Sunday, February 14, 2010

Funny Sunday Headlines

Nothing better than potty humor from the newspapers to enliven a Sunday morning:

  • From the Marin IJ: Teasing a story about a local female skier, editors on page 1 presented: “Armenian Team Taps Skier From Novato.”

This is one of those verb choices that, while tailor-made for tight-real estate newsprint, really should be stricken from the copy desk’s tool belt.


  • From the New York Times, a photo caption accompanying the story "A Balance Between the Factory and the Local Farm" reads:


Pavle Milic decided to serve only Arizona wines at FnB, his Scottsdale restaurant. He says that in blind teste tests, people think that the wines come from famous wine regions.


I don't know about you, but a teste test sounds really unpalatable, until you discover that the singular of testes is testis.

Even so, don't look for Rocky Mountain Oysters for Mr. Milic's customers, it appears--test or no test.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear Twitter, Please Take Bonehead English

Every time we get an email notification from Twitter informing us that some new, smart, sentient human being is now following us, Twitter bots CAN'T GET IT RIGHT! We're instructed:

"You may follow (person's name) as well by clicking on the 'follow' button on their profile."

Jesus H. Christ! Hey, Biz Stone, (btw, I'm blogging on one of your earlier creations, thank you) 99 percent of the people who follow other people are people (or more precisely a person). That takes the SINGULAR PRONOUN. Please change your email notifications so that it reads

"You may follow (person's name) as well by clicking on the 'follow' button on his or her profile."
Or
"You may follow (person's name) as well by clicking on the 'follow' button on the user's profile."

We're cutting back on education funding in these dark economic times, Biz. Don't contribute to the dumbing down of America with one of the most popular social media features of the day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Paging New York Times' Copy Chief

The headline on Billy Preston's obituary in the renowned New York Times:

Obituary: Billy Preston, 59, reknowned keyboardist
Yes, it seems we all knowed Billy Preston.

P.S. Preston died in 2006, and if memory serves, The Times hadn't gutten its staff just yet.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Are stripper-linguists getting a raw deal??



The question is, are strippers Alexia Moore (left) and Falynn Rodriguez better lap dancers or linguists?

That's what put-off prosecutors are wondering in New York this week after the two gyrating gals fought a prostitution charge.

In trying to have the charges dropped on a technicality, the pair argue that language is paramount (and we could argue no more vociferously).

According to the New York Post (and check out the lede):

The purportedly glitchy grammar in the charges against the pair alleges that they "did engage, offer and agree" to acts of prostitution with an undercover officer at Big Daddy Lou's Hot Lap Dance Club on West 38th Street in July 2008. That differs from the wording in the state penal code, which specifies "engage, offer or agree," the gals argue.


This just goes to show that some people can dance and parse language at the same time.

God Bless America.

(Tip of the fountain pen to Duffy Moran for bird-dogging this gem).

Depends on what the definition of "is" is

The late, great Billy Preston said it best:

"Nothing from nothing leaves nothing."

In reviewing a legal disclaimer recently, I came across this mind-bending bunch of gibberish:

"A Tennessee resident consents to the use of his name and likeness only if such Tennessee resident expressly consents to such use."

Somewhere, Bill Clinton is smiling.

Monday, January 11, 2010

A handy guide to dealing with apostrophes


Almost a year ago, I posted a couple of times about the Apostrophe Catastrophe over in Merry Olde England.

Just came across an amusing and graphical rule on apostrophe's from theoatmeal.com.

Cute and it comes as a poster. Schools should buy these by the truckload. No child should be allowed to move on from grammar school unless he passes a test that includes getting the right forms of "it's" and "its" correct.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Oxford University Press' Word of the Year was...

..."unfriend."

"It has both currency and potential longevity,” notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program. “In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year. Most “un-” prefixed words are adjectives (unacceptable, unpleasant), and there are certainly some familiar “un-” verbs (uncap, unpack), but “unfriend” is different from the norm. It assumes a verb sense of “friend” that is really not used (at least not since maybe the 17th century!). Unfriend has real lex-appeal.”

(I don't know about you but I get a kick out of "lex-appeal.")

In any case, the pace of language change seems to have ramped up in recent years thanks to inventions emanating from the technology world (Google as a verb, for instance, meaning to search). Being the pseudo-snob I am when it comes to language I once that that trend was dreadful, but I've changed my tune. With technology changing the world so fast, language must keep up.

In fact, it seems people are just as passionate about language as ever, judging by the comments on the Oxford blog referencing one of the finalists in the judging: Tea-bagger. Scores of commenters weighed on on the term, which has both political and sexual definitions (although Oxford avoided publishing the latter definition).

(P.S. None of our words of the day entries made the list, but then again, all of those are already in the dictionary).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Death of the written word? Hardly


We worry in these precincts about the death of the written word. But people actually read more today than in years (perhaps ever). True, "writing" has been redefined as more digital belching in many cases. But the immense amount of new information created every second of every day is written. Just spend a few minutes with a good real-time search site like Collecta and you see how much is bubbling up--some of it banal, but much of it worth a read and your valuable time.

HubSpot bird-dogs a study from the University of California at San Diego that bolsters the argument that the written word is thriving. Here's a link to the complete study.

Researchers Roger Bohn and James Short point out that reading as a percentage of our information consumption has actually tripled in the past 50 years if we use words (on printed page or digital screen) as a measurement. The chart shows the transformation of reading in the past 50 years.

So, those of you with a passion for writing, fear not. There's plenty of upside in our world. And given the vast amount of information that's produced every second in printed form, there will always be a demand for those who can write clearly, concisely and cleverly.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year: Now Pronounce It Properly


"Two-thousand and ten" or "twenty-ten"... how shall we pronounce it?
Tom Torriglia says it's the latter.

Torriglia, the public face of the National Association of Good Grammar (NAGG), told the San Francisco Chronicle:
" 'Twenty' follows 'nineteen.' 'Two thousand' does not follow 'nineteen.' It's logical."
But if we went that route, Zager and Evans would never have had a hit song in the '60s, or at least one that had a decent meter.

I resolve to keep it simple and give my lips a rest whenever I can.

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