Thursday, May 31, 2007
The long dining room table is set with pink porcelain plates, a few of which have been over-set with paper plates. Lunch is Louisiana takeout: boudin sausage, pecan pie, a local desert called ooey gooey. The talk is of a portrait, just hung, of Catherine of Aragon.
It's dessert, not desert. We believe, to a snooty arts writer, that being forced to eat Jell-O salad would constitute just deserts be for such an error. (And yes, here, the word has just one s, as it shares the root word with deserve.)
P. Diddy Cologne Ad is Too Hot!
Thursday 31 May
2007 2:25 PM
P. Diddy caused another scandal with his racy ad shot for the new Sean John label cologne - Unforgivable. The ad shows Sean Combs wrapped in sheets with two women, one Caucasian and one Asian. The ad caused such a stir that the parent company, Estée Lauder, began to shoot a new "store-friendly" ad. [Please, no air quotes.] The original ad will be used exclusively by Sephora. The global brand president of Estée Lauder, John Demsey, stood by Combs’ original decision: "We believe the ads represent the true spirit of Unforgivable. This fragrance is about a man who lives his life with passion and, unapologetically, we respect Sean Combs' creative perspective and support him in his vision. While it's unfortunate that some
retailers were so uncomfortable with something with that much sexual presence,
we respect their decision to do what is right for them." Via New York Post and
other news sources.
What, exactly, does that unapologetically modify? P. Diddy's passion? Or Estee Lauder's form of respect?
Below is a letter published in the Dallas Observer. If it's something you could have written, please take a deep breath and discard this false rule. It's fine to start sentences with conjunctions. As Strunk and White say, "An occasional loose sentence prevents the style from becoming too formal and gives the reader a certain relief":
And the Horse You Rode On
And so it goes: I have been reading the Dallas Observer basically from
its beginning issues. I have noticed a trend in the last five years or so that
makes almost any article from Bon Appetit, Texas Monthly, Dallas Observer—you
name it—excruciating because of the incredibly bad grammar used by younger
writers. With the exception of Jim Schutze, I wonder if any of your writers even
graduated from high school. As official meetings often follow Robert's Rules on
how to conduct a meeting in an orderly manner, so should journalists and
would-be journalists construct decent, readable sentences according to
One of the biggest offenders is beginning sentences with a
conjunction—legions!!! legions of them pepper almost every article. Doesn't
ANYBODY know that a conjunction is used to link two thoughts in one sentence?
NEVER START A SENTENCE WITH A CONJUNCTION.
I am a college graduate, but I learned basic grammar in high school. Maybe
you should send everyone to remedial English classes. Of course it isn't just
the writers for the Observer; the ignorance is pervasive. I find it highly
embarrassing that a huge percentage of writers today are so damned ignorant.
It doesn't say much for standards of journalism, standards of education or
that anybody even gives enough of a shit to attempt to perfect the craft of
If perchance you are bewildered by my letter, perhaps you should go back to
school too, or at least talk to Jim Schutze.
P.S. I like your mag—it's just so poorly written these days.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Police: Kicking man has bad grammarWe predict Torrez will get off with a warning for good use of irony.
Staff and wire
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
An Albuquerque man was arrested after police say he interfered with a traffic stop, urinated in public and gave bad grammatical advice to an officer.
The Albuquerque police officer was setting up a roadblock near Downtown
early Sunday when Jesus Torrez, 24, walked up and demanded an explanation for
the traffic stop, according to a Metro Court criminal complaint.
An hour later, the same officer said he saw Torrez jump onto a trash can,
drop his pants and urinate, the complaint says.
After he was arrested, Torrez insulted the officer and kicked him in the
hand, the complaint says. Later, Torrez offered to check the officer's report
for proper grammar because he said police never pass English class, the
"He told me he would accept `aidence' if he was in my
place," the officer wrote in the complaint.
Torrez was charged with battery on a police officer.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Media flacks for McCain's false "flak" attack on Obama's spelling
Radio host Rush Limbaugh, Politico senior political writer Jonathan Martin, and other media figures uncritically repeated Sen. John. McCain's (R-AZ) attack on Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) spelling of "flack jacket" with a "c" in "flack," without noting -- as MSNBC congressional correspondent Mike Viqueira did -- that "flack" is an "alternative to the spelling of 'flak.' " Indeed, the phrase "flack jacket" with a "c" appears on dozens of military websites.
Obama, responding in part to McCain's criticism of his recent Iraq war vote, issued a May 25 press release arguing that "the course we are on in Iraq" is not "working." Obama said "a reflection of that [is] the fact that Senator McCain required a flack jacket" and other military protection when walking through a Baghdad market during a trip to Iraq in April. In a response the same day, McCain took issue with Obama's spelling: "By the way, Senator Obama, it's a 'flak' jacket, not a 'flack' jacket." In his report on McCain's attack, Viqueira cited Webster's New World Dictionary to prove that "flack" is an alternative to "flak."
Friday, May 25, 2007
The New York Times
May 24, 2007
Books of the Times
An Assault on Hawaii. On Grammar Too.
By JANET MASLIN
A Novel of December 8th
By Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen
Illustrated. 366 pages. Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press. $25.95.
December 8, 1941, is not normally known as a day that will live in infamy. That phrase of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s usually refers to the preceding day, on which the American Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor was savaged by a surprise Japanese air raid. But “Pearl Harbor,” the war novel that is Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen’s latest foray into what they call “active history,” deliberately calls attention to the fact that Japan and Hawaii were on different sides of the International Date Line.
When the attack began, it was Dec. 7 at Pearl Harbor but Dec. 8 in Japan. The book is subtly subtitled “A Novel of December 8th” to signal its attention to the Japanese point of view. On the basis of that detail, you might expect a high level of fastidiousness from “Pearl Harbor.”
And you would be spectacularly wrong. Because you would find phrases like “to withdraw backward was impossible,” sounds like “wretching noises” to accompany vomiting, or constructions like “incredulous as it seemed, America had not reacted.” Although the book has two authors, it could have used a third assigned to cleanup patrol.
This is not a matter of isolated typographical errors. It is a serious case for the comma police, since the book’s war on punctuation is almost as heated as the air assaults it describes. “One would have to be dead, very stupid Fuchida thought,” the book says about the fighter pilot Mitsuo Fuchida, “not to realize they were sallying forth to war.” Evidence notwithstanding, the authors do not mean to insult the fighter pilot’s intelligence — or, presumably, the reader’s.
Some of these glitches are brief, while some are windier. The long ones are particularly dangerous. Here is what happens when James Watson, an academic and a decoding expert who is one of the book’s cardboard Americans (as opposed to its cardboard British and Japanese figures), has lunch:
“James nodded his thanks, opened the wax paper and looked a bit suspiciously at the offering, it looked to be a day or two old and suddenly he had a real longing for the faculty dining room on campus, always a good selection of Western and Asian food to choose from, darn good conversations to be found, and here he now sat with a disheveled captain who, with the added realization, due to the direction of the wind, was in serious need of a good shower.”
James lives in Hawaii with his half-Japanese wife, Margaret. Margaret is the book’s only female character, and she barely appears. This is evidence that Mr. Gingrich has learned that politicians writing fiction are well advised to avoid eroticism. The book’s only trace of the lascivious is a reference to rising wartime hemlines in Britain because of an effort to conserve cloth.
Elsewhere in Hawaii, among the fighting forces, things are typically editor-proof. In a case for James’s decoding skills, the book says: “The boys had money in their pockets to burn and fresh in from the West Coast the obligatory photos with hula girls, sentimental silk pillows for moms and girlfriends, and ridiculous-printed shirts had sold like crazy.”
Distractions like these are unfortunate, because “Pearl Harbor” really does have serious intentions. However ham-handed their people skills, the authors know their military minutiae and are happy to differentiate a B5N1 from a B5N2. (Both are Japanese Navy torpedo planes.)
They also deliver endless speculation on the global strategic issues that led to a point of no return at Pearl Harbor. As they did to better dramatic effect in their Civil War trilogy (“Pearl Harbor” is the first installment in a new Pacific series), Mr. Gingrich and Dr. Forstchen (who is both a pilot and a professor) alter history as a way of analyzing it. Though they have previously taken drastic steps like imagining a victorious Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, the new book’s liberties are more limited. But “Pearl Harbor” imagines that Japan could have expected a very different outcome from its stealth attack.
If the climactic battle in “Pearl Harbor” is the only stage at which the authors’ fascination with their subject comes alive, much more of the narrative is taken up with prophetic conversation. “I was born in Hiroshima,” says Genda Minoru, the Japanese military strategist, when he encounters the American general Carl Andrew Spaatz, known as Tooey, when they meet by chance aboard a Pan Am Clipper (a plane that is lovingly described as an example of American luxury and know-how). “You should visit Hiroshima some day, sir.”
The general, who will go on to lead the strategic bombing of Japan, replies, “Perhaps I will some day.”
The book also includes a prominent Englishman, Cecil Stanford, who has a well-known school chum named Winston. Cecil materializes once, bizarrely and apparently by mistake, in the Genda-Spaatz Pan Am scene, even though he is not on the plane.
More frequently he can be found chatting with Churchill amid the Scotch and cut-glass tumblers and leather and cigars that give “Pearl Harbor” its happiest masculine moments. There are many such incidents of armchair strategizing about what roles Germany, Russia, Manchuria, the Philippines, Indonesia, Indochina and China (the Rape of Nanking is described here as a “maelstrom of agony”) will play in the world’s imperialist chess game.
“Pearl Harbor” is of course laden — or “ladened,” as it would say — with rib-elbowing parallels to the present global crisis. It emphasizes the importance of oil as a motivating force, the danger of choosing to “cut and run,” the ability of Americans to hide their heads in the sand of popular culture and the power of racial and religious tensions to unite the enemies of the United States. While proclaiming those enemies to be essentially unknowable, it sees no contradiction in explaining their every move.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Offers a New Virtual
Diploma in Ag Communications
The Office of Open Learning and the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) are excited to offer a diploma in ag communications. This unique program is the first of its kind in
and is looking for individuals such as yourself to fill the first class. [SPOGG note: We DETEST "individuals" as a synonym for people. It's unnecessarily specific, unless they're purposely trying to exclude conjoined twins and person with multiple-personality syndrome, which seems rather mean.] Canada
This 18-month, five-course program combines technical skills and applied theory in journalism and communications, with a focus on issues specific to the agri-food and environmental sectors. Graduates will be able to present and represent agriculture and food
productionin an understandable, balanced way.
The development of this new program was overseen by an advisory committee with representatives from media, the agri-food sector and academe. An international panel of instructors and coaches will lead students through a series of online distance learning components. These classes will be amplified by three on-campus sessions each approximately one-week long. By being web-based, the program looks forward to bringing together students and teaching professionals from all over the world. (Does the “program” look forward to doing this or do the program planners look forward to doing this?)
“We’ve designed the program to be accessible and flexible, to fit the schedules of working professionals”, says Owen Roberts, the program’s academic coordinator.
Graduates will be prepared to immediately participate in media or agricultural organizations and industry as valuable, analytical, trained employees. They will find their selves (AAAAAAHHHHHGGGHHHH!!!) to be well versed in agricultural
productionand issues, as well as equipped with strong communication skills, and up-to-date on the latest technology.
Support for this program has been provided by a number of industry partners including Ontario Pork, Pioneer Hi-Bred Limited, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada, GROWMARK Inc., and the Agricultural Adaptation Council.
Applications are being accepted now for the first year’s program which begins this September and already has an eager group ready to begin.
In keeping with our “Athlete’s First” pledge, the organizers of the Triathlon One O One series announced today a new entry fee schedule for all of its events.We know exercise is supposed to be good for you, but this gives us a heart attack, as does the name of the company, One O One (except the second one is written in backward-facing type). Dyslexics, untie!
An "athlete's first" is, well, the first person a jock crossed home plate with, metaphorically speaking. We believe they meant athletes first.
Paris Hilton couldn't stop partying. She couldn't stop driving. She could, however, cut back severely on commas, hyphens and other necessary forms of punctuation.
We're just sorry we didn't see this bit on her MySpace page in time to watch the obese gogo dancers high-kick in person:
Paris Hilton Birthday Feb 17th at The Hard Rock
PARIS HILTON'S BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
February 13, 2007-
Paris Hilton, the Hottest Heiress in the world, will celebrate her birthday on Saturday, February 17th with a lavish celebrity-attended gala at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas. She will be kicking it off with an exclusive party at Body English, the Hard Rock's $20-million [dollar] nightclub. Body English has featured the most intimate performances by such artists as Snoop Dog, Ludacris, Fat Joe and Velvet Revolver.
Paris Hilton, along with Nicky Hilton, Fergie, Jenna Jameson, Nicole Richie, Joel Madden, Elisha Cuthbert, Scott Storch, Fat Joe, and Snoop Dog, just to name a few , will be making their way Saturday Night to Body English Nightclub, inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, to blow out her candles and enjoy a special surprise musical performance by one of her friends who will be attendance [as opposed to a performance by someone who won't be there, we gather].
After Body English, Paris will be whisked upstairs to the Fabulous Penthouse Suite at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, [that] which comes equipped with a bowling lane, for an ultra-exclusive VVIP party hosted by her good friend Jeff Beacher and his zany cast of characters as they present a special Mini Beacher's Madhouse. All the craziness that makes Beacher's Madhouse so special will be squeezed into the Penthouse for one special night for Paris [glad it's not another special night in Paris]. Beacher's Obese Go-Go Girl troupe, dozens of little people, live monkeys and Goat [Goat: Is this a band? Or a barnyard animal?] just to name a few, will all be apart of the mayhem. [We believe they will be a part, not apart, but perhaps this is selling short the judgement of the goats, the dwarves, and the dancing women.]
Paris has always held a place in her heart for The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and Jeff Beacher's Madhouse. Paris was quoted as saying, "I am so excited to celebrate my birthday with all my friends and Jeff Beacher's 'Mini Madhouse' at The Hard Rock hotel and Casino." [Do you think she made quote fingers when she said 'Mini Madhouse'?]
Friday, May 18, 2007
That the Swedish band "The Tiny" misused a semicolon on the title of their album "Starring; Someone Like You" isn't what amuses us here.
Nor is the fact that Amazon.com has corrected this error in its description of the album.
Rather, that this punctuation error has so angered the reviewer at Punknews.org. Who knew punkers were so into, er, punktuation?
Read the review of Starring; Someone Like You
MAIL BUNGLE STAMP-EDESo, if there are 75 sets that sell for £771 (about $1,500), that means this one spelling error is "worth" about $115,000. Nice work, if you can get it.
STAMPS with a schoolboy spelling error are selling for a small fortune at auction.
The Royal Mail were forced to recall thousands of their Glorious England sets because the Isle of Wight was misspelt "White".
But dozens sneaked out and are fetching hundreds on online auction site eBay. Bidding for one climbed to £771.
Stamp dealer Allan Grant said: "There are probably between 50 and 100 of the sets and people clearly think they're worth a fortune."
The question is, though, would the person who set the type be willing to pay $115,000 to prevent that error? If so, we know just the people for the job.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Meanwhile the disgraced Prince Charming (Rupert Everett), exiled to a career in dinner theater, organizes a rebellion of fairy-tale villains. Eric Idle plays Merlin as a hippy druid, and Larry King and Regis Philbin do fine work as ugly stepsisters. And of course Eddie Murphy is the indispensable Donkey.
Now, Eric Idle isn't quite as trim as he was during his Monty Python days (and honestly, neither are we. Nonetheless, we believe the word Mr. Scott meant to use is "hippie."
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
SPOGG thinks the animus toward the semicolon is ridiculous. Of course it has stylistic value. One can use it to join two closely related sentences, rather than inserting a full stop between them. It also makes it easy to separate items in elaborate lists. It's more formal than a long dash -- it's like a cocktail dress as compared to khaki pants. Both have perfectly good uses, and one of the joys of writing is finding just the right word, sentence structure, and punctuation mark for the job.
I don't mean to brag, but I myself am an English major, and I've been known to get a little wild myself. At a recent party, to get things going, I said in a loud voice, "You know what I think of the semicolon?"
After a dramatic pause, I declared, "I think it's a worthless, clumsy, trashy mark with no redeeming stylistic value."
Sunday, May 13, 2007
This year's FCAT results show that many of the same students who write essays well struggle with grammar. But that doesn't mean English teachers are going to turn into the grammar police.Pardon us, but this is absurd. What has this teacher got against workbooks? Do math teachers say the only way to teach kids math is to go out and have them design and construct their own buildings? Of course not. They start with simple problems and work their way up.
For Broward students to improve on next year's exam, schools must resist the urge to do grammar drills, said Anita Plummer, language arts specialist for the Broward School District.
"It's very tempting for teachers to pick up a workbook," Plummer said. "[But] you can't teach writing via workbook. It has to come from kids developing their own ideas."
Of course kids need to spend time developing and honing their ideas. This is even more important than grammar. But they should only be asked to focus on one thing at a time. Workbooks -- which can be fun -- allow them to focus solely on grammar. After a bit of that, they can then turn their minds to more esoteric work.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
A simple spelling mistake may have caused the body of a man to lie undisturbed in a Wellington hospital mortuary refrigerator for two months until a strong smell led staff to check on him.Read more here.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Any of the following would have been correct:
I am a thief; I stole from Wal-Mart.
I am a thief. I stole from Wal-Mart.
I am a thief who stole from Wal-Mart.
I am a thief -- I stole from Wal-Mart.
I stole from Wal-Mart.
There is justice in grammar. But apparently, there is no grammar in justice.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Loosing? We believe the reporter meant to write "losing." Remember, loose rhymes with goose. Lose is the word that has lost an O.
Moms urged to stay in the work force
"The Feminine Mistake" argues young mothers who stay at home risk loosing independence and happiness.
SPOGG believes, meanwhile, that mothers who stay at home with small children are much more at risk for losing their marbles. We have experienced this first-hand.
What really gets us is this: He's not in trouble for his bad spelling and grammar. He's in trouble for failing to show it to the school principal first. Yes, we suppose she could have corrected his errors. But don't you think a school administrator who's probably making six figures or so a year ought to at least have mastered basic English -- and if not that, the use of a spellchecker?
Markham students, parents and staff gag on error-ridden letter sent home after food fight
Posted by Staten Island Advance
Apparently, it's not just students who aren't making the grade in intermediate schools.
A dean at Markham Intermediate in Graniteville is in hot water after he failed to secure the principal's approval before he gave students a policy letter, which turned out to be rife with spelling and grammatical errors.
Following a frenzied food fight in the cafeteria Monday, Health Academy Dean Michael Levy gave the academy's nearly 100 eighth-graders a letter indicating that the group would be collectively punished for the mess and prohibited from attending the prom and the year-end class trip.
Among the misspellings and typos in his letter to parents are "unexcecpable" for "unacceptable," "activates" for "activities" (twice) and the setting for the food fight: The "caferteria."
Also, Levy contradicts his declaration of a collective punishment by saying in the body of the letter that decisions will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
He also asks parents to review the letter with their children -- and warns them that a failure to sign and return the letter will result in an automatic disqualification from year-end activities.
Several parents and students said yesterday they were outraged by the harsh penalty and collective punishment proposed in the letter -- and equally bewildered by its contradictory content and atrocious wording.
How many errors do you count in the letter below? And what do you think he has against the comma?
Friday, May 04, 2007
I was defragmenting the drive on my PC and noticed that the files were referred to as "unmovable." I thought that the correct word was "immovable," unless Microsoft was referring to the emotional state of my Excel files.Discoveries like this delight us. Mrs. McC is correct, of course. The word is immovable when the meaning is "something that cannot be moved."
Unmoved, on the other hand, means "not moved by emotion or excitement; unaffected, undisturbed; collected, calm," according to the Oxford English Dictionary, which traces usage all the way back to 1385.
The words sound similar, but their meanings are different. User, beware!
“There’s only 3 episodes of Heroes left.”Holy Subject-Verb Agreement Error, Batman!
This is an error one can get away with only in speech. It's easier to say there's than there are (or ther're -- eww).
In writing, though, the subject and verb must agree. Otherwise, it's just villainous.
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Obviously it is way too early to get into forecasts. [But he's going to do it anyway.] Seattle is a very good team; the Rams had a good draft and good free agency period; and I'm Rollin with Nolan and the Niners.Now, we love a semicolon as much, if not more, than the next guy. Schein's a bit liberal with them in the first paragraph. Easy, buddy! Semicolons are the bench-warmers of punctuation marks. You only play them when you need to.
But I just love the direction Arizona is headed in, with its new impact players in the draft, its solid free agency period, and most especially, the
appointment of Whisenhunt and his staff to make it sing and maximize the
talented players they already have in the desert.
Worse, though, is his second paragraph, where the team is simultaneously an "it" and a "they." Adam, Adam, Adam... either go with the singular American pronoun or the plural British one. If you do both, people will think you're Canadian or something. Is that the football league you really want to be covering?
Our recommendation to you: shorter sentences. These are the baby steps of prose. Once you can master a single noun and a single verb, we give you permission to insert adjectives and recursive phrases.
As it is, your random recursiveness just has us cursing. Scheinola!
The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar believes the Internet makes it way too easy for people with outsized pet peeves to create, well, societies.
To wit, the yahoos at the Email [sic] Experience Council want to do away with the hyphen in e-mail. They argue that the hyphen is "disrespectful":
Students of language know that as new terms become accepted by the mainstream they evolve into shorter words, single words and shed their capitalization and hyphenation. Words like "Web site" and "on-line" have over time have become "website" and "online" as people became more comfortable with them. "Electronic mail" has followed a similar acceptance arc, becoming "E-mail" and then "e-mail."Poppycock. But don't just take our word for it. To make the case we'll quote the great, curmudgeonly Bill Walsh has to say on the topic in his book, The Elephants of Style:
It's now time for "the word" to take its final step and become simply "email," signifying the ubiquity of this form of communication, which is now used by 97% of all consumers and 94% of marketers, according to Forrester Research.
Please join the Email Experience Council in giving this revolutionary communication tool the respect it deserves by pledging to drop the hyphen and spell it simply as "email." (More...)
"It's not email, in case you haven't been paying attention to my vitriol on the subject. (Abbreviated explanation: Words based on single letters have never lost their hyphens, no matter how frequently they're used. It's X-ray, not Xray, T-shirt, not Tshirt, etc.)"Also, the correct form is still Web site, not Website or website, no matter what the EEC claims. And online with a hyphen was never correct. (Nor is log-in when used as a verb, an error we see all the time. Yecch.)