Entries Tagged as 'language & grammar'

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye will pronounce the double-“O” sound properly

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 100000: Young people of the Empire! I am only going to decree this once, so listen carefully. Two letter “O”s, in American English, are pronounced with a long “O” sound, un-interfered with. “Pool,” for instance: “poooooool.” It is not “poo-wuhl.” “Cooooool,” not “coo-wuhl.” Do you see a “W,” anywhere, in either of those words? Get it right. That’s all. I have no more to say on the matter. Now…[rubs hands together] for the punishment.

The Punishment: [Those in charge here at WFTC have deemed the Emperor’s punishment for this offense to be far too violent for publication. In fact, “sadistic” is a better word for the fate he declares for those who those who mispronounce the double-“O” sound. I mean, he’s really riled up by this one — rivers of blood; deaths of whole generations of descendants….mutilation…truffle-salt in the eyes…that sort of thing. Do yourself a favor and say it right. (“Right,” of course, being whatever the Emperor thinks.) The Imperial Language Patrol is everywhere. Don’t risk it for the sake of following some fleeting pronunciation trend. It’s hard to explain to the IRS (Imperial Revenue Service) why your body occupied two different zip codes, simultaneously, over a whole fiscal year. Just not worth the headache. Don’t be a foo-wuhl.]

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye will no longer preface statements with “not to…”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 16 1/3: The Emperor loathes parroted language. He hates when people use a phrase that is either contradictory (or that is completely ineffectual) simply because that phrase appears in a popular pattern of speech. (And, if the Emperor hates it, then so shall you.) With that in mind, subjects of the Emperor (that’s all of you, in case you haven’t caught-on by now) may no longer preface statements with “Not to…” If you are not doing to do “it,” just don’t, but do not use “not to” to announce that this mysterious, forthcoming phrase is exactly what you next intend to do. For instance, during a conversation about baseball: “Not to change the subject, but I think aardvarks might have been deposited here on Earth by ancient aliens.” Or, in any other conversational circumstances: “Not to be sexist, but women are just not as smart as men.” Instead, replace “not to” with the statement: “Warning! I am about vomit forth a statement of alarming stupidity or irrelevance!” and, then, continue. It’s far more effective and logically sound and it makes it easier for the Imperial Spies to determine who needs to be watched closely. “Not to,” my minions, simply does not work out to absolution for your upcoming, moronic verbal ejaculation.

The Punishment: Violators will be sent to the Imperial Torture Chamber and they will repeatedly have their heads forced into a large tub of water by Gerhard, the Imperial Dunker. (You should see his arms.)  Before each submersion, Gerhard will smile and say, “Not to deprive you of oxygen, but…” The violators will be released after twenty dunks, if they live. A lot depends on Gerhard’s mood. And he has a tendency to lose track of time…

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarvirtual children by Scott Warnock

If you don’t know what grammar is, then texting may be bad for it

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You don’t need research (although it’s easy to find) to tell you that children are sending thousands of texts per month, sometimes hundreds per day. And you don’t need to be a news hound to know that, communications-wise, this has widely been viewed as a sign that all that we know of as good is coming to an end. [Read more →]

educationlanguage & grammar

Punctuation 101: periods vs. comas

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I’ve been called a grammar nerd, but I don’t mind. It’s something that’s important to me, and having put myself so far into debt by chasing my degree in English, it pains me every time I catch a glimpse of society’s lax attitude toward proper grammar. The fact that as technology has progressed, the general population’s understanding of basic grammar has severely declined, is no secret to anyone. But it’s embarrassing — seriously. Almost daily, I see people making mistakes with very basic things, like periods and comas. Typically, when I call somebody out on it, I get a response that’s something like, “Dude, whatever, it’s just a Facebook post.” But it’s not just a Facebook post. It’s putting yourself out there for the world to see with a giant sign around your neck that says: I Haven’t Learned Basic English Yet. It’s really not even that hard. Here’s the difference:

[Read more →]

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that there shall be “Separation of Poetry and State”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 123, Stanza 5 : There shall ever be, from this point forward, “Separation of Poetry and State.” Thus far, since having established his dominion over the world, the Emperor has tolerated the quaint machinations of federal, state and local governments, because it has amused him to do so. Yesternight, however, while driving upon a highway, he glanced up and saw an electronic sign that read: DRIVE SOBER OR GET PULLED OVER. Oh, nonononono. Uh uh. It is bad enough the politicians have been masquerading, lately, as actual human beings equipped with compassion and ethics and stuff. It is bad enough when law enforcement officers make disingenuous attempts to seem as if they don’t believe they are innately superior to anyone who drives a vehicle without flashy things on top of it…but, to align themselves with the noble mappers of the human heart? — to even allude to a kinship, however remote, with the wordsmiths who shine the light of Truth into the dark places of the Universe…and, then, to rhyme words like “sober” and “over” as if such an act doesn’t spit upon the dead faces of said Shiners of Light…? Such vapid hypocrisy will not be allowed in the Empire.

The Punishment: Violators will be bound to a chair. They will be forced to endure a bored-looking procession of black-clad fifteen-year-olds. Each angsty and/or recently jilted youth will recite poems (written on jagged-edged notebook paper and illustrated with ballpoint sketches of sinister eyeballs with marvelous lashes), until the mind of the violator cracks. (The Imperial Master of Torture conjectures that this will take an average of eight minutes per violator.)

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that the phrase “my bad” shall not be used as a substitute for “I’m sorry”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 84: While the Emperor truly wishes to outlaw the phrase “my bad,” he will not. Not completely. (The Emperor realizes he has a tendency to go overboard with the number of phrases he loathes…) But, the phrase “my bad” is now illegal in situations where it is completely obvious that it is, in fact, the speaker’s…uh, “bad.” An example might be found in the Emperor’s numerous and nightmarish memories of the Philadelphia Eagles’ former quarterback, Randall Cunningham, throwing the ball sixteen miles away from the vicinity of his intended receiver (into the teeth of an elderly nun who was innocently and selflessly — she was more of a tennis fan, really — accompanying her orphanage students on a trip to the game) and then slapping himself on the chest and mouthing “my bad” as if he was doing mankind a noble service by virtue of the very admission.  A more reasonable and un-hyperbolic example might be a situation in which a waiter drops a flaming entrée into the lap of a gentleman’s date, thereby igniting her dress and damning her to years of reconstructive surgery (not to mention robbing her of the ability to ever bear children), and proclaiming, penitently, that the accident is his “bad.” There simply will be no more of it in the Empire. If we can see that a mistake is yours and you extraneously proclaim it your “bad,” you will suffer. “My bad” does not, and never will, equate to “I’m sorry.”

The Punishment: Violators will — in homage to the delightfully evil creativity of  the dreaded pirate Yellowbeard — be forced to eat their own lips.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye shall no longer respond to questions with “So…”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 23Q: Citizens of the Empire are no longer allowed to answer someone’s questions by leading off with the word “so.” For example:

Interviewer: Is your novel about “coming of age,” Mr. Writerly?

Mr. Writerly: So…in the book, I try to examine youth as, etc, etc.

Although this type of response is as trendy and “NPR-ish” as inserting the phrase “sort of” (pronounced: “srtiv”) after every five words of a statement, leading off an answer with “so” makes it sound as if you are relieved that the interviewer finally shut up for six seconds and allowed you to continue to talk about yourself. It’s arrogant and it is a sure way to kill the flow of any discussion. And it will stop as of today. The Emperor has his eye on all of you pseudo-educated, neo-snobs…

The Punishment: Violators will be locked in a cell with a small desk, a quill and ink, and no food. They will be forced to write five-hundred word requests and to make arguments as to why they should be fed, each day, for a span of two weeks. Eight hours after each request, they will receive a note in response from the Emperor. The note will be engraved and gilded. It will read, simply, “So?” (In his divine munificence, the Emperor will provide a protein drink per day.)

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye will stop misusing the word “hero”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 111-11-1111-11/X: The Emperor calls for an end to the improper use of the word “hero.” A hero is a person who performs a heroic act (The Emperor’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 332). While many people should, for instance, be deeply praised for choosing selfless and noble careers (firemen, for example) or for exemplifying great courage (surviving cancer, for instance) we will, henceforth, reserve the use of the world “hero” for those who have performed heroic acts. The fireman doesn’t become a hero when he gets a position in the department; he becomes a hero when he saves a life. The cancer survivor doesn’t become a hero for surviving cancer; she becomes a hero when she dedicates her life to raising money for cancer research. (Oh, shut up. The Emperor, himself, is a cancer survivor and would never claim the title of “hero” because of it.) There are many wonderful, important and praiseworthy people out there who are not heroes. Heroes are a special category of wonderful people — unless, of course, we continue to call all wonderful people heroes.

The Punishment: Those who continue to misuse this word will be forced to spend the next ten years of their lives wearing their underwear on the outside of their pants, in public.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye shall cease using the word “ameezing”

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I have been declared Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time explaining why or how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my next decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. MCMVII: The Emperor now feels compelled to ban the use of a word. Sadly, there are those who use this word properly and in moderation, but he sees no other way than to banish the utterance of the word for no less than an entire decade, in order to stop the offenders. The word is: “amazing.” If the Emperor has to hear one more twenty-something describe her night, her trip to New York or her boyfriend as “ameezing” —  it is always pronounced this way — he might crack into Imperial shards. If one more vocabulary-deprived young fop in a television interview goes on a babbling, ineffectual journey through the forest of inanity to “describe” what an “ameezing” experience it was to meet so many “ameezing” people and do so many “ameezing” things, the royal skull might just implode. Further, preceding the word with “sooo” (drenched in an affected, see-sawey, imitative cadence) is now no longer allowed. In fact, it will only condemn the offender to deeper misery.

The Punishment: Utterers of the banned word will be chained in a great, high-vaulted and sonorous cathedral full of teenagers. The teenagers will all be talking about arguments they got into with their significant others during the previous night. They will rant, non-stop, in myriad, reverberating cackles until the Emperor’s “ameezing” ban is lifted. Which will be never. Let the fools drown in an eternity of “whatEVER” and “REEELLY?” and “no he didn’t” — let them drown, I say, in great waves of marble-reflected, nasal susurrations!

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor will grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarThe Emperor decrees

The Emperor decrees that ye shall not parrot popular phrases that ye do not understand

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I have become Emperor of the World. Let us not waste time in questioning how; let’s all simply accept the fact that we are better off, as a result; hence, my first decree:

Emperor’s Decree No. 1: No one is permitted, anymore, to say “I’m so over it” if they are not, indeed, “over it.” How will the Emperor’s spies know whether or not someone is indeed “over it”? Simply put, if one angrily yells “I’m so over it” and then breaks a coffee table with one’s fist, one is clearly not over it. Saying that one is “over it” should be a declaration that one is finished with “it” — done expending time and emotional energy on “it”; at peace with “it.”

The Punishment: Violators will be slapped, repeatedly, on the left cheek, by a burly, noisome man with large and calloused hands. Before each successive slap, up to slap one-thousand, the Imperial Deliverer of Slaps (“Pete”) will say, “I am so done hitting you now.” Prisoners will be released after the final clout.

Now, go forth and obey.

The Emperor shall grace the world with a new decree each Tuesday morning.

language & grammarmoney

“It pays for itself” (not as often as we’ve been told)

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We might think that people never have to pay for anything, with all the things we hear are paying for themselves. Most times, when someone says, “It pays for itself,” the proper response is, “No, it doesn’t.”

I know someone who buys annual memberships at several aquariums and zoos because doing so only costs a little more than the one-day pass. He once told me that if you go to the Baltimore Aquarium just twice in a year, the yearly pass “pays for itself,” which is why he has bought the yearly pass. Baltimore is a four-hour drive from where he lives, but no matter. He is determined to have his pass pay for itself, so he loads the kids into the car and takes a second trip to Baltimore within the year. Not to do so is to have paid for a yearly membership when only a one-day pass was needed. Driving to Baltimore costs money for gas and tolls, but if you add it all up, as I’m sure he has, it still costs less than paying for two separate day passes to the aquarium. This math convinces him that the yearly pass pays for itself. If he goes to the aquarium a third time in the year, it will pay for itself even more. If he goes ten times, the yearly pass pays for itself so much it’s practically free. [Read more →]

language & grammar

Pedants gone wild

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The kids today can’t write, you’ve surely heard it said, and new technologies are to blame.” So writes Kathleen Fitzpatrick at cnn.com, but she doesn’t agree that texting and other electronic media are making students less literate. Whatever your view of the influence of e-communication on writing skills, read the insightful comments below the article.

Fitzpatrick is attacked for writing, “I’ve got nearly 20 years of experience in the classroom[…]” Commenter Keith writes: [Read more →]

language & grammarrecipes & food

Fast food: Not so fast, anymore

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You know what frightens me a little about us? — people, I mean. We are really eager to accept things the way they are, even if they are way worse than the way they were pretty derned recently. 

Oh, sure, we’ll moan about “how it used to be,” but, for the sake of ease, something in our heads makes us want to accept stuff, “as is.” Things go more smoothly that way, I guess. 

Or maybe we do this because we feel like we simply can’t stand up effectively against things like plummeting standards. One of the most popular American phrases right now (annoying as I might find it [imagine the whole of the American populace not adjusting its phraseology just to please me]) is: “It is what it is.” Usually, this is a resignation: It ain’t changing.  [Read more →]

language & grammar

Replacing “sucks” with “stinks”

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A reader of the Bucks County Courier Times, Brad Thompson, gives word choice advice on today’s Opinion page:

“[Blank] sucks” began as a teenage homophobic slur in the 1960s to bully unpopular boys. Now, the “s-word” describes anything bad. Let’s say “stinks” instead.

This proposal worries me because it is possibly offensive to people with body odor. Also, to skunks.

And will people still be able to say “That stinks” when they want to complain about the stench coming from an overflowing trashcan, or will others think they are just saying that trash is bad?

language & grammartrusted media & news

A Fieldguide to Avian-Americans

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The dove is a symbol of peace but symbolism is a tricky business. Perhaps due to its reputed monogamy and habit of living among humans without  much friction the dove has been such since biblical times at least. Likewise the corruption of symbols, the dove included, has always been a staple of human interaction whether in a friendly confusion as happened with our Martian friends or with malign and murderous cunning. The dove, like the olive branch, is a somewhat arbitrary vehicle for sentiment and as all good people are learning, sentiment has immovable limitations.

The clear opposite of the Dove, in politics as in fact, is the Hawk. While the Doves are an ancient political race the Hawk, or War Hawk was only conceived around 1812. [Read more →]

language & grammarrace & culture

Using “the R-word” is exactly the same as using “the N-word,” and if you can’t see that, then you’re feebogzh

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Recently, in Australia, the recording/performance artist Lady Gaga and her entourage were pelted with eggs, apparently to protest Ms. Gaga’s use of a wheelchair as part of her musical act. Ms. Gaga, who has the full use of her legs, needed to be shown the insensitivity inherent whenever anyone who does not need a wheelchair uses a wheelchair, whether it be for artistic purposes or not. The eggs were intended as an attention-getting device.

Obviously, as a sensitive person myself, I applaud the throwing of items at insensitive people to get their attention on important matters. Most insensitive people don’t realize they’re being insensitive, and throwing objects at them is a good way to start the conversation process, which will start a dialogue which will in turn lead to the curative process, and then, inevitably can we begin to heal, as a people. I would like to point out, however, that millions of men and women all over the world struggle with the tragedy of infertility. The throwing of eggs is a sad reminder of the burden these people live with every day of their lives. Therefore I must reluctantly say that it was insensitive of the wheelchair activists to throw eggs at Ms. Gaga et al, no matter how noble their intentions. [Read more →]

language & grammar

Loose lips vs. clean hands

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Once upon a time in America there were posters that said “Loose Lips Sink Ships“. It was good advice for serious times. (According to some sources, posters actually said “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships“, but we remember the catchier, more concise version.)

These days we have different posters and different slogans. Pictured below is one posted in a men’s restroom where I work: “Clean Hands Save Lives!” [Read more →]

language & grammarvirtual children by Scott Warnock

Warning: Your child may be a carrier of adverbs

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Maybe I’m just a linguistic sponge, but I find myself falling into the discourse of those around me. A northeastern boy, I’ve felt that if I moved to say, the south, that I’d pick up not only the vernacular but the accent within weeks.

This brings me to adverbs. [Read more →]

language & grammarpolitics & government

I ain’t people

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It is wearying to mention Wisconsin so let’s mention it not. It’s unnecessary because those events are not exceptional, actually, but for scale and location. The struggle there is just one beach head in the constant, global and universal struggle. A tiny tendril of that struggle touched down here in Atlanta yesterday as a noisy bussed in scrum of unionists faced a smaller, carpooled scrum of flag wavers across the intersection in front of the Georgia capitol. I can’t say that I attended although that was my intention. For me it was just a three or four block walk. Approaching I could tell my side by the abundance of Carhartt’s and posterboard signs. I could tell the other by their red t-shirts and glossy-stock signs. The unionists numbered maybe 200 and the anti-unionists half that so this was less than a political Woodstock. An earlier scheduled event for and against a referendum on Sunday liquor sales (I’m pro) was a bit larger.

I didn’t stop. I didn’t break stride. I walked past my guys and their guys at the same camel-esque speed and blinked at them as if I had no idea what I had stumbled upon at all and walked straight to the bar. So I guess I am a deserter. [Read more →]

language & grammarpolitics & government

‘No Labels’ and everyday irony

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I get a kick out of what I call everyday irony—small contradictions, often so small they pass without notice—that make me laugh. For example, the other day a friend of mine pointed out the everyday irony of those radio ads that ask for donations of old cars to benefit the blind. Undoubtedly a worthy charity, but it still brings to mind Mister Magoo. [Read more →]

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