Month: December 2008

It’s Been a Great Year for Schadenfreude

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English is mostly a Germanic language with some French thrown in owing to the Norman (French) Conquest of England, so it’s a great time to revive and revel in a German word not used that often but particularly a propos this year–schadenfreude.

Roughly translated, schadenfreude means "joy over other people’s suffering and losses."

With the circle of fat-cat millionaires and billionaires now being brought down singlehandedly by Bernie Madoff and his $50-billion Wall Street  Ponzi scheme, we can all take some delight in seeing others get what’s due them. If we ourselves have suffered losses this year (raise your hand to join mine if you have), l’affaire Madoff is just what the doctor ordered.

Economist and columnist Thomas Sowell tells a great fable that cuts to the heart of schadenfreude–and human nature.

Two Russian peasants, one named Ivan and one Boris, live a rough-and-tumble existence in the forest, but Boris (or Ivan, I can’t recall who) has a goal and Ivan has nothing.

One day Ivan stumbles upon a genie in the forest who offers to grant him one wish but one wish only. So what does Ivan ask for?

"Make Boris’s goat die."

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Learning a Myriad of Myriad New Things Daily

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I remember back in high school being excoriated by an English teacher who said, in effect, "You can’t say a myriad of. Myriad is an adjective."

So, blindly, I believed that for the next several decades until…today.

I finally looked it up. Turns out myriad started out as a noun meaning "innumerable" or literally "10,000" (once considered an "innumerable" sum).

Then in the 19th century, Samuel Taylor Coleridge helped convert it into an adjective when he wrote the phrase, "Myriad of myriad lives."

Not sure what that meant or referred to, but as a result, we now have myriad as both noun and adjective to abuse.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Department of Eerie Acronyms: PIK and DCOH

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My day gig these days has me doing research on labor law and employment issues, and today I came across a nonprofit hospital posting from North Carolina, which announced that new acronyms were being added to hospital jargon during our current economic difficulties.

The author mentioned two:  PIK, or payment in kind, which refers to paying one’s bills with something other than money, and DCOH, or days’ cash on hand–a measure of how long one can survive.

The second one is truly scary, but I was calculating that for myself up until I landed this recent gig a month ago.

Come next year, I may be back to counting DCOH.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Department of Let’s Call a Spade a Spade

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Following yesterday’s post about phrases, I guess I should’ve looked up "calling a spade a spade" before using it, but I think it conveys what I want.

The subject is the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the PC foxtrot that most of the media used to report about it.  Fearful of linking the murderous rampage to Muslims or Islam, many media labeled the terrorists by various euphemisms, for instance, "gunmen," "militants," "practitioners" and then this–"teenage gunmen," as used in this sentence from the newspaper The Australian: "An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok."

I think they did a bit more than running amok.  They obviously set out on a preplanned and premeditated terrorist assault to try to bring the financial capital of India to a halt, just as al Qaeda operatives did in 2001 to New York.

The Associated Press even felt sorry that Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed being linked to their religion."

What next, tea with Obama at Camp David where he’ll apologize of all of us mean-spirited and prejudiced Americans, him excluded, of course?

I owe this all to Mark Steyn and his syndicated column, which you can read here.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Annus Horribilis: Phrase Finder to My Rescue

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I saw a blog title today using the phrase above, annus horribilis (which the writer mispelled by using two l’s), and I had to go look it up.  Not even I know everything.  LOL

To my rescue came a handy site named Phrase Finder.

Turns out that annus horribilis is annus mirabilis–"year of miracles"–turned on its head to mean "year of horrors."  It was popularized in 1992 by Queen Elizabeth II.

Categories: Grammar Sucks

Rosie O’Donnell Reaches New Low in English Usage

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I stumbled upon a Web effort by MSN today to discover and name the "11 Lamest Blogs."  I was actually hoping to be named on the list, so I could get some zillions of vistors.  Alas, I didn’t make it, but you all know how lame I am.  LOL.

Someone whom Donald Trump detests (me too!) did make the list, however, and she’s none other than acerbic (read: bitchy) TV/movie/talk show/radio failure Rosie O’Donnell.

MSN gigs her for her absolutely lame usage of English, in which nothing is capitalized or punctuated (read the assessment).  However, I have a bigger beef.  I just went to her site and couldn’t even stay on her home page for more than a second before it lurched me over to some stupid fund-raising effort called "Rosie’s Broadway Kids."

Maybe Rosie realized how pathetic her site is and decided instead to use her name to raise money.  No doubt, 90 percent of funds raised will go to Ms. O’Donnell for administrative costs, but the kids might get a nickel here and a dime there.


Categories: Grammar Sucks