Setting the Record Straight

February 11, 2009

Grammar Rant

We Verb You To Quit Saying 24/7

If I were the Grammar and Usage Czar:

–Nobody would be “tasked” to do something. The person would be assigned or directed or ordered or requested or asked or commanded or ordained or appointed.

–Nobody would be allowed to use the expression “twenty-four/seven” or its newest variant “twenty-four/seven/three sixty-five.” It would be at all times or around the clock or all day or every day or always or without end or any of useful alternatives.

–Particularly in television, reporters or anchors would not be allowed to describe something as happening “as we speak.” “Police are investigating as we speak” is redundant; the present tense of the verb takes care of all that.

–“As well” should be consigned to the trash heap. “They sold new models, but also sold used cars as well.” “Also” or “and” or something else would do without the “as well.”

–Speaking of “well,” that would not be allowed to be the first word in every television reporter’s story: “Well, Skippy, the city….” “Well, today was to be the day….”

–Everyone would be assigned to study the objective case and nominative case. They would never again say “It made no difference to Joe and I” or “Mail it to Mary or I.”




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.”



September 13, 2008

Sarah Ain’t Seen Nuttin’ Yet

How the Media Could Get Tough

     News being not what it is misconstrued to be, but rather what it is—that which is new or unusual—the American Idol wannabe Republicans are running for vice president will soon face the usual close examination and exposure by the legitimate news media.

     It is no surprise that Barack Obama came to be such a big story and it is no more of a surprise his star faded a bit and Sarah Palin became the big story. All stories have a short shelf life in the legitimate news business. Have you noticed you don’t hear much about Joe Biden? He’s still campaigning and speaking, but the news has been elsewhere.

     No doubt, before Nov. 4, something or somebody else will grab the headlines. One of the first ones, we suspect is the small crowds John McCain gets versus those of Palin if they ever part company on the campaign trail.

     Whoever is in the spotlight long enough should expect some good, hard questioning by the legitimate news media (we define that as the traditional media that includes daily newspapers, news magazines and national television networks and not the other crap flying by). Here is a primer on how hard the legitimate media can be but usually is not.

     Some conservatives who idolize Sarah Palin already are crying foul about the way she is questioned by the media.
     If the legitimate parts of the news media behaved as the John McCain campaign has, she would be devastated and made to look the biggest fool ever to step onto a political platform.
     Based on the first transcripts from the ABC interview with her, we suggest ways the she could have been made to look silly.
     The interviewer noted McCain’s reference to her foreign and national security credentials as stemming from heading a state close to Russia and commanding the state’s National Guard.
Palin avoided the question and a follow-up. Instead of insisting on a response, the interviewer moved on to another question.
     Later, the interviewer returned to the proximity to Russia as credentials for an Alaskan governor to be discussing Russia’s invasion of Georgia.
Palin: “They’re our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
     The interviewer did his job and said, “What insight does that give you into what they’re doing in Georgia?” Then he let her dodge it and get off the hook. He could have pressed on, making her look the fool the assertion represents.
     Remember when junk telephone calls were the norm? The callers read from a prepared script and most were easily flummoxed if you interrupted them to ask a question or say something irrelevant to the subject. Palin’s answers to predictable questions had the appearance of being scripted.
     Palin: “What I think is that smaller democratic countries that are invaded by a larger power is something for us to be vigilant against.”
     The interviewer, even letting the bad syntax slide, could have asked: “Why do you smaller democratic countries, why not smaller countries in general. Are you saying it is okay for a larger power, such as the United States, to invade any smaller country it wants to as long as the smaller country isn’t democratic?”
     Other than by providing a transcript, tough exchanges in print are hard to use to illustrate a lack of knowledge.
     A newspaper tired of a sleazy councilman’s constant accusations he was misquoted. The newspaper decided to get even and ordered reporters to quote him verbatim and not fix his grammar and syntax. He ended up looking like a fool, as most people would if you put their words on paper exactly as spoken.

     In the Palin example, she has the careless all but the most genteel among us are prone to do, dropping the “g” on our gerunds. The more you do it, the less sophisticated you sound. In print, it makes you look like one of the American Hillbillies.
     Print reporters and editors usually edit quotes to make them more understandable, and that usually means repairing grammar and syntax. Unfortunately, speakers believe they spoke more eloquently than they actually did, so they rarely appreciate the fixes.


September 1, 2008

Dan Quayle In A Skirt?

Oh, No! Not Again!

     In her first speech as a national candidate, John McCain’s pick for running mate sounded too much like the current White House occupant.
     Sarah Palin referred to nuclear as “nuke-you-ler” and identified the country in which the United States illegally and foolishly invaded as “eye-rack.”
     Do we really have to listen to this for another two months, or, gasp, for another four years?

How a Vice
President Speaks  

     We deal with personal scandals as just that, personal, and leave it to tabloid-cable to exploit except when a possible abuse of office or policy is involved. We always deal with grammar.
     In one of her first statements on the subject of being vice president, she asked, quite sincerely, what the vice president does all day. Well, one of the things the vice president does is serve as the president’s personal ambassador, meeting exquisitely educated leaders all over the world.
     But one of the e-mails she wrote during her family dust-up that might lead to something we will need to consider, was this: “lack of action towards a trooper whom is described by many as ‘a ticking time bomb’ and a ‘loose cannon.’”
     Give her credit for trying, but she misses the point of the difference between “who” and “whom.” The action she is referring to is about him, and since “who” is the subjective case, even though the part of the sentence in which he is mentioned would appear to put him in the objective case, the phrase should have been: “a trooper who is described by many as a ‘ticking time bomb’ and a ‘loose cannon.’”


August 23, 2008

This Just In

Biden Says Obama to Alter Earth Orbit

     In his maiden speech as a candidate for vice president, Joe Biden made a couple of amazing assertions, which, if true, suggests he and Barack Obama should not be elected.
     Biden said that when Obama stands on the Senate floor, he stretches his body full length to reach across the aisle to pass legislation. Anyone who has been on the Senate floor knows, that even at Obama’s height, he cannot stretch that far.
     And why would he even try? In the Senate, to pass legislation actually means you help pass legislation by voting for it, and that means going into the well of the Senate and expressing your aye or nay to a clerk at a table in front of the dais.
     But Biden said Obama does it another way. He said, “He made his mark literally from day 1 reaching across the aisle to pass legislation….”
      As president, of course, Obama would no longer have a vote in the Senate, so he doesn’t have to behave in the silly way Biden describes.
      But Biden, and this is the real news, said if elected president Obama would have the opportunity to change the orbit of the Earth. If this is to be his solution to global warming, this is scary. It isn’t clear how he would go about it, but that is a scary prop- osition.
      Yet Biden said, “he will have such an incredible opportunity, incredible opportunity, not only to change the direction of America, but literally, literally, to change the direction of the world.”
      First job for the Obama/Biden campaign advisers: convince Biden, literally, to quit using the word “literally.” If he wants to use emphasis, choose another word or repeat it in the next breath as he is wont to do.


August 22, 2008

Pavlov & Presidents

How Would Pavlov’s Dogs Vote?

     Feel like salivating when you hear a campaign speech? Whether the response is drooling, anger, joy, whatever, the response is no accident, because as far as the two presidential campaigns are concerned, you are little more than one of Pavlov’s dogs.
     Just over a century ago, Ivan Pavlov, a Russian scientist whose biggest achievements were in the fields of medicine, became eponymus for conditioned reflexes when he conducted experiments on training a dog to salivate at the ringing of a bell.
     Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for showing that a dog, conditioned to expect a treat whenever a bell rang, actually salivated at the ring of a bell in anticipation of a treat, regardless of whether the treat was proferred.
     The Pavlovian bells in a presidential campaign are certain phrases, known as propaganda techniques. We’ve already heard many, we are about to be inundated the rest of them. Some lists have up to a dozen items, but the major ones we’ll see in the campaign are: glittering generalities, assertion, lesser of two evils, plain folks and transfer.
     To be a responsible voter, one needs to be able to recognize those and other lures in the candidates’ speeches and statements intended to ring whatever bell they believe you want rung, and make you salivate for their election.
     Thanks to the early primaries, we have been inundated already with a plethora of propaganda techniques that can be classified as Pavlovian bells. More are coming. We are not talking here about the moronic tabloid-cable gotcha quotes, mostly taken out of context.
     Most of the moronic stuff you have heard so far comprises the “transfer” propaganda technique. It includes tying the statements of Barack Obama’s former minister to Obama himself; tying the incumbent president to John McCain, even the positions of the president with which McCain disagrees.  
     The serious Pavlovian statements are the ones candidates, both McCain and Obama, make to tweak your patriotism, prejudices and similar feelings, but mostly to take advantage of your ignorance.
     You have McCain saying early on, “I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.”
         First, let it be known Obama did not say he would rather “lose a war in order to win a political campaign,” this is a phrase inserted into Obama’s mouth by McCain (assertion). But McCain did say he would rather lose a campaign than lose a war (lesser of two evils).
         This is a rah, rah statement (glittering generalities), meant to appeal to your patriotism, a false patriotism. The United States has not won a significant war since World War II. The best it has done is fight to a draw in Korea. In making the statement, McCain may feel it in his heart, or he is simply counting on the outcome of the Iraq war not being decided by Nov. 4.
     Do we really want a president so gung ho he would have had us fight on and on and on in Vietnam, far beyond the 58,000 American dead? If a president had had the guts to admit defeat and leave Vietnam (as we eventually did) years earlier, tens of thousands of American lives would have been saved.
     You have Barack Obama saying, “We meet at a moment when this country is facing a set of challenges unlike any we’ve ever known. Right now, our brave men and women in uniform are fighting two different wars while terrorists plot their next attack.”
         Today’s situation is bad, but we have faced worse times, and recently (card stacking). Candidates never talk about the military, whether it is engaged in a dust-up or all-out war calling them “brave,” (glittering generalities) even though they have not had a choice but to follow orders once they’ve signed up.
         And Obama is counting on a Pavlovian response to the fear of terrorists plotting a new attack as evidence the United States needs a new way to deal with threats (pinpointing the enemy).
         Finally, in most of his speeches, Obama attempts to characterize himself as an outsider who wants to bring about change (plain folks). He is a U.S. senators and that makes him an insider, but talking against “Washington,” of which he is an elite part, elicits a Pavlovian response from the voters.
     Not that more than a few dozen wise voters will ever get the chance between now and November to ask a candidate a question, much less challenge him on his statements, but these statement carefully intended to elicit Pavlovian responses are the very ones that need to be challenged.
     It is the news media, which has its access as representatives of the public, that must ask these questions, challenge these statements and, force responsible answers to the real issues of the day.
     Don’t bet on it. This is the age of tabloid-cable and blogging—the campaign will be about little more than how many houses a candidate knows his rich wife owns (name calling) or whether the other candidate is enough of a Christian to lead this supposedly secular nation (name calling).
     Other propaganda techniques, already professionally massaged in the commercials and programming that floods the airwaves, include bandwagon and stereotyping. There is one other.
    Where did both candidates plan to be on September 11? Of course, in New York City as each attempted to elicit the same Pavlovian response by the voters (testimonials).


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.”



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?



June 22, 2008

StraightRecord Schoolmarm Lessons: Part V


     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.


     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!!!



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.


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.


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!



     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.



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