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Archive for June, 2009

An entry for our “Fun with Headlines” category … the iGoogle news headline for this story is:

“Students shot at Detroit bus stop”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

students shot at bus stop

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Last month, we started a series: Nouns gone bad … and this month, we added: Nouns gone bad … sequeled.

Remember, nouns gone bad are those words that originated as nouns and are now being used, with some regularity, as verbs.

We have some new entries to our list of nouns gone bad:

  • Clorox: we Cloroxed our drains to ward off the summer bugs.
  • journal: Jonathan was journaling the other day.
  • board: she (snow)boarded on her last vacation.
  • game. as in the following headline:

“Can Open Government Be Gamed?”

gamed

(click here for the story)

Have more examples? Please send them to us (after checking out our previous posts).

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Today, by a news item about some celebrity being “outed,” we were reminded that not only nouns can be turned into verbs … so can adverbs

Therefore, we have the opportunity to introduce the third in our sequence: “badverbs.”

Per the Urban Dictionary, “outed” has a few definitions, the most common of which has to do with disclosure of the fact that someone is gay. However, the terms “outing” and “outed” have become mainstream words for disclosing information other than homosexuality, about individuals — and organizations. Plus, it can mean just being excluded.

A few years ago, there was a lot of press around the revelation that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. She was “outed.” Earlier this month, we read an article about Judge Sonia Sotomayor being “financially outed.” Then, there are frequently articles about the “outing” of political and religious views, among people who are heterosexual. So, the concept is expanding and evolving.

What other adverbs are badverbs? We discovered a couple and thought we’d share them with you:

  • forward: did you forward that email to anyone else?
  • should: we make it a practice not to should on anyone.

As we were researching for this blog post, we realized that there is likely yet another category we should explore … “badjectives.” However, when we started on this quest, we found that most of the adjectives for this group would come to this list by having ” …ize” added to them. Now, that is a-whole-nother subject. Stay tuned.

Be sure to see our related posts:

Sources: Urban Dictionary, dictionary.com, Wikipedia

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A while back, we wrote a post called “Breaking with the past …” in which we explored some rules for and exceptions to forming the past tense, especially with the “… ink” words.

Last night, we saw a TV commercial … for SLIMQUICK™ … that riled us up again.

slimquick

Here’s the quote from the not-so-slim cartoon woman on the TV ad … she says to/about her slimming male counterpart:

“We’re trying to lose weight, so we cut out junk food. I shrunk one size. He shrunk six sizes.”

Goodness! This is slim (actually, grim) grammar. Come on, the past tense of shrink is shrank

Just to make sure we heard correctly, we replayed the spot several times, in disbelief. Why are we always so shocked at advertising grammar goofs? (click here to see another example) After all, an advertising great (copywriter for such brands as Hanes, Walmart, Discover, and eTrade) once wrote to us, and we quote, “… honestly, grammar doesn’t mean much in advertising.” Still, it ruffles our feathers when we hear companies allow such blatant English language slaughter on the TV airwaves (and cable). Maybe our consolation must be that if there are not these gaffes, we wouldn’t have much to blog about?

Your thoughts?

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We love the health site, The People’s Pharmacy. Not only do they offer wonderful tips for safe and healthy living, their headlines often provide great fodder for our “Fun with Headlines” blog posts. For example, one of today’s headlines reads:

“Novel Technique for Zapping Mosquitos”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

novel technique

Let’s look at our word of the day: novel.

1. novel. noun.

  • a fictitious prose narrative of considerable length and complexity, portraying characters and usually presenting a sequential organization of action and scenes.
  • the literary genre represented by novels.

2. novel. adjective.

  • of a new kind; different from anything seen or known before: a novel idea. 

3. novel. noun.

  • Roman Law. a. an imperial enactment subsequent and supplementary to an imperial compilation and codification of authoritative legal materials.  b. Usually, Novels, imperial enactments subsequent to the promulgation of Justinian’s Code and supplementary to it: one of the four divisions of the Corpus Juris Civilis.
  • Civil Law. an amendment to a statute.

Source: dictionary.com

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We have been asked several times where we stand on this controversy … you know, the old rule: “i before e, except after c.”

i before e

Ever since the news came out that Britain would forego teaching this rule … (click here to read the news item) … we’ve been ducking the question.

At first, we thougt, “how could they?” … only because we have quite an affinity for grammar rules and helpful tips. Then, we got to thinking (always a dangerous proposition) … That led us to do some research. 

Our number one self-assigned task was to find the exceptions to this rule, that is, those words that, when spelled correctly, have an i before an e after a c. The results were astonishing …

Our search returned 364 words with a correct “… c-i-e …” sequence. Granted, the list includes multiple tenses of several words, plurals (using “…cies”), past tense (using “…cied”), and some words that we would swear are not real (or English, for that matter), however, here are a few notables:

  • science, society, ancient, species, conscience, glacier, efficient, sufficient, coefficient, deficiency.

Next, we looked back for those words that actually fit the rule, in which, after c, the e comes before the i … and we found this to be even more astonishing–that there are so few. Our search led to only 134 entries, with such standouts as:

  • ceiling, deceive, receive, perceive, conceit

The remainder of this list seemed to be filled out with variations on those few.

So, the position we held before Britain’s choice made the news, is now shattered, but we do like the new rule that we read about … “i before e, except when it isn’t.”

For more, take a gander through the great article about this on the always wonderful World Wide Words.

Therefore, instead of breaking from Britain and establishing our independence on this topic, we do hereby bow.

Happy Independence Day, America!

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We have been asked several times, “what’s your opinion on the Oxford (or serial) comma?” So, we’re going to cross-post an entry from our sister site: Comma Clout for our readers here …

From last week:

A lot of buzz around this issue today … Barrett got us blogging when he sent this tweet:

serial comma tweet

 

Per Wiki, the serial comma (also known as the Oxford comma and the Harvard comma) is the comma used immediately before a grammatical conjunction (usually and, or, and sometimes nor) preceding the final item in a list of three or more items. More simply, as per AskOxford.com, the ‘Oxford comma’ is an optional comma before the word ‘and’ at the end of a list.

For example, this three-media list can be punctuated as either “Linkedin, Facebook, and Twitter” (with the serial comma) or as “Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter” (without the serial comma).

There is no consensus among writers and editors on the usage or avoidance of the serial comma. Most American English authorities recommend its use, but it seems to be less frequent in British English. In many languages (e.g., French, German, Italian, Polish, Spanish) the serial comma is not the norm; it may even be explicitly forbidden by punctuation rules – but it may be allowed or even recommended in some cases to avoid ambiguity or to aid understanding when reading.

Wikipedia actually has an excellent section on this topic. Take a look:

Contents
1 Arguments for and against
2 Ambiguity
3 Usage
4 References & External links

We have relaxed our own position on the use of the serial comma. Before text limits of 140 characters or thereabouts, we would insist, but now, we say lose any extra character you can while preserving meaning.

There are many views on this little mark. Click here to read one solution. What’s your view?

sources: Wikipedia, dictionary.com, AskOxford.com, Twitter

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Given several untimely celebrity deaths of-late, and the content of our yesterday’s blog post on the multiple definitions of words, this post is eerily related.

We saw this People Magazine news headline today, and it just reinforced the fact that our English language is complex. Many words have many meanings and perceptions can frequently transport us among those meanings …

“Quincy Jones Tears Up When Hearing Michael’s Music”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

quincy jones tears up

We are truly not trying to be irreverent here … let’s just take a look at an interesting four-letter word: tear.

1. tear.  noun. pronounced [teer]

  • a drop of the saline, watery fluid continually secreted by the lacrimal glands between the surface of the eye and the eyelid, serving to moisten and lubricate these parts and keep them clear of foreign particles.
  • this fluid appearing in or flowing from the eye as the result of emotion, esp. grief.
  • something resembling or suggesting a tear, as a drop of a liquid or a tearlike mass of a solid substance, esp. having a spherical or globular shape at one end and tapering to a point at the other.
  • Glassmaking. a decorative air bubble enclosed in a glass vessel; air bell.
  • tears, grief; sorrow.

tear. verb (used without object)

  • to fill up and overflow with tears, as the eyes.

tear. Idiom

  • in tears

2. tear. verb (used with object). pronounced [tair]

  • to pull apart or in pieces by force, esp. so as to leave ragged or irregular edges.
  • to pull or snatch violently; wrench away with force: to tear wrappings from a package; to tear a book from someone’s hands. 
  • to distress greatly: anguish that tears the heart.
  • to divide or disrupt: a country torn by civil war. 
  • to wound or injure by or as if by rending; lacerate.
  • to produce or effect by rending: to tear a hole in one’s coat. 
  • to remove by force or effort: to be unable to tear oneself from a place. 

tear. verb (used without object)

  • to become torn.
  • to make a tear or rent.
  • to move or behave with force, violent haste, or energy: The wind tore through the trees; cars tearing up and down the highway; I was tearing around all afternoon trying to find sandals for the beach. 

tear. noun the act of tearing.

  • a rent or fissure.
  • a rage or passion; violent flurry or outburst.
  • Informal. a spree.

tear. Verb phrases: tear at, tear down, tear into, tear off, tear up

tear. Idioms: tear it, tear one’s hair, tear one’s hair out

More coincidence …

Rip is a synonym for tear [tair], as in to break, split, or shred. And, R.I.P., as you likely know, stands for Rest In Peace, which is what we wish for all who have met their mortality.

Source: dictionary.com

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A few weeks ago, we were copied on an email that had this amusing passage:

“You lovers of the English language might enjoy this.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is “up.”

up

It’s easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken [sic] in the morning, why do we wake up? At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up and why are the officers up for election and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends. And we use it to brighten up a room, polish up the silver; we warm up the leftovers and clean up the kitchen. We lock up the house and some guys fix up the old car …  At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.

And this up is confusing: A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up. We open up a store in the morning but we close it up at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed up about up! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of up, look the word up in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes up almost 1/4th of the page and can add up to about thirty definitions. If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing up

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things up.  When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry up. One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up, for now my time is up, so … it is time to shut up! Oh … one more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night? U-P.”

As comical as this is, we were curious about the claim re: up, “perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word.” For years, we have been under the impression that, in the English language, the word (regardless of the number of letters in the word) with the most definitions is “run.” So, we went digging around …

Here’s what we found out, per the Oxford English Dictionary, about words with the most definitions … the top ten:

  1. set (464 definitions)
  2. run (396 definitions)
  3. go (368 definitions)
  4. take (343 definitions)
  5. stand (334 definitions)
  6. get (289 definitions)
  7. turn (288 definitions)
  8. put (268 definitions)
  9. fall (264 definitions)
  10. strike (250 definitions)

Now we have learned that the word “up” doesn’t even make the top ten, nor does it come close to the two-letter word “go,” which graces the list at position three. However, we also learned that our impression about the word “run” was wrong. Can we even say we were close, being 68 definitions behind the number-one ranked word “set“?

Who really cares? Well, besides those of us who have obsessions with words, grammar, etc., many English language learners care because they want to learn to use our language correctly … bless their hearts. If you are a native English speaker, it’s likely difficult for you to imagine yourself making your way through a language that has almost 500 definitions for a single word, much less navigating its complex set of rules of grammar and usage. Wow!

Here’s one little three-letter versatile powerhouse … Set can be a verb, a noun, an adjective, or an interjection … it can be used with or without an object, and it is the mainstay of many phrases, such as: set about, set against, set ahead, set apart, set aside, set back, set by, set down, set forth, set in, set off, set on, set out, set to, and set up. Set also appears in several idioms, including set forward, set one’s face against, set store by, and get set! (definitions of which you can find at dictionary.com).

We will not list all of the definitions for set, rather, we choose to leave you with this … we’re off to set the table for dinner but we don’t need to set a fire because the 105 degree heat in Austin today set another record. We just watched a set or two of tennis on the TV set before writing this post to set the record straight. We discussed a set of words in our blog after we set the timer on the sprinkler, both of which set our mind at ease. The date is set for our next party at which we hope to set a good example of holiday entertaining. We must set down the pen to type, but we no longer need to set type to print our articles. That beautiful ring we saw the other day is set with gorgeous stones, but it would set us back too much to afford it. We didn’t fall on the stage set, however, once the bone was broken, the doctor had to set it for it to heal properly. Now, having set our minds to it, we’re now going for the set of golf clubs and hit the links … before we set ourselves down and watch the sun set

All set?

 

set

Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, dictionary.com

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Got this spam/phishing email a few weeks ago about unusual bank activity and a possible suspension of a bank account … yeah, right.

Anyway, the email is in need of the Grammar Police and Comma Clout, so here goes …

“Dear Bank Customer_ ,

Because of unusual number of invalid login attempts on your account, we had to believe that, their might be some security problem on your account…”

Comma Clout needed:

  • 1.remove the space before the comma in the greeting: “Dear Bank Customer,”
  • 2.remove the comma before the incorrectly-used “their” in the first sentence: “… we had to believe that …”

Grammar Policing needed:

  • their” should be “there:” “… we had to believe that there might be …”

See the Grammar Police blog post: “There you have it … ” for more on There vs. Their (and They’re).

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More weekend fun with headlines …

Today, Reuters reports (with this news headline):

“Climate Change Bill to Heat Up Senate”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

climate change bill

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