the enjoyment of property, as by the employment, occupation, or exercise of it. b. the benefit or profit of lands and tenements in the possession of another who simply holds them for the beneficiary. c. the equitable ownership of land to which the legal title is in another’s name.
  • Liturgy. the distinctive form of ritual or of any liturgical observance used in a particular church, diocese, community, etc.
  • usual or customary experience.

use. verb phrase.

  • use up, a. to consume entirely. b. to exhaust of vigor or usefulness; finish: By the end of the war he felt used up and sick of life. 

use. Idioms.

  • have no use for, a. to have no occasion or need for: She appears to have no use for the city. b. to refuse to tolerate; discount: He had no use for his brother. c. to have a distaste for; dislike: He has no use for dictators. 
  • make use of, to use for one’s own purposes; employ: Charitable organizations will make use of your old furniture and clothing. 
  • of no use, of no advantage or help: It’s of no use to look for that missing earring. It’s no use asking her to go. Also, no use.
  • put to use, to apply; employ to advantage: What a shame that no one has put that old deserted mansion to use! 

And then there’s …

utilize. verb (used with object). Also, especially British, utilise.

  • to put to use; turn to profitable account: to utilize a stream to power a mill. 

So, our usage recommendation: use use when not useful to utilize :-).

Source: dictionary.com

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Our unplanned Grammar Goof theme-of-the-day emerged from these observations:

 In a banker’s response to a customer successfully accessing Internet Banking: “I’m glad to hear that your in.” Should be: you’re.

 In a Twitter reply: Your quite welcome …” Should be: You’re.

In a Facebook Wall message: “Excited your on facebook.” Should be: you’re.

In another Facebook Wall comment: “… your awesome and I am proud to be …” Should be: you’re.

Thanks to Nancy Wombat for this entry:

you're

Should be your.

And, thanks to a homeseller in Missouri for (unknowingly) contributing to this post …

your

Should be you’re.

Here are the rules …

your. pronoun.

  • (a form of the possessive case of you used as an attributive adjective): Your jacket is in that closet. I like your idea. Compare yours. 
  • one’s (used to indicate that one belonging to oneself or to any person): The consulate is your best source of information. As you go down the hill, the library is on your left.  
  • (used informally to indicate all members of a group, occupation, etc., or things of a particular type): Take your factory worker, for instance. Your power brakes don’t need that much servicing.  

you’re.

  • contraction of you are: You’re certain that’s right?
     

BTW (by the way), in Textspeak …

  • UR = your
  • U R (with a space) = you are or you’re
  • R U (with space) = are you?

Sources: dictionary.com, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

This week, on Twitter, we corrected a tweet …

from:

“Proper grammar and punctuation is a turn on.”

to:

@GrammarCops: Proper grammar and punctuation ARE a turn on :-)

This led to an interesting Twitter conversation with one of our Followers (Tweeps). It went something like this …

@mergyeugnau: But where is the punctuation at the end of that sentence? *heartbroken* 

@GrammarCops: Isn’t the :-) acceptable Twitter punctuation? Just like some dot an i with a heart  … can’t we use a :-) as a period? Reprieve?

@mergyeugnau: I will accept it as your custom in the future. What is the equivalent of a neologism – a neoregulism perhaps?

@GrammarCops: NEOPUNCTISM

@mergyeugnau:  I think that ‘neopunctism’ is the correct word for a subset of grammatical ‘neoregulisms’ that is specific to punctuation.

We just wanted to share with you this excellent example of neologism, and introduce you to a few neowords of the day:

NEW

neologism. noun.

  • a new word, meaning, usage, or phrase.
  • the introduction or use of new words or new senses of existing words.
  • a new doctrine, esp. a new interpretation of sacred writings.
  • Psychiatry. a new word, often consisting of a combination of other words, that is understood only by the speaker: occurring most often in the speech of schizophrenics.

neoregulism. noun.

  • a new law, rule, or other order prescribed by authority (such as Grammar Police a.k.a. GrammarCops, their Deputies and/or Twitter Followers), esp. to regulate grammar or conduct.
  • the introduction or use of new regulations or the state of being neoregulated.
  • Thanks to @mergyeugnau

neopunctism. noun.

  • a new punctuation mark or punctuation usage.
  • the introduction or use of new punctuation or new senses of existing punctuation.
  • a new precept, esp. a new interpretation of sacred punctuation.
  • Twittery. a new punctuation mark or usage, often consisting of a combination of other punctuation marks, that may only be understood only by the Twitterer: occurring most often in the text of schizophrenic Twitterers.

Sources: Twitter (esp. @mergyeugnau and @GrammarCops), dictionary.com

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

A reader writes …

“There has been so much funeral coverage on TV lately … I am wondering, what is the difference between a coffin and a casket?”

Good question. We did some research on this in 1997, so here’s a chance to add to that and relate our findings to you.

Many times, especially in the United States, the terms are used interchangeably. In Europe, we find the distinction is made more frequently.

Per several authoratative funeral sources …

A coffin is wider at the shoulder and tapers toward the feet. This shape was employed to save on the cost of wood as there was no need for width all the way to the bottom. This style is still found in Europe today. Coffins are sometimes very simple pine boxes, unlined and unadorned. Fancier coffins are lined, have a coffin plate of brass or silver with the deceased’s name and dates and sometimes a sentiment, and have three metal handles on either side for the six pallbearers to grasp on the way to the grave.

Princess Diana’s burial container is a traditional, tapered, heavy oak, flag-draped coffin.

diana coffin

06 September 1997

 

A casket originally referred to (and is defined in the dictionary as) a small chest for storing and carrying jewels or precious objects. A burial casket is a rectangular container of the same width from top to bottom. It is generally padded and lined, and goes into the ground after the grave has been lined with a vault. A casket usually opens at the top so the head and shoulders of the deceased may be viewed at the wake, and has the customary three handles on either side for pallbearers.

Michael Jackson’s burial container was a fancy, rectangular, gold-plated, solid bronze, velvet-lined casket.

michael casket

07 July 2009

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

SPAM

(click here to read about SPAM®)

From The Writer’s Almanac 7-5-09

It was on this day in 1937 that SPAM came onto the market. The canned meat product from Hormel Foods Corporation was given its name by a contest winner; the prize for his ingenuity was $100. On one  occasion, a Hormel spokesperson said the name was short for ‘Shoulder of Pork and Ham’; on another, a company official said it was a conflation of the words ‘spice and ham.’ All sorts of parodic acronyms have circulated over the years, including ‘Something Posing As Meat.’ The  original recipe, still sold as the ‘Classic’ flavor, contains pork shoulder and ham meat, salt, water, sugar, and sodium nitrate. There’s a gelatinous glaze on top, which forms like that after the broth cools down.

Spam sold in the Americas is mostly produced in Austin, Minnesota — ‘Spam Town USA’ and home of the SPAM  museum. Hawaii’s residents consume more Spam per capita than the residents of any other state, and the canned meat has been nicknamed ‘The Hawaiian Steak.’ Spam is the main course in the Israeli Defense Force’s combat meal kits, but the pork is replaced by beef so that it’s kosher.

There’s a Monty Python sketch that came out in 1970 where the actors go into a cafe; and try to order breakfast, but almost everything on the menu contains Spam. One woman doesn’t want Spam in her breakfast and gets into an argument with the waitress, who tells her that the menu consists of ‘Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam, and Spam.’ It’s from this Monty Python sketch that ‘spam’ acquired the use so familiar today: unwanted or unsolicited e-mail. The first recorded  use of the word in this way is in 1993. It’s also become a verb in the English language, for the action of sending out spam.

And the word ‘spam’ itself, untranslated, is now a noun in French, Portuguese, and Vietnamese. The verb ‘to spam’ in German is ‘spammen’; in Czech the verb is ‘spamovat’;  and in Italian it’s ‘spammare.’ There’s a new Monty Python’s musical, SPAMALOT, currently playing in San Francisco.

And now, for our word of the day:

Spam. noun, verb, spammed, spamming.

1. Trademark. a canned food product consisting esp. of pork formed into a solid block.

–noun 2. (lowercase) a disruptive, esp. commercial message posted on a computer network or sent as e-mail.

–verb (used with object) 3. (lowercase) to send spam to.

–verb (used without object) 4. (lowercase) to send spam.
——————————————————————————–

Origin: (def. 1) sp(iced) + (h)am; 1990–95; referring to a comedy routine on Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Brit. TV series.

Be sure to see our related posts:

Sources: The Writer’s Almanac, dictionary.com

Tweet Me from http://grammarcops.wordpress.com

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 50 other followers