The term gerrymander, commonly used as in “gerrymandering a Congressional or other electoral unit to the benefit of one political party or the other,” should not be pronounced with a soft “g “resembling a “j.”
So say the good folks of Marblehead, Mass., once home to Elbridge Gerry (hard “g”), a governor of the fine state and also a U.S. vice president, after whom the term gerrymander was coined.
The Selectmen of Marblehead (kind of like supervisors and city councilpersons, one would assume) even fired off a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to inquire of how he pronounced the word.
Jeffrey P. Minear, counselor to the chief justice, wrote back:
I had ESPN on as a prelude to the NBA Finals, featuring the highly favored Golden State Warriors against the undermanned-except-Lebron-James Cleveland Cavaliers in what will probably be a snorer, when all of a sudden the National Spelling Bee came on.
First off, I was impressed by the sheer verbal genius of these kids (teenagers for the most part in the latter rounds), and second, by the sheer number of South Asian natives — whose Queen’s English seems to serve them admirably.
I was even more impressed when the 2015 Co-Champion, Vanya Shivashankar, now 16 maybe, did a roving interview asking luckless people on the street if they could spell the word by which she co-won — to wit, scherenschnitte, whatever that means. Looks German anyway.
Ms. Shivashankar, who seems to be a natural for TV and probably every other pursuit in life, concluded that a dog she asked for the spelling came the closest.
I agree. My dogs are always smarter than I am. Which probably ain’t saying much.
During a meeting at work this morning, I was trying to describe a situation wherein a bad task that I had shaken off after years was returning to my job duties. In describing this, I was searching for an old saying I remembered from my youth about a “bad penny,” but it escaped me.
So, now at home, I researched the saying:
Basically, “Turning up like a bad penny” refers to someone — or in my case something — unwelcome returning to one’s life after a long absence. If a person, it could be someone who harmed you or took advantage of you in the past, or even a former lover in a relationship gone much too sour; if a thing, it could be old debts, old unpleasant situations, or in my case more specifically, old hated job duties.
Here is the best description I found:
…when the term ‘bad penny’ first appeared in the 18th century, pennies were serious money. This made them ripe targets for counterfeiters, and to reach into your pocket or purse and discover that you had ended up with such a counterfeit coin, a ‘bad’ penny, was a depressing and annoying experience…. Thus ‘bad penny’ became an idiom meaning ‘an unwanted thing that keeps showing up’.
The Oxford Comma is the last comma before the final item in a list, for instance: dogs, cats, birds, and fish. The comma before “and fish” is the Oxford Comma.
Now in modern American English, use of the Oxford Comma has been denigrated, meaning that it’s optional in most cases. I personally tend to eliminate it unless doing so would render the sentence harder to understand.
A dairy in Maine will now have to pay $5 million in back overtime wages because of a missing Oxford Comma in a state law, which stipulates that workers are exempt from overtime when in the process of “…marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of” products.
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