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Archive for the ‘GrammarGrave (lost causes)’ Category

Is it just us or has there been an increase in grammatical misuse in tag lines, advertisements, and TV commercials lately? As many of you know, we have been feuding with Hanes for a few years over their “lay-flat” collar ads – to no avail.

Looks like we have a couple of new opponents to take on:

StriVectin

MORE SCIENCE. LESS WRINKLES.” & “More science. Less eye lines.”

FORD

“MORE GO. LESS STOPS.”

In addition, a faithful follower writes,

“Ugh!  Have you seen the Mercedes commercial?! “More technology, less doors.” I’m hoping it’s really clever and I just don’t understand it. Surely the grammar couldn’t be that bad, could it?”

We encourage you to look back to our posts on the subject “Less” vs. “Fewer”.

Would these grammar goofs affect your buying decisions?

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Listen here … The Grammar Police on You Are What You Speak

This week, we had the honor of participating in a radio feature on the national morning radio show, The Takeaway (produced by Public Radio International, WNYC, the BBC, WGBH Boston, and The New York Times). What fun!

The request was for an interview, “… to discuss your issues with language usage and misusage. Should we be trying to stop the world’s grammatical errors? Or should we accept the various misuses as part of our evolving language?”

In addition, Robert Lane Greene, author of “You Are What You Speak,” was the second guest. In his opinion, language policing is often just about supporting class, ethnic and national prejudices. 

Check it out … and, thanks for listening!

Listen here … The Grammar Police on You Are What You Speak

P.S. This book is now required reading for our GrammarGuard and recommended reading for our GrammarGuild and other followers.

P.P.S. Click here to read about what started the feud with Hanes …

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Welcome to the fourth in our ongoing series …

  1. Nouns gone bad …
  2. Nouns gone bad … sequeled
  3. Badverbs … cousins to nouns gone bad

Introducing, Verbalized … a new section in which we will grammaticalize (est. origin 1935-40) the modern use of the suffix “-ize” to make (traditionally) non-verbs into verbs.

Let’s get some of the technical stuff out of the way first … per dictionary.com:

verbalize. verb. 

  •  to convert into a verb: Many English nouns have become verbalized.

izea verb-forming suffix occurring originally in loanwords from Greek that have entered English through Latin or French (baptize; barbarize; catechize); within English, -ize is added to adjectives and nouns to form transitive verbs with the general senses “to render, make” (actualize; fossilize; sterilize; Americanize), “to convert into, give a specified character or form to” (computerize; dramatize; itemize; motorize), “to subject to (as a process, sometimes named after its originator)” (hospitalize; terrorize; galvanize; oxidize; simonize; winterize). Also formed with -ize are a more heterogeneous group of verbs, usually intransitive, denoting a change of state (crystallize), kinds or instances of behavior (apologize; moralize; tyrannize), or activities (economize; philosophize; theorize).

Usage note:
The suffix -ize has been in common use since the late 16th century; it is one of the most productive suffixes in the language, and scores of words ending in -ize are in daily use.
Some words ending in -ize have been widely disapproved in recent years, particularly finalize (first attested in the early 1920s) and prioritize (around 1970). Such words are most often criticized when they become, as did these two, vogue terms, suddenly heard and seen everywhere, especially in the context of advertising, commerce, education, or government—forces claimed by some to have a corrupting influence upon the language. The criticism has fairly effectively suppressed the use of finalize and prioritize in belletristic writing, but the words are fully standard[ized] and occur regularly in all varieties of speech and writing, especially the more formal types.
The British spelling, -ise, is becoming less common in British English, especially in technical or formal writing, chiefly because some influential British publishers advocate or have adopted the American form ize.

For the purposes of this article, and for our faithful following Brits, know that we hereby allow the substitution of the form “-ise” for “-ize,” … without limitation.

Now, we realize that this practice has been in effect for ages, however, certain readers have prodded us (thanks, mom!) to explore the more recent preponderance, and seemingly lazy application of this custom. We will build on the two examples in the usage note above: finalize (est. origin 1920-25) and prioritize (est. origin 1965-70), asserting that any English language trend since 1920 (at least) is, in our terms, modern.

When researching for this post, one source returned a list of more than 500 words containing “ize.” Another source gave us 1128 “-ize” words. Just know that we will only focus on those words in which the suffix “-ize” is used to verbalize. And, we will, with your help and contributions, acquaint you with some “-ize” words that have not yet been dictionaryized.

 simonize
  • computerize (est. origin 1955-60)
  • criminalize (est. origin 1955-60)
  • digitize (est. origin 1950-55)
  • glamorize (est. origin 1935-40)
  • winterize (est. origin 1925-30)
  • notarize (est. origin 1925-30)
  • globalize (est. origin 1940-45)
  • fantasize (est. origin 1925-30)
  • televise (1925-30)
  • customize (est. origin 1930-35)
  • stalinize (est. origin 1920s)
  • publicize (est. 1925-30)
  • randomize (est. origin 1925-30)
  • prioritize (est. origin 1965-70)
  • accessorize (est. origin 1935-39)
  • collateralize (est. origin 1940-45)
  • compartmentalize (est. origin 1920)
  • contextualize (est. origin 1930-35)
  • conveyorize (est. origin 1940-45)
  • fictionalize (est. origin 1920-25)
  • fractionalize (est. origin 1930-35)
  • miniaturize (est. origin 1945-50)
  • parameterize (est. origin 1935-40)
  • privatize (est. origin 1945-50)
  • simonize (est. origin 1935-40)

By the way, here’s a bit about our pictured example: simonize

simonize. verb. to shine or polish to a high sheen, esp. with wax: to simonize an automobile. Simonize is actually the generic term, which came after Simoniz, a trademark. Thanks to PizzaBagel for the photo.

A few that are in the dictionary but for which we could not determine their originating date:

  • commercialize
  • containerize
  • substiantialize
  • symptomize

Examples that you may not find in any mainstream dictionary:

  • budgetize
  • opinionize
  • seasonalize
  • Twitterize
  • calendarize
  • comprehensivize
  • quintessentialize
  • respectabilize
  • subjectivize
  • technicalize
  • technologize
  • transparentize
  • utopianize
  • vampirize

There is verbalizing for almost every country, state, city … i.e., when we moved last, we became Austinized again in this wonderful Texas capitol. Lots of organizations will “-ize” their employees … e.g., were you Dellized when you worked for the computer company? In addition, a virtually infinite number of brand names have the potential for “-izing,” and many have already been “-ized.” What are your examples?

Please help us build our list … we welcome your contributions.

Here’s one from dan_stiver: alterize

alterize

For our parting shot … if you want to please at least one mom out there, exercise the non-ized versions of these terms and concepts. We dare you!

Be sure to see our related posts:

Sources: dictionary.com, RhymeZone, wordnavigator.com, PizzaBagel (No, He’s Not!)

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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 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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By popular demand, we are resurrecting this post and adding commentary:

Our original post:

A reader writes questioning the loss of a singular noun with the word “none,” as it now seems to be considered normal usage.

Occasionally you may hear the refreshingly-correct: “None is …”

Motivated Grammar wrote:

Why is “none are” incorrect? I’ve marshalled a series of arguments for why it’s right, and would be interested in hearing why you disagree. In short, it’s been in use since [the year] 888 and “none” can behave as a semantic plural, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to oppose it.

 And, our reply was:

Good question, thanks. The word “none” originated as a non-apostrophe contraction meaning “not one,” therefore, a singular pronoun. However, as you correctly point out, it has been used as a plural pronoun for ages. Most references now condone the commoner plural usage, so the only reason we have to oppose the plural is that we are, on most occasions, purists (or maybe just grammar snobs?)

For now, we’re sticking to our GrammarGuns … however, we will recommend leniency for anyone cited for using “none are.”

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