November 11

French Forte v. Italian Forte

A job interview:Leyna Nguyen

“Tell me what your forte [pronounced for-tay] is.”

“You mean my forte [pronounced fort]?”

“No, this is not cowboys and Indians. I need to know your forte [fortay] for this position.”

Interview over, applicant walks out disgusted at the misuse of forte.

I confess, I have to thank TV newscaster Leyna Nguyen (pronounced “win,” as she explained during the same telecast) for the distinction between the French forte, meaning “strength,” and the Italian forte, for “loud” in musical rendition.

One’s strength is pronounced fort, and the musical emphasis is pronounced fortay.

But don’t tell your boss that if he or she asks you for your forte (fortay).

Just break out your violin, and play it loudly.

September 27

‘Phase’ or ‘Faze’: SI Doesn’t Know the Difference

Rather than giving me free flights, American Airlines subscribed me to a slew of magazines, including Sports Illustrated, where today I came upon this sentence referring to Miami Heat player Chris Bosh:

“Bosh will have to take on a new role in Miami, but such matters no longer phase the 10-time All-Star.”

Poor writing, worse copy-editing and nonexistent proofreading.

Here’s the definition of phase from dictionary.com: “to schedule or order so as to be available when or as needed.”

And here’s the definition of faze: “to cause to be disturbed or disconcerted; daunt.”

In my elderly phase of life, I was fazed by such sloppy English.

June 10

‘Zhuangbility’ May Be Banned in China, But It Fits Many Americans

Consider this: Zhuangbility (pronounced roughly “jangbility”) is a great Chinese fusion word meaning “pretending to be great.”

The word is so popular on the Mainland — I assume as a put-down of the high and mighty — that the Cyberspace Administration for China (CAC) is hoping to ban it from usage online.

Let them ban it. I can find voluminous uses for it stateside, without naming any names.

Diaosi, roughly “loser,” is also being frowned upon in Chinese cyberspace. But geili, or “awesome,” and dianzan, “like” as in a Facebook like, have been given the official imprimatur.

The CAC denies this is an attempt at censorship (“I’m shocked, shocked — censorship in China?”), but is designed “to create a comfortable living space for netizens.”

April 16

‘Even If You’re Right, You’re Wrong’

The above sentence was voiced by a female coworker today who was trying to convince a male row-mate how his wife could get mad at him over something that seemed so true and transparent to him.

I immediately chimed in with my agreement, remembering all the times in the past when my wife would get on my case despite my noblest of intentions and wisest of actions, or so I deemed that at the time.

I even ventured a step further and opined, perhaps sexist-ly, that “Men are born wrong.”

Anyway, I just wanted to throw this out there to solicit comments and reactions, and, I guess, to see if anyone really reads this blog.

October 5

Proposed New Words: ‘Doofitic’ and ‘Doofusotic’

I‘ve long used the adjective and noun doofitic to describe a person like me who is a certified doofus.

Now, I’m not sure if there’s a generally accepted definition (or spelling) of doofus, but let me generalize in saying that such a person routinely commits whacky, off-the-wall, unintelligible, even socially unacceptable actions — all harmless — without either control or consciousness of such actions. In my case, I’m conscious of my doofity but unable to control it.

As I was walking my three dogs this morning in 9 a.m.Riverside’s 102-degree temperatures, I pondered why the four of us  belonged so naturally together. It was then that the word doofitic re-emerged. We’re all doofuses, I concluded — in other words, a natural pairing. When we’re together, nothing else matters. We’re are own little world.

It was then that I got thinking of an alternative to doofitic to make it more readily understandable, and I came up with doofusotic. And now that we’re back from the dog park, another word comes to mind — doofusness.

Let’s add all three of these verbal morsels to the social lexicon.

And doofuses of the world, let’s unite. We have nothing to lose but our “who cares?” attitude!

September 19

Alibaba: ‘Just Be Who You Are’

Okay, all right, Alibaba the Chinese Internet portal didn’t proclaim “just be who you are,” but its founder, Jack Ma, did this morning on CNBC, just before his IPO sold 100 million shares at $92.70 in 10 minutes.

Of course, a Chinese company’s IPO is hardly English grammar stuff, but Mr. Ma, born and reared in China (but who did study in the U.S.), does speak excellent English.

I don’t recall the question, but Mr. Ma responded that, whenever he doubts himself, he watches “Forest Gump” the movie.

And from that, he derives the lesson, “Just be who you are.”

Sound advice. It’s impossible to be someone else, anyway. I know from trying and failing.

August 19

‘Violence Flaring, Bullets Loading’ — The Militarization of Our Cities

You’re probably not old enough to remember first-hand Barry McGuire’s song “Eve of Destruction,” in which he laments, “Violence flaring, bullets loading. You’re old enough to kill but not for voting.”

(Actually, I’m pretty sure all those gerunds got their ending g‘s removed during the song, but I left the g‘s on because they made the headline cleaner looking. Sound reasoning, huh?) Anyway, that particular song was about the Vietnamese War and the accompanying dissent and turmoil here at home.

We were able to end that mess by giving Americans the right to vote when they turn 18 — and the South Vietnamese the right to defend themselves all alone as we cut off all funding and support.

The reference point here is Ferguson, Mo., and the ongoing demonstrations. To be honest, the overriding significance of the whole issue kind of slipped by me until I read today’s techdirt with a post by Mike Masnick on how the “law” in Missouri is not allowing the press the freedom to cover the demonstrations — even after signing a court order to do just that!

Nor are they allowing the demonstrators much in the way of freedom of expression.

Masnick also introduced me the photographic work of Getty photographer Scott Olson, who was even arrested by police while trying capture news photos in Ferguson (see noninterference pact above).

If you want to graphically experience how the police in America have become our adversaries and armed themselves to the teeth to do so, then take a look at Scott Olson’s collection of Ferguson pictures here:

IRAQ OR MISSOURI?

August 7

If We Have ‘Continuously,’ Do We Need ‘Continually’?

Okay, I get it. If something happens continuously, then it never ceases. There’s no interruption. “The Mississippi River flows continuously.”

So how does continually distinguish itself from continuously to justify its existence?

My first thought was, “Okay, it happens repeatedly but not ceaselessly, like a dog barking each and every night.”

Partially right, except dictionary.com gives the second definition of continually as “without cessation or intermission; unceasingly; always.

I’ll continually be confused by the distinction, as in I’ll never stop being confused, but I won’t continuously think about it.

Huh?

July 3

Man Claims to Own Trademark for the Word ‘How’

Now comes word of a lawsuit in New York, where a man who used the word how twice in the title of a book he wrote is suing yogurt-maker Chobani for building a marketing campaign emphasizing how.

That’s right: Dov Seidman, author of HOW: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything, claims the way in which Chobani is using how in its current marketing campaign is a blatant rip-off of his book’s use of the word. And he claims that his use of the word is trademark protected.

In a way, Chobani asked for the lawsuit by tweeting to Seidman: “Thanks for inspiring the world to care about ‘how.’ Can you help inspire the food industry, too?”  The Seidman lawsuit claims: “Chobani’s new branding platform … employs ‘HOW’ in precisely the same manner as plaintiffs employ their HOW marks: as a noun connoting responsible and ethical corporate behaviors.(I personally don’t see how being used as a noun in the book’s title, but anyway….)

Bottom line, how could anyone trademark a single-syllable word?

I’d like to trademark awesome so no one could (over)use it anymore. That’s how I’ll get even with the destroyers of good English.

June 26

Octopi or Octopuses?

Now, we probably don’t use either the singular or plural form of octopus very often unless we own or frequent sushi bars, but most of us have long been mistaken about how to pluralize the critter.

I’ve heard octopi used a lot, but that is a completely erroneous pluralization. The word comes from Greek, not Latin (Greek: oktopous, or eight-footed). Were it of Latin origin, octopi would be fine.

That leaves us English speakers with octopuses, which the dictionary confirms. However, the real, honest-to-God plural form is octopodes.

Bank that one in your memory if you ever plan on competing on “Jeopardy.” Otherwise, just go on saying octopi if you like.