Monday, July 31, 2006

The Other Shoe Drops...

This comes from a blog called "Drunk and Single in NYC":
I will do anything to get my wedding announcement in the Times. Including going $40K into debt in order to ensure my fitness among the competition. And the truth of the matter is that my pedigree is not that impressive. I have to compensate using educational and professional achievement in order to make up for my families’ blue collar past.

Or so I thought.

With that degree from Oxford in hand, it looks like I am a shoe-in. Even if I marry an electrician.
It should be shoo-in. As in, "Shoo, fly! Don't bother me." Not "shoe-in," as in "He put a shoe in my ass after I missed my deadline."

I’ve begun to notice a disturbing trend. I remember the days where my mother and I used to read about the couples, excited to see the closest semblance to our family: a couple whose pedigree included a tiny New England college as opposed to the traditional Ivy.
Semblance and resemblance are not synonyms.

Hell in a Handbasket?

Pardon the cliche, but there is so much wrong about this. Yes, it's bad enough that one of the guys who guards the president is getting into a bar fight. But is there no one in the media who can write about it using complete sentences and correct possessives?

Thanks to SPOGG agent Chris McD for sending this:
Waco Police arrest Secret Service agent

Waco Police tasered and arrested a US Secret Service agent at a downtown Waco bar after a scuffle.

The arrest affidavit say the dispute between the special agent and a bar manager at Crickets all got started. (All got started? When? Finish the sentence please. We're waiting.)

Police say there were reports (By whom? Passive voice stinks.) that in the early morning hours of July 21, 30-year-old John Scott Lewis was being rude to some customers at Cricket's Bar and Grill. (Is it Crickets? Or Cricket's? We'll be looking that up shortly.)

Lewis is a special agent with the US Secret Service and is from Crofton, Maryland.

The report and Police (why is this capitalized?) say Lewis got into an argument with the manager and when the manager asked him to leave, Lewis pushed open the front door so hard it cracked.

Two off-duty Waco officers working security tried to arrest Lewis; he resisted, and was tasered one time.

Lewis was charged with Public Intoxication, Reckless Damage, and Resisting Arrest. (We hereby charge you with excessive use of Unnecessary Capital Letters.)

He was treated and released at Hillcrest Hospital and then was booked into the McLennan County Jail.

Lewis posted a 1,000 dollar bond. (Should be $1,000 according to AP Style, but that's nit-picky.)

Officials with the Waco Secret Service division say they will not comment, and the owner of Cricket's isn't speaking either. (Again: Crickets? Or Cricket's? A quick search of the Waco phone book shows this joint is actually called Crickets Grill & Draft House. So, it should be Crickets.)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Your Brain on Grammar

Well isn't this interesting? From The Times of India (no doubt picked up from a newswire somewhere):
LONDON: Your brain may be hardwired to know bad grammar too.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have found that certain hallmarks of grammar that are present in all languages occur naturally, even among deaf people who create their own languages without any formal training and no previous knowledge of how people go about using words in a way that makes sense to others.

The finding dovetails with other research that shows we are instinctively capable of understanding the fundamentals of geometry, and even babies have a sense of numbers.

It all suggests we have a birthright that should guarantee our ability to cope with a world in which we are constantly confronted with annoying things like unbalanced checkbooks and, of all things, poor grammar.

Elissa Newport, professor of brain and cognitive sciences and linguistics at the University of Rochester, and Marie Coppola, a postdoctoral student at the University of Chicago, reached their somewhat surprising conclusion about grammar after spending eight years studying three Nicaraguan boys who were born deaf and had no formal education and absolutely no exposure to language, other than that which they created themselves.

They had not even been exposed to signing, the gestural-based form of communication used by deaf people. So like other children around the world, they developed their own sign language, or home-sign system.

During the research, the boys were shown a total of 66 short videos consisting of single actions, such as a woman walking or a man smelling flowers. Then, using their own signing language, the boys described what they had seen.

Significantly, all three boys consistently used the grammatical construction of "subject" the same way it is used in languages around the world.

Newport, whose previous research showed that the learning curve for language is very sharp and begins very early in life, says the notion of "subject" is considered a hallmark of grammatical systems because it is used the same way in all languages.

That has long puzzled linguists, but the Rochester research suggests one reason why that may be the case. Our brains seem hardwired for grammar, which is a bit surprising because we so often get it wrong. Although the idea of "subject" as a grammatical construction may seem simple, it's really very complex and difficult to define, Newport says.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Letter to Lindsay Lohan

We love this letter to Lindsay Lohan, but wish the Hollywood bigwig who wrote it had remembered that punctuation goes inside the quotation marks.

The exceptions:

1) With semicolons and colons:

  • He loved "Les Miserables"; it was "Phantom of the Opera" he could not stand. (Idiot!)

2) When question marks or exclamation points apply to the whole sentence, and not just to the part quoted:

  • Are you the star of "Nacho Libre"?

Gossip and Grammar: Incompatible?

From Defamer:
It took Owen "The Butterscotch Stallion" a week to formulate a response to Steely Dan's accusation that the actor was currently starring in a movie whose premise was lifted from one of their songs (and the thinly veiled threat of violence at the hands of a certain Russian associate of the band), but The Stallion, always a peaceful sort, finally chose to diffuse the tension with his shaggy-maned sense of humor.

In a statement released by his spokeswoman, Ina Treciokas, Wilson said:

"I have never heard the song 'Cousin Dupree' and I don't even know who this gentleman, Mr. Steely Dan, is. I hope this helps to clear things up and I can get back to concentrating on my new movie, 'HEY 19.'"
Defamer, the word is "defuse." Though, in your defense, the Butterscotch Stallion didn't alleviate the tension, as much as he spread it around.
This bomb should in no way be interpreted as sly commentary on Mr. Wilson's movie. Rather, it is something that can be defused.

Cops and Grammarians

Oh, that the police would someday call us, too....

The Case Against Adam Schein

SPOGG sent this letter today to Adam Schein of Fox Sports. If cliches were cooties, Adam Schein would need a good shavin'.
Dear Mr. Schein,

We are The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, writing to give you the verbal equivalent of a red flag. Sports cliché week is over, Mr. Schein. And yet, you're still using cliches like, well, "nobody's business."

SPOGG has followed your work for months, hoping "against hope" that you'd "clean up your act." Alas, that has not happened.

What follows is the top portion of your most recent story. Clichés are capitalized so that you will be able to see them, in case you left your binoculars at the bottom of the barrel, in your back pocket, or perhaps where the sun don't shine.

And we quote:

Terrell Owens' ability to fit in with the Cowboys should be an interesting STORY TO FOLLOW.

In interviewing Owens this week, I am even more convinced that the receiver is clueless and won't change a bit.

During the 20-minute conversation, Owens took no accountability for his actions in Philadelphia, continuously [you mean continually, SPOGG hopes] blamed the media, his old agent David Joseph, and Donovan McNabb FOR EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN, and HAD THE NERVE TO ACTUALLY SAY Drew Rosenhaus never discussed his contract in public.

And it was made CRYSTAL CLEAR that this was a Jerry Jones transaction.

ALL EYES WILL BE ON Owens' attitude; his rapport with the disciplinarian that is Parcells; his connection with Drew Bledsoe; his demand for the football; and his relationships with coaches and players.

In essence, EVERYTHING THAT WENT SOUR for Owens in Philadelphia.

And the Tuna cannot be happy that he will be PEPPERED with questions early in camp about Owens' new book. [SPOGG wonders: Would the tuna prefer lemon juice and perhaps a sprig of dill?]

Every conversation, fist-bump, high five, etc., between Owens, Parcells and Bledsoe will be shown on the highlight shows and ANALYZED TO DEATH. And with all three pretty headstrong, this is going to be a daily show.

Mr. Schein, you are a writer and broadcaster. Athletes have an excuse for using clichés. Their skills are physical. Sportswriters, meanwhile, are supposed to be as good with words as athletes are on the field. This means less whiffing and more verbal home runs from you, Mr. Schein.

How about it? Can you raise the bar? Start giving 110 percent? Wipe the slate clean of clichés?

Otherwise, we're going to have to start reading that Schatz guy, when we'd much prefer Scheinola.

Sincerely yours,

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Pamela Anderson, Spelling Challenged?

From the "news" this morning about Pamela Anderson's upcoming marriage to dirty and repellant musician Kid Rock:
Asked how she's coping with her nerves before the big event, she replied: "I have two words for you: champagne."
Insert your own seeing double/double-D joke here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We Live in Fear of This

This came today over the newswire:

TORONTO (Reuters) - A company that sells software to correct irritating Internet spelling mistakes has reissued its latest news release to correct a minor snafu.

TextTrust, which says it focuses on "eliminating the negative text impressions on Web sites," re-released a Tuesday news release to correct a mistake that listed the most common spelling errors on "the 16 million we (sic) pages it has spell checked over the past year."

It said commonly misspelled words included independent, accommodation and definitely, which were spelled independant, accomodation and definately.

"It's very embarrassing," said Pat Brink, PR consultant for the Toronto-based company. "I made the mistake, not TextTrust -- they do a much better job, It's certainly egg on the face of this public relations person."

SPOGG makes spelling errors and typos from time to time, always more embarrassing because of our mission. But did the PR person responsible have to use a cliche in his or her apology?

We looked up the origins of "egg on my face." The Random House dictionary of slang says it comes from a 1950s detective show. A hard-boiled one, we assume.

(Look -- here's face on an egg!)

Monday, July 24, 2006

We Fear for David Hasselhoff's Heart

From Celebrity Week:

Hasselhoff To Star In Musical Based On His Life

First of all, we are NOT making this up. David Hasselhoff – star of Knight Rider, Baywatch and the new hit variety show America’s Got Talent told us today that he is heading to Australia to appear in a stage production based on his life.

David Hasselhoff: The Musical will include sets inspired by The Young and The Restless, Knight Rider and the songs of Teddy Pendergrass. “I am also doing a heart-rendering set on my life and the mistakes I have made,” the star says. “It sounds like a bad joke, but it is really going to be a good show…totally campy. It’s written by the same people who wrote Bette Midler’s show and produced by the people who produced Chicago in London.”
It's heartrending, Mr. Hasselhoff.

Though "render" does mean, among other things, "to purify fat, leaving small crisp remains." It's entirely possible your musical will do this to the audience, what's left of your dignity, or both. Delicious!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday Morning Mirth Insurance

SPOGG has spent the last week moving from one house to another, packing and unpacking boxes by the dozens, all during an unseasonal heat wave.

Perhaps it is needless to say that SPOGG is a bit cranky.

Our mood was lifted significantly, however, when we received a letter from our insurance company, informing us they have canceled our policy.

Ordinarily, a cancellation isn't such a happy thing. But when the letter contains such a sentence as this, we can't help but smile:

"Front steps are leaning, are crumbling."

Could the insurance adjusters be aspiring poets? Modern-day Wallace Stevenses? For their sake, we hope so. Otherwise, they just sound far too stupid to be insulting our steps.

Another thing that makes us feel better is Stevens' poem, Sunday Morning:

Sunday Morning

Complacencies of the peignoir, and late
Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair,
And the green freedom of a cockatoo
Upon a rug mingle to dissipate
The holy hush of ancient sacrifice.
She dreams a little, and she feels the dark
Encroachment of that old catastrophe,
As a calm darkens among water-lights.
The pungent oranges and bright, green wings
Seem things in some procession of the dead,
Winding across wide water, without sound.
The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passion of her dreaming feet
Over the seas, to silent Palestine,
Dominion of the blood and sepulchre.

Why should she give her bounty to the dead?
What is divinity if it can come
Only in silent shadows and in dreams?
Shall she not find in the comforts of sun,
In pungent fruit and bright, green wings, or else
In any balm or beauty of the earth,
Things to be cherished like the thought of heaven?
Divinity must live within herself:
Passions of rain, or moods in falling snow;
Grievings in loneliness, or unsubdued
Elations when the forest blooms; gusty
Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights;
All pleasures and all pains, remembering
The bough of summer and the winter branch.
These are the measures destined for her soul.

Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth.
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind
He moved among us, as a muttering king,
Magnificent, would move among his hinds,
Until our blood, commingling, virginal,
With heaven, brought such requital to desire
The very hinds discerned it, in a star.
Shall our blood fail? Or shall it come to be
The blood of paradise? And shall the earth
Seem all of paradise that we shall know?
The sky will be much friendlier then than now,
A part of labor and a part of pain,
And next in glory to enduring love,
Not this dividing and indifferent blue.

She says, "I am content when wakened birds,
Before they fly, test the reality
Of misty fields, by their sweet questionings;
But when the birds are gone, and their warm fields
Return no more, where, then, is paradise?"
There is not any haunt of prophecy,
Nor any old chimera of the grave,
Neither the golden underground, nor isle
Melodious, where spirits gat them home,
Nor visionary south, nor cloudy palm
Remote as heaven's hill, that has endured
As April's green endures; or will endure
Like her rememberance of awakened birds,
Or her desire for June and evening, tipped
By the consummation of the swallow's wings.

She says, "But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss."
Death is the mother of beauty; hence from her,
Alone, shall come fulfillment to our dreams
And our desires. Although she strews the leaves
Of sure obliteration on our paths,
The path sick sorrow took, the many paths
Where triumph rang its brassy phrase, or love
Whispered a little out of tenderness,
She makes the willow shiver in the sun
For maidens who were wont to sit and gaze
Upon the grass, relinquished to their feet.
She causes boys to pile new plums and pears
On disregarded plate. The maidens taste
And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.

Is there no change of death in paradise?
Does ripe fruit never fall? Or do the boughs
Hang always heavy in that perfect sky,
Unchanging, yet so like our perishing earth,
With rivers like our own that seek for seas
They never find, the same receeding shores
That never touch with inarticulate pang?
Why set the pear upon those river-banks
Or spice the shores with odors of the plum?
Alas, that they should wear our colors there,
The silken weavings of our afternoons,
And pick the strings of our insipid lutes!
Death is the mother of beauty, mystical,
Within whose burning bosom we devise
Our earthly mothers waiting, sleeplessly.

Supple and turbulent, a ring of men
Shall chant in orgy on a summer morn
Their boisterous devotion to the sun,
Not as a god, but as a god might be,
Naked among them, like a savage source.
Their chant shall be a chant of paradise,
Out of their blood, returning to the sky;
And in their chant shall enter, voice by voice,
The windy lake wherein their lord delights,
The trees, like serafin, and echoing hills,
That choir among themselves long afterward.
They shall know well the heavenly fellowship
Of men that perish and of summer morn.
And whence they came and whither they shall go
The dew upon their feet shall manifest.

She hears, upon that water without sound,
A voice that cries, "The tomb in Palestine
Is not the porch of spirits lingering.
It is the grave of Jesus, where he lay."
We live in an old chaos of the sun,
Or old dependency of day and night,
Or island solitude, unsponsered, free,
Of that wide water, inescapable.
Deer walk upon our mountains, and the quail
Whistle about us their spontaneous cries;
Sweet berries ripen in the wilderness;
And, in the isolation of the sky,
At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make
Abiguous undulations as they sink,
Downward to darkness, on extended wings.

The semicolon: a love story...

If you never thought punctuation could lead to love, think again....

New York Times' Modern Love Column

Oh Really?

This appeared in the Sunday New York Times' online edition (see link):
After filming on Fire Island, the cast and crew of a new ABC reality series took the hint: residents didn’t want them there. Seeing a town portrayed as all bars and hookups makes residents real angry.
Really angry, people. Really.

Friday, July 14, 2006

We Thought This Was Unnecessary

We saw this picture of shaving-accident victim David Hasselhoff and thought, "Tut, tut. His shirt makes a pun at the expense of good spelling."

We refrained from posting this amusing picture because we thought everyone knew how to spell hassle. Apparently, we were mistaken.

This came in today from a newsletter for children's writers we enjoy reading:
Let's play an old Sesame Street game called "Three of These Things" -- three of these articles ideas belong together, but one just doesn't belong here. Which one and why?

A Teaspoon of Kerosene for that Cough? Disgusting Doses from the Past.
I Vant to Suck Your Fluids -- Vampire Caterpillars.
Kids In the White House
Overcoming Homework Hassels -- Helping Kids Set Priorities
Oy to the vey! It's hassle. Also, the Sesame Street Song was went, "One of these things...."

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Stink, Stank, Stunk

We got a sinking feeling today when we read this AP story:
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer Tue Jul 11, 6:00 PM ET

NEW YORK - TV viewers must have taken to the beach: It was the least-watched week in recorded history for the four biggest broadcast networks.

CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox averaged 20.8 million viewers during the average prime-time minute last week, according to Nielsen Media Research. That sunk below the previous record of 21.5 million, set during the last week of July in 2005.
It should be sank. That's the correct past-tense form.

Words like "sunk," "hung," and "shrunk" are past participles. We'll step right around that stinky pile of jargon, though, and say that a past participle is a verb that you use when you're talking about an action that's been completed. A clue is the presence of a helping verb, such as was, or has.
  • I've sunk your battleship.
  • I've shrunk the kids.
  • I've hung the photograph (but we say "hanged the criminal," perhaps because a felon "who was hung" means something entirely different, and entirely unappealing).

It Was a Dark and Stormy... Cliche

These might sound familiar:

The pen is mightier than the sword.
Pursuit of the almighty dollar.
The great unwashed masses.

They're all creations, now cliched, of the Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton.
Oh, to spawn such immortal offspring.

The annual contest to parody the late, great author has just concluded. The winning entry is entertaining, of course. But SPOGG prefers the runner-up, especially when read in the Scottish accent of its author Stuart (STUART!) Vasepuru.
"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"
Read more here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Who vs. That

Recently, we found ourselves reading the grammar book "Woe Is I," by Patricia T. O'Conner, when something leapt off the page and slapped us upside the head.

It is correct, she wrote, to use either who or that when referring to people.

In making this outlandish pronouncement, she cited no higher authority — say, for example, the grammar and style deity E.B. White.

Absent such support, we don't understand what she was thinking.

That and which are for inanimate objects and unnamed animals. Who is for people and the occasional exceptional pet (see photo below).

Otherwise, once you let people be called "that," you also must let them be called "it". It's that simple.

This calls to mind the bestseller about abuse. Its title? "A Child Called It."

Are we really ready to let child-abusers set our language standards?

Or for that matter, televangelists? The disgraced TV minister Jim Bakker occasionally called his Praise the Lord group "People That Love," possibly even while requiring his secretary to perform acts prohibited by the Ten Commandments.

People, none of this is okay.

We're certain O'Conner meant well, but we firmly believe she gave bad advice here. It's off to the doghouse with her (not it).

Misty, who was the best dog in the world

Monday, July 10, 2006

Dashing Toward Brilliance?

So the pointed use of a dash is all we have to do to be called brilliant? SPOGG thinks that's brilliant!

From Slate:
Back at the Times, longtime court reporter Linda Greenhouse cites legal praise for [Chief Justice John] Roberts' real passion, which is not modesty but punctuation. As proof, Yale professor Akhil Amar points to one line from a recent Roberts opinion: "The state did—nothing." Amar tells Greenhouse, "That little dash is brilliant."
Not that we obsess about punctuation (okay, we do), but the dash here is an en-dash, not an em-dash. The en-dash is narrower — the width of a capital N. We'll let your brilliant deductive mind figure out how wide an em-dash is.

For the most part, en-dashes are pretty much exclusively used in books. Newspapers typically replace them with hyphens. When used properly, en-dashes show ranges in dates (October–December), page numbers, game scores and the like. If you want to get very persnickety, you will use it also to link compound modifiers (a Swift-Boat–style character assassination).

An em-dash shows a sudden break in thought, and is what Slate should have used.

We could not tell from source code what their writer intended, and perhaps Slate has some kooky style that bars em-dashes from their pages. Chief Justice Roberts did use one, at least according to the ruling we read here.

For that, we will give him full credit for prudence in punctuation, if not for jurisprudence.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

The Weekend Movie Edition

Two movies that excite us opened this weekend, A Scanner Darkly and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.

A Scanner Darkly is based on the Philip K. Dick tale about a narc who's having an identity crisis. Though SPOGG tends to pay particular attention to movies that are based on books, what has us excited is the animation technique, called rotoscoping. (Click here for a definition.)

This is one of those words that isn't yet in conventional dictionaries, but we predict will become familiar to the masses because it looks so darned cool. (Check out the trailers.)

Pirates is of interest to SPOGG, not only because of Johnny Depp, whom we've loved since "21 Jump Street," but also because of the pronunciation of Caribbean. (See trailers.)

We heard our local NPR critic say, "cuh-RIB-be-an." And yet, we say "care-ub-BE-an," and have ever since we first visited Disneyland and its fantastic ride in 1976.

So which is correct?

The talking dictionary at Encarta says we are, though lists as a secondary pronunciation the one our NPR guy used. (Hear it.)

Our policy is to go with the first pronunciation listed, so we are doing a small superiority dance in the privacy of our own home, which is the only place our family allows us to dance.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

This "Literally" Drives Us Crazy

We just discovered a blog that tracks abuse of the word "literally."

Literally, a Weblog

We, too, get the insane-clown hyena giggles when we hear people say "literally" when they mean "figuratively."

That said, it's done often enough that many language experts recognize a figurative meaning of literally has emerged. It's used to intensify the meaning of something.

We get that. We really do. But you won't catch us using literally when we mean figuratively. We'd literally rather stick a fork in a socket.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Caught in the Spam Filter

Subject line: Full of health? Then don't click!

This reminded us of two discussions SPOGG has had recently with people about the words "healthful" and "healthy."

The sane discussion was with a friend, who was taught that the word "healthful" must be used when discussing certain types of foods and behaviors.

The insane discussion was with a complete stranger who sent many increasingly angry and rude e-mails in response to our decision to use "healthy" as a synonym for "healthful" in an Encarta column. We suspect she had a bad case of post-traumatic sentence-diagramming syndrome.

It is true that healthful means "beneficial to health."

One would never be incorrect when describing a carrot as a "healthful" snack. One might be considered pompous. Possibly prissy. Definitely in possession of a stick (or carrot) where the sun don't* shine.

But one would be equally correct calling the carrot "healthy."

This is because healthy means the same thing, and has since at least the time Shakespeare, in Henry IV, wrote, "the water it selfe was a good healthy water."

Even today, both the OED and other dictionaries recognize healthy as a legitimate synonym for healthful.

It's perfectly fine to describe food as healthy. It'a also fine to call it healthful (particularly if you are the type to iron your socks and underwear).

You wouldn't describe a person as healthful, though, unless you were planning to eat him. And we don't think we need to remind you that this is both sick and wrong.

This is one of those times when people cling to a rule without fully understanding the reasons behind it. Healthful has a narrower definition than healthy, just as apple is more narrowly defined than fruit. The words are synonyms, but not interchangeable.

The grammar police will not arrest you for describing your apple as a healthy snack.

* Yes, we know it should be "where the sun doesn't shine." But this isn't how the idiom goes, and we respect idioms as much we respect traditional grammar rules.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Dictionary: A Mirror of our Soul

It's been 100 years since "Americanize" first appeared in Merriam-Webster' s Dictionary. Same goes for presidential, constitutionality and amendatory — words that remain all the rage today, along with fellow centarians immigrant, inexact and porcine.

Will this year's new words also last a century?

Let's hope spyware doesn't. Ringtones annoy us, as do drama queens. If these things no longer existed, we wouldn't need them to appear in our dictionaries.

Likewise, we wouldn't need gastric bypass without supersize.

and sandwich generation are not synonyms, no matter what the image suggests, so we're glad to see those between the sheets (of paper in the dictionary, that is).

And unibrow? That one's been a long time coming, eh, Bert?

Check here for more new words.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

They Asked for It

We never signed our blog up to receive promotional spam, but we get daily doses anyway from 20th Century Fox.

Some of the marketing is clever. Some, while still clever, leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to grammar. We've circled a few errors from, which was built to promote My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

Click the image if you'd like to enlarge it.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox, SPOGG would be happy to correct the grammar of your promotional material before it goes live. We could learn to live on Hollywood wages. Loveyoumean it! Kiss, kiss! Call us!

Should We Simplify Our Spelling?

The American Literacy Council objects -- and has for a century -- to the way we spell words. English isn't phonetic, and although the kooky spellings sometimes help illuminate the meaning of words (particularly those from Latin), they make it tough for children and immigrants.

SPOGG could not agree more.

While we're sympathetic with those who love the history of language, and while we ourselves are former spelling champions who love to figure out what words might mean based on their parts, we believe language must be about more than tending time capsules.

Language exists so that we can understand each other, and communicate ideas clearly.

When spelling gets in the way of this, it's time to change the way we do things. This is easier said than done, of course. It would be incredibly expensive, and it would be hard on people who've already learned the old-fashioned way. But spelling standardization has happened in the past (most likely in the 1600s, bolstered by the existence of the printing press).

We could leverage the Internet and word-processing software in much the same way, spreading logical English around the globe.

Language should not be a fortress inhabited by the elite, and that's what we've created with our idiosyncratic spelling system.

Visit the American Literacy Council

Monday, July 03, 2006

The SPOGG Link Exchange

SPOGG wants to create a network of like-minded blogs and Web sites.

If you'd like us to link to you, and you're able to link back to us, please shoot us an e-mail.
Let's Bee Friends!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

I'm Gonna Git You, Smucker's!

Okay, that headline was a pathetic reference to what is probably an even worse movie.

But can you blame us? This jam label, sent by SPOGG lieutenant Judy M., really crushes our berries:

It's true that there is less sugar and fewer calories in this reduced-sugar concoction (a hyphen there beneath the Concord Grape would have been nice, Smucker's).

But it should be "1/2 the calories and sugar of regular jelly!" Or, "half as much sugar as regular jelly."

Plural Trouble

This just in: AOL makes it tough for subscribers to cancel.

In the midst of that breaking news, though, the NY Times demonstrates clumsiness of its own with plural possessives:

In 2004, AOL signed an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission about problems related to — care to make a guess? — subscriber's requests for cancellation. That was followed last year with an "assurance of discontinuance" reached with Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, concerning — yes — subscriber's requests for cancellation. In both cases, investigations had revealed that AOL practiced a strange form of customer service, continuing to bill subscribers who had called to cancel, and had thought that they had done so, but who were marked down as "saved."
We know the AOL trouble affects more than one subscriber. So, it should be subscribers', with the apostrophe coming after the "s."

Here's the trick:

1) Form the plural
2) Add the apostrophe or apostrophe+s, depending on the style you're following.

A note on style: Though there is disagreement on this, the rule we like says put the "s" after the apostrophe if you pronounce it. The Joneses'* cat, as opposed to the Smiths' cat.

Because there is enough passionate disagreement that you can't possibly please all the sticklers out there, the best thing to do is be consistent with whatever method you choose.

* corrected, thanks to Barry L.