‘If I Were They’

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.

mo-ne-davisConditional “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).

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Put Bill Buckner in
the Hall of Fame

This has nothing to do with English or grammar, but with justice and dignity.

bill-buckner-should-be-in-the-hall-of-fameThere’s no reason Bill Buckner, baseball great who died today from the ravages of dementia, isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame other than that first-base error in the 1986 World Series.

May he rest in peace, and may the gods of baseball justice put him in the Hall of Fame, to rest forever for the talent, strength and dignity he displayed in a 22-year career and afterwards.

Come on, .262-average Ozzie Smith is in the HOF for backflips, and Bill Buckner is denied for one error. Time for justice.

How Did GIF Ever Become JIF?

Answer: Ignorance? Snobbery?

gif-vs.-jif-debate

GIF (or Graphics Interchange Format) is a file compression standard that allows images to load more quickly on a webpage.

Note that the word graphics uses a hard “g” sound, not a soft “g” or “j” sound. To this day, though, the web cognoscenti (snobs, in other words) insist that the word should be pronounced JIF.

Prove why. There’s nothing in the originating words to support a “j” sound.

Or, better yet, who cares? If they want to JIF themselves, let them.

The English Is Clear,
But Are They Serious?

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):

donut-bar-coming-to-riverside-ca
Really?

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.)

What Is a Shibboleth?

By most accounts, shibboleth is an interesting word, whose concept seems to cross most, if not all, cultures.

dictionary-for-shibbolethAccording 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.”

Beating the Super Bowl Addiction

I won’t be among the 12 percent of football fanatics who call in sick Monday morning with a Super Bowl hangover.

super-bowl-adThat’s because I refused to watch the game. The two teams were rigged by the NFL, who selected officials carefully so as to throw the championship games to New England and Los Angeles. That’s my gut read. Even if there were no conspiracy (but there was), both teams advanced on bad calls, or lack thereof, that would otherwise have guaranteed a genuine Kansas City-New Orleans match-up.

So I refused to watch in protest. However, days before the game, I correctly predicted (again, my NFL conspiracy theory) that the Patriots would win late on a questionable call. Which is exactly what happened when (as I saw on ESPN replay) officials didn’t call pass interference on New England on a fourth quarter touchdown pass. Sure, one Patriot player knocked the ball out of the receiver’s hands, but before that the other defenseman was clearly holding him.

Anyway, now that I’ve skipped a Super Bowl, I am free of any desire to see another one. What a waste of time — and hype, and deceit.

v. versus v versus vs. versus vs

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.

gavel-grammarsource-blogThen, 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.

A Donkey by Any Other Name…

As I sat upon my sledge and watched “Pardon the Interruption” this afternoon, somehow the subject of donkeys came up — can’t remember the context.

But I can remember the pronunciation. Mike Wilbon started off by pronouncing the singular animal’s name “dunk-key.”

Seconds later, Tony Kornheiser added depth of some sort to the discussion but still pronounced the animal as a “dunk-key.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always said “dawn-key.”

Maybe this is an east-of-the-Mississippi or just plain East Coast thing, but you dunk donuts, not animals.

Can anyone enlighten me?

Schadenfreude:
What a Lovely Word
— and Emotion

Only in German could one come up with a concocted word packing so much meaning, and ultimately so much human frailty and reality: schadenfreude.

schadenfreude-a-lovely-wordSchaden 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.