Author: Gary McCarty

For What It’s Worth, Here’s How to Twerk

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I heard that twerk had been added to the Oxford Dictionary Online and soon found Kornheiser and Wilbon joking about “twerking,” so I figured it was worth 20 seconds of research.

Turns out that it’s a dance, maybe or maybe not associated with Miley Cyrus (who she?). Said dictionary says to twerk  is “to dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance.”

Nuff said.

How Big Is Your Gorilla?

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900-pound-gorilla-metaphoeYou know, the one you keep in your metaphorical locker for use when you want to refer to an immovable object, or to a huge presence that people keep ignoring for some reason.

I usually opt for 900 pounds, as in “the 900-pound gorilla in the room” (or wherever), but I’ve also seen 800-pound gorillas roaming out there in Englishdom.

Yesterday came a 500-pound version in a column by Bill Dwyer about the opening of Santa Anita Race Track, to wit: “Santa Anita is the 500-pound gorilla in Southern California racing now” due to the year-end closing of Hollywood Park.

Maybe Dwyer’s gorilla shed those 300 (or 400) pounds because Dwyer was writing about horse racing, not football (surely at least 900 pounds) or basketball (no less than 800). Even baseball must weigh in at least 650.

Anybody know how big these metaphorical gorillas are supposed to be? Or does it even matter?

But consider this: So far, no one has gone to a 1,000 pounds or more.

Except maybe doctors when referring to Obamacare. ♦

Categories: Grammar Notes

A la Recherche du Temps Perdu

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These machines are still used in funeral homes, but mine is for looks only.
These machines are still used in funeral homes, but mine is for looks only.

It’s musty, looks urine-stained, smells of an old biddy’s storage attic, but it’s a connection to my past — of sorts — just like a linotype machine, which I don’t own or display in my house as I do this blast from the past.

The urine-looking stains on my SmithCorona (the machine doesn’t use a space in its spelling, so I guess I won’t either) are hopefully just atmospheric corrosion, but one never knows when one purchases a half-century-old (or more) portable typewriter for 25 bones on eBay.

The carrying case for the portable was so smelly that I tossed it immediately upon receipt, and I’ve been spraying the typewriter itself with Simple Green and anything else I can think of ever since, in hopes of eradicating the Old Biddy kept-things-too-long smell.

The typewriter sits as an ornament in my upstairs study (read: spare bedroom) between a book on the history of Mickey Mouse and a radio/CD player. Talk about three relics — four if you count me.

As for linotypes, yes, my first job was as a scab reporter for the old Los Angeles Herald-Examiner, and the seven-edition-a-day rag was composed on a linotype and then assembled into pages by hand.

Ah, the good old days. I made $92 a week, but it was enough to buy my first house. Today, I doubt I could even feed myself and my three dogs on that.

(Meanwhile, for the real deal on used typewriters, check out My Typewriter. Also, please note that typewriters are still used in funeral homes because many states require typed death certificates. I hope that’s not an omen emanating from my recent purchase.) ♦

Categories: Grammar Notes

Slash (Not /) Where Have I Been?

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Doesn’t matter, really, but I’m back and now on a hosting service that seems to really rock, or whatever colloquialism applies these days.

Meanwhile, I just read an interesting piece about the slang transmogrification of the grammar slash mark, or /, which is now spelled out and used in different ways from its graphical predecessor.

Read “Slash: Not a Punctuation Mark Anymore” by Ann Curzan for further details. ♦

Categories: Grammar Notes News

The Difference Between ‘Ambience’ and ‘Ambiance’

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I was writing a post for my food blog on a restaurant in Culver City, Calif., when I noticed the editing tool underlining ambience with a squiggly red line, so I thought that maybe I was spelling it wrong.

Concerned, I did some research, and it turns out that the word can be spelled with either the e or the a after the i. With the a, the word is in its French form (meaning it should properly be italicized if used in that spelling), and with the e, the word is Anglicized.

Either way, ambience (or ambiance) refers to the atmosphere or mood in a certain environment.


Categories: Grammar Notes

Kraft Stirs Controversy and Comedy with Proposed Name ‘Mondelez’

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The Kraft Foods Inc. Board of Directors will vote tomorrow on whether to adopt the name Mondelez for a new business unit even after controversy and comedy erupted over the word, which sounds like the slang expression for oral sex in Russian.

Kraft says the word (pronounced mohn-dah-LEEZ) was coined to indicate "worldwide deliciousness."

Jokes about the name have flooded the media, both online and print.

Michael Mitchell, a Kraft spokesman, however, points out that "the name has to be mispronounced to get that unfortunate meaning."

The biggest gaffe in words to date was probably Chevrolet's introduction of the Nova automobile in Latin America. In Spanish, nova means "doesn't go."

Should Highly Regarded Be Hyphenated?

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Someone did a search with the query, "Should highly regarded be hyphenated?" The answer is no, and here's why:

When an adjective is modified by an adverb, as "regarded" is by "highly," you never hyphenate. With compound adjectives, however, you do hyphenate. An example would be "inner-motivated," as in, "She was an inner-motivated artist."

(In contrast, "highly motivated artist" would not be hyphenated because it's not a combination of two adjectives but of an adjective and adverb.)

Buying into ‘Website’ and Holding Firm on ‘E-Mail’

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I put together my first cyber-presence back in 1993 in the days before Marc Andreessen had developed the graphical user interface for transmissions on the Internet.

As I, a newspaper journalist, then grew up with emerging cyber alternatives to print, I was taught that World Wide Web (the "www" in so many URLs) and Internet were proper nouns that needed capitalization and the respect that — ahem — comes with being proper nouns. Thus one would build a Web site, retaining the capitalization of Web out of all due respect.

Also, one would send an e-mail, the accepted contraction for electronic mail, replete with the separating/connecting hyphen.

Now, the Associated Press and its 2012 Stylebook have turned tradition on its ear and scuttled the respect historically due all things Web.

Sacre bleu!

The Associated Press Stylebook now endorses website as the proper form for Web site. And it spells email without the hyphen!

Now, the AP manual has its roots in the days of hot metal (linotype) when each letter or space cost a penny or so to forge in metal, so the premium was on making everything shorter and more compact (thus abbreviations like sen. for senator, etc.), but to throw out the capital W in Web — sacrilege!

However, I've made my peace with the AP and will now use website, but I will never remove the hyphen from e-mail no matter how much of a pain in the ass it is to have to hit the hyphen button on a QWERTY keyboard!

Call me e-stubborn.

Or should I write it e-Stubborn out of respect for a dying tradition?

He Wrote/She Wrote: People Track This Stuff?

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A study released yesterday purports to find importance in the frequency of the he pronoun versus the she pronoun in American English, the obvious implication being the prevalence of male-focused sexism in writing throughout the ages.

According to this study, the ratio of male to female pronouns (he, she plus variations) stood at 3.5:1 in 1950, the larger number representing male usage, of course, which then swelled to 4.5:1 through the mid-1960s, when the sexual revolution set us all free.

The ratio now stands at 2:1 or less (that being the perhaps-outdated 2005 standard).

Now this is all well and good, but I think what it mainly shows is writers' ignorance of the beauty of using the plural form. They contains both he's and she's, and no one can ascertain the ratio — nor would anyone want to do so.

I cast my vote for plural pronouns — and nouns — when writing generically. The ratio, if there is one, will always be 1:1 when using the plural.

Categories: Grammar Notes

Are You Dumber Than a Sixth Grader?

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To answer the question posed in my headline, it would take quite a bit of immersion in texting to plunge below sixth-grade standards, er. reality.

And this is no LOL matter.

A Pennsylvania State University study tested students aged 8 to 12 on their grammar and then surveyed them on their texting habits via cell phones and other devices. No surprise here, but grammar skills deteriorated with text usage among those who responded to the survey.

The study was conducted by the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Pennsylvania State University and published in New Media & Society.

"They may use a homophone, such as 'gr8' for great, or an initial, like, 'LOL' for laugh out loud," said Drew Cingel, a former undergraduate student in communications at Penn State and currently a doctoral candidate in media at Northwestern University who was involved in the study.

"An example of an omission that tweens use when texting is spelling the word would, w-u-d."

The use of these shortcuts may hinder a child's ability to switch between techspeak and the normal rules of grammar, Cingel said in a Penn State release.

Now, wud you believe that?

Categories: Grammar Notes