Wednesday, March 31, 2010

From the Department of Bad Headlines

A few weeks old, yes. But, for your amusement, we present an accidentally hilarious headline sent our way by a few sharp-eyed readers.

Can a Pelosi titillates Congress headline be far behind?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A guest post from Craig Conley

Craig is author of a number of strange and unusual reference books that revel in the oddities of and possibilities for our language. You can view many of them here.

He wrote this guest post for us, and we liked found it to be "expecially" charming.
Jeff Stone* is perfectly correct in colorfully noting that "there's no freakin' X in the word 'especially.'" Yet we can't help fondly remembering those centuries when the word "expecial" meant "singular" or "exceptional," as in the context of accessories designed "to meet the expecial needs of the physician" (BROOKLYN MEDICAL JOURNAL, Vol. 8, 1894) or European colonists in the Potomac being advised not to expose themselves to the danger of the Tuscarora War of 1711 "without expecial necessity" (James Rice, NATURE AND HISTORY IN THE POTOMAC COUNTRY, 2009).

Our favorite context for the word "expecial" is, of course, the world of algebra! Back in 1919, a textbook entitled FIRST COURSE IN ALGEBRA embodied "an expecial effort to connect the elements of algebra in a clear and forcible manner with the affairs of every-day life." If any field is qualified to put an X in "especially," it's algebra!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Exclusive Hotel Edition

You know you're in an exclusive hotel when there's only one guest.

Do you think they maybe meant to write "guests'"?

Thanks to Susan H. for the photo.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Workin' Hard for It Edition

The Progreso "Shcool" Board: They're working for our children, but not very well. [Corrected after sharp-eyed Steph hunted down the real way "Progreso" spells the school's name.]

Or, the school board that puts "cool" in school! Unfortunately, it doesn't belong there.

Thanks to Mike Clark for the photo.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The World's Worst Business Writing

We love this contest John Sturtevant is having over at Say What. It's a search for the worst business writing in the world: the most inscrutable memo, the flabbiest jargon, the most cryptic instructions from the IT department.

The winner gets a copy of our book, THINGS THAT MAKE US [SIC].

Check out the contest on John's blog. We can't wait to read the winners.

More Tales from the Casting Couch

These are real casting calls sent to us by an up-and-coming Hollywood actress. Enjoy!

Looking for tanner, alto, and soprano
Lend me a tenor.

imagine star wars with black eyed pees madonna and justin timberlake
Does this really need commentary?

You will be laying in a body bag wearing a thing and bra with blood all over.
I assume they meant "thong" instead of "thing," but I'm not sure which is more horrifying.

Role: Cool Girl's
What is she, other than cool? What does she possess?

Role type: Looser brother
Looser than what, exactly?

Could you play like a half goldminer half serial killer half hillbilly?
That all adds up to one-point-five, but sounds really ten-point-oh on the crazy scale.

please send two shirtless photos-- including one of your back (if you have one).
If you are a backless alien, you may still apply.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Apostrophe Catastrophe

We wish whoever lent this sign the apostrophe in "fees" would take it back. It's a punctuation bubble we just don't need.

Repeat after us: apostrophes make possessives, not plurals. Apostrophes make possessives, not plurals. Yeah, that's the stuff.

Thanks to Xavier D. for the photo.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Something Fishy Here

Dear InStyle: We love your magazine, but fish breath is never fashionable:

Isabel Marant is bringing her enviable Parisian chic style stateside this month, opening a store in N.Y.C’s Soho district, and her fall collection in walking down the runway in Paris literally as we speak—we are waiting with baited breath for both!

It's "bated" breath--unless you're trying to reel in some sort of fish or trying to smell pretty for a house cat.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Comma Chameleon and Grammar Limericks

OK, one last gasp for National Grammar Day 2010.

We offer two delights from Rob Reinalda, executive editor for Ragan Communications in Chicago. Rob goes by the handle word_czar on Twitter, if you're looking to follow new folks.

The company held a limerick contest. Here's a finalist we rather enjoyed:

I saw that my participle was dangling
My sentence thereby it was mangling
I tried not to pout
though it put into doubt
the perfection for which I was angling.

To get the whole scoop--and read the winner--check out the article here.

And for a useful story Rob wrote about the many uses of commas, check out this link. (Print the piece if you want to keep it as reference; Rob let us know these stories don't stay accessible forever.)

Speaking of commas, Barry Leiba sent along this real-life example of a missing comma:
"It is not because that mechanism is in a different document, as it should be."
Barry writes, "The problem is that it's missing a critical comma. And I bet the writer doesn't even realize that, and will wonder why his statement is misinterpreted. The comma should be after 'not'. Eats, shoots, and leaves."

Friday Sign of the Apocalypse: Now and Then

Than, people. Than. Everyone gets this wrong now and then, though. We like how they went all out with "unable to" instead of can't--is this why they ran out of steam when they came to abbreviating "management."

Thursday, March 04, 2010

National Grammar Day and Katie Couric

Wait, did she really say you can't end a sentence with a preposition? That's OK. It's the thought that counts.

Watch CBS News Videos Online

5 Simple Grammar Tips

We wrote this bit for, an online calendar service (which we use and love).

It's called 5 Simple Grammar Tips, and if you ever have trouble deciding between "I" and "me," this article will help.

We're thrilled that National Grammar Day is a trending topic on Twitter. There is no shame in being slightly less popular than stripper names, Justin Bieber, and "its [sic] not cool."

Happy National Grammar Day, everyone.

Follow National Grammar Day on Twitter

People are posting all day in the Twitter parade, using the #grammarday tag. If you're on Twitter, join in. If you'd just like to watch, here's the search query.

Grammar Gems for Journalists

We're subscribed to Ted Pease's WORD on Journalism, a collection of daily observations about journalism, the First Amendment, writing, mass media, and sometimes fishing.

This week Ted is writing all about grammar. We particularly like this Mark Twain quote he dug up:
“Perfect grammar—persistent, continuous, sustained—is the fourth dimension, so to speak; many have sought it, but none has found it.”
Check out The WORD.

Pulp Diction: Part 4

Here's the conclusion to John McIntyre's stirring grammar noir. We're not sure we're able to handle its sexy, sexy plot twists this early in the morning. English muffin, anyone?
Pulp Diction 4: The Dark Tower

The Amtrak from Baltimore to New York was only ninety minutes late to Penn Station, and the sun was setting as Fogarty and I crept up on AP Stylebook Headquarters.

“We’re in luck,” I whispered. “They haven’t lowered the portcullis yet.”

“But there’s a guard,” she said.

“Maybe you could distract that slab of brawn while I slip past.”

“Leave it to me.” She loosened two buttons on her blouse and walked up to the muscle. His head turned; I slipped past. A minute later, after a dull thud and a splash, Fogarty was beside me.
Read the rest.

National Grammar Day: the Video

You know you're a real national holiday when someone makes a video. Thanks, Grammar Girl!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Alert Notice from the Repetitive Redundancy Department Organization

Dana A. sent this eyebrow-raiser, which she found in a letter from a university development office:
The money fundraised by our office goes directly back to students.
Dana didn't love "fundraised" dressed up as a verb, but to us, the worse problem is the redundancy. What else to fundraisers raise besides money? It's like saying "revert back."

Still, we do get satisfaction in crossing out these unnecessary words. Thanks, university development offices of the world. We enjoy chewing your fat.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

All Hail the Cinnamonist

We don't know why this makes us giggle so, but it does. Thanks to Frances L. for sending it along.

Original Message From: REDACTED

Originated by Consumer: Don't know whether you did this deliberately or your ad agency rep can't spell, but your Internet banner ad for Cinnamon Toast Crunch is misspelled. It reads "Life Life to the Cinnamonist"--this should be "Cinnamonest." The "ist" ending is a person, e.g., "perfectionist." You wanted the superlative suffix, as in "fastest."


Thank you for contacting General Mills. We appreciate your comments regarding our advertising for Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal. Your opinion is important to us, and will be shared with our marketing and advertising staff.

We hope you continue to enjoy our products.


Lori Quinn
Consumer Services

It's Words Matter Week

Forgive this simile, but we're hungry.

Wrapping around National Grammar Day in the manner of a tortilla embracing delicious rice and beans, Words Matter Week is March 1-7.

The celebration is sponsored by the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (we love them!), and they're inviting all of us to take part in daily blog challenges.

Here's today's:

Communication breaks down when words are misused. What is the funniest, most interesting, or worst break-down you’ve ever observed?

If you’d like to participate in the challenge, write a post on your own blog on the topic of the day, then visit the Words Matter blog to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media!

Background: In honor of Words Matter Week, a holiday that is celebrated annually the first full week in March, the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE) is hosting a Blog Challenge with a specific daily topic Monday through Friday.

Each blogger that posts a response to each day’s challenge (a total of five posts) will be entered into a drawing for a $20 gift card to The winner will be announced in the next issue of The Edge, NAIWE’s e-mail newsletter. (If you don’t receive it yet, you may subscribe at the NAIWE homepage). Remember to write the post on your own blog, adding a link to this post. Return to this page and add a comment on this post, with the title of your response and a link to your post.

Check out their blog

Our entry comes from the SPOGG archives. Really, does it get funnier than incontinence and orgasms?

We received this from Steven Chappell, Director of Student Media at Middle Tennessee State University:

My all-time favorite from a student is this gem, which came to me when she missed a test.

"Dr. Chappell,

I'm sorry I missed today's test. I wasn't feeling well. I would be glad to discuss my make-up exam with you at your earliest opportunity. I am sorry for the incontinence."

I sent this reply:

"Dear ----,

Please refer to the syllabus, which requires you to contact me in advance regarding all make-up exams, including those for illness. The next time you are sick, it is not necessary for you to be so descriptive regarding your medical problem, but you do need to contact me in advance to schedule a make-up exam."

No. 2 on my list was this lead on a story from a student, who was writing a class-assigned story on a genetic engineering lecture on campus:

"Professor of English Martha Bartter spoke about the implications of a world containing genetically modified orgasms, focusing on the language barrier that causes problems and the religious aspect."

While I think it was genetically modified organisms that were the topic of the lecture, this new topic would have been much more interesting.

In Case You Were Wondering

How to make a grammartini:


The High Cost of Typos

This comes from an article in the Irish Times (you can tell it's authentic because the period is outside the quotation marks, in the British style):
One 17th-century typo may have had an incalculable cost in moral terms. In the so-called “Wicked Bible” of 1631, the word “not” was omitted from the seventh commandment, resulting in the entreaty, “thou shalt commit adultery”. The printers were fined £300 for inadvertently corrupting public morals.
Read the rest of the story. We would really like a copy of that Wicked Bible. It sounds even more interesting than the original.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Menopause and Masochism

Linnea D. sent along this spelling-challenged casting call

Attire Requirements: Client to provide black saghetti [sic] strap tank top, sliver [sic] jewelry, black high heels and black leggings.

She writes, "Hmm. Models are generally only desirable if they’re very fit (i.e., not sagging). And I don’t think “slivers” are generally attractive unless you have masochistic/sadistic bents!"

Apparently Linnea is not on the mailing list for the Menopause and Masochism catalog. We'll have to fix that right away.