Archive for July, 2009

Here’s an interesting People Magazine news headline:

“Kendra Wilkinson Goes Baby Shopping”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

baby shopping

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Updated post:

Compounds plural or compound plurals? That is the question …

We were already compiling a few notes about the “art of pluralizing” when we got a rash of input (from TV, Twitter, and email) about the plurals of compound nouns, specifically those compound nouns consisting of a noun plus a modifier.

We’re taking our best shots here, so please feel free to disagree or otherwise comment.

In question:

daddy longlegs – conventional wisdom would lead us to the plural form of: daddies longlegs, however, since that is cumbersome, we suggest: Harvestmen

Attorney General – no question about this one: Attorneys General

gin and tonic – conventional wisdom (gins and tonic) again loses out here (we defer to ironic1.com for this one ): gin and tonics

gin and tonics

notary public – not much question with this one: notaries public

brother-in-law – consistent formation found for this plural: brothers-in-law

maid of honor – 1) for more than one honor: maid of honors; 2) for more than one wedding attendant: maids of honor (please, only one MOH per wedding); for more than one copy of the movie Made of Honor: we suggest DVDs.

made of honor

man-of-war – encounter one and there are likely more on the beach or in the water: men-of-war

Bride of Chucky – ok, so are you talking about the plural of Chucky’s mates or the number of movies … or, even, the possessive? For our purposes here, today: Brides of Chucky

Good, now we’re getting more input. In a recent Twitter conversation:

@NeillShenton to @GrammarCops “ok, what about multiple spoons full of something? Plural* me that – i’d rather rephrase a sentence than type THAT ugly word.” 

* We’re now adding “plural” to our list of Nouns gone bad … Thanks!

@GrammarCops to @NeillShentonGood one … it’s actually one word ‘spoonfuls.'”


There are likely hundreds of such examples. Please contribute.

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More fun with headlines …

Today, The Wall Street Journal ran this news headline:

“The Supreme Court Kabuki Dance: The ritual of choosing a justice has a long history of fictions and evasions

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

supreme court kabuki

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It’s Friday afternoon. It’s time for some fun with headlines to finish out the week.

This one came from Twitter … @Newsweek posted this:

“Absent from the health-care debate, Ted Kennedy will weigh in tomorrow with a Newsweek story…”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

Kennedy weighs in

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Since we were around to see the Apollo 11 Moon Mission 40 years ago, we’re following the coverage of its anniversary with piqued interest. What exciting times to be alive!

We came across a great headline today, from wired.com:

“Things to Do on the Way to the Moon”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

R-O-A-D  T-R-I-P!!!

And, not just any road trip … the ultimate. So, to avoid the almost inevitable “Are we there yet?” the astronauts should have some games to play and songs to sing along the way, don’t you think?

Here are a few items we put together for their entertainment …

To start, a scavenger hunt of sorts …

  • Moon Trip Bingo – players have cards with pictures of space items on them in a simple 4 x 4 grid corresponding to the four letters in the word M-O-O-N. When a player observes an item on his card, he marks the picture with a token or by writing a check or X on the item. This continues until one player completes a “BINGO” pattern, such as a line with four marked pictures in a vertical, horizontal or diagonal row on one of their cards, and calls out “To The Moon!” He wins.
  • Items pictured in this version of “Moon Trip Bingo” are: alien, asteroid, astronaut, black hole, comet, Earth, galaxy, Hubble Telescope, hurricane, meteor, milky way, moon, nebula, rocket launch, satellites (3), Saturn, solar system, space capsule, space explorer, space shuttle, space station, space vehicle, spacecraft, speed limit, stars, stop sign, sun, tow truck, UFO, Webb Telescope, and, of course, Captain Kirk!
  • Sample “Road Trip Bingo” cards are provided just in case the astronauts are grounded and need a game for their earthly travels.

moon trip bingo

Next, what about a new twist on an old favorite …

  • The Space (License) Plate Game – players see how many satellite “license plates” they can find and check them off the list. This game can be played as a crew or individually. Play can be just for one day, or the search for plates can continue throughout the entire voyage, and see how many different plates can be observed between the Earth and the Moon (and back). Players might even record the time, date and the location of each “plate” sighting.
  • The named countries in this “Space Plate Game” come from a Wiki list of space agencies capable of conducting basic space activities, such as satellite operations.
  • Sample pictures of the country plates are provided to assist players in identifying their observations.

space license plate game

And, to round out the trip, there must be a theme song. We thought this might be appropriate …

  • He’s Got the Whole World – sing along, will you? It’s easy … here are the lyrics to the chorus:

he's got the whole world

As a bonus, we started building a soundtrack for the journey. Our initial thoughts …

  • Fly me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra
  • Rocket Man by Elton John
  • No Stopping Us by Jason Mraz (from Waiting for My Rocket to Come)
  • Rocket in My Pocket by Little Feat
  • Not to Touch the Earth by The Doors
  • Planet Earth by Duran Duran
  • Shining Star by Earth Wind & Fire
  • Outer Space From The Day The Earth Stood Still by Bernard Herrmann (from Fantastic Journey)
  • Earth Beat by Herbie Hancock
  • Peace on Earth by U2
  • Planets Of The Universe by Stevie Nicks
  • Moon River by Andy Williams
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace by Elgar Holst (from The Planets)
  • Gemini Moon by Bryan Ferry
  • There’s A Moon Out Tonight by The Capris
  • Moonshadow by Cat Stevens
  • Piano Sonata no. 14 in C# min “Moonlight” by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Shepherd Moons by Enya
  • Suite From Moonwalker by Bruce Broughton (from Fantastic Journey)
  • Girl On The Moon by Foreigner
  • Lasso The Moon by Gary Morris
  • Moonage Daydream by David Bowie
  • East Of The Sun (And West Of The Moon) by Diana Krall
  • Nightfall: Water From The Moon by David Lanz
  • Moon by George Winston
  • Moonlight Serenade by The Glen Miller Orchestra
  • Radar Love by Golden Earring
  • Autumn Moon by Hiroshima
  • Moondance by Kitaro
  • Can’t Fight The Moonlight by Leann Rimes
  • How High the Moon by Les Paul & Mary Ford
  • One Time One Night by Los Lobos (from By The Light Of The Moon)
  • Harvest Moon by Niel Young
  • L.A. to the Moon by Ronnie Milsap
  • Once In A Lover’s Moon by Taylor Weaver
  • Moondance by Van Morrison
  • Breathing (By the light of the moon) by Abraham Cloud
  • Down To The Moon by Andreas Vollenweider
  • Water From The Moon by Celine Dion
  • Blue Moon by Chris Isaak
  • Moon Tune by Bob James & David Sanborn
  • Sail On White Moon by Boz Scaggs
  • Bad Moon Rising by Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Lo And Behold by Duncan Sheik (from Phantom Moon)
  • Mad Man Moon by Genesis
  • Moonlight And Gold by Gerry Rafferty
  • Dancing In The Moonlight (It’s Caught Me In The Spotlight) by Thin Lizzy
  • Moon Dust by Tom Barabas
  • Man On The Moon by R.E.M.
  • Shoot The Moon by Norah Jones
  • Culver Moon by Jackson Browne
  • Blue Moon by The Percy Faith Orchestra
  • Moon Run by Trapezoid
  • Moonlight Cocktails by The Rivieras
  • Voyage Around The Moon by The Saturn 5
  • Sister Moon by Sting
  • The Great Gig In The Sky by Pink Floyd (from Dark Side of the Moon)
  • Walking On The Moon by Police
  • Dracula Moon by Joan Osborne
  • Goodnight Moon by John Tesh
  • Spanish Moon by Little Feat
  • Mooning by Louis St. Louis & Cindy Bullens (from Grease)
  • Shadows Of The Moon by Michael Jones & David Darling
  • Spaceman by Babylon Zoo
  • Mr. Spaceman by The Byrds
  • Hallo Spaceboy by David Bowie
  • Space Boogie by Jeff Beck
  • Space Cowboy (Yippie-Yi-Yay) by ‘N Sync featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
  • Space Invader by The Pretenders
  • Spaceman by 4 Non Blondes
  • Fly Like An Eagle by Seal (from Space Jam)
  • Space And Time by The Verve
  • Hillbillies From Outerspace by The Vaughn Brothers
  • The Star Spangled Banner by Béla Fleck & The Flecktones (from Flight Of The Cosmic Hippo)

Now those tunes ought to keep you entertained for a while. Enjoy!

Sources: Wiki – List of space agencies, Mom’s Minivan, License Plate Mania, License Plates of the World, Our iTunes Collection

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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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Please join us in our daily devotional …

grammar prayer

Our grammar, which art in English, respected be thy style.

Thy rules become, thy laws be done online as they are in literature.

Give us this day our daily tips and forgive us our goofs as we forgive those who gaffe against us.

And lead us not into frustration, but deliver us from faux pas.


Copyright © 2009 Grammar Police a.k.a. GrammarCops

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grammar books

Just a little ditty for your enjoyment …

Grammar is good.
And usage is too.
Together, they help you communicate.

Language is fun.
Words do abound.
L’il marks: they can “all” help (you) punctuate!

Spelling with letters;
Syntax; formation …
Sentences will help you concatenate.

Nouns, sometimes proper;
And verbs all have forms …
If only to help us to conjugate.

Constructing a sentence,
A phrase, or a question …
Please, just be sure not to desecrate.

Superlative adjectives,
And adverbs to modify …
Just some tools we may use to formulate.

Yes, there are rules,
For speaking and writing …
When followed well, help you not irritate.

We’re referring to English
In this, our short tribute …
For which we’ve found none to compensate.

So, back to our blog,
Or Twitter, or work …
Something to which you likely relate.

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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:


Should be your.

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


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.  


  • 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

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