Month: October 2007

NotPhrase: ‘A Whole ‘Nother Thing’

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No matter what talents (not many) he displayed on the floor on "Dancing With the Stars," and no matter how well he runs a professional basketball operation, [tag]Mark Cuban[/tag] can butcher the English language with the best of us.

Here’s a NotPhrase he used on TV tonight and one I sometimes use myself:  "A whole ‘nother thing."

I’m not sure how one would correct that.  "A whole other thing altogether" would seem to be the most logical and correct usage.  Or use "a different matter altogether"–there you go!

I wouldn’t be surprised if the folks at the Oxford dictionary haven’t already added ‘nother, but they probably spelled it nother.


Categories: Grammar Sucks

There for Their, and Smith’s for Smiths

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I keep chalking up abuses of the English language for my hoped-for ultimate word on correct English usage in my book Fast Food English.

In my English composition class this past week, I sat through (maybe I should say thru, huh?) endless presentations where, without exception, the presenters used there for the possessive their.

In general, native English users in the United States have a hard time with the possessive, often using it’s for its–and the list goes on.  (Clue: possessive pronouns never–should be easy to remember–use apostrophes.)

I owe this one to Copyblogger, who runs a blog on copyediting; in his latest e-mailing, he pointed out that people nowadays (or should I say, like my students, now days) get all confused over the apostrophe and use it to form plurals.  He used the example of the erroneous boy’s for boys.

However, I’ve got an example closer to home.  Each morning when I drive down my street, I see a see in front of someone’s home that says, "The Smith’s" (name changed to protect the guilty). 

Now, even if you put a noun behind this construction to make it a true possessive, such as The Smith’s House, it would still be incorrect because Smith is not plural.  Smiths is, just as Joneses is for Jones.  Simple pluralization rules apply, which I’ll broach one day in my Building Blocks series.

For now, I’ll just point out the abuse.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

‘Portmanteau’ the Word Carries Some Baggage

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It’s either a large leather suitcase with two compartments, or a combination of two words to form one new word.  What is it?

Of course, if you read the title, you’ll surmise that it’s portmanteau.

What you’re reading here is a portmanteau–a combination of Web and log, or blog.

Other notable examples are smog (smoke and fog), motel (motor and hotel) and brunch (breakfast and lunch).

Collectively, these are all portmanteaux.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

The Kiss That Made Film History

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In tribute to actress [tag]Deborah Kerr[/tag], who passed away yesterday at 86, I offer here a clip of her kiss on the beach with [tag]Burt Lancaster[/tag], arguably the most famous scene in film history, certainly in terms of the sheer number of still photographs showing the kiss (okay, so this has nothing to do with English, but Ms. Kerr was British):


Categories: Grammar Sucks

Spot On for Bill O’Reilly: To Bloviate

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The dictionary definiation of bloviate is "to speak pompously," and if that doesn’t sum up people with causes in America, nothing does.  So my guess is that, if you hate Bill O’Reilly, you’re probably a far-left ideologue and/or a bloviator (the two usually go hand in hand). 


Categories: Grammar Sucks

Building Blocks of English XI: Auxiliary Verbs

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Main verbs often need helper verbs to complete their meaning, and these helpers are called auxiliary verbs.

For instance, you’re thinking of going out to dinner, so you say to your roommate:  "I may go out to dinner tonight and try that new restaurant."

If go is the main verb, what is the auxiliary?  Of course, it’s may.

Auxiliary verbs are often arranged into two groups, those that have to be joined to a main verb and those that can either stand alone or help a main verb.

Auxiliary verbs that can also be main verbs: be, being, been; am, is, are, was, were; have, has, had; do, does, did.

Auxiliary verbs that must appear with main verbs:  can, could; may, might; shall, should; will, would; must, ought (to).

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Essential v. Quintessential: Does Anyone Know the Difference?

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When you hear sports jock radio and TV hosts using the word quintessential, you have to wonder if the world really understands what’s essential and what’s quintessential?

In short, essential means "indispensable," while quintessential means "the most typical."

I think most people just opt for quintessential because it sounds so fancy-schmancy without stopping to think about what they really mean.

I have no ready examples, but the next time you hear someone use quintessential, ask yourself if that person means "indispensable" or "most typical."


Categories: Grammar Sucks

Lewt: Gamers’ Jargon

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They’re rewriting the English language to make it more phonetic.  That’s about the only conclusion I, a non-video-gamer, can draw when I come across words like lewt.

Which means?

Loot, of course.  Just like it sounds.

For further reference, check the site

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Building Blocks of English IX: Verbs

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I haven’t continued this series for a while because I had the sense that I was jumping around too much and wasn’t being very systematic, but since I tackled nouns last time, I guess I should tackle verbs this time.  After all, every independent clause must have a noun (or its evil twin, the pronoun) and a verb.

Saving tenses and voices for another discussion, let’s look at the three main types of nouns in English–transitive, intransitive and linking.

A transitive verb takes an object after it–it does something to something or someone else.  "Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs that year."  In this sentence, hit is the transitive verb and home runs is the direct object.

An intransitive verb does not take an object.  "He pouts a lot."  Pouts is the verb and a lot is an adverb, not an object.  If you just said, "He pouts," that would be fine also for this intransitive verb usage.

Finally, a linking verb merely connects a subject with a complement (not a direct object).  Linking verbs are often, but not exclusively, variations of the state-of-being verb to be.  "I am Gary" is an example of this type of state-of-being linking verb.  Other verbs take complements as well and link the subject with the complement.  "I feel fine" is an example of a linking verb being complemented (connecting to) the adjective I. 

The point to remember here is that linking verbs connect to adjectives, not adverbs.  If you’re not feeling well, therefore, you must say, "I feel bad."  If you said instead, "I feel badly," it would mean that your sense of touch or feeling is bad and would have nothing to do with your physical or psychological state as in the first example.

Do you feel confused–or bad–after reading all this?  Not to worry, just come back later and read it a couple more times for comprehension.  Repetition is the secret to success in any endeavor in life.


Categories: Grammar Sucks