Am I getting more cautious or just older and nearing Alzheimer’s?
I find myself more and more checking the spelling and meaning of words at dictionary.com. The latest example came when I wanted to e-mail a couple of friends about catching a baseball that went into the stands at a game I attended.
On one e-mail I wrote about catching a "fowl ball," but by the time I got to the second missive, I was scratching my head, so I looked up fowl and foul. Foul was the clear winner, but the momentary confusion is what had me worried.
I had clearly caught a foul ball and not a bird. I guess as time wears on me, it becomes clearer why people have such a hard time with the English language.
Okay, so I’m borrowing this from [tag]Stephen Wilbers[/tag], who writes a syndicated column on English grammar and mechanics. This is a story of wordsmithing gone awry, as you’ll see.
Right after World War II, Sears developed a device to turn a bathtub into a shower. A hose went over the faucet, which connected to a shower head that you attached to the wall with a couple of screws.
The copywriter came up with this tagline to emphasize ease of installation: "Two screws and you’re ready for a shower."
I’ve written about [tag]linking verbs[/tag] before but never named the complement that completes a linking verb sentence. This would be the famousÂ [tag]predicate nominative[/tag].
Let me give you an example: "I am Gary." The verb am is a form of the verb to be, which shows a state of being and therefore cannot take an object, so it must take a predicate nominative, which is Gary in this case.
Another example: "His favorite book is Exodus." Can you name the subject, verb and predicate nominative in here? Book is the subject, is the verb, and Exodus the prdicate nominative.
Remember linking verbs show state of being, as in these examples, or simply link the subject with a modifier, as in, "This soup tastes good." Soup is the noun, tastes the linking verb, and good the modifier.
In these examples, the nouns (Gary and Exodus) and adjective (good) are functioning as a nominative (subject) following a verb (predicate), thus the name predicate nominative. In a way, then, there are two subjects in each of these examples, which are joined by linking verbs.
Maybe I went to school in the 19th rather than the 20th century, but I was always taught that enthused was a bastardization of the noun enthusiasm, in other words what I would call a[tag]NotWord[/tag].
However, dictionaries at least partially disagree, saying it is indeed an American bastardization of English but one that is now commonly accepted in speech and in most writing except the most formal.
That’s me, I guess–most formal!Â LOL
PSÂ Anyway, it’s great to be back up online.Â I had about two days there when the server went down andÂ even afterÂ things were restored,Â my siteÂ didn’t work.Â I’ve been hacking away ever since to get functionality back, but here I am at last!Â It’s good to be back.
[tag]Vincent Bugliosi[/tag], the Los Angeles District Attorney who tried and convicted [tag]Charles Manson[/tag], has come out with a 1,612-page book, with an additional 954 pages on a CD-ROM, defending the lone-assassin theory on the murder ofÂ [tag]John Kennedy[/tag].
I certainly haven’t read the tome, which is called Reclaiming History, nor will I since I have no desire to revisit the old arguments about how Kennedy was killed.Â What fascinates me is that anyone would be so motivated to spend years, maybe decades, reading, absoring, supporting and refuting every piece of evidence and every theory on the most famous assassination of the 20th century.
If you recall, Bugliosi also penned Helter Skelter about the Manson cult and subsequent trial.Â At least there, he had first-hand knowledge.
Now, if he had any knowledge of the Kennedy assassination, he’d know that it was carried out on the orders of [tag]Fidel Castro[/tag].
Case closed. (LOL)
Somehow I got on this [tag]horoscope[/tag] e-mail list a while back.Â Usually I ignore the e-mails but today decided to take a look and came across a word I had truly never seen before: quincunx.
Dutifully, and feeling rather inadequate, I lookedÂ up quincunx in the dictionary.Â Here goes the definition: “an arrangement of five objects, as trees, in a square or rectangle, one at each corner and one in the middle.”
If you’re a Capricorn and come across a quincunx today, turn the other way.
When I took typing back in the seventh grade (personal computers weren’t even a glint in Steve Jobs’ eyes back then), I was taught to use two spaces after each period. To this day I continue adding those two spaces as I type on my computer keyboard, a habit that is so thoroughly engrained in me that I can’t imagine following today’s standard.
Which is…one space between sentences. Ouch!
Where did this rule come from? The evil people at APA decided to confound everyone who ever took typing by changing the requirement? Robert Goulet snuck in while everyone was napping and wrote new rules?
It may as well be that arbitrary. The only explanation I’ve ever heard–and I have no idea if this truly is the derivation of the one-space mania–is that two spaces screw up proportional alignment on computer fonts when you print things out. (Okay, so how many spaces did linotypists use? I’ve got to know!)
I guess. Anybody got a better explanation?
Actually, [tag]NBA Commissioner David Stern[/tag] is not only a capable sports executive but also a learned, literate individual.
On the [tag]Dan Patrick[/tag] show yesterday on ESPN radio, the Commish and host Patrick got into an exchange about the recent Phoenix-San Antonio player suspensions, during which Stern referred to the “palaver” on the airways about the incident.
Now when was the last time you heard that word? I was actually quite impressed, so impressed that I looked the word up in the dictionary to see if he used it correctly.
Stern must’ve been referring to the third definition–“profuse and idle talk; chatter”–and not the first, “a conference or discussion,” which might’ve aptly characterized his time with Patrick had they turned down the heat. (As it was, “war of words” might have been a better characterization of the exchange.)
Anyway, let’s hope this leads to more literate expressions in this vapid society of ours. Here’s to hearring some interesting palaver daily.
Thank you, David Stern, for reintroducing us to the joys and richness of the English language (but your suspensions were wrong and stupid!).
Your teachers, that is.
Most will lead you astray.Â Before they “teach” you how to write, read something they’ve written.Â I bet nine times out of ten it will sound and read like aca-bureaucratic garble.Â
Aca here stands for academic, and I team it with bureaucratic because there’s been a great meeting of the minds over the decades.Â Unfortunately, this meeting of the minds has had nothing to do with clarity of expression or a return to simplicity in writing.Â Rather, it’s a recognition that a) all money flows from government in one form or another, so you must write and speak in bureaucratese if you’re an academic or a bureaucrat, and b) the less well you’re understand and the more impossible you are to figure out, the more the acacrats will worship you.Â Befuddle them, and they’ll beat a path to your door.
I’m not sure where I’m going with this except I bring it up because a student in one of my writing classes the other night reminded me of the sad state of writing at the university teaching level.Â I suggested starting a student’s introductory paragraph with a question, and another student shot back adamantly, “Dr. So-and-So taught us never to start an essay with a question.”
Now, where Dr. So-and-So got this mandate from the English gods on high I have no idea, so I enquired what subject this person taught.Â “Social services” was the answer.
I rest my case.
A survey is out showing drivers in Miami are the crudest, rudest in the States.
Now, I’ll have to tip my hat to these Floridian drivers if this survey is accurate. If any drivers are ruder than those in my hometown of Los Angeles (which did rank in the top five on the survey), they must be bearing machine guns and rocket launchers and spouting insults faster than [tag]Don Imus[/tag].
Here in the Southland, as we call it, not only will you get run off the road by SUVs and trucks, you’ll get cussed out by every little old lady from Pasadena and shot at by every gangbanger. And that’s just driving two blocks to the local market.
Top that, Miami.
(Okay, so this only marginally deals with English usage, but I thought it was insightful.)