Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Nobody's Perfect

We are big fans of a business called Lusty Lady (there are two: one in Seattle, and one in San Francisco). It's not because we are into peep shows, but rather, because they are so good with a pun.

Years ago, when Microsoft was having a conference, their sign read: CHECK OUT OUR WINDOWS 95! Lately, we've enjoyed HAPPY SPANKSGIVING! (Could HAPPY BLUE YEAR be next? Nah. They'll do better than that.)

And now comes this tidbit from Bryan Garner, from which we can only conclude that the Lusty Lady should actually be called the Lustful Lady:

"Lustful" is the narrower word, meaning "driven or excited by sexual lust" {long, lustful looks}.

E.g.: "People of any sexual orientation can be violent or lustful."
"Breakthrough on TV as Nation Faces Gay, Lesbian Issues," USA Today, 27 Mar. 1997, at A12.

"Lusty" is broader and typically lacks the other word's sexual connotations; it means either "vigorous, robust, hearty" {a lusty appetite} or "spirited, enthusiastic" {a lusty performance of The Tempest".

E.g.: "The UT-Chattanooga pep band has a nice routine where it plays a lusty version of the classic Chattanooga Choo-Choo." David Climer, "Mocs Sing Last Verse for Illini," Tennessean, 17 Mar. 1997, at C1.o

"He tries desperately to reclaim his character's lusty youthful bravura." Lucia Mauro, "Next Theatre Takes Bard on Stylish Romp," Chicago Sun-Times, 3 Apr. 1997, Features §, at 34. Sometimes writers misuse "lusty" for "lustful" -- e.g.: "The affair included 400 e-mail communications, cyber sex and, finally, long and lusty [read 'lustful'] phone calls." Kathleen Kernicky, "Caught in the Net," Sun-Sentinel (Ft. Lauderdale), 3 Nov. 1996, at E1.

So, while we still admire their frisky puns, we must write and ask them to change their name. For the sake of accuracy, for the sake of the tourists...who are we kidding? It's for the sake of receiving a reply from the Lusty Lady.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Playful Apostrophe

A friend of SPOGG snapped this picture on the playground of a gated community in a lovely seaside town. At first, we were very concerned about the effect of the sign's punctuation on children.

Then, we realized two things:
- At least the sign doesn't say "SLOW CHILDREN AT PLAY"
- Clearly, the apostrophe is engaged in a game of hide-and-seek. It belongs after KIDS, but has hidden itself between the T and S of RESIDENTS, instead. What fun! Don't tell, but next time, we're going to look for it in GUESTS. Hoo, boy!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A Proposition We Can't Refuse

Oh, how we *wish* this were an actual typo in California's Proposition 8, instead of just hilarity from The Onion:

Typo In Proposition 8 Defines Marriage As Between 'One Man And One Wolfman'


Thursday, December 18, 2008

That Is a Very Large Heart

This just in...

Human-sized heart found at the Paw Paw car wash

PAW PAW, Mich. -- A human-sized heart found at a southwestern Michigan car wash has investigators wondering whether it came from a person or an animal. The organ was discovered in a corner of a manual wash bay at Soapy's Car Wash, Paw Paw police said. The owner of the business found it Monday on the floor of the bay, according to WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids and WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo.
Do you think it was the size of a six-foot man? An average-sized woman? Or maybe a toddler? No matter what, that's one big heart!

In the event the reporter meant the find was the size of a human heart, though, it would have been better to recast this headline and lead something like this:
Possible human heart found at car wash (where is Paw Paw,

A heart found at a southwestern Michigan car wash has investigators wondering whether it came from a person or animal. (And yes, the passive voice is fine in this sentence because the heart is more important than the investigators.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Irony: the Celebrity Edition

Lindsay Lohan caused titters when she signed a letter about the death of Robert Altman with this admonition: "BE ADEQUITE."

Now, she follows with a MySpace page note to her partner: "i'm so embaressing."

Indeed, Lindsay. Indeed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Crime and Grammar

Everybody knows good grammar can help you get jobs and dates. How else can good grammar improve your life? We're so glad you asked!

It can also prevent you from falling prey to scams from people who have the skills to reproduce the IRS logo, but for whatever reason can't spell or punctuate their way to Easy Street.

We tried to ferret out the errors in the phishing scam, but the photo at the news site is too blurry for our old, tired eyes.

At any rate, here's the story. The moral, of course, is that you should pay attention in school if you want to be a really good criminal.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new e-mail scam is posing as an IRS request.

The trick to keeping your computer and identity safe is to not respond and to not open the attachments, experts said.

KMBC's Jim Flink reported that the e-mail contains an IRS seal, but it also has numerous punctuation and spelling errors, which is one of the surest giveaways that it's a scam.

"What they're trying to do is find someone who is gullible enough to fill out these forms and fax it back to them," said Hank Palmer, KMBC's Information Technology manager.

In this case, the forms are asking for extensive personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank accounts and passport pictures. (Read more...)

UPDATE: Barry L. has better eyes than we do. Here's how he reads it:


Our records indicate that you are a non-resident alien. As a result, you are exempted from United States of America Tax reporting and withholdings, on interest paid you on your account and other financial dealing to protect your exemption from tax on your account and other financial benefit in rectifying your exemption status.

Therefore, you are to authenticate the following by completing form W410082, and return it to us as soon as possible through the fax number +1-606-***-****.

If you are a USA Citizen and resident, please complete form W410082 and fax it to us, please indicate "USA Citizen/Resident" on the form and return it to us.

When completing form W410082, please follow the steps below

1. We need you to provide your permanent address if different from the current mailing address on your form W410082 , you must indicate if a non-USA resident, your country of origin to support your non-resident status (if your bank account or other financial dealing has a USA address for mailing purpose).

2. If any joint account holder are now USA residents or Citizen, or in any way subject to USA tax reporting laws, Please check the box in this section.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Hey, a Nice Review!

We missed this in Salon when it first came out, but here's what their critic has to say about THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC]:

"Things That Make Us (Sic)" by Martha Brockenbrough
I peruse style manuals the way some people pore over cookbooks: hungrily, looking to have my senses elevated. My favorite recent example was Bill Walsh's "The Elephants of Style," and to that esteemed company I can now add Martha Brockenbrough's witty and steely "Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World." Brockenbrough is the founder of SPOGG, the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and in defense of syntax, she defers to no one. The book is filled with her outraged letters to the likes of Rick Moranis (for "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"), the Founding Fathers (for overusing Latin) and the Toronto Maple Leafs ('nuff said). Personally, I think Brockenbrough could go a little easier on folk usages: She is less appalled by the rape in "Deliverance" than by the rapist's description of Ned Beatty's mouth as "real pretty." But, like the best grammarians, she favors clarity over purity, and in her final chapter, she incites open rebellion against "the rules that never were." So go ahead, my brothers and sisters, split those infinitives! End your sentences with prepositions! And if you're feeling really crazy, use "like" as a conjunction! Martha's got your back. -- Louis Bayard

For what it's worth, we were properly horrified by the rape in "Deliverance," but we thought it was funny to focus instead on the perpetrator's grammar instead. If we ever publish a "movie scenes that haunt our nightmares" story, we'll deal with the rape scene then.

We'd be thrilled if you bought the book for your favorite language lover's stocking. Ten percent of our royalties benefit The National Brain Tumor Society, so you're making a great contribution to an important cause.

Goodbye, Sweet Prince!

The guy who wanted his city's name to have an exclamation point has died! How sad!

Man who put '!' in Hamilton dies at 89
By Peggy McCracken

Staff Writer

Saturday, December 06, 2008

HAMILTON — The man behind the punctuation mark that brought international attention to Hamilton preferred to keep a low profile.

Stewart "Stew" Jones had the idea to promote Hamilton by adding an exclamation point to the city's name in the mid-1980s. While Jones' gimmick gave the city national and international attention, the same could not be said for Jones, who died Wednesday, Dec. 3, at The Fort Hamilton Hospital at age 89.

"He never took credit for things. It wasn't generally known until several years later," said Jim Blount, historian and former JournalNews editor.

Butler County Commissioner Gregory Jolivette said Jones' idea was inspired by "Oklahoma!," the musical. Jolivette, then-mayor of Hamilton, said people often mistakenly think the punctuation idea was his.

But Jones didn't go unnoticed by all: He was named among 50 "Amazing Americans" by Newsweek magazine, which stated: "Since Hamilton's founding in 1791, its illustrious daughters and sons have ranged from Fannie Hurst to Ray Combs. None has done more to gain his hometown celebrity than Stewart Jones."

Read on...

For the rest of the day, in honor of Mr. Jones, we shall call ourselves SPOGG!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Taco Did It

Our friend Peter sent this along:

Downtown Los Angeles

Sitting in the food court of the Grand Central Market in downtown L.A., Stan Enriquez, 59, and his friend, Dean Qualls, watched the Simpson sentencing while listening to KFI on a small transistor radio. [APPARENTLY TRANSISTOR RADIOS COME WITH PICTURES NOW. WE DID NOT KNOW THIS.]

“He deserved it,” said Enriquez, wiping his mouth after eating a taco just shortly was escorted by deputies out of the courtroom. “He committed the crime.” [THE TACO, MEANWHILE, MAINTAINED ITS INNOCENCE. "MR. CHIMICHANGA! HE'S YOUR MAN! THE ONLY THING I'M GUILTY OF IS BEING DELICIOUS!"]

Enriquez, a former telephone line installer, said he had installed Simpson’s telephone line at his Brentwood home a year before the murder of his wife and Ron Goldman.

“I feel bad about it,” Enriquez said. “Basically, they’re trying to recover stolen items from thieves and then you let the thieves prosecute you. It doesn’t make any sense.” Both men, from Santa Monica, said the judge was hard on Simpson.

"She was a hanging judge,” Qualls said.

Monday, December 01, 2008

More Facebook Funnies

Ordinarily, we are immune to the compare/contrast features of Facebook. We got sucked in this morning, though, and discovered a most enchanting spelling error, which is all the more funny because the person in question is an editor.

Do we think Molly would "robe" a bank? Why yes. Yes, we do--if only to keep the personal bits private. [Insert your own roll of quarters joke here, if you like.]

P.S. If you like children's literature, you'll love the Bowen-Press blog, which is mercifully free of all the tasteless jokes we've been making lately.

Insert Uranus Joke

MSNBC had three errors in a headline about tonight's lunacy:
Venus, Jupiter will 'shine' on Monday night
Slendor, crescent moon will illumninate two brightest planets

It's "slender," and they didn't need to separate slender and crescent with a comma because the two adjectives aren't interchangeable. In other words, you wouldn't say it's a crescent slender moon. You only need the comma if you have two equivalent adjectives (the lumpy, bumpy moon... the cold, distant object).

Also, illumninate? Sigh. It's illuminate. We've had days like that, though, so we're just going to offer the editor a hug.

That said, Slendor would make an excellent name for a man from a distant planet. Let's say Uranus. Really. Say it out loud. Yes, that gives us the giggles, every time.

SPOGG hereby apologizes for this post. We woke up at 4:30 and couldn't go back to sleep. Our natural state before the caffeine has set in is, as the professionals say, 12-year-old boy. Boobs! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

IQ Test: Question No. 1

Dianne sends this in from Facebook:

4 Friends challenge you to the IQ QuizThe smartest scored 127. Find out who and if you can beat them!

You know, if we had a nickel for every funny bit of grammar on Facebook, we'd certainly make more than we do running SPOGG. Probably even ten cents more! Cha-ching!

But seriously. We know there are people out there who thinks it's fine and dandy to use "them" as a singular pronoun. We are not one of them, especially since this one would have been so easy to avoid.

4 Friends challenge you to the IQ Quiz. The smartest scored 127. Find out who and if you can beat the high score!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Jim found this little nugget, for which we are grateful:
I can't resist pointing this out, from PetPulse:
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin also pardoned a turkey in her native Wasilla last week, while displaying a grizzly scene many succulent turkeys are likely to encounter tomorrow.
That should read grisly, not grizzly. While Alaska has its share of Grizzly Bears, this scene was all about turkeys (Palin included). Grisly, indeed.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A New Portmanteau

Ordinarily, SPOGG doesn't mock the English of people who aren't native speakers. We saw this photo, though, on the blog of a friend who writes novels.

She said the "fried chicken flesh lump" was quite tasty, and that the sign made her giggle. We are up early and read this as "gaggle."

Voila! Instant portmanteau. To gaggle means to giggle + gag at an unfortunate typo or mistranslation in a menu. (Our other favorite in this category? Barry Leiba's "crap meat.")

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Martha Stewart: Maybe Not So Popular?

This comes from her blog:

My good friends, Michael and Judy Steinhardt, have an amazing
piece of property near my home in Bedford, and they are so fortunate to have
such a grove.
SPOGG worries that Martha is short on good friends. Otherwise, why would she wrap the Steinharts in commas? That punctuational flourish limits her "good friends" category to the Steinhardts. While we're sure they're lovely people, surely Martha would count Snoop Doggy Dogg among her besties? After all, he was just on her show--fo shizzle!

Here's how it works:

If there's just one of something, use a comma, --The Harry Potter author, J.K. Rowling,...
If there's more than one, don't--Magazine moguls who spend time in the slammer...

Punctuation. It's a good thing.

Tiddy? That's Not How You Spell It

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

This Might Explain a High Divorce Rate

Stephanie E. sent this.

You have to zoom in to fully appreciate it, but it's a story about a pastor recommending a seven-day sex solution for people suffering "martial" problems in the bedroom.

Look, we're not going to judge, but if people like it rough... Wait! What are we saying! Sorry. We're going to blame that bit of inappropriateness on Diet Coke, the sponsor of this blog break.

Grammar in Politics

We are amused.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Cliches Thank You Can Shake a Stick at

Check out ClicheWeb. We particularly liked their "mixed cliche" section. (Never lick a gift horse in the mouth. Indeed!)

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Ode to Copy Editors

Here's the winner of our copy editing contest. This piece, written by Jeff Owens, turned our question--how does copy editing save the world--on its head.
The simple fact is that while good copy editing saves much writing from clumsiness, inelegance and error, it can’t save the world. True, many copy editors—a charmingly if not irascibly OCD bunch—behave often enough as if it can, but it can’t.

Don’t worry about the world, though. The world will take care of itself with or without us.

What copy editing can do is help save the language, and brother, never was that mission more urgent than it is right now. It’s a shameful embarrassment how many otherwise functioning (more or less) U.S. adults managed to finish high school but still can’t write a sentence—let alone a letter, an essay or even an e-mail—without sounding like one of the Clampetts. And then there’s marketing, corporate-speak and the digital age; all relentlessly tearing away at written English like piranhas (I’ll step outside with anyone who thinks impacted can be used by anyone besides dentists).

Copy editing takes the great literary wilderness of poor grammar, style, usage and spelling used by the Great Unwashed every day and attempts to impose its own sort of manifest destiny on it, and to impart sensible order and structural soundness (to say nothing of good spelling and factual correctness) on a sprawling language that is constantly evolving. It doesn't even have to make writing great—just making it not suck is often good enough.

Copy editing, then, is no less than a bastion of civilization. The world doesn’t need saving. But the word does, and copy editing is what fights the good fight.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

TWISS: This Week in Silly Spam

If you're peddling online degrees, this is a bad subject line to market your wares:

want to continue your learnings ?

We expect much more from con men. To quote Desperaux's mother, "It is such the disappointment."

Friday, November 07, 2008

Top 10 Most Annoying Expressions

These come from the London Telegraph. Oxford researchers compiled the list for a book called "Damp Squid," and we're pleased that some of these expressions made it into "Things That Make Us [Sic]". Why does this please us? Because anything with an English accent gives us a giddy, girlish thrill. We can't help it.
1 - At the end of the day
2 - Fairly unique
3 - I personally
4 - At this moment in time
5 - With all due respect
6 - Absolutely
7 - It's a nightmare
8 - Shouldn't of
9 - 24/7
10 - It's not rocket science

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Historic Events and Articles

Shauna writes:

After all the reports on the elections last night, I have a question for you. My husband, son and I believe that the phrase "this is an historical moment . . ." is incorrect. We were taught that "an" preceeds letters beginning with vowels and "a" preceeds those beginning with consonants. So the correct phrase would be "this is a historical moment . . ." Is there an exception to the rule that I don't know about? Or is this another case of a phrase used so many times incorrectly that most people think it's correct?
When the “h” is pronounced, “a” is the proper article. When it’s not—say, like the way everyone but Martha Stewart pronounces “herb,”—then you should use “an.”

Historical, which has a stressed second syllable, has a somewhat weak “h” sound. This is why many people say “an.” Modern language experts such as Bryan Garner think this is a wee pretentious. Meanwhile, "history," which has a stressed first syllable, would never get an “an” because the pronunciation requires us to punch the “h.”)

There’s one other distinction worth noting on a historic day like today.

“Historic” means historically significant. “Historical” just means of or related to the past. So it would be both pretentious and inaccurate to call the election of the first black leader in Western history “an historical event.” In other words, wait for that very thing to happen on cable TV.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Ah, Nuance

The New York Times has a column by Stanley Fish about a plumber who might actually deserve more fame than that Joe guy.

It does contain a wee error:
There is one story I shall never forget; nor shall the others who heard it one evening in Chapel Hill, N.C., when my wife and I, my parents and her parents (cultivated, literate people) were having dinner in a restaurant. Because the restaurant was housed in a former railway car, the passage was narrow and the tables close together.

Although "shall" has largely fallen off the tongues of the masses, people who want to use it to elevate their style should do so correctly.

The old-school rule was that "shall" was the first-person form expressing something that would be done in the future. I shall and we shall are correct. For second and third person, though, "will" is the form to use.

So, I shall but others will. I shall floss my teeth. Others will floss their teeth.

Interestingly, this reverses with a determination, promise or command.

I will eat my grapes! They shall eat their grapes!

Interesting, no? Here's the entire column, if you're curious.

Punctuation in the Movies

Apparently the movie "What Just Happened" was originally marketed as "What Just Happened?"

What happened there isn't clear, but we enjoyed this column about punctuation in the movies. Apparently the hyphen is one dangerous character.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


From MSN.com:
More Whoppers From the Candidates
FactCheck: How Obama, McCain have mislead voters in recent weeks

The past tense "mislead" is "misled."

It'll be nice to have this election in the past tense, too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More Preposition Problems

Lisa S. sends this in from her morning commute. The truck has a sticker that says "There's a difference in 'Living' and 'Living Well.'"

What, there was no room for between? Sigh.
Here's a quick preposition primer for all you truckers out there.
  • I see a difference in your driving these days.
  • There is a difference between apples and applesauce. (Namely, your truck tires.)
  • There are differences among the three (or more) drivers. (One likes bumper stickers. One doesn't. And one only likes the grammatical sort.)

Keep on truckin'!


Pity Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Times has misspelled her name just about once a year since 1980. Today is the first time they've apologized. Do you think the just have Allen Ginsberg on the brain?

This Seems Sort of Mean

We get spam, er, helpful promotional marketing in our inbox for all sorts of pop culture happenings.

This arrived yesterday, on Wednesday, Oct. 29.

Thursday, October 29, 2008 – One week before the national polls open, tens of thousands of texting moviegoers have spoken! Senator Barack Obama beat out Senator John McCain by moviegoers when polled via text message "who would
you rather take to the movies?"

Does it mean Obama, provoked by a text-message poll, attacked John McCain when standing by a group of moviegoers? We hope not.

It would be terribly unsportsmanlike to attack an elderly veteran who lost a lot of arm movement when he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And Senator Obama has been so restrained up to this point (though in a fistfight, he would totally beat McCain and possibly hold his own against Sarah Palin's inevitable eye-gouges and hairspray attacks).

Or does the sentence mean Obama beat McCain among moviegoers polled by text messages? We rather suspect it's the latter. What a relief. Prepositions, people. Use them with care.

And don't forget to vote next week.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pallet Cleanser?

We found this on the Huffington Post:
And just in case America was still pondering real issues rather than nonsense and name-calling, you know who was on the show after my segment? Hulk Hogan. I wish that were a joke. What a perfect pallet cleanser to help Roto-Rooter out the remaining bits and pieces of rational discourse!

It's palate cleanser--as in the roof of your mouth, or more idiomatically, your sense of taste. A pallet is a wooden thing you store products on at Costco and other fine stores. We can imagine those do need occasional cleaning, particularly if Hulk Hogan and his family stand on them for any length of time.

In any case, we believe a palate cleanser and Roto-Rooter used together in the same sentence is a mixed metaphor, and a painful one at that. We prefer a fruity sorbet between courses (and discourses, for that matter).

Friday, October 24, 2008

"Grambar" from the Campaign Trail

Slate posted this gem from the McCain campaign:

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Event: John McCain Participates in "Joe the Plummer" Tour Rally
Location: All Star Building Materials, Inc. 1361 North Highway U.S. 1 Ormond Beach, FL 32174
Date: Thursday, October 23, 2008
Let's hope they're not worried real Americans wouldn't recognize a properly spelled (let alone licensed) plumber....

The 8th Grade Grammar Test

A friend sent this along, much to our delight. The style of the questions is a bit stodgy and we object to capitalization for emphasis, but we're all in favor of ensuring today's eighth-graders are as competent in their language skills.

8th Grade Test
Remember when our grandparents, great-grandparents, and such stated thatthey only had an eighth-grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the eight grade in 1895? This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, KS, USA. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, KS, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of Capital Letters. [SPOGG: For starters, don't insert them randomly into sentences. It scares us.]
2. Name the Parts of Speech and define those that have no Modifications.
3. Define Verse, Stanza and Paragraph.
4. What are the Principal Parts of a verb?
Give Principal Parts of lie, lay and run.
5. Define Case, Illustrate each Case. [SPOGG: Oops! Use a semicolon or "and' to join two independent clauses.]
6. What is Punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of Punctuation.
7. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practice and use of the rules of grammar.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bad Logic and Spelling

Barry L. found this curious text on a sign:

"No tresspassing without authorization."

Assuming "tresspassing" isn't something you do with your hair (Rapunzel! Pass the tresses!), this sign makes no sense. Can you trespass with authorization? Is it still trespassing? Or just weird? Did anyone like our Rapunzel joke? Why didn't she just cut her own hair and climb down?

And the Three Bears ... if they'd mixed their oatmeal, the temperature would have been just right. Why didn't they do that and go about their business? When Goldilocks had trespassed, they could have had her for dessert and spared their furniture....

So Close to the Right Word

From an exclamation-point-filled Entertainment Tonight Story:
"Heroes" star Ali Larter and fiancé Hayes MacArthur celebrated their engagement this weekend and couldn't help but bring up how they met!

Ali met her soon-to-be husband on the set of the cave man comedy film "Homo
" where the two were both wearing loin clothes!

That would be loincloths. And, well, eww....

Friday, October 17, 2008

TWISS: This Week in Silly Spam - the IRS Edition

We received this e-mail today, purportedly from the Internal Revenue Service:

After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activitywe have determined that you are eligible to receivea [sic] tax refund under section 501(c) (3) of theInternal [sic] Revenue Code. Tax refund value is $189.60. Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 6-9 daysin [sic] order to IWP the data received.If u[sic] don't receive your refund within 9 businessdays from the original IRS mailing date shown,you[sic] can start a refund trace online.

We know spammers aren't the smartest wildebeest on the Serengeti. But do they really think we'll fall for a phishing scam from a government agency that uses "u" as an abbreviation for "you"?

We do like that they cited 5013c, the designation for charity. When we pay our state business taxes, we file under the same category as gamblers do. We much prefer this work be considered charity than chance.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Democracy in the Nude!

Michael V. sends this sentence our way:

The State Board of Elections decided today to adopt a ban on clothing, including buttons and hats that directly endorse a candidate or issue. (See more...)
So it seems unlikely that the elections board is banning clothing. This highlights the difference an extra comma and word can make.

The state board of elections has decided today to adopt a ban on clothing, buttons and hats that directly endorse a candidate or issue. [EDITED FROM EARLIER VERSION WHEN SPOGG WAS TOO TIRED TO THINK CLEARLY.]

Vote early! Vote often! Vote ... in the nude!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Because Everyone Should Have a Gospel Choir Announce Good News

OK, so this is sort of silly. But we confess we have watched this gospel choir announce the arrival of our book several times.

What's especially funny is that the book title and the remainder of the announcement combine to make an ungrammatical sentence. Irony lives!

Seasonal Portmanteaus

These come from Marty B.:

1. Cornucopius: cornucopia+copious - horn of more than plenty

2. Flibbertygiblet: flibbertigibbet+giblet - organs of a nervous turkey

Now, to be completely true to the meaning of flibbertigibbet, it would be organs of a flighty turkey. But that's an oxymoron.

More Fuller, Less Grammatical

Nicole Kidman loves her new husband, apparently:
“I didn’t foresee it, that you can meet somebody who you have a deep and more profound love with... I don’t mean to take away anything with Tom, but I would hope that he has the same thing — I know he has the same thing with Katie. You move into a stage where you’re able to be a more fuller person in your relationship.”

It's either "more full" or "fuller," but not both.

Note: There are some people who think a construction like "more full" is incorrect. It's not. "Full" is an adjective. "More" is an adverb. Adjectives modify nouns; adverbs modify adjectives. Certainly "fuller" is the more idiomatic construction, but it's not a problem at all to use "more full" as a comparative with many, many adjectives. It would sound weird to say "more big," for example, but that doesn't mean all more+adjective constructions are out. Could we make that more clear? We don't think so.

Thanks to Ashleigh for the find.


Kerri sends this our way along with a warning: apparently this supplement gives one diarrhea. Losing weight is hard, but loosing it--miserable.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Where Do These People Do Their Larnin'?

We're thinking they know a different English than we do--one with really lax spelling rules.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Word of the Day

It's "panjandrum."

Thanks to John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun for reading our book and finding kind things to say about it.

This Started as a Spelling Post, But the Hyphen Error is Better

This comes from one of those Indian news services that pilfers content and reproduces it without attribution (they have done this to our Encarta columns), so we don't know if the punctuation errors are original or added. At any rate:

Gloucestershire, October 3:
A primary school in Gloucestershire, [sic] finally decides to do away with the teacher’s all time [sic] favorite - dictation or spelling tests, as [they are?] more commonly known, for the fear of instilling a sense of failure in the child incase [sic] he/she didn’t make it in the test. [Failed the test, perhaps? Or is the penalty for misspelling death?

Quoting the tests as "unnecessarily distressing" [this is a direct quote?] for the children, the Headmistress Debbie Marklove of the Whitminster Endowed Church of England Primary School, near Stroud, decided to do away with the whole process of learning words at home and reproducing them at school in the form of a test.

"Each school and each pupil has different needs and each school knows its own pupils best," she said. According to Debbie, the whole process left the children with a sense of failure when the words learnt by them at home were finally reproduced in the test wrongly spelt.

All the parents of the 105 odd [sic] students attending the school received a written message from the school in order to inform them about the school’s new policy, which banned all spelling tests.

It should be 105-odd students--otherwise, it's calling the students "odd" when they're merely sissies for falling to pieces over spelling exams.

This Does Not Please Us

Our e-mail has been unreliable for the last two days. When we wrote to customer support, we received this message:
We would like to apologize but we have a common issue wherein exchange issue are still on going. There has been a mail delays on random exchange servers and we would like to apologize where your account is affected.

If we knew what it meant, we might feel better.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

And Then We'll Torah Across Canada!

Craig Conley sends this curious construction our way. It's the first time we've seen "Bible" used as a verb. No less interesting is the story behind the tricked-out bus. A Bible publisher is traveling across the country to get a handwritten version of the good book. His reason:
"The Bible is America's favorite book of all time. And because of its accuracy, clarity and literary quality, the NIV has become the most successful Bible translation of all time," said Moe Girkins, president and CEO of Zondervan, in a released statement. "We believe that a completely handwritten version of the NIV Bible by people from all across our country will help America rediscover the Bible in a fresh, new way."
We would really like to see that. We can just imagine the part handwritten by the drill team, complete with heart-dotted Is. The portion written by a team of doctors will be completely illegible. The section completed by a kindergarten class, meanwhile, will contain phonetic spelling and pictures (we really hope they get the Book of Revelation).

Or course, if this company really wanted to be fresh and of-the-moment, it would have a Bible in txtspk. Fr dst thou Rt, and 2 dst thou shll rtrn.

In any case, we wish them well as they Bible in their "luxury" motorhome donated by a company called Spartan Motors. The world is a strange place, indeed.

Have It Your Way

No doubt this is somebody's favorite way to enjoy a Whopper. We're guessing, though, that the sign-maker needs to consult the menu a little more closely. There should at the very least be a space between "a" and "cheesy."

Thanks to our brother John for forwarding the image, which allegedly came from the wife of a colleague.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Diagramming Sentences

Confession time: When we first heard about sentence diagramming, we tingled with excitement. Our anticipation soured, however, when we learned that sentence diagrams were not pictures that went along with the words. This sour feeling turned to out-and-out nausea when we actually took to the task of diagramming, which our teacher made us do with a ruler to ensure every line was straight.

We do not like sentence diagramming. Nor do we like fancy terms for parts of speech and constructions. Like raw oysters and roasted beets, those are fine things for people who like those things. We are not those people.

Nonetheless, we recommend this Slate article on diagramming Sarah Palin's sentences.

The author argues that sentence construction offers a window into the mind the person who spoke or wrote it. We tend to agree. Sarah Palin, alas, has uttered some sentences that are the equivalent of a window overlooking a scrap heap. Grammarians can't find much meaningful substance in a few of her more notorious squirts of prose.

We do take issue with one point in the Slate article--that a really complex, convoluted sentence can signal a "richly educated mind" with a "Proustian" grasp of language. That's crap. Truly finely tuned minds can take complicated ideas and express them so that people don't need to whip out a straightedge and Warriner's English Grammar and Composition to understand what's going on. It's an assault on the very notion of good writing to argue that such things should ever be needed to understand words on the page.

People who take pleasure in rat-nest constructions care more about impressing than communicating. They are the ones who write the textbooks that make students alternate between weeping and sleeping. They are the ones who write laws that confuse and alienate. They are the ones who write novels that are so inscrutable, very few people find actual pleasure in reading them--and instead have to settle for the satisfaction of completing them and the bragging rights they confer at cocktail parties with assorted cakesniffers.

Don't be cowed by this sort of thing. The difference between good writing and bad is the difference between steak and sawdust. You can chew on either, but no one who cares about you would feed you the latter.

The Trouble with Cliches

Sarah Palin demonstrated last night one sort of trouble you can run into when you use cliches.

She said this: "Nuclear [or 'nukyular'] weaponry, of course, would be the be-all, end-all of just too many people and too many parts of our planet."

"Be-all and end-all" means "the most important thing." There might be some lunatics for whom nuclear weaponry would be the ultimate possession. In fact, we believe those people are right now lubricating the axis of evil with rendered baby fat, or something along those lines.

But we're guessing Sarah Palin thinks the expression means something else--perhaps "the end"?

When our brains go on autopilot and insert entire phrases that sound familiar and vaguely right, we should beware. Unless we really know what the whole phrase means, we shouldn't use it. It reminds us of that scene in "The Little Mermaid," where Ariel combed her hair with a fork. Disney meant that to be funny. Sarah Palin probably wasn't playing nukes for laughs.

In any case, it's the mark of a fine and creative mind that can dispense altogether with second-hand phrases.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Beware of Words in Sheep's Clothing

Pardon that terrible headline.

At least it's not as bad as this reader comment on Tim Egan's New York Times column:
For many died-in-the-wool progressive Democrats, it would be natural to be cheered by the scholarly findings that our 43rd president has set a new low. Instead, I just want this long national nightmare to be over.

Dyed, not died. Though wet sweaters, we admit, smell deadly.

Back from the Dead to Threaten Us All

Sue sends this headline along from the Archaeologica Web site:

Ancient Saxons could hold up supermarket

The story itself is about an archeological find that could impede construction of a supermarket. We much prefer Sue's interpretation, and we quake in fear of what might happen if some ancient Huns decided to take on the neighborhood dry cleaner.

(Actually, we don't. They just ruined our favorite coat, and while the label that said "Dry Clean Only Do Not Dry Clean" was perhaps ambiguous, we hoped they'd know what to do with it. So have at 'em, Attila.)

We Dream of a Reality TV Show

Joanne B. was eavesdropping on "Judge Judy" last night when she witnessed the sort of thing we'd like to confront in our imaginary reality TV show. She writes:

My daughters were doing their homework and much to my chagrin, Judge Judy was playing in the background... and one witness stood up next to the defendant and said "Judge, I'd like to collaborate his story." Now, you and I know he meant corroborate, but I don't think anyone else noticed.
Though using the wrong word isn't technically a grammar error, it's the sort of thing that drives language lovers up the proverbial wall. With that in mind, we pitch "SPOGG: Grammar Police Edition."

Stay tuned. We might even actually get around to making a YouTube video clip one of these days.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Shrink, Shrank, Shrunk

In a New York Times article about Sarah Palin:
And recent surveys have shown that her popularity overall, while still strong, has begun to fade. In one, a Fox News-Opinion Dynamics poll, her net positive rating shrunk from 27 points in early September to 11 points a week ago. At the same time, the candidate has been widely perceived to have struggled through a pair of TV interviews, particularly the recent one with Katie Couric of CBS.

Her positive rating shrinks/is shrinking/will shrink. Her positive rating shrank. Her positive rating has shrunk.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Short Story

Xavier D. sends this unfortunate posting from Craigslist:

inspiring model - i have questions (anywhere)
Reply to: [deleted] Date: 2008-09-27, 9:11PM PDT
I am 16, and I am 4'11''. I am very passionate about modeling. However, there are not many places looking for short girls. I was wondering if there are some certain places that deal more with my type of look. I have a proportionate, petite body. But I just need some help! It seems that anyone in search for a model, is looking for someone over 5'7''.

She means aspiring, of course. We're sure, though, that the inspirational story of a tiny teen with towering dreams will be the next reality-show craze. Don't let anyone steal your dreams, you miniature models and knee-high NBA hopefuls!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nouns and Adjectives

They're not interchangeable. This is from a headline that appeared in our local paper.

China farmer sentenced for faked rare tiger photos

Unless the man is growing porcelain, this headline should read "Chinese farmer sentenced for faked rare tiger photos."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

So Very Special

We recently reconnected with members of our third-grade elementary school class on Facebook. (Join us as friends, why don't you?)

One of our former classmates posted this picture she'd taken at a protest of the National Day of Silence to honor gay, lesbian and transgendered students at her local high school. Apparently, some children who haven't experienced the suffering that's commonplace among kids who don't belong to the heterosexual majority think they deserve a "special day," too.

We completely agree with the boy in this T-shirt.

Therefore, we designate this day as the National Day of Reckoning for People Who Write Ungrammatical Things on T-Shirts Using Sharpies, Even Though Their Handwriting Is Pretty Awful.

Congratulations, you sad clown. We salute you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Gwyneth Paltrow has a new, um, product/brand/metaphysical experience called GOOP. We don't know why all the letters are capitalized. It's not an acronym. So we can only assume she means to shout it from the rooftops. GOOP! GOOP, everyone! GOOP!

Anyway, she's encouraging people to "nourish the inner aspect." You can do this when you cook dinner for someone, visit a new city, or "workout and stick with it."

Thanks, Gwyneth, but we will work out. We will stick with our workout. And we will mind the space bar. We still have no idea what the inner aspect is, and what sort of food it likes.

And We Repeat...

Every day means every single day. Every day I ride the bus. *

Everyday means ordinary. We ar-ar-are-are-are Everyday People.

We love Overstock.com, but we think they should spend a little more money on an editor.

* So sorry if you don't like Elvis Costello or Sly and the Family Stone. We can't help ourselves.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Bailout Bicycle

From The New York Times this morning:
But toxic mortgage-backed securities were pedaled by plenty of foreign banks. And the decision to pour $85 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money into the rescue of American International Group (A.I.G.), the insurance giant, followed appeals from foreign finance ministers to Henry Paulson, the Treasury secretary, to save a global company. (See the whole column.)
We believe the word the author intended was peddled. But some of these financial products were innovative, so who knows? Perhaps they had wheels.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Passive Voice Alert

What's passive voice? It's a way to build a sentence so that the true subject isn't performing the action--like this one from this morning's New York Times:

Of no small appeal to the network was that the idea for “Opportunity Knocks” was pitched by the actor Ashton Kutcher, whose credits as a reality-show producer include MTV’s “Punk’d” (“Candid Camera” essentially reimagined with attitude, and celebrities) and CW’s “Beauty and the Geek” (nerds paired with pinup models, with each, ideally, improving the lot of the other).
It can really make a sentence hard to understand, even though it's not grammatically incorrect. Here's a better way to write it:

The network liked that the idea came from the actor Ashton Kutcher, who produced other "reality" shows, including MTV's "Punked," a "Candid Camera" update, and CW's "Beauty and the Geek," which paired models with nerds.

The passive voice and parenthetical asides really muddy the waters in this particular example.

Passive voice isn't always bad, though.

Sometimes, the subject is less important than the object and the action. For example, "The man was charged with murder." You could say "The prosecutor charged the man with murder," but if the prosecutor isn't really important, then you'd use the passive voice to shine the attention on the man.

The passive voice can be sneaky, though.
Cake was eaten. Mistakes were made. Lives were lost.
Who did it? And why is no one taking responsibility? To quote Milton-Bradley (or was it Hasbro?): "Pretty sneaky, sis."

Monday, September 15, 2008

Love a Pie Chart, We Do

From GraphJam.com:

An Ode to the Semicolon

Jan Freeman has a nice piece on Boston.com about "the quiet generosity of the semicolon."

While such words would be a dream come true to some, what we liked best were the description of how to use a semicolon, and the example of where one was used in a monument instead of a comma. Does this make us nerdy? Or just very excited for the upcoming National Punctuation Day?

Read her column here.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Speaking of Certain Death

Michael V. sends along this line from a story about Cuba's hurricane-evacuation policies:
And if anyone has doubts, authorities quickly put an end to them. The state news media often makes examples of people who fail to move out — and who are killed or injured.
We get how it would be annoying and all to have your citizens ignore sensible advice from the government. But is killing off scofflaws the way to proceed?

Of course, it's possible that authorities are putting an end to the doubts, and not the Cubans. You just can't tell, though, from the way these two sentences are written.

TWISS: This Week in Silly Spam

We are printing this poem, verbatim, from our junk-mail folder. It is noteworthy for its generous use of punctuation:

Recall your feels!


Could Face Certain Death

MSNBC has this headline over its story about Hurricane Ike:

Ike storm surge begins, Houston hunkers down
People still in low-lying areas warned they could 'face certain death'

The article itself says residents of the low country have been warned they "face certain death."

Apparently the editor thought no one could predict such things, and inserted the "could" there to maintain a fair and balanced approach. It does the opposite.

The residents were, in fact, warned of the dangers of staying in their houses during the hurricane. This headline turns sense into nonsense. Is anyone else utterly dismayed at the state of our wimpypants media, so afraid of errors or perceived bias they will edit the sense out of everything?

In any case, we have a newsflash: Each one of us faces certain death. It's a bummer, but there you have it. Live well!

Overheard on IM

Actually, this one was overheard on IM after being overheard on Dr. Phil:

Susan: oh my god. I'm watching Dr. Phil (I know, he's disgusting) and one of the "expert women doctors" he's got on there giving advice just talked about the "stigmata" of getting cervical cancer. Do you even believe?

Barbara Atkinson: whaaa?

Barbara Atkinson: that's hysterical! (pun intended)

Stigmata: a plural noun that means marks that look like crucifixion wounds.

The word she wanted was stigma: the shame attached to something that's socially unacceptable.

Barbara's pun was a great one. Hysterical means extremely funny or affected by hysteria--an uncontrollable emotion such as grief. Its root is the Greek word for womb. Hysteria literally means wandering womb. We refrain from casting judgment on long-dead Greeks. Wait, no we don't. Sexist bastards.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Oh, I Doo

Katie A. sent us this lovely photograph of the corner of a pencil-by-number craft kit:

Easy to "doo"? Perhaps it's a fiber-arts kit that was shelved in the wrong section of the store. In any case, constipation isn't fun at any age. If this kit solve the problem for the 8-and-ups, we're all for it.

Was It a Circus Bear?

The headline of an AP story we read this morning:

Teacher OK after crashing into bear on a bicycle

That's a pretty talented bear.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Portmanteau Contest: the Winners

And the winner is:

absotively: absolutely + positively

Submitted by Raena and Chuck, who will each receive a T-shirt from the SPOGG shop.


destinesia: destination + amnesia, submitted by Nancy
cloffice: closet + office, submitted by Julie

Nancy and Julie will receive handsome plastic SPOGG membership cards.

Thank you, everyone, for playing. Our copy editor contest is still running. Please visit Things That Make Us [Sic] and click the "contest" link for more information.

A Day for Sausage Humor

The Nashville News found a funny typo on a sausage wrapper, using it an excuse to slip in a filthy punctuation-based joke. Equally funny are the jokes in the comments section. Bravo!

We'd Rather They Used Vegans

Jim sends along the following photo.

Please note the announcement in the lower right-hand corner: "VEGETARIAN FED HENS."

Does this mean the hens were fed by a vegetarian? Does it mean they dined on vegetarians? Does this really make a difference in the quality of the egg?


Are they trying to say the hens that laid the eggs ate vegetables? Then they would be vegetable-fed hens. That's the really crazy thing about language, people. If you use simple words, chances are you can get your meaning across. Also, it's news to us that people have been feeding chickens meat. That is extremely gross, and possibly cruel. Does this taste like chicken to you, Becky Layer? Me, too. I think I'm going to hurl!

That said, it is possible that the chickens did eat vegetarians, and that the farmer responsible for this fowl soylent-greening got his due from a burglar. We found this in the news today, and it definitely sounded like a vegetarian or possibly even vegan hate crime:

Authorities: Burglar wakes men with spice rub


FRESNO, Calif. -- Authorities say they've arrested a man who broke into the home of two California farmworkers, stole money, rubbed one with spices and whacked the other with a sausage before fleeing.

Fresno County sheriff's Lt. Ian Burrimond says 22-year-old Antonio Vasquez was found hiding in a field wearing only a T-shirt, boxers and socks after the Saturday
morning attack.

He says deputies arrested Vasquez after finding a wallet containing his ID in the ransacked house.

The farmworkers told deputies the suspect woke them Saturday morning by rubbing spices on one of them and smacking the other with an 8-inch sausage.

Burrimond says money allegedly stolen was recovered.

Hot Naked Guys

The New York Times has just written about some of its recent grammar and language gaffes--and the reporter managed to work "hot naked guys" into the piece. We firmly believe that many, if not all, discussions of language are improved thus. Your mileage may vary.

Update: Baal D. pointed out that women, according to the Times, actually want "not naked guys." Apparently we saw "hot" where they wrote "not." Freud might have a thing or two to say about that. At any rate, "not-naked guys" (which should have been hyphenated) are abundant. Are women really so easily pleased? We think...not.

Needless to say, we do not regret the error.

A Preposition You Can't Refuse

If there's anything that marks a person as a new or inept speaker of English, it's the misuse of prepositions.

For example: There is something wrong of my car (newbie error). Or Where is my car at? (inept usage).

David Thatcher calls them "the banana peels of modern speech." He refers, also, to the prepositionally problematic phrase "fooling around on [one's] wife." Even better, he does this with a British accent. Now a retired English professor, he presents a downloadable guide called "Saving Our Prepositions."

You can find it here. SPOGG is grateful, delighted, and amused. It's quite good, and almost certainly the only language manual that makes any sort of reference at all to the beauty of the word "gonorrhea."

Sunday, September 07, 2008

SPOGG in the News, Y'all

This comes from the Sunday Dallas Morning News:

Errors on signs becoming a 'regualar' occurrences

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, September 7, 2008
By ERIC AASEN / The Dallas Morning News

A cup of regualar coffee sounds like the perfect way to start your day.

Wouldn't some cheep gas be nice? But if you park your car, you've been warned: No in-and-out priviliges.

These mangled spellings – on real-life signs around the Dallas-Fort Worth area – underline the obvious: Spelling isn't always high on our list.

And our grammar ain't that good, too.

It's enough to make your English teacher cringe – and drive others to break the law.

Last month, two men were sentenced to probation and banned from national parks for a year after getting busted for fixing errors on a sign in Grand Canyon National Park.

The men travel the country correcting signs as part of the Typo Eradication Advancement League.

Across the country and locally, the land is littered with signs, posters, ads, menus – you name it – that are riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

In some cases, human spell-checkers battle these boo-boos by fixing the errors on their own. Others snap pictures and trash the typos on their blogs.

Grammarians say these are bad signs of the times – our language is on a downward spiral. Others say: Lighten up.

Correct spelling and proper grammar matter and help us understand each other, said Martha Brockenbrough, who founded the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sarah Palin T-Shirt Scandal

We haven't had time to study this with our Jr. FBI Forensic Foto KitTM, but we are fairly certain this T-shirt says "I may be broke but, I am not flat busted."

SPOGG is outraged. The comma should come BEFORE the but, not after. This is every bit as bad as Paris Hilton's "THATS HOT" T-shirt.

We're definitely going to protest if the McCain campaign comes to our city. We will hold a big sign with a comma on it, and the warning: BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU PUT THAT THING. We only hope no one thinks the comma is, well, a sperm. We understand the Palin people are a little testy about that topic these days.

Editors Not Invited?

Karen S. sent this along a few weeks back. It's an announcement for a new company run by the brother of Will Smith, the famous actor.

TREYBALL OFFICIALLY LAUNCH'S [sic] LIFESTYLE HOMES DIVISION Treyball Development's President & CEO, Harry Smith [SIC -- missing comma] announced the launch the Lifestyles Homes Division. Details of a formal launch party will be announced shortly for a handful of invited guests, VIP's [sic], and staff. To learn more about the new division and it's [sic] launch EMAIL TREYBALL.

For more, click here.

If you're going to announce a luxury "lifestyle" division, in which your motto is "luxury is not a privilege, [sic] it is a necessity of life," then you ought to just go ahead and splurge on an editor. Would you trust someone to build your home if his company can't even build a simple sentence? We think not.

Malapropisms of the Day

George sends us the following amusing malapropisms:
In 1974, the fire chief of Terre Haute, Indiana, was meeting with his workers at the scene of an overturned tank car, only fifty feet from an Indiana State University dormitory. The situation was tense, because the car was full of vinyl chloride, an extremely explosive subtance.

The chief broke the tension, at least for nearby reporters, when he attempted to instruct the men to take a break, and then return to the scene at a specific hour. He announced, "Okay, men, let's circumcise our watches!"

And then this one:

Here's one my wife encountered as an assistant professor of mathematics education at St. Mary of the Woods College, also in Terre Haute. The geometry class was working with compasses, when one girl raised her hand.

"Professor Eisele, would you please go over that again. How do you circumcise a circle?" she asked.

My wife didn't hesitate."

"Very carefully!" she replied, as the other students broke up laughing.

Friday, September 05, 2008

We're Not Sure, Either

The Write Stuff sent us a link to an article about "America's Next Top Model" that is stuffed with spelling errors. Here's our favorite:
Clark’s topic is bearocracy, and shockingly, she doesn’t know what that is! Really, I’m shocked! She asks McKey what it is, and when McKey says she won’t tell her, Clark can’t understand why. Excuse me competitive queen of the world! She has a difficult time during her photo shoot. Jay calls her a “very pretty plastic Barbie,” meaning she never changed her face.
We don't know what bearocracy is, either. Is it:
- a government run by the mortal enemies of Goldilocks?
- a government run by hairy men who like to dress in leather?
- something else entirely?

Here's the rest of the story. Tyra Banks will stab the author with a sharpened mascara wand if she reads it and sees how her name is misspelled. We'd sort of like to watch.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Power of SPOGG

Scott wrote to us about two years ago, lamenting a Massachusetts road sign that said "for safety sake."

Here's our original post on the subject.

Here's the update:

I must apologize for the delay in my thanking you for your response to my question about a punctuation error on Massachusetts roadside signs (SPOGG blog: "Massachusetts vs. Shakespeare," June 5, 2006), but at the same time I am thrilled to report that the error has been corrected. As documented by the attached photo, the missing apostrophe and "s" have been restored to the sign, which now reads, correctly, "for safety's sake."

Armed with this circumstantial evidence, I have concluded that the corrective power of SPOGG may have played a role in improving at least this one corner of the world. While I'm sure we can all understand the desire to become grammar vigilantes, I'm glad SPOGG exists as an oasis of order in a world in need of proofreading.

We have no evidence whatsoever that SPOGG's sincere efforts made a difference. But hey! They couldn't have hurt. Perhaps that should be our unofficial motto: We Might Not Help, But at Least We Don't Hurt.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Translate, Please

Tesco's motto is "Every little helps."

Every little what helps? We don't understand. If you do, please enlighten us at info@spogg.org.

Nutmeg, We Never Knew!

Sheryl C. sends this proof that copy-editing does matter:
Swedish food magazine Matmagasinet had to recall its last issue after a recipe poisoned at least four people. They overdosed on nutmeg (a deliriant when taken in high doses) but are now feeling better. From AFP:

"There was a mistake in a recipe for apple cake. Instead of calling for two pinches of nutmeg it said 20 nutmeg nuts were needed," Matmagasinet's chief editor Ulla Cocke told AFP..."We publish 1,200 recipes each year, and of course there have been times when they've had a bit too much butter or too little flour, but we have never experienced anything like this before," Cocke said.

Of course, common sense is also a good thing to use when cooking. Twenty nutmeg nuts? That is nuts.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

SPOGG Objects!

We found this on Fox Sports:
Beginning next year, the Ladies [sic] Professional Golf Association will test players for English proficiency. The un-proficient, no matter how low their handicaps, will face suspension.
We were unaware that one needed to speak English to play golf, and in this new test, we detect an unpleasant aroma of xenophobia. In any case, an organization that is missing an apostrophe in its name ought not to be judging the language skills of its members.

We will send a stern letter to the Ladies [sic] Professional Golf Association urging them to correct this matter immediately.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Dangling Ampersand

A bit of wit and whimsy (whitsy? wimsy?) from Craig Conley.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Oops. An evil twin in this headline, which we found on the Seattle P-I:

Butt-bearing professor fired by university

The Fort Hays State University professor who mooned a colleague during a student debate has been fired.

The Internet has been a-buzz with talk about the profanity-riddled YouTube video that shows William Shanahan, a debate coach at Fort Hays, arguing with University of Pittsburgh debate coach Shanara Reid-Brinkley. During the argument, Shanahan bent over and exposed his underwear.

This is from the AP:

University President Edward H. Hammond also announced Friday that the school was immediately suspending its debate program until problems are addressed at the national level. He said it was important to take a stand against the declining standards of college debate.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of speech, but these actions are not acceptable for someone who is representing our university," Hammond said in a written statement.
It should be butt-baring. We all bear butts, even if we can't bear them (or bare them, apparently) in debates.

For the record, SPOGG is on the side of the fired professor. He didn't show skin. The gesture, while crude, therefore couldn't be called obscene by a reasonable person. What's more, it communicated something. The First Amendment has protected expression that falls short of obscenity, especially in public institutions.

Protecting ideas, even if they're communicated in ways that offend some, ought to be more important to universities than protecting sensibilities.

Trouble for TEAL

Thanks to all the SPOGG members who sent word about the fate of the Typo Eradication Advancement League. The men who've criss-crossed the country crossing out spelling errors in signs have received what some call their "comeuppance."

One of the signs they corrected was a 60-year-old piece in the Grand Canyon (a National Park), painted by the artist Mary Colter.

The members of TEAL had to pay $3,035 to restore the sign, and are banned from national parks for a year.

There are cheers and jeers coming from both sides of the fence. Many reasonable people, including John McIntyre of the Baltimore Sun, thought TEAL was trivializing the pursuit of excellence in language. Others, including some of our beloved SPOGG members, offered to post bail.

Our thoughts on the matter: It's distracting, annoying, and often comical to see errors in signs. The only time we have taken a pen to one was in a classroom, where we neatly inserted an apostrophe where it belonged. The teacher wasn't looking and wasn't there, and we felt strongly that children should not be taught that "womens" is a word. Even so, we had pangs of conscience later.

Generally speaking, we leave signs alone. As we told a Christian Science Monitor reporter, people pay for those signs. We wouldn't want people to write on our stuff, and we don't write on other people's stuff. We aren't at all opposed to letters sent with humor and kindness, although we'd never send one to someone whose first language isn't English. It's hard enough starting over in a new country without having the natives poke fun.

Talking about errors in a blog is another matter, though. We can all learn from the discussion.
There is one correction, though, that we don't mind seeing. This photograph was taken by our friend Kat, of a bit of graffiti in her neighborhood.

Oooh! Spellbinding!

British researchers have concluded that the most commonly misspelled word in published documents and on the Internet is "supersede." (We're thinking on the Internet at least, they might have overlooked "ponography.")

In any case, here's a really interesting article that blames common misspellings on a variety of causes: misinterpretations of etymology and meaning, and errors related to pronunciation.

And here are the most commonly misspelled words, at least in published documents:

Five most difficult words based on wrong assumptions relating to content: supersede (precede), inoculate (innocuous), sacrilegious (religious), consensus (census), liquefy (liquid)

Five most difficult words based on a foreign language root: broccoli (Italian), haemorrhage (ancient Greek), connoisseur, manoeuvre, lieutenant (French) [NOTE: SOME ARE BRITISH SPELLINGS--In the U.S., you'd see hemorrhage and maneuver.]

Five most difficult words based on difference in pronunciation: conscience, indict, foreign, mortgage, phlegm

Phlegm! That's a word everyone should know how to spell. All you teachers out there, please put it on your lists.

One Strike, You're Out?

A Major League spelling error made the news:
ANAHEIM -- Twins shortstop Adam Everett was standing in the dugout, preparing to head to the plate to lead off the fifth inning on Friday night when equipment manager Rod McCormick told Everett that he had to follow him into the tunnel.

Everett said he was told there was something wrong with his jersey.

"I'm looking down, like, 'Oh my gosh, do I have the wrong jersey on?' " Everett said.

Not the wrong jersey, the wrong spelling.

The front of Everett's jersey read "MINNESTOA."
Here's the rest of the story. Our favorite part? A former player noticed the error while watching the game on TV, and he sent a text message alerting the team. Quick thinking and technology: a fine double play.

As for the player with the misspelled jersey, well, let's just say he needs some help conjugating his verbs. You'll see when you read the whole story.

Friday, August 22, 2008

One Last Portmanteau

In writing the above headline, we are fully aware we have invited more latecomers to the portmanteau party (partmanteau? portamanteauty?).

Let this serve as a reminder that we are not the Society for the Promotion of Accurate Predictions (SPAP), though we might engage in some joint productions with the Soreheads Parading Against Never-ending Kvetching (SPANK), as it is in general alignment with our disposition and life philosophy.

The portmanteau:
Ambimoustrous (ambidextrous + mouse) able to use the computer mouse with either the right or left hand.
Thanks to the ambimoustrous Barbara for sending it.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

For Your Listening Enjoyment

UPDATE: Stay tuned, so to speak. We are having some trouble with the technology. Oh, modern times! You vexeth us!

A playlist of songs with grammar errors. Our personal favorite? The disaster that is Neil Diamond.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Behold! The Portmanteaus

The contestants for our portmanteau challenge are finally sorted and polished. We removed proper nouns and submissions that were too gross for even our rather bawdy standards.

What we're going to do is post the contestants, then post a voting box. There are quite a few, so we thank you in advance for your patience.

The winner here receives something from the SPOGG shop (or a signed copy of Things That Make Us [Sic] once it's available), so the stakes are TERRIBLY HIGH. Please vote anyway.

It is worth observing that the members of SPOGG like to give their pets portmanteau names. Petmanteaus? Woof!

Without further ado, the contestants:

absotively: absolutely + positively

afreakinAmerican: what every citizen of the U.S. is

anticappointment: anticipation + disappointment

bechother: by each other

beerble beer + bible: recipes for home brewers

bromance: brother + romance a close relationship between two heterosexual males

bromance (2): brother + romance: a special way of wooing a coed

chillax: chill + relax

clearify: clear+clarify

clickerdamn: clicker + damn (for missing remote control)

cloffice: closet + office

crankonymous: online complainers

destinesia: destination + amnesia (forgetting where you were going)

disfraction: diverting someone's attention 1/3rd of the time

dramastically: dramatically + drastically

dramedy/docudrama: drama + comedy/ documentary + drama

excessories: excess accessories

exitinerary: exit + itinerary: plan to leave a social gathering

ex wife in law: ex wife of your current husband

flustrated: flustered + frustrated.

frattastic: people who are too involved in Greek life in college

ginormous: giant + enormous

grouch potato: grouch + couch potato

guanachos: guacamole + nachos

Guinnass: Guinness + ass: what happens the day after

guyliner: guy + eyeliner

halfheimers: halfway + Alzheimers

hormonevator: hormone + elevator that up and down monthly ride women take; can also refer to puberty or menopause (see your daughter, mother, friend, or self)

hormoniac: someone who is completely and utterly crazy due to fluctuating hormone levels

ignoranus: an ignorant a$$hole

insinuendo: insinuate + innuendo

jick: jock + Jill … a female athlete

juxtapose: The word “juxt,” as in, “I juxt love hamburgers,” and “tapose,” meaning to pose. He stood atop the Eiffel Tower juxtapose for the camera.

kittenality: kitten + nationality lubriclot: the annoying chunk of lotion at the end of the bottle

mallternative: mall+alternative: disaffected suburban youth who shop at Hot Topic to look rebellious

mandals: man + sandals (strappy!)

manster: man+monster

manties: man + panties (effeminate)

mexcellent: Mexican + excellent (applies to food)

onomateration: onomatopoeia + alliteration, e.g. drip drop, clip clop, and squish squelch

pamphliture: pamphlet+literature (those tourist brochures)

phunobulous: phenomenal, fun, and fabulous

politick: politician + tick, a politician who gets under your skin

robotricks: robot + tricks

shart: what happens when you try to pass gass, but instead pass something else more substantial

shoerectomy: This is the operation one receives after they have thoroughly pissed someone off who doesn't mind kicking a little butt.

snacktivate: snack + activate

snarcastic: snarky + sarcastic

spagnineophile: a dog that loves spaghetti

squarts: squirting + farts

staycation: staying + vacation (a vacation at home)

teleroboketer: a telemarketer who has been brainwashed by their company to say the same script over and over

Vote for Your Favorite Portmanteau

We apologize in advance for the length of this list. How were we to know portmanteaus would be so very popular? We apologize, too, for some of the gross words. Believe us, there were worse.

The winner gets something from the SPOGG shop or a signed copy of our forthcoming book, Things That Make Us [Sic]. Wuhoo!

Please check the post above to see the definitions of the words in the contest. Thank you for playing! (And don't forget to scroll to the bottom of the list.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

Facebook Grammar

Facebook rejects advertisements it decides are ungrammatical or incorrectly punctuated.

The people who developed that software should pick a fight with the people who write the display copy for the site. We just found this:

Somebody has just compared you to its other friends.

Its other friends? We get that they wanted to avoid somebody+a plural. But "its" isn't right, either. If such a thing is possible, it's probably even more incorrect, even though anybody--and, presumably anything--can get a Facebook account these days.

There are several ways to write around this.

One of your friends has compared you to others.
You've been compared to others.
How do you compare to others? Find out!

Even "somebody has just compared you to their friends" is better than what they've got. How does this happen? It's madness, we say. Madness!


This is from NBC's Olympic coverage. Really. It officially counts as the WORST bit of writing we've ever seen on a professional news site. Thanks to Danielle B. for sending it:

It seemed she wuz robbed, China's He Kexin geting the gold, Liukin left with silver. China's Yang Yilin got the bronze, the bars results adding to the host nation's sensational gymnastics performance at these Games -- the great haul of China.

Wuz Liukin robbed?
Read more here...

The first sentence isn't even a proper sentence. It's a big, ugly run-on.

And then there's the use of "wuz." Twice!

We simply do not understand this. Unless you're 5 years old and just learning to read, "was" is not a difficult word to pronounce. So it's of no service to the reader. From the writer's perspective, "wuz" doesn't save any letters, so it's not an easier word to type.

In short, it's just idiotic. It's like certain inane fashion trends--floating trucker hats, pants that hang down below the bum, belly shirts on people who have no business baring that band of flesh..... Oy!

We can only conclude this meant to say "Look at me! Look at me! Aren't I happening?" But it really says "I am trying so hard to be cool that I look foolish."

Alan Abrahamson, the writer, deserves to be banned from journalism for writing like an idiot instead of the professional correspondent fans of the Olympics truly deserve.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Foster Care? This Sounds Criminal

Bad-taste warning. Click away if you're feeling prim.

Here's a headline from the Seattle Times:
11-year-old who once hopped plane, 3 brothers in foster care
It was bad that he hopped aboard a plane. But as far as we know, he never climbed atop his brothers, no matter how bad this headline sounds.

A better headline would have read:
Plane-hopping 11-year-old, brothers in foster care

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Grammar Advice for the School Year

Karen S. sends this along (the original author is unknown, but we'll give credit where it's due if someone speaks up):

1. Verbs HAS to agree with thei r subjects.
2. Prepositions ar e not words to end sentences with.
3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually)
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used unless you don't want to seem too formal.
12. Foreign words and phrases are not always apropos.
13. Do not use more words, phrases, sentences, or other linguistic elements than you, yourself, actually really and definitely need to use or employ when expressing yourself or otherwise giving voice to what you may or may not be thinking when you are trying to say how many words you should use or not use when using words.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don't use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, i.e. etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill excessive exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others elude to them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
27. Eliminate distracting quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have once remarked, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
And finally…
34. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Eat Good?

Susan F. takes no prisoners, at least when it comes to her snacks. She objects to language in a Power Bar ad that reads: "Eat Good. Look Great."

She says, "I wrote a letter, saying that 'Eat Well' would have been a better choice of words and grammatically correct.

After another letter, sent because the rep told me that ads that are slogans don't have to be correct, I finally got two coupons for $1.50 off the bars. The ads have not changed. I gave the coupons away!"

She's putting her money where her mouth is by not putting ungrammatical protein bars in her mouth. Hooray! Though we think the letters were worth more than $1.50. Oh well. It's hard to get rich on grammar, though you can get thin trying.

That's One Angry Judge

Look! People do judge you for bad spelling and grammar at work. Apparently, it's worse when a judge is judging:
Angry judge has a spelling fit
Monday, August 11, 2008

A judge has labelled a prosecution worker an 'illiterate idiot' after spotting a spelling mistake.

Judge David Paget looked with disgust at an indictment accusing a man of assaults, including attempted 'greivous' bodily harm.

He fumed: 'The word grievous has been mis-spelt four times.'

Reading on, he said that another charge accused the defendant of using an offensive weapon, 'namely axe', instead of 'an axe'.
Note: in England, where this story originates, some past-tense verbs are "spelt" with a T on the end. In American English, you're more likely to see that spelled as "misspelled." Same goes with words like "labeled" and "traveled." These will have two Ls in the U.K., but generally only have one here.

Punctuation, It Has an Accent?

Dana D. sent this in, noting the extra comma after "evolved." Is it possible this is, how you say, Russian cat?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Things That Make Us [Sic]

In just a couple of months, St. Martin's Press will publish Things That Make Us [Sic]: The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Hollywood, the White House, Madison Avenue & the World.
There are now nearly 9,000 members of SPOGG worldwide, and the book owes much to all you loyal readers with your sharp eyes and even sharper senses of humor.

The book's official Web site is finally live (see it here). We're proud to be running a contest for copy editors in memory of our friend, Steve Higgins, a copy editor and bon vivant of the finest sort. The prize is a good one--an Amazon Kindle. So if you know any professional editors, do pass along word.

You can buy the book in advance of publication at Amazon.com for a mere $13.57. We'll have more updates occasionally as the date draws closer (and as we find the stomach for marketing--not the best part of the job).

Thanks, members of SPOGG. This book is most definitely for you.