It’s rare that I come across someone in life who knows how to correctly form a conditional “if” clause. You often hear, “If I was rich (or fill in the blank),” uttered without a clue to the grammatical mistake they just made.
Conditional “if” clauses always take the plural form. (I know, some jackass out there will find some web reference disputing this, but he, she, it and they will be wrong.)
Thay’s why, tonight while I was watching the “KIDSCAST” of the Little League World Series Hawaii-vs.-Virginia game, I was surprised to hear Mo’ne Davis — the designated ESPN “analyst” — say, “If I were they,” using the conditional perfectly.
I say “surprised” only because I hear people in all walks of life — high, low, medium — butcher the conditional so regularly. Most people would probably have quipped, “If I was them,” or inching closer to correct usage, “If I were them.” The problem is them. Was/were is not an action verb and doesn’t take the objective (them) but retains the subjective usage (they).
This is what I get for living in a city that rolls up its sidewalks at 7:30 a.m. every morning (after they unroll at 7:29) and that goes completely dark on Easter and Christmas (i.e., every bar and restaurant shuts down):
Driving around Riverside (Calif.) this Easter Sunday, I saw a temporary wall encircling a new establishment, with the announcement: “Rising Soon: Donut Bar,” so I figured it would be a donut shop, you know, with coffee and stuff.
Then it hit me. At the very end of the wall was the photo shown here: A glass of beer with donuts! Are they serious? Are they onto something new, or just plain nuts?
Find out at donutbar.com. (And no, I’m not getting free fat pills to promote their new shop.)
By most accounts, shibboleth is an interesting word, whose concept seems to cross most, if not all, cultures.
According to Wikipedia, a shibboleth is “any custom or tradition, usually a choice of phrasing or even a single word, that distinguishes one group of people from another. Shibboleths have been used throughout history in many societies as passwords, simple ways of self-identification, signaling loyalty and affinity, maintaining traditional segregation, or protecting from real or perceived threats.”
However, the best take on this biblical word comes courtesy of Jonah Goldberg in his National Review column, “Shibboleth Is a Fun Word.”
Like the subtitle to my site, “If it weren’t for the exceptions, English wouldn’t have any rules,” the abbreviation of versus is a wide open field, except maybe in legal terms. Even there, whereas v. is standard in American law, other countries that use English prefer v without the period.
Then, for those who prefer the vs. version, the period also appears to be optional, as does italicization.
When all is said and done, the most important point to remember is you probably don’t want any legal issues involving your name and either v or v.
Only in German could one come up with a concocted word packing so much meaning, and ultimately so much human frailty and reality: schadenfreude.
Schaden means harm, and freude (repeated umpteen times in Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”) means joy. Thus the word means “feeling joy at someone else’s misfortune.”
Fortunately, the word has been appropriated into English as well.
I usually reserve my innermost schadenfreude for sports teams, especially arrogant sports teams that think their detritus doesn’t stink anymore. I felt ultimate schadenfreude when the New England Patriots got their clocks handed to them this past Sunday.
But let’s face it: When someone has wronged or abused us, doesn’t it bring satisfaction, if not outright joy, when that person gets his comeuppance?
So, is it wrong to feel schadenfreude? Probably most religions would confine it to some dark side of the human experience and condemn it, but as for me, I love it.
When I was in high school, computers didn’t exist, not the home version anyway. Typewriters abounded, however, and typing classes were pretty much required as you went through school.
In those low tech days, a famous saying, with what seemed like endless variations, went something like this: “If you put a million monkeys in a room with a million typewriters, they’d eventually write the great books of the western world.”
There were/still are versions with 100 or 1,000 monkeys toiling away to recreate Shakespeare, or at least Hamlet.
Of course, all such outcomes are literally impossible. Or, as Glen Tickle calculated in 2014:
“The chances of monkeys typing Hamlet are one in infinity. Unless someone wants to multiply out 36169,541, that’s good enough for us.”
In the process of researching this saying (how many monkeys would it take if you gave them PCs?), I did discover a useful resource, wordcounter.net. Not only will the site tell you how many words are in your document, it will also check your grammar for you. Give it a try.
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