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Several years ago, an article in an airline magazine, “Nouns Gone Bad,” really hit home with us.

It discussed the phenomenon of using nouns as verbs, and the growing prevalence of this practice.

A recent tweet (on Twitter) reminded us of this ever-growing trend …

“There is a poor grammar jesus bumper sticker collection on a van. I want to at least ‘Sharpie‘ it so it makes sense.”

You may know that a Sharpie® is a marker made by Sanford. Many professional athletes (and other celebs) use these markers for signing autographs. The pens have many other uses, and we confess to having what must be one of the largest collections of Sharpie® pens around (all colors, widths, point-types, and styles – literally, in buckets in the office). But we digress …

There is an interesting paper called “THE ENVIRONMENTAL STYLE” that was written in 2005 by R.P. Detwiler, NASA Office of General Counsel, in which this trend is addressed. Detwiler uses the examples: partner, team, dialogue, and task.

Have you heard (or used) these nouns as verbs? Maybe, in instances like (yes, we mean “like,” not “such as,” here):

  • Let’s partner on this venture.
  • How about we team up to find the solution?
  • We can dialogue about that topic.
  • My boss likes to task us with many jobs.

There are many other examples. There are even uses that are not primarily business-related:

  • Do you know anyone who likes to go antiquing?
  • The cops Tasered a stuffed animal the other day. (see the story)
  • That recent study really impacted our lives.
  • Did he transition from runner to cyclist?
  • Will picnicked during the soccer game.

These days, use of the Internet provides us with the opportunity to perpetuate this bent:

  • Ooh, let’s Google that …

So, now we add “Sharpie” to our list of nouns gone bad.

What are your offenders?

Be sure to see our related posts:

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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 A perfectly good word that’s been replaced by ‘lengthy’.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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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

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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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The past day or two, at least among our followers, there has been a lot of buzz on Twitter about the use of punctuation – inside or outside the quotation marks.

First of all, what are “quotation marks”?

quotation mark. noun. one of the marks used to indicate the beginning and end of a quotation, in English usually shown as at the beginning and at the end.

  QMs2

Or, for a quotation within a quotation, of single marks of this kind, as “He said,I will go.” 

QMsSingle

Here’s some “scoop”:

QUOTATION MARKS – Quotation marks serve to indicate spoken dialog and to acknowledge specifically reproduced material.

a. Quotation marks are used to enclose direct quotations.

The supervisor said, “Come to my desk, young man.”

Note: Single quotation marks ( ‘  ‘ ) are used to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

The student asked, “Who popularized the statement ‘This is the best of all possible worlds’?”

b. Quotation marks should be used to enclose titles of short poems, stories, and articles that are usually printed as a part of a larger work.

She read “Ode on a Grecian Urn” from an anthology.

c. Quotation marks may be used to enclose a word used as a word (rather than for its meaning).

The word “school” brings back pleasant memories. And, do not overuse the word “and” in formal writing.

Now, let’s get to the more immediate question …

here or here with quotes

When other marks of punctuation are used with quotation marks, the following practices should be observed:

(1) A question mark or an exclamation point is placed inside the final quotation mark if it is part of the quotation, outside if it is part of the sentence that includes the quoted material.

part of quote

not part of quote

(2) Commas and periods are always placed inside the closing quotation marks.

periods and commas

(3) Semicolons and colons are always placed outside the closing quotation marks.

colons and semis

Click here to download the complimentary pdf document of these rules.

Sources: dictionary.com; Webster’s New World Secretarial Handbook. New Rev. Ed. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1981.

To keep it fun, we must include the following:

Air quotes, also called fingerquotes or Ersatz quotes (pronounced /ˈɛrzæts/) refers to using one’s fingers to make virtual quotation marks in the air when speaking. This is typically done with both hands held shoulder-width apart and at the eye level of the speaker, with the index and middle fingers on each hand forming a V sign and then flexing at the beginning and end of the phrase being quoted. The air-quoted phrase is generally very short — a few words at most — in common usage, though sometimes much longer phrases may be used for comic effect.

While the term “air quotes” did not appear until 1989, use of similar gestures has been recorded as early as 1927. A single handed quote is an equivalent, though less dramatic variation. This became very popular since the 1990s.

Air quotes are often used to express satire, sarcasm, irony or euphemism. In print, scare quotes fill a similar purpose.

air quotes

Source: Wikipedia

We also recommend visiting our friends over at The “blog” of “unnecessary” quotation marks.

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Thanks. We have had great response to our original post: Nouns gone bad … the phenomenon of using nouns as verbs, and the growing prevalence of this practice.

Today, we saw a Web item that prompted us to sequel the original:

“Do you sushi?”

noun gone bad

(click here for the real story)

What a great example. Have you ever used the word sushi as a verb?

Here are more culprits from our readers and our research:

DRC is … “Jonesing for something to drink.”

CDS heard a sportscaster say … “He defensed that play perfectly.”

CG is going to … “TiVo (or DVR) her favorite TV shows.”

Speaking of favorites, have you ever favorited a Web site or a tweet?

CG heard someone say (and we heard this one on the TV show Will & Grace) … “lotion up their skin.”

SF reminded us that … “Of course there’s ‘friended‘ on Facebook/MySpace.”

Recently, we read an article in which … “The shoplifter was reprieved at the last minute.”

What about this … “are you gaming today?”

Oh, yes, another from the computer age … “let’s pdf that document.”

Got more? Please let us hear from you …

Be sure to see our related posts:

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Fun with headlines today … this one came to us via a Twitter Tweet with a TwitPic:

“MINISTER QUITS OVER BROWN ‘SMEARS'”

(click here to see the original TwitPic)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

minister quits over brown smears

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