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 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.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Read Our Ellipse

Here's a delightful new book by Craig Conley: Annotated Ellipses.

In it, he takes a page from "The Wind Bloweth," a ellipse-filled novel by Donn Byrne, and he explains the hidden story behind all those daffy dots. It's so creative, so funny, and so completely Craig, who also wrote a dictionary of one-letter words and a field guide to identifying unicorns by sound (really!).

We love it!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Miserable Muffins

They're in the oven RIGHT NOW, so we can't say how they taste. But we're a bit worried these muffins may be the last thing we eat:
To Die For Blueberry Muffins
We think it's possible they meant to hyphenate the recipe: to-die-for blueberry muffins. That would be a fine recipe, indeed.

Still, if we're going to sacrifice ourselves for something, it might as well be baked goods.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Commas and Polygamy

Commas can keep you out of all sorts of trouble:
"American Idol" season 4 runner-up Bo Bice and his wife Caroline Fisher welcomed a baby boy on Tuesday, Aug. 5, reports

"Caroline Fisher" should be set off with commas here. Unless, of course, he has more than one wife, in which case she will be set off by having to share.

If here is only one of something you're identifying with further information--"my wife, Caroline,"--you need to set it off with commas. It's a non-restrictive modifier. In regular English, that means it's something that doesn't limit the meaning of the sentence because it's by definition limited. He only has one wife. Right?

If there's more than one of something--"the American Idol runner up Bo Bice"--you can't use commas to separate Bo from his antecedent. You're limiting the meaning.

There have been many American Idol runners up. Bo Bice isn't even the most famous American Idol runner up to be expecting a child right around now. In fact, we were hoping this was about the birth of the child fathered by American Idol runner up Clay Aiken, who conceived via artificial insemination (a fact we include only to demonstrate this whole comma thing one last time).

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A Writer After Our Own Heart

The writer/artist Catherine Cheek has this to say about sloppy language and what it means for us all:


I went to the movies yesterday, and in the restroom there was a sign that read “Water Maybe hot”. It made me grit my teeth, but I didn’t say anything, because I know I’d be that girl, you know, the anal retentive one who always wants to speak to the manager about something.

Today I was at a grocery store and they’ve made their labels print out a little tag at the bottom that says “Thank’s from Fry’s” That one I couldn’t let go. I wrote them an email telling them that they ought to have their signage written by the educated, native English speakers on the staff, because bad grammar sends a negative impression. They’ll probably ignore it. If it were important to them, it wouldn’t have gone all the way to the printer and onto hundreds of packages of meat without anyone seeing fit to correct it.

And that’s what really bothers me the most. That using your language correctly is considered unimportant... (Read the rest of her post.)

A gold star for you, Ms. Cheek. Also, we really like your artwork.

A New and Hideous Gas Crisis

Speaking of portmanteaus, there are two words we don't really want to see together, whipped into creamy use like so much butter and so many eggs.

Those two words? "Gas" and "sex."

And yet, here they are, gleefully intertwined in an article on the Web site of the London Mail: "gastrosexual."

We very nearly threw up in our mouths.

A Home-Grown Portmanteau

The Daughter of SPOGG turns eight years old today, and has decorated the house with a variety of thematic signs (it's a kitten-centric party, if you must know).

Said child invented a lovely portmanteau on a sign illustrating Objects in a Kitten's Room: "excessories."

Excessories are extra (or perhaps excessive) accessories that pile up in the bedrooms of little girls, much to the annoyance of their mothers.

With that fine word, the portmanteau contest is closed. We have about 50 entries. Voting will come soon, so stay tuned!

The Perfect Accessory for the Possibilisuit

Danial P. snapped this photo in a suburban shopping center (the very one we worked in when we turned 16 and could be paid to hang out at the mall).

We can only conclude that our home town is attempting to create a new fashion trend in these grim economic times. The "possibilitie" is just the thing to wear with the "possibilisuit." We will keep our eyes peeled for the possibilipocketsquare and possibilishoes.

With such clothing, anything could happen!

A Housekeeping Matter

Karen S. sent us this horrific example of a misplaced modifier that would be comical if it weren't so sad.

District Attorney Lynne Abraham says any of the nine could have foreseen the horrific fate of the girl, whose emaciated body was found in her mother's squalid house covered with bone-deep, maggot-infested bedsores in August 2006.

As written, the sentence says the house was covered with nasty bedsores. We've heard of houses with good bones, but that not what happened here.

Here's a better way to say what the writer undoubtedly meant:

District Attorney Lynne Abraham says any of the nine could have foreseen the horrific fate of the girl, whose body was found in her mother's house in 2006. The emaciated girl was covered with bone-deep, maggot infested bedsores.