Thursday, November 30, 2006

It's the Spelling That Counts

While researching a piece on gifts, we came across the following at the Toys Are Good Food blog. It's an inscription in a book given in 1972 from a daughter to her parents. The kicker? It's a book called "Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples."

Christmas 1972

Dear Mother and Daddy,

I truly hope that you will find at least a little value out of this book. As an observer to your marriage of 24 years, I can see many of the elements of open marriage in your relationship. However, perhaps there is something here which will help you to understand yourselves beter and also help each one of us as we individularry make the step into our own marriages. I love you both and pray that my own marriage (if there is one for me) will be as good as yours is.
God bless you and your relationship.

Love, Dotty

And about the book's title: Lifestyle, though generally one word today, was sometimes written as two in the 1970s. When it was coined in the late 1800s, it had a hyphen (thanks, OED!). We're feeling charitable about this spelling choice and won't ding the authors -- a married couple, no less -- even if we would never want to swap keys with them.)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Celebrities Can't Spell, Entry 999,873

From Nicole Richie's blog:

BLIND ITEM: What 35 year old raisin-face whispers her order of 3 peices of asparagus for dinner at Chateau everynight, and hides her deathly disorder by pointing the finger at me, and used her last paycheck I wrote her to pay for a publisist instead of a nutritionist? HINT: Her nickname is lettucecup...

The next item comes from Britney Spears' paper on "Antigone." The writing is hard to read, but she spells loses as "looses," there as "their" and rumor as "roomer," and that's just on the first page.

Here's the sad part -- Christie's Auction House is asking $500 for this, which is about what we made on our first book:

(click to enlarge)

Genetic Roots of Spelling Woes

Wouldn't you know it? Dyslexia and spelling problems are genetic -- and appear to boil down to an unlucky combination of 13 genes.

London, Nov 27: Scientists from Edinburgh University claim to having identified the gene sequence that determines a person’s ability to work with letters and numbers.

The findings of the 20-year study conducted by them suggest that those likely to suffer from extreme forms of dyslexia can be identified before they are born, and given extra care to help deal with the condition.

Dr Timothy Bates, one of the co-authors of the study, says that they have unveiled a combination of 13 genes that presumably affects a person’s ability to work with letters and numbers.

"We believe this combination of 13 genes makes all the difference between someone who reads flawlessly and speedily and someone who stumbles on basic words," the Scotsman quoted him as saying.

"We are confident these genes explain the bulk of the genetic effect. It tells us that reading ability boils down to the same common biological mechanism," he added.
The geneticists examined 1,300 people for their abilities in reading, writing and spelling, and thereby identified the genes influencing their performance. They discovered that it was the same set of genes that was responsible for dyslexia, and milder spelling and reading problems.

"This is fantastic news. The earlier dyslexic children are diagnosed and given help, the better their chances of living fulfilled lives,” said Vikki McNicol of the British Dyslexia Association. (ANI)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Care to, er, Commensurate?

SPOGG Member Tasha R. sends this from Rhode Island:

Prepress Desktop Operator
Reply to:

Date: 2006-11-20, 3:59PM ESTSeeking hard working candidates to work in a growing, fast-paced printing company. Sucessful candidates must have working knowledge of desktop publishing software, great work ethic, ability to follow direction, strong attention to detail and ability to work well with others.

Understanding of printing and prepress is important, but a winning attitude is a must. This is a 1st shift position with some overtime required.

Location: Rumford, RI

Compensation: Pay Commiserate with experience

Principals only. Recruiters, please don't contact this job poster.

Please, no phone calls about this job! Please do not contact job poster about other services, products or commercial interests.

Grammar for Whales

We never suspected this back in the late '80s, when we were relaxing to the "Songs and Sounds of Humpback Whales" CD we bought in the bargain bin at the college bookstore.

Male humpbacks use grammar in love songs
2006-11-28 10:08:01
BEIJING, Nov. 28 (Xinhuanet) -- Scientists have found that not only do male humpback whales sing love songs, they use grammar. And they have a larger vocabulary than previously thought.

Scientists had previously known of a very narrow range of sounds involved in humpback communication. These include calls associated with hunting for fish and long complex songs from male humpbacks linked with mating.

"The most surprising thing was there were 35 different types of sounds found. We were expecting less (fewer!) than 10," said researcher Rebecca Dunlop at the University of Queensland in Australia.

Dunlop and colleagues monitored humpback sounds and activity from land as the whales migrated along the east coast of Australia from breeding grounds inside the Great Barrier Reef to feeding grounds in the Antarctic.

The underwater sounds they recorded included "thwops," "wops," "grumbles," "snorts," "cries," and what are likely underwater blows similar to surface spouting. Surface sounds include those when breaching or repeated slaps of the tail or fins.

The scientists discovered these sounds appeared to have a variety of social uses including to help mothers and calves stay in contact, or as competitive calls among large groups of adults. The whale calls might also be be specific to one sex.

Some sounds are only used by males for social interactions, especially when single males joined females. This could mean the song units are the key sexual signals in the male songs as opposed to song length or loudness, as is the case in some bird species, the researchers said.

Research earlier this year found humpback whales to use grammar in their love songs.

Interestingly, the new study found that a number of sounds were made by lone animals. This suggests their use is not limited to social interactions.
This research could help understand the impact noise from ships and other manmade sounds have on whales.

"This noise is increasing in the ocean," Dunlop said. "We don't know how this will affect individuals and populations of whales without first knowing how they communicate in a relatively 'noise-free' environment."

We're Jealous

The Banterist's Grammar Cop issued a citation we wish we'd written ourselves.

A Fox in the Doghouse

Is Fox Sports the un-SPOGGiest in the land?

We're afraid so. Below, please find our evidence: has learned that the Seahawks QB is scheduled to undergo an MRI today for an injury in his left hand during Monday night's game.
The verdict: This sentence is gets a red flag for being confusing. It should be recast like so: has learned that the Seahawks QB is scheduled to undergo an MRI today for an injury to his left hand he received during Monday night's game.
Then, sent from SPOGG Scout Glenn W.,
"Burdick said Jackson obtained the handgun he is accused of firing lawfully and informed officials in Indiana of his probationary status in Michigan while applying for permits."
Did he fire the gun lawfully? Who knows? We rather suspect he obtained it legally, and fired it while crazy drunk. But we would never say such a thing out loud.

Glenn also sends this little nightmare of editing:
"Paul Casey's ace - the fifth in Ryder Cup history - closed out a 5-and-4 romp for he and David Howell over Stewart Cink and Zach Johnson, part of a dominating afternoon in which Europe expanded its lead to 10-6."
This should be "for him," not "for he."

The ultimate piece for our collection, though, is one submitted by our husband. Please note the spelling of "surrender." To us, that really says it all -- at least when it comes to their copy editors' state of mind.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Grammar Quiz, Anyone?

SPOGG is pleased to report we scored 100 percent. Good luck!

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

A Band We Like

Name? The Subjects

Members of the band? Two high school graduates and two of their teachers.

Origin of the Name? An argument about grammar. This alone is enough to make our pulse race. Even better, their music rocks.

Go Subjects, Go!

Methinks She Dost Protest Too Mcuh?

If we were Cindy Sheehan, grieving a son lost to a war that didn't need to be fought, we'd probably do exactly what she's doing. But we like to think we'd hang out with better spellers.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Watch the Dangly Bits

It's been a week for misspellings and dangling participles, the two bad clowns of the printed world.

SPOGG scout Sue sends this, from the Nov. 18 New Bern Sun Journal:

"Archaeologists announce find at supposed QAR site," we find the following fascinating flub: "Made of brass or bronze, conservators will be able to clean the bell much more quickly than the iron cannons that can take years to ready for display, Welsh said."

Please note that the headline in the paper was capitalized exactly as shown above. And, for your information, the QAR is the Queen Anne's Revenge, a ship that the pirate Blackbeard captured and then made into his personal ship.

We are guessing here that the conservators themselves are not made of brass or bronze (or at least not entirely so, if they should happen to be the sort of people who sport a brass pair down there).

Is it perhaps the bell that is brass? If so, the author is a ding-a-ling, and should have written this: "Conservators will be able to clean the brass or bronze bell much more quickly than the iron cannons, which could take years to be ready for display, Welsh said."

The following gem came from a Slate story called "The Secret Life of James Bond." Apparently, this life is much more secret than we could have imagined, no matter how many times we watched him ravage Octopussy on those satin sheets:
Bond's attitude toward women cannot be called misogyny, exactly. It's more that Bond views them with a disturbingly elegant detachment. Bond's reaction to the bodacious Vesper Lynd: "As a woman, he wanted to sleep with her, but only when the job had been done."
Forget the easily polished brass pair we always assumed Bond possessed. He's actually a woman, and a lesbian at that. To quote our small round-headed friends on South Park, "niiiice!"

I feel pretty. Oh so pretty.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

It's Um, Adequate

What are we thankful for on this day? Celebrities who can't spell, for one thing.

From the conclusion of Lindsay Lohan's sweet but slightly insane condolence letter to Robert Altman's family:


Lindsay Lohan

Expensive Bad Grammar

From the news:

Grammar costs cancer research $8 million
NEW YORK, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Poor grammar has led to cancer researchers in Hawaii losing $8 million in funding from cigarette taxes, as only one cigarette was specified in the law.

Linda Smith, an adviser to Gov. Linda Lingle, told USA Today the law's intent was to give 1.5 cents per cigarette sold to research but the law's final wording means they will get 1.5 cents from the sale of one cigarette.

The most recent failure in proofreading was on Arizona's Nov. 7 ballot, when voters approved a tobacco tax increase of 0.80 cents, when the original intent was an 80-cent surcharge, the newspaper said.

New York state also has enacted a law covering "aggravated driving while intoxicated" that sets the minimum blood alcohol percentage at 0.18, it specified .018 grams.

Lt. Glenn Miner, a New York State Police spokesman told the newspaper the gram measurement is too low to measure, and that the body can produce that amount naturally without drinking anything alcoholic.

All three laws will be amended when the various legislatures reconvene, the report said.

Our question is, why didn't the reporters covering those laws before they were passed write something about the sloppy grammar? C'mon, reporters! We know those meetings are dull. We've covered them ourselves. Next time, pay attention to the actual text of the proposed legislation; you'll no doubt have something more fun to write about.

Monday, November 20, 2006

SPOGG in the Wall Street Journal

It's like an old ad for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups: two great tastes that go great together.

Representing the delicious nuttiness of peanut butter is Barry L., SPOGG's chief technical officer, defending "gift" as a verb. Standing in for delicious and healthful chocolate is SPOGG, complaining bitterly about this abomination. Together, they appear in today's Wall Street Journal:

'Gift' often finds holiday usage as a verb

Elizabeth Holmes
Wall Street Journal
Nov. 20, 2006 11:57 AM

It's better to give than to receive, but is it even better to

The noun "gift" is a popular word, synonymous with "present." But this holiday season, it's cropping up increasingly as an encouraging verb - as in, to give something to somebody.

Users of Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iTunes online store can "gift" songs and albums and videos to one another. Mondera, an online jewelry retailer, pushes customers to "go ahead, gift her" a diamond., a gourmet online food guide published by Conde Nast, features an entire section labeled "Thanksgifting." Gossip Web site reported actress Angelina Jolie "was gifted" a diaper bag after the birth of her daughter.

Despite its seeming acceptance, the verbification of "gift" has sparked a lively debate in some quarters, from grammarians to bloggers. "Using gift as a verb is a sign of stupidity, laziness, and verbal sloppiness," wrote the host of the Web log feh-muh-nist. "We frown on this usage," agreed Pam Nelson, a journalist with the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., on her blog Triangle Grammar Guide. (The Wall Street Journal also prefers to give rather than to gift.)

Even so, there's a small contingent of supporters - and they've got some history on their side. "The verb gift' is a perfectly good one," declares Barry Leiba in his blog, Staring at Empty Pages. "To be able to use gift' as a verb without raising hackles, well, that would be a gift."

As Mr. Leiba notes, the use of "gift" as a verb isn't new. Most dictionaries, including the Oxford English Dictionary, include a definition of the term as a transitive verb. "And," he says, "it's nice to have a word that specifically means to give as a gift.' "
What's more, the mutation of noun-to-verb is fairly common, according to Geoff Nunberg, chairman of the American Heritage Dictionary usage panel, which regularly surveys writers for their opinions on such issues. Milk a cow. Water the grass. Fax a document. Some experts estimate that as many as one in five verbs began as nouns, Mr. Nunberg says. But that's not to say that he - or his colleagues on the usage panel - approve of the use of "gift" as a verb. "Nobody ever likes this one," says Mr.
Nunberg, who feels it is tainted by commercialism and its overuse in gossip columns and press releases.

Why the recent surge in "gifting"? Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, blames celebrity magazines commenting on the red-carpet freebies that stars receive.

"Julia Roberts was gifted with this fabulous item," she mocks. "They just want to sound like they're doing something extra fancy."Another theory is that it derives from the world of accounting, as in writing something off as a "gift."

"Gifting" is also the inevitable precursor to "regifting" which became part of the vernacular after an episode of "Seinfeld" that aired in January 1995. The gift-as-a-verb fad got a big boost last year with the launch of iTunes6. At the press conference in October 2005, Chief Executive Steve Jobs stood in front of a massive screen introducing the new "gifting" feature that allows iTunes users to buy a song or file and give it to another user. Still, there are those who are determined to resist what they see as the subtle tawdriness of "gifting"-especially around the holidays. On the Web site for the Vocabula Review, a monthly journal about the English language, one commentator wrote, "How would it sound if said users of gift' as a verb were to present this immortal phrase for our approval: For God so loved the world that he GIFTED us his only begotten Son'."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Does This Make Us Snobby?

The Times' columnist David Brooks has a piece today accusing people who enjoy "The Daily Show" and "Borat" of snobbery.

Call us grammar snobs, but we couldn't help but notice the spot where Mr. Fancypants Writer Brooks falls victim to an evil word twin:
Cohen also knows how to rig an unfair fight, and to then ring maximum humiliation and humor out of each situation. The core of his movie is that he and his audience know he is playing a role, and this gives him, and them, power over the less sophisticated stooges who don’t.
He's confusing "ring" with its homonym "wring." The latter means "to extract." The former is the sound those clue bells ought to make when he reads his error in print.

We wouldn't point this out, of course, except that we truly enjoy "The Daily Show" and the work of Sascha Baron Cohen. Perhaps Brooks would prefer a humorless world, or one where knock-knock jokes were the only ones allowed. Or perhaps he would prefer jokes that make fun of well-educated city dwellers, or even Jewish people. Barf. We'll take Cohen and Jon Stewart and Co., any day. L'chaim!

P.S. And we were totally lying when we said we wouldn't point this out except for the accusations of snobbery. Of course we would! Mistakes in The Times! Irresistible!

Those Poor, Bulimic Football Players

From Fox Sports (more coming from them later -- we have assembled a collection of hilarity):

News: Leon Washington's Topps Bowman rookie card was released recently and came out looking like he was throwing up his middle finger.

Say it with us: Ewwww!

Just as one must be careful when using a hand gesture to give a shout-out to one's homies, one must also choose verbs carefully when writing. "Sticking up" or "extending" would have worked better here.

The card featuring the inadvertent digitus impudicus is apparently fetching good prices on eBay. Here it is, in case you don't have an extra $100 lying around.

Meanwhile, we are working on a fierce hand gesture as a shout-out for our grammar homies. We'll let you know when we've perfected it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Re.:. Friendship

We received an e-mail yesterday with this same, oddly punctuated subject line. The message itself, from "Pam," said this:

Do bnot ignore mea please, I found your email sobmeawhere and noaw decided to
writbe you.I am coming to your place in few weeks and thought we can meet
each other. Let me know if ayou do not mind.I am a nice pretty girl. Don't
reply to tabhis email. Emaail me direclty at

Dear Pam,

It wouldn't matter to us if you were the nicest, prettiest girl in the whole, wide world. We don't want to hang out with someone who spells as badly as you do. Also, from your excessive use of the letter b, we can only conclude you have a cold, and we certainly do not wish to infect ourselves.

Love and kisses anyway,

A Quick Spelling Lesson

We were reading Salon yesterday when we noticed a spelling error that gave an interview with Lemony Snicket some unintentional hilarity:

Says Daniel Handler (Snicket's real name):

"If you're Jewish, you find the pope inherently funny. I often forget that there are a great number of people who take him seriously, rather than just thinking of him as some whacky clown. I actually ended up changing some of the text in the book, not because of the sensibility, but because it was interesting watching there be a new pope. I remember watching when his car went on e-Bay -- the new pope's old car. It was just funny to think how fundamentally his life was going to change. He'd never get to decide what to wear ever again. He can't just say, "Today, I'm going to be in jeans!"
"Whacky" is, in some quarters, an acceptable spelling for "wacky." But we don't approve of spelling it with the "whack," because to whack is to hit. Is the pope a hitting clown? We may no longer be Catholic, but we think not.

Likewise, the word crummy -- which means of little value or miserable -- should not be spelled with a b. "Crumby" describes your sheets after someone (the pope?) has eaten crackers in bed. And this makes us whacky, so don't do it.

Grammar: in Vogue

Please pardon our lack of posts lately. Blogger's beta is unfriendly to our template and has been giving us the temper fits.

And now back to our irregularly scheduled updates, minus the pictures, which we can't make work at all.

Teaching grammar, apparently, is back in vogue. Or so says the Washington Post, and also the author of this column.

As with all trends, SPOGG is on the cutting edge. We just celebrated our second birthday, and have more than 3,000 members worldwide.

If you don't have your SPOGG membership card yet, what are you waiting for? You can download your very own print-and-clip card here.