Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Perez Hilton: Vizzini Alert

From his blog:

Gossip Girl star Taylor Momsen shares her extremely diluted opinion of herself in an interview accompanying her September Teen Vogue cover.
Oh, Perez. How you manage to be so popular despite your terrible, terrible writing remains a mystery. The word is "deluded." It's probably a good one for you to know.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

'Drink Drivers'? Or Drunk Editors?


NZ judge rejects drink [sic] driver's swine flu defense
WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- A New Zealand woman had a novel defense when she appeared in court on a drunk-driving charge: It was swine flu's fault.

That would be drunk. DRUNK.

Source: a local newspaper that recently laid off a good chunk of its staff.

UPDATE: A couple of people have written to let me know that in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, it's "drink driving." That is all jolly good/bollocks/brilliant for them. In the United States, though, it's drunk or drunken driving. SPOGG's clumsy point was that newspapers that lay off copy editors and fill their pages with wire copy will have all sorts of goofy things in their pages. Now back to our grammartini...

Punk Rock Paint review

The genius behind Punk Rock Paint has reviewed our book, THINGS THAT MAKE US SIC. Check out the SPOGG baseball card. We're honored!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Trouble with Omitting Apostrophes

The Boston Globe ran a story on apostrophes today that contained this paragraph:

One that bugs him is the name of a mountain whose shape is so iconic that it's stamped on the state quarter: Camels Hump. Trouble is, leaving the apostrophe out of the first word runs the risk of making the second look like a verb, creating what Sanford called an "unfortunate" image.

Amen, even if camels are entitled to their carnal pleasures, too. Read the whole story, if you'd like.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Typo Scuttles Launch

This caught our eye today:

July 22, 1962: Mariner 1 Done In by a Typo
By Tony Long July 22, 2009 12:00 am

When The New York Times copy desk lets a typo slip through, it’s embarrassing but no one gets hurt. When NASA programmers screw up, the consequences are a tad more dramatic, not to mention expensive. In this case, a “missing hyphen” in code forces mission control to abort the launch of the unmanned Mariner 1 probe less than five minutes after liftoff. (Read more.)

Is it just us, or should the "after" above actually read "before"? We're not rocket scientists, but can you stop something that's already happened? Is there a difference between launch and liftoff? Space cadets want to know.

The Case of the Incognito Photographer

We wonder what "Gerry" has done that requires him to talk about himself with unnecessary quotation marks--as if he really isn't "Gerry," but some other character just using the name for kicks and "giggles."

Maybe he's doing time for quotation mark "abuse" and is using an alias to protect his true identity. Yes, that's most likely it. It's a "shame." Grammar jail means hard time, people, especially if the semicolon decides to make you her bi--oh, never mind.

Nice photos, though.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


"Bow-wow-tique, I could understand," writes the sensational artist Jaime Temairik, who sent us this photo.

She makes an excellent point. We excuse all sorts of creative spellings when puns are involved. But "ice cream" as one word? No. Never. Or at least not yet.

The only word they got right on this sign was "bakery, which our relentless punster wishes they'd made "barkery."

This sign, people. Perhaps it's catty of us to mention, but it's a total dog.

Misspelled Tattoos

The first one says "Only God will juge me." Maybe so. But everyone else will judge your spelling.

Check out all the unfortunate and hilarious misspellings here.

If you like those, there are 10 more. (Our favorite: the come-hither bosom tattoo that says "beautiful tradgedy," though "imermanence is forever" wins the irony award.

Thanks to Jessica for the links.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wonder What They Were Selling

And this is why newspapers shouldn't lay off all their copy editors...

Ballard businesses file lawsuit challenging Burke-Gilman Trail extension
By Lindsay Toler
Seattle Times staff reporter

Two cyclists peddling along the docks in Ballard stop and ask two maritime-industry workers leaning against a truck for directions to the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.
The word here should have been "pedaling."

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Cremation of Your Dreams...

Carey sends along this delightful advertisement:

When Copy Editors Attack

Vanity Fair has edited Sarah Palin's resignation speech. Read if it you want to see red.

Grammar for Spammers: Dirtybird Edition

In the inbox this morning:

Looking for a one night stand?

Hookup tonight with other hot, sexy people in your area looking for some "No Strings" adventures!
Sigh. It's one-night stand--we would never dream of doing it without a hyphen. And "hook up" is two words when used as a verb. There is no reason to capitalize No Strings. And for the love of index fingers, please! Stop with the unnecessary quotation marks.

We will always wonder, though, how they knew those sexy people were in our "area." We do try to keep that part covered with a bathing suit...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man...or Octopus?

Michael V. sends this unfortunate headline our way:

Man's arm severed, 3 others critically injured in crash near Midway
Does the man have four or more arms? Is he some sort of octopus? While we are very sorry to hear about the crash, we shake our heads (yes, we are a freak and have many) in dismay at the headline.

The first subject--the arm--isn't quite parallel to the second and it leads to strange interpretations of what happened. Yikes.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Grammar: Not Rocket Science

"While many teachers might doubt this, the teaching of grammar is not rocket science!" —Phyllis C. Hutson, The Essentials of Grammar Instruction, 2006, p. 1

So many terrible jokes could come of this...But grammar is such a gas! Really, so potent it could be rocket fuel!

Instead, though, we will refer you to the hilarious book Not Rocket Science, by our beloved friend Craig Conley. It's the world's only compendium of things that are not, in fact, rocket science--and it's infinitely more amusing than our lame puns.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Split Infinitives: We Care

We saw this today on the Huffington Post, and it makes a point we made in our book, Things That Make Us [Sic]: split infinitives are fine, and sometimes better than the alternative.

I think about this phrase constantly: "The secret is not to care." Because if I don't want to let certain things make me unhappy, the secret is not to care. (Not to mention not caring about the weird grammar of the phrase.)

Compare these two sentences:

- The secret is not to care.
- The secret is to not care.

The words are the same--but their meanings are different. The first doesn't say what the secret is. It just says that not caring isn't the secret. Anything could be the secret. The secret is not to care; it's to wear plaid pants.

The second is clearer. The secret is to "not care." You'll be a happier person, in other words, if you don't give a darn. This is probably true. And yet we find ourselves caring more about words than we do our own happiness. Alas!

This whole business of split infinitives is maddening. Despite what you might have heard from your English teachers, there is NO rule in English that requires the to+verb of an infinitive to appear together. It was an attempt long ago to make English more like Latin, where the infinitive form is one word and can't be split. This is worse than the rule banning white shoes after Labor Day, because at least that rule spares us from the sight of ugly footwear.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Do You Think the Jury Will Notice?

Note to self:

When you become a dermatologist taking care of a world-famous celebrity who most likely has an addiction to the narcotic Demerol, have someone proofread your letter so that when the inevitable court case comes about, you don't look like you went to medical school in a South American strip mall.

Thanks to Jessica M. for the find.

Friday, July 10, 2009

And This Is Why...

This is why SPOGG thinks authority (along with foam curlers, hairspray, and sensible suits) is highly overrated.

Thanks to Adam for the screenshot.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Monkeying Around

These will be the monkeys who--someday, while smoking and pounding away on tiny typewriters--will someday reproduce Shakespeare's plays and poetry.

BBC: Monkeys recognise bad grammar

Oooh oooh! Aaaa aaa! (Insert armpit scratching here.)

Strange Usage and a Fun Debate

This comes from James M. Do read on; there are some gems in here.

A couple of months ago, I sent some statements my freshmen students made (and made me cringe!). I have discovered that bizarre usages are scarcely restricted to college students.

My wife and I are spending about eight weeks in Pompano Beach, Florida (smart move, right, in the summer?), so we read the Sun-Sentinel down here. In yesterday's paper, there was a feature article on the famous Ft. Lauderdale air show, which is resuming after a three-year hiatus. Jack Seiler, mayor of the city, called the air show "one of the neatest, one of the funnest events you can put on."

Ouch! Talk about things that make one "sic"! When and where did "fun" become an adjective and have comparatives? Young people use the expression "so fun" and "very fun" among other strange usages. Is there any hope?*

Also, in the online Paulist Press news for today, there was a headline, "St. John Neumann Stole for Pope." Good grief -- a cardinal breaking the Seventh Commandment?! Turns out the story reported that Obama is visiting the pope soon and will present him with the stole worn by Cardinal Neumann. Sigh of relief coming soon.

Finally, also relating to a mayor, a friend of mine was originally from Nebraska and proudly displayed the big "N" in the rear window of his car, as a supporter of their football team. One day, he said, he parked right outside city hall in Omaha. The mayor happened by, nodded to the sign and said, "You know, son, that letter doesn't just stand for Nebraska football. It also stands for knowledge." As the great Mark Twain once wrote, "Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene."

* SPOGG is going out on a limb here, but we think it's OK to use "fun" as an adjective. Bryan A. Garner says it's only as a "casualism," which is a hilarious stuffy word given its meaning.

Here's how "fun" has slid into the adjective forest, Garner explains in A Dictionary of Modern Usage. When we say, "This is fun," fun could either be an adjective or a noun. It's a short leap from this to full-fledged adjectivehood. He clearly hates it, though, calling it "casual at best."

Even though "funnest" remains a silly, awful word, there's just no way we can stop people from using it as an adjective, or they will rightly accuse us of not being

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

We Hate It When That Happens

Bill Walsh's Blogslot has a very funny newspaper correction. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Michael Jackson's Curious Coffin

We received this e-mail on the 4th of July from Jessica M., who was clearly avoiding getting a sunburn. We were amused by her rant and are reproducing her comments in their entirety because Michael Jackson is being laid to rest today and it seemed as inappropriate as everything else related to his untimely death:

Soooo, it appears information about Jackson's casket have been released. Alas, the attention to detail in the coffin was not used on the reporting. It appears that this is a "custom casket" and that "This is the same casket used to bury James Brown."

Now I know I'm a word nerd, but this leaves me with two impressions: (I'll get to my issues with the name of the casket in a moment)

A) this is not really a custom casket in the normal usage of the phrase, since this "Promethean" model is made for others who can afford it...but, I'll leave them alone on that one since they didn't say "one of a kind."


B) "THE SAME CASKET USED TO BURY JAMES BROWN!?!?!" .....ummmmm, OK, that's a little unusual, No?
Did they dig him up so they could use the same casket again? Sorry reporters, this one I can't let slide. Perhaps "the same model of casket" or "a similar casket" would have been more accurate reporting.
Then again, they do say the casket is "extremely rare" and I suppose if Jackson is getting to use the exact same casket that James Brown is/was in then that would, really and truly - be very, very, very rare. It's also just the sort of weird thing Jackson might have wanted. Therefore, when dealing with someone as strange as Michael Jackson, it really seems best to be very specific.

Michael Jackson's $25,000 Custom Casket
Jul 2nd 2009 6:22PM
A $25,000, solid bronze, 14-karat gold plated, custom
casket has been ordered for Michael Jackson.The casket -- ordered last night from Batesville Casket Company -- is called a Promethean and will feature a flame blue velvet interior and a hand-polished, mirror finish.This is the same casket used to bury James Brown... and is extremely rare.

The rest of this e-mail has nothing to do with picking on the news. Now I'd like to pick on casket makers:

I have to question the Batesville Casket Company's wisdom on naming the casket the "Promethean." I don't know about you, but for me this brings to mind the titan of the same name chained to a rock, having his liver eaten daily by a huge bird as punishment by Zeus for giving humans fire. "Promethean" seems like a better name for a model of urn because of the whole fire thing...maybe...but nobody asked me.

There is also the small trouble of a Promethean usually being a soulless shell, either made from clay or other "parts." Clearly this was what Marry Shelley took away from the name Promethean - her famous book is actually titled "Frankenstein: a The Modern Prometheus" but most current publications have dropped the subtitle. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't want my loved ones and Promethean to be linked together in my mind.

In other awesomeness, "Promethean: The Created" is a video game that has this description:
A Promethean is created from the corpse of a human by a creator; in certain cases, desired components from more than one corpse are combined into a single end-product. Very rarely, otherwise inanimate matter may be used, making a sort of magical android similar to a
Golem but with considerably greater variation in form and composition. The Promethean is not human, in either the physiological or cognitive sense. It is a corpse that walks, its autonomic functions and soul replaced by the power of the Divine Fire. While the Divine Fire allows him to pass as a human from a distance, it does not make up for the lack of a soul. When a Promethean spends enough time around humans, the humans begin to fall prey to Disquiet, the feeling that there is something not just fundamentally different, but utterly wrong about the Promethean. Disquiet initially manifests itself as distrust or avoidance of the Promethean; at its worst, it can blossom into mindless rage that can only be abated by the death of the Promethean. Different Promethean Lineages generate different manifestations of Disquiet, each with their own enervating effect on the local environment and population. Disquiet affects more than just mortals; a Promethean who spends too long in one place will find the landscape and environment itself becoming tainted by his Disquiet, eventually turning into a Wasteland. Leaving the tainted zone far behind allows the land to eventually heal, but it does require the Promethean to keep on the move.

Since the video game was made back in 2006, they clearly weren't talking about Michael Jackson, but still...

Thanks for joining me on my random proofreading and Promethean coffin name tangent!

Monday, July 06, 2009

You Get What You Pay For

Cynthia F. sends this Craigslist ad along. Would you hire Rachel to write your paper?

Wow, it is shaping up to be a beautiful summer. Who wants to sit inside writing a paper when the weather is this great? I will if you pay me.

I've already earned a B.A. in English and would love nothing more than to write your paper for you. Depending on the length, subject, research involved, and the due date, you and I will arrive at a price, though it is safe to say I would charge around $10-$13 dollars per page ($5 for the bibliography page). Just send me the essay requirements and I will get back to you within a couple of hours. If I honestly cannot complete your paper, I will let you know. I promise to deliver a paper which is: tailored to your specific assignment; written entirely by me (and I am darn good at writing college essays); completed on time; properly cited; and earns you at least a "B" (not my fault if you turn it in late or make changes to the paper, however!) I also promise complete discretion. The business you and I conduct is between us, no one else. You will not turn in this paper and get in trouble. No plagiarism--the paper will be well researched and written by yours truly.

Email me for more information. I am happy to provide writing samples as well as feedback from other students who have utilized my service. We can chat on the phone as well, or hook up in South King County if you’d like to meet me first, see some samples, or view my illustrious English Degree (graduated summa cum laude). The more secure you fell, the more likely you are to utilize my service, and the more likely you are to return or recommend your friends!

I will also edit your paper if you've already written it. This is a cheaper service, and the price depends on the degree of editing you are looking for, but I would charge anywhere from $3-$5 a page. Heck, I'll even tutor you.
This costs a bit more....$25-$35 per hour.

Method of payment: Paypal or Western Union. Cash or cashier’s check if meeting in person.

Hit me up! Thanks--Rachel

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sarah Palin, Grammar Failin'

Wow. You know Sarah Palin's in trouble for her abrupt resignation when conservatives are the ones making fun of her grammar.

We still object to the comma after the "but" on her T-shirt. Honestly!