Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Something We'd Like to See

An evil word twin strikes one of our favorite blogs, and yet makes us sigh wistfully:
According to USA Today, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be available in paperback July 26th in a duel release in the United Kingdom and the United States.
She means dual. But a duel, preferably with wands, would have been really cool.

Harry Potter

Latin Lovers? Hardly

Let's just say we have a bit of a chip on our shoulder when it comes to Latin. We never studied it (we went straight to the vastly superior Greek). Perhaps that's why we avoid Latin in our language whenever possible.

Nonetheless, our undergarments do get in a twist when we encounter incorrect Latin. The following comes from the transcript of a Jane Magazine chat with "Running with Scissors" author Augusten Burroughs. (Great book, by the way.)
I don't have a formal writing schedule, per say. But I'm usually at my desk in my office by 8:30 each morning. And the first thing I do is email with my Posse. Sometimes, something I'll write in an email will strike me as subject matter for an essay, so I'll save that email in a special folder. But this email back-and-forth with my friends might go on for an hour or two, then the workday stuff starts coming in. This might be interview requests from abroad, a Q&A for a booksellers website, something having to do with the RWS movie. The day is filled with tasks that have little to do with actual writing.

We'd rather run with scissors than spell per se incorrectly. Likewise, these oft-bungled Latinisms:
  • Penultimate: This is not a fancy way of saying last. It means second-to-last, and those who get it wrong sound foolish.
  • i.e. vs. e.g.: Use e.g. when something is followed by an example. Use i.e. when you're explaining something. To remember them, we pretend i.e. literally stands for "in essence," and e.g. for "example given."
  • etc.: stands for et cetera. This word does not have an "x" in it, nor should it be pronounced as though it does.

A Cingular Sensation

While driving to work this morning, we noticed a startling Cingular sign — startling, in that it was grammatically correct.
Cingular has the fewest dropped calls

Fewest. Not least. That's music to our ears, regardless of whether the claim is true. (Apparently, there is some debate, which also gets the grammar right, thanks to the ubiquity of the ad.)

Well played, Cingular. Well played.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Before SPOGG, After SPOGG

Here's what happened when one SPOGG member took matters into her own hands.

Seeing Daggers

We were researching feng shui and came across this disturbingly illiterate post:

Do some objects like ornamental knives, daggers, etc. actually create negative energy between a couple when presented with such things? I gifted my husband with a dagger 1 ½ yrs ago and we have been fighting all the time. So much so that we are actually separating now. Do u think the dagger had something to do with it or we are just not right for each other? The dagger is kept in our bedroom on a desk close to our bed.
This woman has, in our opinion, committed the unforgivable sin — not of giving a knife as a gift to a loved one, but rather, using "gifted" as a verb.


"Gave" works perfectly well as the past tense of give. It even takes fewer keystrokes to "give" than to "gift with," something we know our writer is concerned with. She did, after all, type "u" instead of "you."

We suspect if this woman took care with her language, her husband would be much less prone to "gifting" her with a good stabbing in the kisser.

Life in the Ungrammatical Lane

SPOGG scout Paul R. sends this from Florida:

If anyone is driving on I-75 between Orlando and Tampa, he or she will be well warned by the flashing, DOT sign of "Nightly Lane Closers" starting 05-27-06.

"Closure" is what happens when the highway is shut down. It can also occur after one throws a pie in the face of a cheating boyfriend (provided this is not done in one's own apartment; cleaning up the mess afterward would only reopen the wounds).

A "closer" is someone who closes or ends something — the last pitcher in a baseball game, or perhaps a final act in a nightclub show.

Maybe the Florida Department of Transportation really did mean to use "closer," though.

Our hopes are high that they're hiring entertainers to cheer the spirits of commuters stuck in Disneyworld traffic. "Buckle up! It's a small, crowded highway, after all! You're beautiful! We'll be here all week — try the veal!"

Saturday, May 27, 2006

More Fun with Hyphens

From an interesting Slate piece on mental illness and college kids:
There are a growing number of mentally-ill students on campuses today, thanks in part to the success of psychotropic drugs, which allow more troubled students to get to college and to do well there.

There's no need to hyphenate mentally ill. Mentally is an adverb that modifies ill. Use hyphens when stringing together mutiple adjectives that modify a noun, because they make a sentence's meaning more clear.

For example: The high-intensity university life can be hard on students who are mentally ill.

One more note: It should be "There is a growing number," not "There are...." Number is the subject, and verbs must match the subject. Single subject, single verb conjugation, and so on.

The writer was confused here no doubt because of the prepositional phrase "of mentally ill students." When determining whether you need a singular or plural verb, look to the subject. You can ignore the prepositional phrase completely.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Let Them Eat Cake


A teacher whom I work with recently gave a grammar worksheet to her class. In correcting the students' work, I realized that I wasn’t sure about one of the items.

The item in question read: A good girl like (I, me, my) deserves some cake.

The students were to circle the word within the parenthesis that completed the sentence correctly. Initially, I thought that inserting “me” was correct. However, after separating the sentence, which is what I was taught to do when dealing with “me vs. I” personal pronoun debates, the sentence read to my dismay: “Me deserves some cake.” I am battling with myself, please help!

Dear Cake Eater:

To answer this, I will quote from The Elements of Style by Strunk and White.
"And would you write 'The worst tennis player around here is I' or 'The worst tennis player around here is me'? The first is good grammar, the second is good judgment — although the me might not do in all contexts.
In other words, use your ears. And then go have some cake.

P.S. SPOGG believes it should be a girl "such as" me, and not like. We confess we are having a hard time wrapping our heads around the rule. But we promise, when we totally get it, we will hold forth.

An Environmental Apostrophe

SPOGG awards Judy M. of Texas with its first-ever "Clear Grammar Initiative Award" for catching this apostrophe catastrophe:

This week an All-Employee Memo was sent from our EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC, to all employees nationwide. I am a big fan of the correct usage of "its" vs. "it's," so I was particularly disappointed in the Subject line, "Important Information about Employee Express And It's Replacement, myPay." (Note: "myPay" is the name of a computer program.) This went out to approximately 17,000 people.

The rules on its/it's:

  • Its is a possessive, like his or hers.
  • It's is a contraction of it is or it has.
If you're not sure which to use, think about towels. His, hers (and its, for the dog). No apostrophe required. Likewise, if you can replace the word with it is, then you need the apostrophe.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Was vs. Were


Can you help me with the change of "if I WERE you" to "if I WAS you"? Recently I have been seeing both was and were in ESL book when referring to I, but with 3rd person singular I'm only seeing was -- as in "if he WAS a woman ..." Was is always "was" or has there been a shift lately?

— Thanks, Amy

Dear Amy,

If we were you, we'd want to stick with the traditional grammar rules. Then, the worst someone could accuse us of being was stuffy.

You can really go hog-wild reading about the subjunctive mood, which is what you're describing in your question. Or you can take the cheater-pants way out. SPOGG likes cheater-pants. They're washable and don't require starch and an iron.

If you're talking about something that's most likely not true (if I were you, for example), use were. But if you're talking about something that could well be true (if your husband was the fine man he claimed to be), then you'd want to use was.

That Witch! That, Which!

Dear SPOGG: The word "that" is used more and more and in instances where I believe the correct word should be "which". I thought the words were determined by animate or inanimate objects. Please correct me.

— Nan M.

Dear Ms. M:

Please correct you? OK, then. We will. Use which when you're setting a clause off with a comma. Use that when you're not.

To find out why, read our "Doctor, she's in a comma" post.

Join Our Mailing List

Would you like occasional reminders when we've posted new content?

Then join the SPOGG Mailing List. We won't spam you, and we won't share your e-mail address with anyone.

Now I Know My ABCs


I love your website but I think you are wrong about apostrophes. I am a publisher of educational material for kids and after a heated debate about ABC's vs ABCs I did a lot of checking around.

The truth is, that ABCs and 123s is correct.
Receiving As on a report card is correct. A's is not.

The problem is that so many Americans spell this incorrectly now, that it is viewed as being correct or acceptable.

This is especially scary when I see it on the covers of educational material.

Thank you for creating SPOGG. I will be sure to read through everything you have here.


Sara J.

Dear Sara,

If you follow AP Style, as many journalists do, then ABCs is correct, as is A's. The reason for the apostrophe in the latter is that As reads as "as." This could be confusing.

One could italicize the A in As. It is a fairly subtle difference.

The point, at any rate, is that if one follows AP Style, then this is the convention one must use.

If you still view this as an abomination, then you must join the Apostrophe Protection Society and take up your issue with Norm Goldstein, guardian of journalistic style, and editor of the Associated Press Stylebook.

That is a fight we would enjoy watching -- maybe even on cable television.

You asked, SPOGG answers


One thing that I hear over and over again, even from "educated" people, is the use of the word "myself" when they should be using the word "me". Do you have any suggestions of how I can let these people know about their mistakes or should I just grin and bear it?

Dear SVP:

We had a cross-country coach who would do this. She said, "Talk to [other coach] or myself," all the time. So little has changed in the intervening decades.

Myself is not a fancy-pants substitute for the word me. It is a reflexive pronoun, to be used when the word I also appears in the sentence. I saw myself. The same goes for other pronouns. She saw herself. They saw themselves.

Myself can also be used for emphasis, much in the way that irritable fairytale chicken picked the wheat, ground the wheat, and made bread from the wheat all by herself.

It's the toddler or mother-in-law of words, depending on your perspective:
"I did it all by myself!" (Delighted toddler, taking off clothes.)
"I did it ... all by myself." (Vexed mother-in-law, making you feel guilty she made her own hotel reservations.)

Oh, Really?

From Robert L. Jamieson's column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
On the Craigslist Review Board, hundreds of Seattle people who use sex services talk in explicit detail about their encounters, how much they paid and how to contact a provider.

They often discuss their desire for a girl who is real young.
Let us not let our squeamishness over sex for sale destroy our good grammar. That should be really young, Robert. Adverbs — which end in -ly — modify adjectives and verbs.

We'll Drink to That

Thanks to Marcia P., it is now possible for you to start your day with caffeine and good grammar. If you'd like a SPOGG mug of your very own, visit our store.

P.S. We also added notecards, so if you were thinking of sending your boss a friendly note informing her of the correct way to use a semicolon, you can now do that in style.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Vice Advice

We just read "The Amulet of Samarkand" and loved it. It actually caused us to loathe our own fantasy novel in progress. Then, however, we found an error on the author's Web site and immediately, pathetically, felt a little bit better.

In May 1999, Jonathan burst onto the children’s book scene with his first novel, Buried Fire. This powerful and compelling read combines elements of fantasy and mythology in a contemporary setting. It is a pacey story that shows how the dark past lives on and can still have a vice-like hold on the present.
He means "vise-like." A vice is a bad habit (such as comparing one's writing to that of a master). A vise is a holding device.

(Yes, we know that in British English, vice can be used as the spelling for both. We further know a marketing person, and not Jonathan Stroud, crafted this sentence. Please let us find our comfort where we can.)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Soft on the nose, hard on the ellipse

Kleenex tissue might be nice on the nose, but the company's marketing copy is hard on the punctuation mark known as the ellipse.

They write:
Kleenex® Brand Ultra Soft tissue... perfect for your toughest colds, allergies... and everyday sneezes.

One uses the three-dot ellipse to show words that have been left out of a sentence. Its four-dot cousin fulls the same function, but at the end of the sentence.

While Kleenex® could make the case that the first ellipse replaces a dropped "is," the second one shows their copy-writers' complete lack of comma sense. Yes, the humble comma is the mark they should have used.

(An em-dash, meant to set off a strong interruption, might also have worked. But we think that's a stretch.)

In any case, 'snot pretty when multinational corporations don't hire proofreaders, is it?

P.S. Don't you like how SPOGG® has figured out how to mock brand-hypersensitivity?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spelling, Hillary Style

Hillary is a seven-letter word

After telling an audience that young people today “think work is a four-letter word,” Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she apologized to her daughter.

SPOGG wonders how Hillary Clinton spells. Last time we checked, W-O-R-K still did have four letters.

How does she spell it? As though she's IM'ing Bill? How lng u wrk tnite? Shd I ordr pza?

If it says anything about young people today that they can spell and count better than the likes of Hillary, then we're suddenly hopeful for the future of the United States.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Poor, Lonely Teacher

SPOGG member Donna sent this in, after noticing it during her nephew's baseball game. This sign would only be accurate if there were one teacher in Fulton. One teacher with multiple-personality syndrome, that is.

The Trouble With Spell Czech

We enjoy the booksellerchick blog.

Today, though, we caught the same spelling error we've found in the Columbia Journalism Review and The New York Times (in the same week, no less). It's clearly time for a SPOGGing.

A lot of the comments on the Authors Behaving Badly thread are from people appalled that bad behavior takes place, others point out that the bookseller should forgive and forget, while booksellers counter with stories of authors that don’t even try. Instead of focusing on the negative, let’s look at the positive (and take advantage of the hoards Agent Kristin has sent this way).

A hoard is a supply of something. A horde is a large group of people. We believe booksellerchick meant the latter.

To remember:

  • Dragons hoard. There is an "a" sound in dragon and an "a" in hoard.
  • Hordes contain people. There is an "e" in hordes, and an "e" sound in people.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fugly Grammar?

We love Go Fug Yourself, and wish to set their minds at ease about grammar. Today, they write:

"This photo reminds me of a box my parents re-use every Christmas: white cardboard, decorated on the sites, emblazoned on the front with colorful, huge letters that say, "DOES NOT CONTAIN WHAT YOU HAD HINTED FOR."

[Amazingly, never once in the 20-odd years we've used that box has it borne the frustrated red pen scars of a quick but vicious grammatical edit from My Mother The English Major.]"

Dear Fugsters,

It's OK to end sentences with prepositions. The rule against that came from people who wanted to make English more like Latin. That's like bedazzling jeans so they're more like evening dresses. Who needs that?

Some sentences that end in prepositions are ugly, though. "Where's he at?" is one of them. Again, to make a sartorial reference, that "at" is like a belt-and-suspenders combo. It's unnecessary, and looks stupid, too. "Where is he?" works just fine.


P.S. The Emme fashion show was Fashion Emergency. We loved it, too.

don't do this!

(don't do this!)

Might Makes Right

More crazytalk out of Pat Robertson. Says he:

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."

"Well may?" Oh, Lord. That should be:

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. On Wednesday, he added, "There might be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest. Also, I am 98 percent lunatic, but possess just enough sanity to couch my predictions in ifs and mights. Don't forget to feel scared enough to donate money to me. A millionaire's gotta eat! Amen!"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hay Is For Horses

We love Tom Cruise as much as the next person. Which is probably not as much as the earnest fans who made this sign:

Hay? Congrat's?

Hey, everyone -- the end must truly be near. Congrats.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why Couldn't She Worship the Semicolon?

Message from Britney Spears:

"I no longer study Kabbalah, my baby is my religion."

Correction from SPOGG:

"I no longer study Kabbalah; my baby is my religion."

Friday, May 12, 2006

e "too," MSNBC?

The MSNBC copyeditor could have done a little more Nip/Tuck to this entry. We're not even going to comment on the overstuffed paragraph, and instead will point out their use of the incorrect too:

Saddle up with Sally: When Nick described himself too hooker Sally ("Nip/Tuck's" Kelly Carlson) by saying, "I have a little Tom Cruise thing going," it was hard not to giggle. He's much better looking than that. Nick also used the name Dirk Diggler ("Boogie Nights" reference). Willie Cutler hired Sally back when he thought he was getting the big promotion and ended up blowing the wad from his “Walmart pants” at the casino. Cutler, who worked at a travel agency, offered Sally a deal on a trip to Hawaii. Even though she said she'd never go with Cutler, she told Nick, "I’d let you take me to Hawaii." "I'm working," he replied. "So am I," she said. It seems like a new woman flirts with Nick in every episode.

Lest we think this is a typo, this error appears on the same page:

Oh, those crazy married people: Grissom wasn't too surprised to stumble onto a murder scene that possibly involved a husband and wife. "You married people take things to personally," he told Robbins and Warrick. Al later asked Grissom if he'd ever come close to getting married. "Her name was Nicole Daily," Grissom said. He added that she liked bugs, too. And that he gave her his grandmother's ring, which she made him get back. "Seventh grade," Grissom said. Grissom's other great moment tonight came with Wendy, when she asked him what else he kept in his refrigerator "Bottle of tequila, severed head?” He replied, "I don’t keep tequila.”

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More Q&A

Q. What do you think about educated people who don't use "lie" and "lay" correctly? Do you teach your students the difference?

Some of our best friends don't know how to use lie and lay correctly, and we still love them. We also never point out their errors (after all, they're not rich and famous people who deserve a slice of humble pie every now and then). We do correct our students' grammatical errors. And they like it!

Now for lie/lay....

In the present tense, the difference between lie and lay is easy. Lay requires an object -- something that gets laid (stop snickering in the back, teenagers).

For example:
  • "Now I lay me down to sleep."
  • "Lay an egg, mother clucker!"

    It's trickier in the past tense. This is because "lay" is the past tense of "lie."

We still remember our fifth-grade teacher trying to explain this to us. He lay on the floor, telling lies. (It didn't make sense to us, although what he said about his nose hairs was both memorable and hilarious.)

In short, mnemonic devices just don't help us all that much. Straight-up memorizing does.

Present Past Participle Past participle
Lie --> lay --> lying --> had lain
Lay --> laid --> laying --> had laid (always requires an object)

More on this, from someone who's created an elaborate scheme for remembering the difference.

A Note from School

It did not please us to receive this notice about the kindergarten concert at our daughter's elementary school:
"If you bring a small child, please keep him/her with you so it does not distract the student performers."
This solution is the worst of both worlds: clunky, and inaccurate.

We know they were trying not to raise the dander of the gender police. There is a perfectly accurate, non-offensive way to do this, however: Use the plural.
"If you bring small children, please keep them with you so they do not distract the student performers."

You asked, SPOGG answers

Q. What do you think of newscasters who use present tense to describe past event?

A. This question assumes SPOGG watches the news on TV. SPOGG prefers to read the news, as SPOGG does not think much of newscasters, at all.

That said, SPOGG doesn't care so much about the tense, as long as it's consistent. Photo captions are regularly written in present tense, for example. SPOGG is much more dismayed when television "personalities" don't know when to say I and when to say me.

"Tell Foxy McHandsome and I about your book" is a typical TVism. It burns, people; it burns!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Poop on Oprah

Apparently, Oprah and the cast of Will and Grace discussed the liberating nature of bowel movements today on TV. While we were shuddering in horror, Defamer covered the revelations in a somewhat Freudian manner:
It's a refreshing, candid moment, though, [that] perhaps crossed a line when Winfrey encouraged her guests, in the name of series closure, to join her in squeezing one out on national television. Luckily, they chose to demure, though they did compromise by recreating the very difficult to achieve quadruple auto-fellative maneuver pictured on the series' finale advertising.
As much as Defamer might have wanted Oprah and crew to be more demure in their discussions ala dump, the word the editor was groping for here is "demur."

Meanwhile, we wish the editors would reconsider their use of adjectives, qualifiers and commas. Doesn't the sentence read better like this?
Winfrey's candor crossed the line when she encouraged her guests to squeeze one out on national television. Luckily, they chose to demur, though they did recreate the difficult quadruple auto-fellative maneuver depicted on the series' finale advertising.

The Lost Caption: an Apostrophe Catastrophe

This one's a few weeks old, but new to us — a disastrous caption from the TV drama Lost. Apparently, they've "lost" their copyeditor.

Unless, of course, they meant this in the spirit of "I'm rubber, you're glue."

You're husband, I'm wife.
Stuck together, rest of life.

Somehow, we don't think so....

To Err Is Human, to "Foregive" Is The Times

From a NYT story on a deadly Rhode Island nightclub fire:
"I don't know that I'll ever foregive myself for what happened that night, so I can't expect anybody else to," said Mr. Biechele, who had pleaded guilty in February to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter caused by a misdemeanor, the act of setting off pyrotechnics without a permit. "I can only pray that they understand that I would do anything to undo what happened that night and give them back their loved ones. I'm so sorry for what I've done."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Bad Grammar, Bad Judgment?

This is what the teenager who asked his friend to hit him with a car said about it afterward:

''I won't do this no more.''

(Times of Munster via the Associated Press)

SPOGG recommends he read this while his broken leg heals:

Grammar for Spammers, Part 3


hello,please can I have ur attention for a moment? Would you like to work online
fromhome/temporarily and get paid weekly?well as i just come across your name
andaddress posted online and I would be very interested in offering you a
part-timepaying job in which you could earn alot. This job would be based on
contract andcommission terms, it is a part-time job and it would involve quite a
handful oftrust and honesty. If you would be interested in including a good paying,parttime job to your daily list of activities, then you could kindly reply me at myalternate email and I would be glad to brief you more,thankyou and (God) blessed you.Regardsjames

This should be:


May I please have your attention for a moment? Would you like to work online from home and get paid weekly? I just come across your name and address posted online, and I am very interested in offering you a part-time, paid job at which you could earn a lot. This job would be based on contract and commission. It is part-time and would require trust and honesty. If you would be interested in adding a well-paid, part-time job to your daily list of activities, then kindly reply to me at my alternate e-mail,, and I would be glad to brief you.

Thank you, and God bless you.


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Do You Know the Muffin Top?

It's fine to get hyper over too-tight pants. But let's not add a hyphen where none belongs.

Poppin' out of tight togs is not fresh
Lansing (Mich.) State Journal

Jinny Han of East Lansing, Mich., is a reformed muffin top. Even up until four months ago, this 23-year-old with zero-visible fat was insisting she was a size 3. She's a size 5. The result was that Han, who is 5-foot-3 inches tall and 118 pounds, pushed up what little flab she had into a jelly roll that hung over the top of her waistband.

"Zero visible fat" doesn't need a hyphen.

You use hyphens to link some compound modifiers that come before the noun they modify. Properly used, the hyphen helps eliminate confusion. A red-hot tamale is one that's really hot (but it could be green in color). A hot, red tamale is one that is red and hot.

In the case of zero and visible, there is no confusion about what those words modify. The hyphen, prompting readers to utter "zero-visible" in one breath, just sounds weird.

That said, enough with the muffin-top pants, people. The extra flesh is worse than an extra hyphen.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How do you think she'd spell paparazzi?

Scarlett Johansson and Alicia Keys claim the paparazzi are "harrassing" them. Unless they're spelling in Pirate (arrrr!), harassed has but one "r."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Desperate Housewife Abuses Colon

Colon abuse and Hollywood: You might think this is limited to eating disorders and the icky practice known as the herbal enema.

It extends far beyond, however, to include abuse of the pointed punctuation mark that shares the name.

Take Teri Hatcher's book, Burnt Toast: And Other Philosophies of Life.

There is no reason whatsoever to set "burnt toast" off with a colon, as the title is printed on and her Web site.

It's like writing, "I had oatmeal: and other food for breakfast." Unnecessary! Incorrect! Don't!

If the liberal dropping of colons is a side effect of going seven years without sex then kissing Ryan Seacrest, we need all need to be afraid, very afraid, for the inevitable philosophical stylings of Paula Abdul.

If Teri merely wanted breathing room (and she probably needs this in order to rattle off a word as big as "philosophies"), then all she needed to do was use a hyphen. It's designed to do this very thing.

We are the last people to knock promotional T-shirts (buy your SPOGG-wear today). But Teri's Web site -- which has no information about the book -- advertises ungrammatical tank tops as it glorifies her truly toasty tan.

The tanks and tees say, "It's pretty, let's eat it," when they should say, "It's pretty; let's eat it."

Her lovely rack aside, wouldn't you rather your bosom said SPOGG than, "eat me?"

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Between Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen

Xavier D. sends this Yahoo news tidbit from the divorce files of Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen (right, giving fake smiles).

"And today, Denise's lawyer NEAL HERSH released the following statement:

Ms. Richards and her attorneys are prevented from discussing settlement negotiations between she and Mr. Sheen. She did, however, make every effort to resolve her differences with Mr. Sheen prior to filing her court documents, and, at the same time, provide assurances for her safety and the safety of the minor children."

If only she would have considered the safety of grammar when she hired her attorney. That "she" should be a "her."

While we're on the topic, we're on Heather Locklear's side in the battle for custody of Richie Sambora. Heather would have made a much better Bond girl.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Grammar: for the birds?

Until recently, scientists thought grammar was what separated our language from the hoots, barks, growls and squeaks of animals.

A study of starlings is making them rethink that assumption.

Like humans, starlings can insert "clauses" into their songs. In human speech, this is called "recursive center embedding." It means you can stick as many words or clauses in a sentence as you want, as long as you wrap them in commas on each side.

For example:

"The man is a senator" can become "The man, who eats pizza in the nude, is a senator," or "The man, who eats pizza in the nude, burps, then demands a napkin, is a senator" and so on and so forth. (He can even do it while living in the house that Jack built, for those of you familiar with the nested-clause nursery rhyme.)

MSNBC has more on starlings and their unexpected language facility.

But if birds can figure out grammar in their teeny-tiny little heads, then what's wrong with this man?


Someone at tried to sound smart by using "whomever" at the beginning of this sentence:

Whomever designed this spooge-flinging child's toy should probably be arrested immediately.

Unfortunately, "whoever" was the word the writer wanted.

Would you say "Him designed this ... toy?" Only if you were writing in the style of Tarzan, which is conceivable, given Defamer's Hollywood focus.

Hint: Use "whom" where you'd use him (or her).

Likewise, use who for he (or she). To recap: whom/him, who/he (me want Tarzan). The Ms stick together, as do the vowels.

Despite this, we still heart Defamer (and we think you'll be appalled by the toy).

Monday, May 01, 2006

We're Blushing

The May/June issue of Stanford alumni magazine features SPOGG!

We're tickled pink. No, make that cardinal.

We Remember the Titans

This made our heart stop for two reasons:

Rams sign Denzel Washington's son


ST. LOUIS -- Signing the son of actor Denzel Washington on Monday ensured the St. Louis Rams of making a splash the day after the NFL draft ended.

John David Washington, a 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back, was among 10 undrafted players signed by the Rams. He played for Division II Morehouse College last year.

Reason No. 1: Parenthetic expressions must be fully enclosed in commas. Leaving off the second, as R.B. Fallstrom did, is grammatically akin to leaving the house with unzipped pants. Close, but no cigar (or too much, if one is "traveling commando").

Reason No. 2: Denzel Washington! Denzel Washington!