Setting the Record Straight

January 14, 2009

What’s That, You Say?

Mean What You Say, Say What You Mean

     The beginning of a new Congress brings to mind the title of the set of parliamentary rules by which that body operates (that is, when it operates) and the importance of that poor, ignored, misused orphan, the apostrophe.
     The book is “Robert’s Rules of Order.” A person (a family, actually) named Robert wrote the compendium of rules for the conduct of assemblies, etc. Hence, “Robert’s Rules.” But people who write about the rules usually call them “Roberts Rules” or worse, “Roberts’ Rules.” This relates also to my friends the Richardses, erudite journalists who nonetheless refer to themselves as “the Richards.” Others are “the Roberts” and “the Cheevers.” Why? Mostly carelessness, I think; they know better. But then, a family named Morris never uses “the Morris” for the plural, or Joneses “the Jones.” Why would they get it right? Go figure.
     Does all this laziness do any harm? In some cases, yes. A recipient of an invitation to visit “the Cheevers” (instead of “the Cheeverses”) may forever have the impression their last name is Cheever, not Cheevers.
     This doesn’t even get into the maddening habit of many painters of house numbers and welcome mats of making it “The Smith’s” or “The Johnson’s.”
     What grammar sloppiness really hurts understanding? Well, for example: If someone promises to “ensure compliance” with a regulation, that has (or should have) a different meaning from “insure compliance.” The first means the person will make sure compliance happens, the second means the person will provide financial backup in the case of noncompliance.
     Harm is also done by misuse of words whose meanings are clear opposites, such as “average” and “median.” If you promise a worker the “average” wage for the region, that would be different from the “median” wage.
     A humorous sidelight to all this is the regional variation of the meaning of “next.” A southerner, speaking on a Wednesday, may say “next Saturday” meaning “a week from this coming Saturday.” In other regions, “next” means “the very, absolute, coming-up NEXT Saturday, three days from now,” etc.
     Aside from all this, it is sometimes difficult to discern a train of thought, a rational discourse, in some contemporary language. “Well, it’s like we were, like, there, and I, like, did not actually like the, like, mood, y’know. So, like, I freaked, know wha’m sayn?” WHAT?
     Many people, including many in the military or in communications businesses such as television, would be surprised to learn there is no country pronounced “Eye-rack.” Iraq is “Ih-rack” or “Ih-rock,” but not “Eye-rack.”
     With Iran, the long “i” sound is permitted only as a second or third pronunciation, with “Ih-rann” the preferred, or “Ih-ronn.”
     And then there is the world of overuse. Nowadays, everything seems to be “great.” “Great food at Great prices,” one restaurant trumpets in its advertisements. I have had many restaurant meals in my day, but only one or two I would call “great.” I have never encountered “great” prices and am unsure what that means. The Great Wall of China is truly great, but few other walls are. Only a handful of movies could be considered “great.” So, how about being precise? The food was delicious or remarkable or plentiful or tasty or scrumptious, but hardly great. The prices were reasonable or a bargain, but hardly great. A party could be festive or enjoyable or lively or even memorable, but how many are great?
    Why does something have to have “an adverse effect on” something else? Why not harm, hurt, diminish, injure, or any of several worthwhile words with more precise meaning?
    Why are we confusing “lie” and “lay.” (I know “lie” has been a prominent part of the political discourse these past several years, but here I am talking about “lie” as in “lie down.” A person “lies low,” not “lays low.”
    Why did we allow one popular movie to help make “I shrunk the kids” accepted? “Shrank” is still a perfectly accepted and correct use for the plural. Also, “sank” and “drank.” As yet, nobody is saying , “He drunk his fill.”

—Veritas  

(from www.straightrecord.com)

August 29, 2008

Two Blows to U.S. Sports

Filed under: life,news — straightrecord @ 9:41 am
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Bye, Bye Baseball,

Annyong-Hi Kashipshio Ladies Golf

         In the same recent week, two major U.S. sports took a pair of shameful PR steps, shameful even for an American industry that already should be embarrassed by highly paid “super- stars” and bottom-line team owners more interested in the name on the stadium or tournament than the players who work in them.
          Major League Baseball–don’t say it without adding “Inc.”–has decided to denigrate one of the most valuable aspects of major sports, the referee.
     The league already had brought shame on itself by tolerating steroid usage in the league and tearing down multi-million dollar stadiums and blackmailing municipalities to help replace them with multi-billion dollar venues for some of the world’s highest-paid athletes.
     Because some of those Hollywood-style incomes depend on endorsements, which in turn are based on sports-page statistics, baseball umpires have come under increasing attack when they make the wrong calls; wrong, that is, based on television replays.
     Anyone who has ever played baseball, along with other sports that require umpires or referees, knows they are keys to the games, even when they occasionally make a bad call. As an athlete, you complain, but learn to suck it up and go with the fact the umpire is just as human as you are.
     Well, major league baseball has decided to sell out to the television empire by allowing TV replays to decide if an umpire is right or wrong.
     Next in the same week came the Ladies Professional Golf Association, which ruled that all participants in its tournament must be able to speak English. That apparently is a response to the dominance in the distaff side of the sport by Korean women.
     What does speaking English, indeed, speaking at all, have to do with playing professional golf, either as a woman or a man? We live in a global society; let the international players in our sports speak their own language. Unless their lack of English is preventing them from being articulate spokeswomen or repre- sentatives the LPGA prefers to present to the world, we have to ask, other than being able to translate meters in to yards and centimeters to inches, what the deuce does speaking English have anything to do with playing golf?

(from www.straightrecord.com)

August 1, 2008

Of Pigeons & Peanut Butter

Filed under: life — straightrecord @ 1:56 pm
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More Random Musings from Veritas

 

          ‘Splain to me this:

 
          –It is said that peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth. But isn’t that the CEILING of your mouth?

 

Squab anyone?

          –When was the last time you saw a baby pigeon?
          –When a street is level, do we speak of neighbors “just up the street” or “just down the street?”
          –Why do authorities close down a highway, but close up a business?

          –What is the need for so many euphemisms for “died” and “dead?” A friend “passed” or “passed away.” Soldiers were “taken” or they are among the “fallen.” A crime victim was “gunned down.” Our beloved auntie is “deceased.” Some form of “to die” would take care of all these.

 

          –Why do some people, I guess mainly southerners, speak of a week from Saturday as “next” Saturday? To them, the very next Saturday that will occur is “this Saturday.” Go figure.

                               —Veritas

(www.straightrecord.com)

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July 9, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates II

What Did That Bill Say? 

          And that brings us to authorship of legislation. At all levels of legislative candidacy–federal, state and municipal level–claims are made of “my bill” or “his bill.”
         The public’s ignorance of what this claim is all about was no more obvious than during the 2004 presidential election when the Democrats’ presidential candidate, John Kerry, said in a statement that would forever damn his chances because the public did not understand the process, that he voted for a piece of legislation to add funds to the war effort in Afghanistan and Iraq “before I voted against it.“
         That statement became the equal to the “swift-boat” campaign that added to the type of electoral ammunition Obama is about to face and that eventually doomed Kerry and the nation to another four years of George W. Bush.
         As inartful as Kerry’s statement may have been, he was simply being accurate.
         At all electoral levels, incumbents and those who run against them are going to be citing legislation, bills, proposals, measures, and all the other nouns used to describe them, that they authored, sponsored, co-sponsored, voted for, backed, whatever.
         There is safe haven in most of those words. The bill may have turned out to be junk, but if you think the result will win you votes, you can say you supported it. If you think it will lose you votes, you can say you were against it. How? Because no, or at least precious few, pieces of legislation make it through the mill without being altered.
         For example, members of Congress regularly put out press releases about bills they “co-sponsored.” Most of these are nice-sounding bills with even greater-sounding titles, such as Rep. A’s bill: “The Apple Pie and Motherhood Act of 2008,” but which might contain a hidden Jesse Helms provision. Rep. B either is an ideological ally of Rep. A, or more likely, Rep. B wants support for his “Motherhood and Apple Pie Act of Infinity and Beyond,” so he signs on as a co-sponsor of Rep. A’s bill with the expectation Rep. B will sign onto his.
         The bill is introduced with whatever number of clueless cosponsors and is referred to a committee. The committee refers it to a subcommittee. Depending on the chairmanship of the full committee, the bill receives attention or it does not.
         If the bill is among the small minority that gets any attention at all, it would receive a hearing at the subcommittee level and that panel would work its will on the piece of legislation, perhaps even, for the sake of this example, changing the title to the “Mother Pie and Apple Hood Act of Our Grandchildren.” The original author did not have that in mind, so, if he is a member of the committee, or even the subcommittee, he naturally votes against the bill. If he is not on the panel to which the legislation was referred, chances are it would not have been brought up in the first place, at least not in his name.
         That, or something more similar than you would like to know, is what was behind a presidency-losing Kerry statement: “actually, I did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”
         The simple-minded explanation of the tabloid-cable types and thus the thinking of more than half of the American electorate: “flip-flop.” Result: four more years of George W. Bush, four more years of Iraq, four and more thousand Americans dead, four more years of……………….”
         Who can say what the outcome of that election might have been if Kerry had explained, and the electorate understood, “I strongly supported that proposal early in the process, but when it got chopped up and distorted beyond all recognition, I could not support it any more.” Obama already is discovering the need for artful language with his shift that was is not a shift on the Iraq war issue.
         And finally, a word on another legislative item bandied about during campaigns. The outs always accuse the ins of voting for a bill they never read. You should hope your incumbent is not wasting time reading, or trying to read, bills.
         Bills, the proposals that become laws if they garner enough support, are written by lawyers according to a carefully designed legal procedure. Most proposals are attempts to change or add to existing law, so the bills actually refer to specific clauses, lines, paragraphs or sections of the U.S. Code or some other law. Reading a bill usually requires sitting down with the dozens of volumes of the U.S. Code at hand as a cross-check.
         What incumbents actually should read are the explanations prepared by able staff or their party leaders who lay out in fine detail what the bill is all about and what it would or would not do according to the preferred interpretation.
         This lesson was intended to be a primer on how voters should follow what is said in political campaigns, but with the ubiquitous presence of tabloid cable screamers, YouTube and the rest of the Internet, candidates themselves might want to avail themselves of a similar primer and alter their tendency to speak in shorthand.  
         Even a fairy dreamed up by Shakespeare half a millennium ago could say, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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July 8, 2008

Tongue-Tripping Candidates

Voters and The Art of Losing Elections

         What did that candidate just say?
         Whether it is a straight-out lie, willful deception or an artless attempt to provide a shorthand explanation, many candidates are hitting the campaign trail ill-prepared to address an electorate that is woefully ignorant. Voters are looking for simplicity and receiving too much of it delivered with careless language, and are not bothering to be discerning about the source of their information.
          We do not endorse the old shibboleth that all politicians, including those running for president, are crooks and are the same, blah, blah; the cop-out excuses of the non-electorate. We’ve met far too many of them to dismiss them as a class.
         But how they make their promises to you should be looked at carefully. It is all about being a good voter. We present here not only a few of the ungrammatical claims, but also the bald-faced claims and how to recognize them.
         We offer these two links to claims of presidential candidates as a start: Obama on the economy and McCain on the economy.

          Only the weirdest of political junkies would actually wade through these economic claims of the two presidential candidates we expect to be offered Nov. 4. Being somewhat junkie-weird ourselves, we offer them as part of the forthcoming lesson on how to read or, if your iPod is not working, listen to the candidates. These lessons apply to the presidential race, but one can apply them to political offices right down to dog catcher (is there really such a job today?).
         First, each of the economic-issue statements on the Web sites makes the same claim, “I will.” We get a bit schoolmarmish on this site, so for a bit of relief, we shall avoid in this item pointing out the verb “will” is applied only to the second and third person, “shall” to the first. Even we “shall” acknowledge that is a bit formal, but it would be nice to hear the usage from a presidential candidate, particularly after the past eight years of gibberish.
          A person saying “I will” do something is someone who is making an unconditional promise to you. Both of these guys are not going to be president, so one of them is lying to you. Grammatically, each should be saying, “I would,” as in “if elected, I would” do this and that. Neither is going to keep that promise if you do not elect him, ergo: lie.
         That brings us to the next big type of lie, that of past and future tense.
         We begin with Barack Obama, the newer of the politicians seeking the White House. To his credit, Obama’s site begins well and qualifies some of his promises as “calling for” and “we should,” but then it, representing him, gets a bit power-hungry.
          “Obama will cut income taxes by $1,000,” “Obama will restore fairness to the tax code,” “Obama will eliminate all income taxation of seniors making less,” “Obama will dramatically simplify tax filings” and on and on.
         Those claims are not true. Obama as president, just as John McCain as president, neither will (would) nor can do any of those things. In the United States, at least not yet, the president is not king–he, or eventually she, is just president.
         The U.S. Constitution, the right-wing anti-tax nuts notwithstanding, puts the power of taxation in the hands of the Congress (“Section 8: The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises,..,”), not the presidency. All the president can do is sign into law or veto tax bills passed by Congress.
         Similarly, McCain begins with some “we shoulds,” but then gets power-hungry himself and starts saying what he “will” do, paying no heed to the subjunctive form of the verb or to his lack of power to fulfill the promise. Even if you have to shout down a speech, make the candidate use the subjunctive form of a promise. (By the way, the security person who then wrestles you to the ground will not [we promise] be the Secret Service [that’s not its job], it will be a local thug hired by the local party.)
         Incumbents, at the very least incumbents of lesser jobs they no longer wish to “incumb,” often will tell you, usually through an advertisement, how great they were in a past political job or the one they wish to leave. “He passed legislation that…,” or “She passed new housing legislation.…”
          Why is this person not already a king? Because he or she did not pass the legislation alone. He or she was only one of a multitude of those on the winning side for the legislation. Yes, a mere cog in the wheel–no single person “passes” legislation alone.
         What really counts is the amount of effort, influence, creativity, muscle-power, elbow-grabbing, what-have-you, the office-seeker used in bringing about a majority vote for that legislation. Only a journalist is likely to be able to tell you the actual role played.

Next: What Did That Bill Say?

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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June 22, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part V

!!STOP!!

     Referring to “war on terror.” It is the “war on terrorism.” Terror can include acrophobia, a fear of heights, or any other fear people may have. “Terrorism” refers to an act designed to instill terror.

              –0– 

     Calling the president “Commander in Chief” unless you mean “of the military.” Collectively, members of the public are the president’s com-mander in chief, not the other way around.
     “The president shall be commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

 

Lay? Shrunk? You’re Not Communicating

     We get positively schoolmarmish in this site about grammar. We do that because clear communication becomes difficult when the speaker is careless with the language. Sometimes it is best to stay on the correct usage, whether it is popular or not.

     It used to be that to adopt a low profile was to “lie low.” Nowadays, you often hear it as “lay low,” which the dictionary defines as the “informal” version of “lie low.” The movie “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” did not do proper grammar any good. What was wrong with “shrank” as the past tense? Well, some dictionaries are accepting “shrunk.” (Thank goodness we have not gone–yet–to, “He drunk his drank,” “He thunk his thoughts.” “They grinded their coffee.”)                                                                     —Veritas

 

Change? Or?

     To Candidates: Stop running against Washington, D.C. This is a childish tactic, aimed at childish-thinking people. The presidency, vice presidency and all members of Congress are people sent to Washington by people at home. The American public always gets what it deserves. If you send fools to Washington, you deserve to have fools representing you.
     As for the presidency, the reality is, Washington defines the president, the president does not define Washington, no matter who he is. Presidents are elected to head only one of the three equal branches of government.
     In one of the weird quirks of American politics, presidents seeking their second terms strangely run against Washington. Senators who have made a career of being senators run against Washington. How ridiculous can you get?
     Let us hope that some day pandering to a largely ignorant U.S. electorate becomes self-destructive.

 

Who Are The Parties?

     You can tell how far right a member of the Republican Party is by whether he or she refers to the opposing group as the Demo-crat Party instead of its proper name, Democratic Party. Both words are adjectives; the proper names are consistent.
     This reference is more than 40 years old, going back to the days of the John Birch Society when people looked under their beds at night to make sure no commies were lurking.
     If you really think you have to make a distinction between a philosophy and a party’s name, why not just say “capital d” for the party and “lower case d” for the system of government.
     You’d sound far less silly.

 

Fly the Constitution

     Most political conservatives, who generally like to display their patriotism on their sleeves, or on their lapels, cannot stand the American Civil Liberties Union.
     Yet there probably is no more patriotic group in America than the ACLU. Its sole purpose has been since its creation to guarantee Americans have the protection of the
Bill of Rights , the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which in turn is the basis for our democracy since its inception. How much more patriotic can you be.
     Perhaps if those political conservatives showed more respect for the one of the world’s greatest documents, the American Constitution, than they do the U.S. flag, which is only a symbol–a powerful one, but still just a symbol–the solution to our political conflict might be found. Not!!!

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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June 18, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part IV

Filed under: life,news — straightrecord @ 10:42 am
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Still More Things Your Grammar Shoulda Told Ya

     The fatal heart attack suffered by NBC interviewer Tim Russert brought a spate of an error one would hope Russert learned in some sort of journalism class, or whatever passes for it for TV types.
     Not just a few news reports said “Tim Russert died suddenly,” meaning he suffered a heart attack in his office and died on the spot.
     One of the first things a would-be reporter learns in Journalism 101 is that everyone dies suddenly. It’s a fact of life, er, death. The heart stops beating, bingo. Usually, what is meant is that the victim died unexpectedly, which, of course, Russert did.

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Physics of Compliments 

      If you tell a person he or she is the “wind beneath my wings,” you have offered an insult.
     Any pilot can tell you the wind that provides lift, what a plane needs, is created by a vacuum created by an air foil flowing over the curved wing, not under it. The wind beneath the wing provides drag, just the opposite of lift.

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Verbing Nouns
     It probably occurred earlier, but way back when John F. Kennedy was president, he made popular the word “finalize.” Since then, there has been an explosion of people making verbs out of nouns, apparently as a way to speed up their oral speech, helped along to a great extent by lazy newscasters.
     Some of these verbed nouns are pretty bad.
     Take “reference,” for example. It is not a verb, but a noun as in a type of book or a citation. “Refer to” is even shorter.
     “Impact” is a lousy verb that mostly means to press closely or fill up and should be avoided by all but dentists. Instead, say “have an impact on.”
     And yes, we intended the irony of making a verb out of the word “verb.”

     So, don’t verb nouns at people!

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STOP!

     Saying literally when you mean virtually.

     Saying “period of time.” What else would a period be, but time, if it is not a reference to a punctuation mark.

     Saying “going forward.” If you mean “later,” “after this,” “in the future,” or something else, why not use those veteran phrases, and they are shorter.

     Saying “less” when you mean “fewer.” Tell your grocer to change that sign over the checkout lane. Less refers to quantity, fewer to a number, as in checkout lane with a proper sign: “9 items or fewer.”

     Saying between when you mean among. The “tween” in “between” means two, either individually or collectively. If there are more than three, the proper word is “among.”

     Saying “loan” when you mean “lend.” “Loan” is a noun, “lend” a verb, as in something given to you when a person is in the act of “lending” it to you.

     Using “like” when you mean “as.
     “Like” is used to compare one noun or pronoun with another. If you use “like” instead of “as,” such as in “you are writing or speaking like you are uneducated,” you sound uneducated.
     “I feel like I’ve seen this before” should be “I feel as though I’ve seen this before.”
     Back when there was an appreciation of good grammar, a cigarette company was criticized for an ad that blared “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” Teachers complained, the company demurred and came out with an ad poking fun at its earlier goof.

     And if you can, please stop saying “nucular” instead of “nuclear.” Just because George Bush says it that way does not mean that only intellectual midgets mispronounce the word. So do many people with much more than half a brain, so the habit of saying “nucular” must be akin to having a physical tic.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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June 16, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part III

More Things Grammar Shoulda Told Ya

     Assure, ensure and insure are not interchangeable. Each has a specific meaning that is not anything like the meaning of either of the other two.
    
Assure means a promise or an oath, a commitment to the statement that follows it. “I assure you we are doing everything we can.”
    
Ensure is like a guarantee, as making sure something occurs as intended. “You must ensure that this comes off as planned.”
    
Insure is a commitment your behind will be covered if either of those quotes is a lie. “I’ll insure you against libel, but get it right next time.”
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Mind Before Mouth  
     Many of the grammar errors Americans stumble through stem from a failure to speak in complete sentences.
     Now, nobody would want to listen to someone who actually speaks in complete sentences. It would be tedious and nettling, particularly in today’s hurry-up society.
     For instance, would you want to listen to this?
     “I just saw Roger, and he looks younger than I am young.” Hearing “I just saw Roger, and he looks younger than I,” sounds less pedantic, but more often you will hear, “I just saw Roger, and he looks younger than me.”–Incorrect
     Or this: “I can do it better than he can do it,” rather than “I can do it better than he.” More often, you will hear, “I can do better than him.”–Incorrect
     None of us wants to sound pedantic (this current lapse of ours notwithstanding), but what if we thought pedantic and spoke normal? Who but the most illerate among us would say, “me looks young” or “him can do it.” But if we thought in complete sentences and then spoke normally, we wouldn’t make those grammatical mistakes. Try it.

          –<>–

Grammar Key To Communicating

     And here’s an example of why good grammar is important–communicating.
     Take this phrase from a newspaper: “to promote more affordable housing.” As written, the sentence suggests there is not enough affordable housing.
     But if it a hyphen is included  (more-affordable housing) the phrase would mean there is not enough housing that is more affordable than whatever we are comparing it with.
     Two totally different meanings, all because of whether a hyphen is included.
     Yet, because of the decline of the language, we cannot be sure what the author intended even if she or he has used perfect grammar.

          –<>–

STOP!!!

     Saying “hopefully” when you mean, “I hope.” If you cannot substitute “I hope” for “hopefully,” you don’t make any sense and are hopelessly lost.

What’s with?

     Saying “That person over there that” as if a person is a thing and not actually a person. The correct way is “That person over there who.”

     Alright? It’s not all right to say alright. Alright isn’t a word.

     It’s for its and vice versa. The former is a contraction for “it is,” the latter a possessive pronoun.

(from www.straightrecord.com)

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June 13, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part II

Mythical Iraq

   Many people appear to have settled on “eye-rack” as the pronunciation of Iraq. The dictionary allows only “ih-rack” or “ih-raq.” Nearly all the military folks quoted on the boob tube call it “eye-rack.”
   And an analyst from a well-respected think tank was quoted on television recently, 50 times or so, referring to the mythical place called “Eye-rack.”

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TV Talk

   A Schoolmarm for television would require that:
   * The word “well” (as in “Well, Wolf…”) would not be the first word in every standup reporter’s report;
   * The word “incredible” would be banned (as in “That was an incredible story, Skippy”);
   * The word “that” would never be used to refer to a previous event being updated (as in “The suspect in that double murder in upstate New York.…”);
   * The word “target” as a verb would be thrown out and more accurate substitutes such as “designate,” “select,” “aim at,” “benefit,” “pick,” etc., would be used;
   * Television reporters would never be allowed to say “I can tell you” or “I should tell you,” because all the salient facts in a news event are things the reporters can or should tell their audience;
   * And now for the silliest little tic in speech: the double “is–” Nobody on television would be allowed to use the double “is.” You know it, don’t you? “The point is, is that…,” or, “The problem is, is that…,” or “The question is, is, does he really mean….”

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Permit Us To
Convince You

     What happened to the word “persuade?”
     All one seems to hear these days is something such as, “He convinced him to do such-and-such.”
     Persuade means to cause someone to act in a certain manner. Notice the word “to” In this sentence construction; it designates an infinitive.
     Persuade is part of an infinitive, convince is not. One would persuade someone to believe the previous statement is true and that person would thus become convinced it is so.

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Slam Dunk!!!!
As in WMDs?

     One danger of slurry thought and even slurry pronunciation is the loss of meaning. Jargon has its dangers.
     Consider, “It’s a slam dunk, Mr. President” and all that phrase helped get us into.

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Why, Oh Why?

     Why do people have such trouble with common plurals?
     “Media” is the plural of “medium.” So, it’s “The media are struggling…”
     “Criteria” is the plural of “criterion.” So, it’s “My criteria for success are these…”
     “Data” is the plural of “datum.” So, it’s “The data are conclusive.”
     “Bacteria” is the plural of “bacterium.” So, it’s “The deadly bacteria were detected in food.”

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And Learn This,

Por Favor

     People have such trouble with the hard and soft “h.”
     Words with the hard “h” take “a,” as in, “It is a historic occasion,” “He was a Hispanic scholar.” You wouldn’t say, “He gave AN hard time when we took AN history test,” would you?
     Words with the soft “h” take “an,” as in, “It is an honor.”
     “Herb” is a fuzzy example. Usually, the American usage is “an herb.” But “a herb” is being accepted as an alternative, with the dictionary notation, “Especially British.”

—Veritas

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June 12, 2008

Lessons from the StraightRecord Schoolmarm

Things Your Grammar Shoulda Told Ya, Part I

     Turn off your TV the next time you hear “near miss” or “midair.” These speakers don’t really mean a “near miss.” The anchors breathed in too much hairspray. What they really mean is “near collision.”
     This one we know we will never win: “midair collision,” explosion or whatever. Have you ever heard anyone say sideair or top air or bottom air? A simple “collision in the air” would suffice, thank you.
     Stop the speaker when you hear “a lion’s share,” and find out what he or she really means. The phrase actually means only “all of it,” not “most of it.” Unless you’re another lion, you’re not going to get a share.
     And when you hear “each and every one.” What’s the difference? How about just “each” or “every one,” or better yet, “all.”
     Some things are accepted today when they would not have been accepted in the past. For clarity, please mind the difference.
     For example, a newspaper recently advertised for “an aggressive police reporter.” Poor thing that got the job probably got beat up by the cops the first day on the job. Let us hope the newspaper got the assertive reporter it was seeking. Aggressive carries with it an intent to do harm. Assertive is just putting one’s self forward.
     Why say “period of time.” What else would a period signify, but time or the end of a sentence or a menstrual cycle?
     And we love this from those TV anchor types: “If you are  seeing this….” Well, duh, you ain’t on radio.

 

Some Age-Old Questions Answered

Chicken or Egg

     It’s supposedly an age-old question: which came first, the chicken or the egg.
     Organic evolution says the egg came first.
     This is an over-simplification, but every living thing procreates by forming some sort of seed that grows into similar living thing. Eventually, the seed became an egg in some species and then somewhere along the evolutionary path, a chicken emerged from an egg.

Tree falling in the woods

     Another supposedly age-old question: if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?
     No, it does not.
     The crash of the falling tree emits wavelengths that are interpreted by some living things, such as humans, to be sound. If no species capable of hearing is around to interpret the wavelengths as sound, then there is no sound.

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