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?

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.

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.

Like, You Know, I Mean, Um, Uh

A study now suggests that people who sprinkle their sentences with repeated uses of “like,” “you know” and “I mean” are not being ditzy or mundane but actually are “thoughtful” and “conscientious” in their conversations.

This is the result of a study whose results appear in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

“When having conversations with listeners, conscientious people use discourse markers, such as ‘I mean’ and ‘you know,’ to imply their desire to share or rephrase opinions to recipients,” write the researchers.

The interesting part is that the three researchers at the University of Texas used a device called the Electronically Activated Recorder, or EAR, to analyze the use of these words and phrases.

Click on the journal’s title if you, like, you know, want to read more.

Children Who Can’t Write But Only Type

The so-called Common Core of education that drives the curriculum in most states de-emphasizes the teaching of cursive writing except in kindergarten and first grade. After that, students are expected to learn keyboard skills.

My initial thought: Is Apple behind this shift? Did Steve Jobs pay someone off at the Department of Education?

Anyway, studies have shown that writing, as opposed to keystroking on a smartphone or tablet, stimulates the brain and increases retention and learning in ways that using modern gadgets can’t.

Don’t believe me? Read the science behind it here:

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades?

Lotus Eaters, Unite! You Have Nothing to Lose But…

The Spelling Bee? The Clippers?

I was originally going to pen a little piece here titled “It Pays to Be a Racist,” referring to Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s incredible stupidity/unluck to be recorded raging against a non-white race and then his incredible sagesse/luck in selling his team for $2 billion and beating the National Basketball Association at its own game.

spelling-bee-champions-2014

Ansun Sujoe, 13, of Fort Worth, Texas, left, and Sriram Hathwar, 14, of Painted Post, N.Y., celebrate after being named co-champions of the National Spelling Bee, on Thursday, May 29, 2014, in Oxon Hill, Md.

Not bad to make $2 billion from a $12 million investment 30 years later. It would be like our taking a $12,000 investment to $2 million before we retire on our self-funded 401(k). You think your investments are going to do that? Think again. Time to be racist and get thrown out of the NBA!

Rather than that racist strategy (which will probably work only once in a thousand years), let’s look at tonight’s Spelling Bee, where 7th and 8th graders are smarter than the lot of us.

I mean, I watched the final few rounds, and I could count the words I got right on somewhere between my index and middle finger.

The amazing thing (I guess) is that, for the first time since 1962, there was a tie for winner, and lucky them — they didn’t have to split the pot. They both got the trophy and the $30,000 grand prize.

The word I loved (see my headline title) was lotophagi, Greek for Lotus Eaters (a la Lord Tennyson). Lotophagi in Greek mythology ate the Lotus plant and were consequently overcome with “blissful forgetfulness.”

Ah, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. Bring on the Lotus, I mean wine.

Bottom line, I couldn’t win any spelling contest with or without lotus eating, or with wine drinking, but I can certainly enjoy the bliss of forgetfulness as I retire each night and awake the next morning with a clean slate.

No, I am not smarter than a 7th grader, or an 8th grader, but I do love my “blissful ignorance.” Hail to the Greeks!

DWYL and Other Legacies of Steve Jobs

Here, all along I thought I was some kind of unappreciative, uncultured, unhip curmudgeon who, alone in the world, found Apple’s Steve Jobs to be an insufferable bully and phony who built fame and fortune on the backs of others.

Then I met up with Miya Tokumitsu.

Met up with, as in I read her article “In the Name of Love” in Jacobin online, self-dubbed “a magazine of culture and polemic.” (Ah, polemic — I love both the word and the concept!)

Ms. Tokumitsu, who holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, in her polemic (love it!) takes on both Jobs and the culture of “DWYL” that he helped create.

DWYL, in case you’re as uncultured and uninitiated as I am, stands for “Do What You Love,” as in choose only a profession you’re passionate about. (I actually did — writing — but the profession didn’t always love me back.)

Please read her article to see why she disparages and hates both the concept and rhetorical imperative of DWYL. Meantime, I love how she takes on Steve Jobs (I’ve truncated her writing a bit, so you really need to read her masterful essay in its entirety):

Jobs … cultivated a very specific image of himself as a worker: inspired, casual, passionate — all states agreeable with ideal romantic love. Jobs telegraphed the conflation of his besotted worker-self with his company so effectively that his black turtleneck and blue jeans became metonyms for all of Apple and the labor that maintains it.

But by portraying Apple as a labor of his individual love, Jobs elided the labor of untold thousands in Apple’s factories, conveniently hidden from sight on the other side of the planet — the very labor that allowed Jobs to actualize his love.

Anyway, you get the idea: I was right. Jobs was a dictator enjoying fame and fortune — and doing what he loved — by breaking the backs of others who had to do the unpassionate jobs (pun intended) of actually doing a day’s work, out of sight, unappreciated and underpaid.

History of ‘Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny’

Glomar-ExplorerI’ve probably read or heard the phrase “can neither confirm nor deny” umpteen zillion times when someone in government is being asked about a certain painfully obvious secret operation or unwanted development.

The phrase has now been dubbed “a non-denial denial,” an artful dodge when one is caught with one’s pants down. “I can neither confirm nor deny that I’m standing here half-naked” sounds good but doesn’t quite click with the visual reality, kind of like when it’s used by government spokespersons denying clandestine operations that are all over the news.

Anyway, this phrase dates back to 1974 when a vessel named the Glomar Explorer attempted to raise a sunken Soviet submarine in the Atlantic. Actually, not only attempted, but evidently succeeded as it turns out. However, when asked about the operation, the folks in charge said they could “neither confirm nor deny” any such thing was under way.

So the phrase now goes by the moniker of “The Glomar Response.”

You can read the fantastic story behind both the submarine retrieval and the phrase itself on the Radiolab website, in an article titled appropriately “Neither Confirm Nor Deny.”

Putin to the Rescue: Russia Outlaws Foul Language

If you’re a Russian official and use obscene language, you can be fined $40 under the terms of a new law signed by Vladimir Putin, but if you’re a regular citizen, you can be fined $70. Businesses can be on the hook for up to $1,400 per incident.

According to the Russian news agency ITAR-Tass (whatever happened to Pravda?), the new law “bans the use of obscene language when ensuring the rights of Russian citizens to use the state language and protecting and developing language culture.”

Huh? Unless the original statement means “while” where the translation says “when,” I’m not sure what they’re getting at here.

Anyway, the use of “obscene language” (undefined in the law) in a film will doom it to the underground, as the state won’t grant it a distribution license.

Rock stars, actors and performances of all ilk are to be similarly constrained by the law.

Books, CDs or movie DVDs will have to be distributed in a sealed package with the warning, “Contains obscene language,” or they cannot be otherwise foisted on a populace too tender to hear swear words.

Is this new law a response to the rock group Pussy Riot and its lyric putdown of V. Putin?

Anyway, Russia — with or without the Ukraine — sure sounds like a fun, open type of place.

Greatest Cinematic Death Soliloquy Ever?

rutger-hauer-tears-in-rain-soliloquy

Rutger Hauer delivers his ‘tears in rain’ death soliloquy in ‘Blade Runner’

I‘ve been watching the new BBC series “The History of Science Fiction” and have come away impressed, after three episodes, with how much heart, soul and literary achievement can be found in scifi flicks.

I think just about everyone the producers interviewed about Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (a film about a future filled both with real humans and with replicants, pseudo-humans with real human emotions and aspirations) waxes poetic about replicant Rutger Hauer’s death soliloquy, dubbed “tears in rain.”

Hauer mostly reimagined the soliloquy from the script. On the written page, however, his soliloquy loses most of the impact that the “History” interviewees rave about:

I’ve… seen things you people wouldn’t believe… [contemptuous laugh] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those… moments… will be lost in time, like [small cough] tears… in… rain. Time… to die…

But it’s certainly terser and more impactful than the scripted version:

I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion…I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!

Now, compare both of those to the on-screen rendition and draw your own conclusion. You can try this link to “Tears in Rain,” but if it doesn’t work, just do a search on YouTube. I tried embedding the clip here, but those idiots at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Scams, I mean, Sciences, have it blocked (even though I watched it on YouTube just minutes ago).