Friday, September 28, 2007

Sochol Sukcs

Let's just say this is part of the "no childrens left behind" initiative.

Workers Repair Spelling Error At School Crossing
POSTED: 11:51 am EDT September 28, 2007

Seminole County officials scrambled to fix a typo on a roadway after a motorist informed them the word school was misspelled.

The error was reported along state Road 426 at Reed Road in Oviedo. School was misspelled as "scohol" and painted on the road to warn motorists they are entering a school zone.

Seminole County traffic engineers said the typo was to be repaired on Friday morning. Workers removed the error and placed a new warning with school spelled correctly.

Childrens Do Learn

But does [sic] grownups?

Cleaning up after Bush: It was 'childrens do learn'
By Mark Silva

The White House said today it will be sure to clean up the official transcript of the comment which President Bush made yesterday about education: “Childrens do learn.’’

The problem is that White House stenographers got it wrong. The transcript reported it as “Children do learn.’’

But Bush had given new meaning to the term, plural, when he spoke in New York City yesterday about gains in student achievement made since the enactment of his education reforms. The gains were registered in the newest results of national testing this week.

"As yesterday's positive report card shows," the president said, "childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."


Compare to and contrast with an earlier presidential grammar gaffe. Here's Bush making fun of himself:
Then there is my most famous statement: "Rarely is the question asked, is our children learning." (Laughter.) Let us analyze that sentence for a moment. (Laughter.) If you're a stickler, you probably think the singular verb "is" should have been the plural "are." But if you read it closely, you'll see I'm using the intransitive plural subjunctive tense. (Laughter.) So the word "is" are correct. (Laughter and applause.)

The applause and laughter are courtesy of the guests at the American Radio-Television Correspondents' dinner. It's nice to see the press in its watchdog role. Fierce beasts, they are. Way to stick up for good grammar.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Hope for the Hyphen

The Oxford University Press says reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated:

When a new edition of a dictionary is published, you never know what people are going to pick up on as noteworthy. Last week, when the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary was officially launched, much of the surrounding publicity had to do with the all the brand-new material: the 2,500 new words and phrases and 1,300 new illustrative quotes.

But what’s gotten just as much attention is something that’s missing. The hyphen, that humble piece of connective punctuation, has been removed from about 16,000 compound words appearing in the text of the Shorter. The news has been making the rounds everywhere from the BBC to the Wall Street Journal. “Hyphens are the latest casualty of the internet age,” writes the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on,” a Reuters headline bleakly reads. A satirical paper even warns of a “hyphen-thief” on the loose. But don’t worry, hyphenophiles: the punctuation lives on, even if it’s entering uncertain terrain in the electronic era.

The hyphen has been with us since at least the time of Gutenberg... (Read on)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Week of Vizzinis

If you've seen "The Princess Bride," then you no doubt remember the scene where Vizzini (played by Wally Shawn) says "inconceivable" every time the Dread Pirate Roberts does something unexpected.

Eventually, after the Dread Pirate Roberts does one inconceivable thing after another, Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin) says, "You keep on saying that word. I'm not sure it means what you think it means."

Vizzinis, therefore, are words that don't mean quite what their authors think. Craig Conley sent a great one from the George Washington Carver Interpretive Museum in southeast Alabama, which earned a $1,000 grant to pursue "Artistic interpretation[s] of historical experiences of Americans of African dissent."

Says Craig, "I wonder if the exhibit will live up to its promise of nonconformism."

The museum meant to write "descent," which sounds like dissent, but means something entirely different.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Saddest Article, Ever...

Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on
Fri Sep 21, 2007 4:54pm EDT
By Simon Rabinovitch

LONDON (Reuters) - About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you've got a problem, don't be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).


Isn't That Special?

Sue sends this from her church bulletin:

Don't Like Your Picture?
Members, you can now access member information online and upload a new more current picture. You can replace the one when you wore that weird stripped dress or the tie your mother-in-law gave you...."

Grammar Police, Where Are You?

Catherine G. sends in this lead from a news story:

PHILADELPHIA -- At least one possible suspects are in custody after in the shooting of a Philadelphia Police Officer in West Philadelphia Monday morning.

Does the suspect have multiple-personality disorder, by chance?

That's a Really Bad Drug Problem

We're a bit prudish when it comes to substances. Our body is a temple and all that stuff.

But we're quite concerned with Britney Spears' reported habits. From Perez

Britney Spears is going to extreme measures to lose weight!

According to a Los Angeles court, the former pop star is a “habitual, frequent, and continuous” user of drugs.

Continuous would mean she never stopped taking drugs. Not even to eat burritos, shop, or shave her head. Continual means "happens regularly." So, while illegal drug use is never something to jump up and down and celebrate, continual drug use is better than the continuous sort.

Cheap Real Estate?

We found this in the paper today and initially thought it was a bargain on some sandy land:

Resort charges $14,500 for desert

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — This dessert may be a little too rich for you, but you're probably not rich enough for it. A Sri Lankan resort is charging $14,500 for what it calls the world's most expensive dessert, a fruit infused confection complete with a chocolate sculpture and a gigantic gemstone.
Apparently, though, it's food -- which reminds us of the excellent find Jonathan Caws-Elwitt sent:

"Breakfast was the usual bagel faire . . . "

Fare is food. Fair is, well, foul and vice versa. But faire? That's for people who run around in puffy balloon pants and shields on weekends.

Confuse these words, and you'll get your just deserts. You probably will not get a $14,500 dessert, alas.

Friday, September 21, 2007


We are helping a friend find a desk and encountered this atrocious Craigslist offering:


DRAWS? Is it SO hard to write "drawer"?

Say It Isn't So!

Shall we prepare an obituary?

Hyphen falls victim to the email [sic] society
By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
The U.K. Telegraph

It's small, flat and a useful piece of punctuation. The hyphen, according to the latest edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, is becoming extinct, a victim of the text message and the email. [SPOGG: HE MEANS E-MAIL.]

The sixth edition of the dictionary has knocked the hyphens out of 16,000 words, many of them two-word compound nouns.

Fig-leaf is now fig leaf, pot-belly is now pot belly, pigeon-hole has finally achieved one-word status and leap-frog is now leapfrog.

The reason, says Angus Stevenson, editor of the dictionary, is that we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Birthday :-)

How'd we miss this? Alas, the birthday was yesterday, but it's never too late to :-) about it.
It's smiley's 25th birthday

IT was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon.

:-) Twenty-five years ago, three keystrokes - a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis - were first used as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message by Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E Fahlman.

Language experts say the smiley face and other so-called emoticons, or emotional icons, have given people a concise way of expressing sentiments in e-mail and other electronic messages that otherwise would be difficult to detect.

Fahlman posted the emoticon in a message to an online electronic bulletin board at 11.44am on September 19, 1982, during a discussion about the limits of online humour and how to denote comments meant to be taken lightly.

"I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)," wrote Fahlman. "Read it sideways." The suggestion gave computer users a way to convey
umour or positive feelings with a smile - or the opposite sentiments by reversing the parenthesis to form a frown. Carnegie Mellon said the smileys spread from its campus to other universities, businesses and eventually around the world as the Internet gained popularity. Variations, such as the "wink" that uses a semicolon, emerged later.

Spell Well, Meet the President

This comes from a San Jose Mercury News story about the national spelling bee champ's meeting with President Bush. The president appears to have impressed the family. Who knew spelling well had such perks? From the story itself:

Bush leaned on his desk while Evan [O'Dorney, the spelling whiz] stood in front, as the two talked about spelling, music and math -- another of the student's talents -- and the president gave him advice on how to make good decisions, Jennifer O'Dorney said.


Veglexia: Do You Have It?

We read this today and chuckled:

Casting a spell over broccoli
By JEAN WHITE - North Shore Times

Broccoli. That's what bothers me.Well not broccoli exactly after all it's nutritious and basically non-threatening to anyone over the age of 12.

It's the fact that no one can spell it.

You look at the sign outside your local vegetable store, what does it say? Brocolli? Broccolli?
Or do you live near that really gifted signwriter who spells it borcoli? My computer is already doing overtime with red underlining.

Unfortunately this vegetable spelling disability (which I will call veglexia) does not stop at mere broccoli alone.

Have you bought any califlower lately or aspragus? Or how about corgettes? (Okay I'll help. Correct spellings are cauliflower, asparagus and courgettes.)

I'm one of those (the only one maybe) who surreptitiously (phew, spell that one!) rubs out the wrong letters on chalk boards especially if they announce avacadoes at two for a dollar.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Read Our Ellipse...

This snippet from an AP story shows why newspapers *really* need to use maledicta:

NEW YORK — A former New York Knicks executive at the center of a sexual harassment lawsuit repeatedly complained to a friend from work that coach Isiah Thomas had berated her with foul language, according to trial testimony Tuesday.

"What are your job responsibilities, you ... ho?" Thomas, with an obscenity added for emphasis, told former vice president Anucha Browne Sanders in 2004, according to the secondhand account of her friend, Jeffrey Nix.
What does that ellipse stand for? We just don't feel the truth has been reported here.

Just for kicks, we'll reprint our maledicata key, which allows you to use punctuation to create a whole host of naughty words:

Vowel substitutions
A = @
E = #
I = !
O = Ω
U = ¥

Consonant substitutions
C = ©
F = #
H = *
K = <
L = £
P = ¶
R = ®
S = $
T = +
W = π

The Princess and the Pee

MSNBC contained this curious item today:
It was the Princess and the Pee, reports TMZ, when Paris Hilton stepped in a puddle of sewer water after exciting an exclusive nightclub. When an onlooker announced that the puddle might very well be urine, a perturbed Paris made a misguided announcement regarding communicable diseases. “Oh my God, I have, like, AIDS,” she exclaimed.
Yes, I'm sure her presence was "exciting" for the nightclub. Do you think anyone will sewer for it? Or would a lawyer simply poo-poo the problem?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Funny British Report on Jargon

Amputee Criminals at Large

From the Seattle P-I, in a column about the ineffectiveness of video surveillance cameras:

And a recent case, straight from the streets, shows why cameras are no panacea. The presence of a camera outside the Century Square Building, near Third and Pine, did not stop a pack of thugs from viciously beating a man on June 1. Nor did footage of this three-minute attack crack the case. The assailants, with blood on their hand, are still out there.
If we see any criminals sharing a blood-soaked limb, we'll definitely call the police. Meanwhile, why don't those thugs just go out and buy hooks? And big, curly wigs and flamboyant jackets? That's what all the classy crooks do.

The Queen's Apartment Complex

Catwoman sends this our way :

The management of my apartment building issued an updated list of "Policy and Procedures" today.

Among them was reminder to the night owls to keep the noise down late at night. They state this by saying:

There is a Quiet Time after 10:00 p.m., 7 days a week. Please have the curtsy of your neighbor in mind when you are up late into the night.

My neighbors and I hardly acknowledge each other, much less curtsy!

Alas, what a shame. We think the world would be a much nicer place if we all bowed and curtsied to each other. And it's almost certain we'd have stronger backs and knees for the exercise.

Old Clip, But Still Funny

If you haven't seen Jon Stewart's riff on "The Cavuto," a question mark used to soften an outrageous claim with a veil of uncertainty, then you might enjoy this video:


We don't think The Cavuto has much chance of catching on, but is a good reminder of how punctuation can sometimes be abused. This is the equivalent of asking, "When did you stop beating your wife?"

In a way, it's similar to the misuse of quotation marks. Sort of like Jon Stewart calling Jim Cavuto a "journalist."

Thursday, September 13, 2007

So Young to Be a Father, Even Younger to Fly

Holly B. sends this comical goof from the San Francisco Chronicle about Steve Fossett and other missing airplane pilots:

"William Ogle hopes some of the wreckage will be from the plane his father was flying when he vanished on a flight from Oakland, Calif., to Reno. He was only 5 at the time."

Monday, September 10, 2007

Little Shop of Horrors

Sue sends these souvenirs of her Michigan vacation:

While we were in Michigan a couple of weeks ago, my sister got a catalog called "Touch of Class." It features Victorian-style furnishings (Diane owns a Victorian house built in 1900).

We got the giggles reading some of the descriptions, so I thought I'd pass a couple along. They may not be worthy of the web page, but they're good for a laugh anyway!

Description of a vase (I presume it's a vaaahze!):

As its name suggests in Japanese, the exquisite Takara Vase is indeed a possession you will "treasure." The body of the warm black cherry-colored porcelain urn has a central medallion design of roses in burgundy and gold, and scrolling fleurs on a creamy beige background...." [I have never heard of black cherry-colored stuff. Black-cherry-colored, yes, but not the other.]

In a description of some truly amazing bedding, they say, "...The rich, silky texture will bring unending praise to your boudoir while the brilliant colors bring the luxury of royalty to mind."

They also carry a product called the "Tiara Teester." (it should be a tester)

But this one takes the cake:

"Imagine an African woman in stylized tribal costume as you search for meaning in the handcrafted resin Delu Vase, 28''H. Dress is green, a color often symbolizing renewal and growth, with golden bronze striped highlights. Beige belt with buckle, wrapped neck, leaf embellishments, faux jewelry of metal and beads, and two brown tassels all provide accents."


A terrible headline on a very sad story, sent to us by Catwoman.

Toddler Ran Over In Driveway, Dies

Watch Where You Sit

Catherine G. sends this today from work:
Good Afternoon:

Please be advised that there is a major chilled water leak in Griffith Hall 2nd floor. We are shutting down all chilled water to the building pending repairs to this situation.

If you have any questions please feel free to call Facilities @Ext.8955.

We appreciate your understanding to this emergency and apologize for any incontinence this may cause.

Thank You

Facilities dept.

Yes, this did make us wet our pants a little bit.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Bananas Splits

Many of us have been told not to split infinitives. This is largely a silly rule, used only to make English conform to the rules of Latin grammar. In Latin, an infinitive is one word. It can't be split.

This headline is a good example of why this rule is a bad practice in English:

Officials: Sen. Hagel not to run again

WASHINGTON -- Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a persistent Republican critic of the Iraq war, intends to announce on Monday he will not seek a third term, according to Republican officials.


He's "not to run" again? Does that mean he's been forbidden to run? That's what it sounds like.

But this isn't the case; the article says later it was his own decision.

A better solution here would be to say "won't run" instead of "not to run." But "to not run again" would have at least kept the intended meaning.

So go ahead and split infinitives if it keeps your meaning intact. Keep the words together in other cases, just so you won't raise the dander of the nuns and other rigid constructionists.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

From the Confusing Headline Department

We found this headline online today:

B-52 carrying nukes mistakenly overfiles U.S.

We think they meant to say flies over, and tried to make that into the single faux-word overflies, but then transposed some letters.


But not as stupid as sending armed nuclear warheads over the United States in a B-52 bomber. Read more...

Too Bad to Be True?

This sounds fishy, but nonetheless interesting for people who care about spelling:

Misspelling Costs eBay Seller $500,000
Posted Sep 4th 2007 5:39PM
by Terrence O'Brien
Filed under: eBay

Let this be a lesson to you: spell check, spell check, spell check. We can't say it enough. We're not spelling snobs. We don't even care if other people think you're a doofus. We just want to save you the pain and humiliation of losing $500,000 due to a bonehead-spelling mistake -- something one poor sap recently experienced on the mean streets of eBay through the sale of a priceless bottle of beer. (Read more)

Spelling aside, who'd pay half a million dollars for a bottle of beer? Sheesh.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This Makes Us Weep


From the Examiner via "Think Progress" comes this bit from from Jeffrey Toobin's new book on the Supreme Court: Justice David Souter was so troubled by the court's decision in Bush v. Gore that he sometimes weeped when he thought about the case and actually considered resigning over it. Toobin says that Souter decided to stay on "at the urging of a handful of close friends" but that his "attitude toward the court was never the same."

It should have been wept. He wept when he thought about the case. He's not the only one.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


This headline appeared on today:

Bar patron awakens minus pants, containing $41,000

We get that he lost his pants. What we're wondering, though, was how someone stuffed him with $41,000. Even if they used large bills, that sort of thing sounds painful.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Dangly Bits: Even Published Authors Do It

From a review in the Guardian of Anthony Loyd's "Another Bloody Love Letter":
At times, the drama is weakened by Loyd's writerly tics. At one point, he muses that "it was only a matter of time before their dumbfounded sledgehammer would recollect its sense and plough down on the ripe insurgent fruit". And he has an unfortunate habit of dangling his modifiers, the grammatical error that so amuses the pedants. Every half-dozen pages, one crops up: "A maverick of her generation, the men in my mother's life had always been more conservative than she." It's easy to forgive, but a more rigorous edit would have helped.
The rigorous edit here would have changed the sentence to read: "A maverick of her generation, my mother always dated men more conservative than she."

We love how British critics spank, then forgive. It's a nation of Super Nannies. Jolly good!

Plurals of Wisdom

The Washington Times contains this Q&A with our president.

Q: Mr. President, what do you think you have achieved with regards to U.S. ties with Asia during your time in office? And what do you consider to be unfinished business?
THE PRESIDENT: Unfinished business is North Korea. It's -- let me just say, it is finishing. In other words, we're making progress. The six-party talks is working.

Are working, Mr. President. Are working.