It Can’t Be ‘Biggest’ and ‘Only’

A headline in my local rag, the Los Angeles Times, said in reviewing a reprise of a 25-year-old movie that it was the director’s "biggest, and only, hit."

Ahem.  To be biggest, something has to be in competition with at least two somethings else.  If it’s competing just with one other movie, for instance, it can be a bigger hit, but to be the biggest, it needs at least two competitors. 

So, if this director had only one hit movie, then that movie could not be either bigger or biggest, but just "his only big hit."

Okay, no one cares, but I thought I’d bring it up anyway as an example of abusing the English language without anyone’s noticing it except probably me.

Your Body Says It All

Body language and other nonverbal cues often (usually) communicate more than one’s spoken words.  Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to strategize one’s bodily movements; they’re almost involuntary at times, and that’s why they’re so revelatory.

Anyway, watch body language guru Tonya Reiman give you some tips:

Self-Write, Self-Written Blog: Sports Babble Redux

I got a good laugh on Monday when [tag]Billy Martin[/tag], the lawyer for now-jailed Atlanta Falcons quarterback [tag]Michael Vick[/tag], issued a statement saying that his client had “self-surrendered” to begin his undetermined-in-length prison term.

Martin’s statement went on to further praise Vick for his “self-surrender.”

Now, to surrender is something you do voluntarily anyway rather than (usually) facing some more horrendous consequences, such as being shot dead on the spot.  Therefore, it is always an act of the “self.” 

Taking Martin’s usage to my more unfamous and mundane self, since I pen this blog voluntarily without compensation and with no gun at my head, I must “self-write” it, and it is therefore “self-written.”

Did you just “self-read” that?

Yankee Gaffer Obviously Doesn’t Read This Blog

Recently, I blogged about the difference between me and myself, the latter being unable to stand alone as a pronoun.

However, Yankee scion Steinbrenner Lite (prodigal son Hank) managed to screw it up in this quotation about negotiations with Alex Rodriguez:

"He [A-Rod] wanted to make sure myself [sic] and my brother knew that he was sincere and serious."

I guess Hank didn’t read my post this week about the uses of me and myself.

Of course, if you’re next in line to inherit the New York Yankees, it doesn’t realy matter how grammatical you are.

Bureaucratizing Good English

My friend Jill, who is Chinese but knows English well and teaches it in Taipei, wrote to ask me about the use of the prepation to (the swift, etc.) in this quote from Ecclesiastes

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.”

Later, I found this bureaucratese (modern) rendition of the same famous passage as satirized by George Orwell:

“Objective consideration of contemporary phenomena compels the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account." 

"Just so," as my Irish ancestors would say.  We’re in a bad way.  ("Awesome," I should say.  LOL)

No Longevity, But Maybe Some Levity

As reported by Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times, here is a conversation between Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on TNT’s "Inside the NBA":

Barkley: "I was reading that heavy drinking is not good for your health, so I have to stop."

Smith: "Stop drinking what?"

Barkley: "No, I gotta stop reading."

I agree with the message, but the gotta has gotta go.

‘Myself’ Is Not a Polite Version of ‘Me’…

it’s just ignorantly wrong.

Myself is a reflexive pronoun that must appear with the use of me; it cannot be substituted for me.

If you don’t want to talk about yourself because you feel it appears arrogant, feel free never to talk about yourself.  However, if you’re just trying to paper over the ego thrill of talking about yourself, myself ain’t the solution.  It just shows you’re stupid.

‘Throw Under the Bus’: Common but Hard to Trace

I’m hearing people use the phrase “throw under the bus” so frequently that I began wondering about its origin.

Best answer I can find is that the origin is either unknown or unfindable.

Here’s one:

From Slang: the Authoritative Topic-by-Topic Dictionary of American Lingoes from All Walks of Life by Paul Dickson (Pocket Books, New York, 1990), under “Automotive Slang,” “throw under a bus — Sales talk for selling someone a car or van with all the extras and options at full sticker price or better.”

Here’s another from Grant Barrett:

“Despite the Urban Dictionary entry (which, like all such dubious etymologies, lacks details–call letters? station manager name?) I was only able to take it back for certain to 1991, when it appeared in a courtroom context. There is also a bracketed quote from 1984, which, as in HDAS style, means that it’s not certain to perfectly epitomize the term being defined, from the rock-and-roll industry. It has it only as ‘under the bus’ not ‘throw under the bus’ or ‘put under the bus’ (which is a less common variant).”

Anybody else want to weigh in?

Never Trust a Film That Can’t Spell Cannot

The trailers for the upcoming film about the English literary legend of Beowulf not only make it smack too much of 300 for my taste, but they can’t even spell cannot right. 

This is not too surprising.  I’m actually shocked when I find a student who actually uses cannot correctly rather than ignorantly writing can not.

I’m sure there are many of you out there who will find some ridiculous reference saying that both spellings are correct, but sorry, both you and your references are being silly.