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  • 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 came 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. Just know that some years can have up to three of them.

Enjoy!

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

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Say what?

We did a little research on apostrophe use in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages floating around cyberspace and …

Mom’s win!

By far, there were more mistake’s for Mother’s than there were foul up’s for Father’s … (of course, our apostrophe abuse is intentional here).

We thought you might get a chuckle at some of our findings, so, here you go:

  • Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely Mom’s!
  • … wishing all the Mommy’s I know a Happy Mothers Day!! (this one could have just moved the mark to Mothers)
  • We have to celebrate our mama’s by the way…
  • … can’t wait to have dinner at moms house. (now, this one needs an apostrophe)
  • Happy Mothers Day to all those amazing Mom’s out there :)
  • … happy mother’s day to all d mom’s of d Boston celtics lol! (this one needs some Capitalization help, too)
  • Thank You, Yeah Us Mom’s Do Rock.
  • Happy Mother’s Day. Here’s to Mom’s everywhere! (incorrect, unless his mother is omnipresent)
  • Happy Mother’s DAy to all tha mom’s n soon to b mom’s out there uu deserve it (this one needs some spelling help, too)

Therefore, today’s punctuation concentration is on avoiding that embarassing apostrophe catastrophe

To start, let’s define this little character:

apostrophe. noun. a mark of punctuation ( )used to indicate possessive case or omission of one or more letter(s) from a word.

You may see some sources state that the apostrophe is also used for indicating plurals of abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. We heartily disagree with this usage — we feel that this practice is outdated.

We do like Grammar Book’s baker’s dozen of Rules for Apostrophes, so we’ll refer you to their site for the full details and just give you a summary here, with one addition from us:

Our Apostrophe Rule:

0. Do not use an apostrophe to form a plural. This goes for words, symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms. * (This is related to Rules 5. – names, and 11. – CAPS & numbers used as nouns, below, but more encompassing.)

* Here are examples of misuse according to our rule:

CD-s and DVD-s

SUV-s

PC-s

Grammar Book’s Apostrophe Rules:

  1. Use the apostrophe with contractions.
  2. Use the apostrophe to show possession.
  3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
  4. Use the apostrophe to show plural possession.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name. * (We have some people in mind who need to learn this rule!)
  6. Use the apostrophe with a singular compound noun, to show possession.
  7. Use the apostrophe with a plural compound noun, to show possession.
  8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
  9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.
  10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it’s is when it is a contraction for it is or it has. (Remember, “its” is a possessive pronoun – no apostrophe.) See photo below.
  11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes. *
  12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
  13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun. (Refer to Rule 9. re: pronouns.)

Speaking of rules … we like this … from Trevor Coultart:

it's

Should be its.

Sources: GrammarBook.com, Flickr

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Goodness … here’s a note from a reader:

This is my latest grammar gripe. It has grown into an obsession. The first time I recall hearing this was in high school (almost 20 years ago), and I now hear it more and more frequently. It makes me want to scream. Have you heard this one? It clearly stems from the hypercorrection of “me” into “I” which seems to be more common these days. People seem to default to “I” even in situations when “me” is correct, such as in, “Please let Chris or I know…..” UGH. So now, it turns into, “This is Chris and I’s issue.” REALLY? Chris and I’s? As far as I can tell, “I’s” is not an appropriate possessive. I was griping about this one day with my equally nerdy grandmother, and she swore up and down that no one says this and I must have misheard. Never mind the fact that I’ve heard this repeatedly, on TV, on the radio (just heard it in an interview on This American Life! To be fair, it wasn’t said by a journalist; it was someone being interviewed), and in person. She said, oh no, no one would say that. HA! So I am curious – have you heard this too? Does it make you as insane as it makes me?

-Elise, an incorrigible grammarian just outside Philadelphia

Elise, all we can say is: yes, Yes, and YES!!!

Dear readers, please see our previous posts: I is not an object … and A note to Felicity …

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Last year, we entered a brief blog post on this subject as our Grammar goof of the day. It went like this:

 Seen in a National workforce report: “… top performers are the ones that will become invaluable … through the economic downturn.” Should be: who 

Apparently, our preference and our usage reflects a strict adherence to an interpretation of the reference to animate vs. inanimate nouns* (see usage note below), and even more strictly, distinguishing human animateness from other life-like forms. 

Yikes, that’s confusing! What do we mean? Simply, we like who for any reference to people and that for any reference to things (or animals).  

We did some research …

WHO –pronoun; possessive whose; objective whom.

1. what person or persons?: Who did it?
2. (of a person) of what character, origin, position, importance, etc.: Who does she think she is?
3. the person that or any person that (used relatively to represent a specified or implied antecedent): It was who you thought.
4. (used relatively in restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses to represent a specified antecedent, the antecedent being a person or sometimes an animal or personified thing)** (see comment below): Any kid who wants to can learn to swim.
 
THAT –pronoun and adjective, plural those; adverb; conjunction –pronoun
 
1. (used to indicate a person, thing, idea, state, event, time, remark, etc., as pointed out or present, mentioned before, supposed to be understood, or by way of emphasis): That is her mother. After that we saw each other.
2. (used to indicate one of two or more persons, things, etc., already mentioned, referring to the one more remote in place, time, or thought; opposed to this): This is my sister and that’s my cousin.
3. (used to indicate one of two or more persons, things, etc., already mentioned, implying a contrast or contradistinction; opposed to this): This suit fits better than that.
4. (used as the subject or object of a relative clause, esp. one defining or restricting the antecedent, sometimes replaceable by who, whom,  or which): the horse that he bought.
5. (used as the object of a preposition, with the preposition standing at the end of a relative clause): the farm that I spoke of.
6. (used in various special or elliptical constructions): fool that he is.
  
*Usage note: That is used to refer to animate and inanimate nouns and thus can substitute in most uses for who(m) … Many of the workers that (or who) built the pyramids died while working.
  
**Comment: Experienced writers choose among these forms not only on the basis of grammar and the kind of noun referred to but also on the basis of sound of the sentence and their own personal preference.

So, we were humbled by our research and although we are pleased to have Grammar Girl on our side, we will let up on those (people) who that choose to use that in certain references to humans.

 

What is your preference?

References: dictionary.com, Grammar Girl, Chicago Manual of Style, Prentice Hall Reference Guide, The Gregg Reference Manual

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  • 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

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Have you been to a meeting lately?

THE TWELVE STEPS OF GRAMMARHOLICS (not so) ANONYMOUS

1. We admitted we were powerless over proper grammar—that our grammar had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a grammar greater than that which we use ourselves could restore us to proper usage.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the use of proper grammar as we learned it.

4. Made a searching and fearless oral, verbal, and written inventory of our grammar.

5. Admitted to the Grammar Police, to ourselves, and to a grammar school teacher the exact nature of our misusage.

6. Were entirely ready to have proper grammar remove all these defects of usage.

7. Humbly asked for proper grammar to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all grammar rules we had broken, and became willing to make corrections to them all.

9. Made direct corrections to such grammar rules wherever possible, except when to do so would perpetuate a miscommunication of them or others.

10. Continued to take an personal inventory of our grammar and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through sentence structure and punctuation to improve our conscious contact with proper grammar, as we learned it, seeking only for knowledge of grammar’s will for us and the proper usage to carry that out.

12. Having had a grammatical awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to grammarholics, and to practice these principles in all our communications.

One day at a time …

Copyright © 2010 Grammar Police a.k.a. GrammarCops

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I is not an object … def. –pronoun 1. the nominative singular pronoun, used by a speaker in referring to himself or herself.

Me is not a subject … def. –pronoun 1. the objective case of I, used as a direct or indirect object.

In other words, you don’t speak to I, give things to I, or decide between I and another.

Nor would me speak to others, give them things, or make the decision between a and b.

I would speak to him. I would give things to her, and I would decide between x and y.

And, you would speak to me, she would give things to me, and he might decide between you and me.

The bigger question, and frequent misuse, seems to come when combining subjects and/or objects … mostly the latter. What do we mean?

Here goes …

Please call Mike and ___ . (I or me?)

Terry was speaking to him and ___ . (I or me)?

Pat gave the paper to you and ___ . (I or me?)

How can you decide between her and ___? (I or me?)

Hint: take out the other person, enter the correct form, then add the other person back in … like this:

Please call ___ . (I or me?) Therefore … Please call Mike and me.

Terry was speaking to ___ . (I or me?) Therefore … Terry was speaking to him and me.

Pat gave the paper to ___ . (I or me?) Therefore … Pat gave the paper to you and me.

Get it? Got it. Good.

As we were saying … “I is not an object …”

Learn more about reflexives at our post: Self-exploration …

References: grammarpolice.com, dictionary.com, Grammar Girl

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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

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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

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Fun with headlines today …

This from iGoogle:

“Sotomayor learned ropes as prosecutor”

Leads to this CNN news headline:

“Sotomayor learned the ropes on ‘Tarzan’ case”

(click here for the real story)

learn the ropes

learn the ropes. idiom.

  • to understand how to do a particular job or activity: It’ll take some time for the new receptionist to learn the ropes.
  • Usage note: sometimes used in the forms know the ropes (to understand how something is done) and show someone the ropes or teach someone the ropes (to teach someone how something is done): You’d better find someone to show you the ropes if you’re going to fix the car yourself.

Source: thefreedictionary.com

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