Category Archives: Fake Words

Racist Typo

I was reading the Metro on the train this morning when I came across a travel feature on Mystic, Connecticut.  I briefly scanned it — and I couldn’t believe my eyes.

Talking about a bar in town, this is how the piece begins:

The bar is rapidly filling up, and soon the air is thick with chatter and the chink of ice on glass.

I knew something wasn’t right.  I had seen that word before, and I was pretty sure it was a racist term.  After double-checking with a few coworkers and Urban Dictionary, I confirmed it.  It is a racist term for a Chinese person or a person of Asian descent.

How could this appear in the paper?!

Clearly, the writer, Linda Laban, was searching for an onomatopoeia of some kind.  Either she originally put in the word clink and an editor changed it, or she thought that the word chink had a good sound to it.  And I in no way think that she or the editors are racist. It looks like an accidental typo.

That being said, where was the editor to find this horrible error and remove it?

We all know that Metro is no stranger to errors — the paper is usually peppered with them.

Even today, there was a great blurb on the front page:

It is predicted that 56 billion people worldwide will be hypertensive by 2025.

At least I can laugh at that one.

Urban Dictionary: Define Your World

You’d think that Urban Dictionary would be one of my mortal enemies.  This is a site where anyone can create a word, define it and put it up for review.  It’s like Wikipedia, only it’s for words.

Well, to be honest, I kind of like it.  Even though most of the definitions are crap, it’s very easy to spot the crappy ones.  And some of them are very useful.  In fact, I admit that I actually used the Web site to learn what a number of disgusting sexual expressions actually meant (like a D.S. and a C.S. — but THIS IS A FAMILY-FRIENDLY BLOG and I will not go into any further detail than that!).

My friend Lisa added the word crarty, which she coined with some of her classes:

crarty
A combination of the words “crazy” and “party,” denoting a festivity that is beyond the normal party level status.
“We’re having a crarty on Friday night! Get pumped!”

(I love the word and have started using it in my daily speech, though it isn’t exactly conducive to those with Boston accents!)

I decided to add bingo arm, which is currently under review with the editors.  I have to give my co-worker Caroline credit for this.  I was telling her about my recent trip to Foxwoods, when I won $92.50 in a mere six hands of Blackjack, and I told her about playing high stakes bingo.

She then started talking about all the old ladies who play bingo and are fat and have their cellulite shaking everywhere.  I laughed and demonstrated how they would frantically scream and wave their arms whenever someone yelled out, “BINGO!”

“Bingo arm,” Caroline said simply.  I thought it was a common expression until I realized that nobody else knew what I was talking about whenever I mentioned it (like here).

Here’s what I submitted to Urban Dictionary:

bingo arm
A flabby upper arm that jiggles when you raise it and move it around, not unlike the arm of an overweight senior citizen who spends all her free time frantically waving her hand at the bingo table.
“Don’t wave while wearing a short-sleeved shirt or people will see that you have a bad case of bingo arm.”

What do you think?  Love it or lose it?

All Right vs. Alright — Part II

I spent last night enjoying the Harry Potter festivities in “Hogwarts Square” (Harvard Square), including a great concert by Harry and the Potters. I went with my sister, and despite not camping out all day, we got a spot right at the front of the line. We had our books in hand (only $22.01 including tax at the Coop — the cheapest I’ve seen) and were walking out of the store by 12:17.

Even so, I was a bit too tired to post last night.

A coworker, Spence, sent the following piece to me yesterday, telling me that it would provide great material for the all right vs. alright debate. It was written by Robert C. McGill, the resident “Grammar Maven” at Random House. You can check it out here.

This is a great piece because it has so much historical context and because the author is neutral. He makes a great point: language is continuing to evolve, and at this point in time, there is no truly official rule that states that alright should be stricken from the record permanently. All we can do is explore the debate further.

Here it is:

The other day my wife was composing an email message and used the word “alright.” The spell checker flagged it and she asked me why. I told her (because it was what I had learned in high school forty years ago) that it is wrong; that she should use “all right.” Since then, I looked it up in a dictionary and discovered that “alright” is…all right. When did this happen? Was my teacher (gasp!) wrong? And what about my spell checker? Enlighten me, please.

The spelling of all right–or more appropriately the spelling of alright, since the former is never questioned–is one of the Great Usage Debates of recent times.

Forms like all right, in whatever spelling, were around in the Middle English period, and then died out for no obvious reason. They reappeared in the early eighteenth century; it is uncertain whether all right was a re-coinage, or whether we just have no written evidence for four hundred years.

In modern times, the form alright is first found in the 1890s. Presumably, it was created and/or popularized based on analogy with such words as already and altogether. These spellings, though, had been long established by that time, while alright, being newer, could be criticized. And criticized it was, from the early 1900s onwards.

Usage writers and copy editors (and schoolteachers) tend to really, really hate alright. Some of the comments one can collect from them are “horrendous,” “ignorant,” “illiterate,” “over my dead body,” “lazy,” and the like. This hostility has not changed much in recent years, despite the ever-increasng frequency of the form.

It has always been true that the form alright has been more common in non-formal contexts. But it has also been used for the better part of the century by undoubtedly notable writers. Theodore Dreiser used it through the manuscript for The “Genius”, though H.L. Mencken made him change it to all right. Other alright users include James Joyce in Ulysses, Flannery O’Connor, Mordecai Richler, Langston Hughes, and Gertrude Stein.

While in general, alright can be found in all the senses of all right, in practice there can be a real semantic distinction between the two, because the two word form all right can mean ‘all correct’ or something like that, while alright can only mean ‘good; safe; healthy’, etc. when used as an adjective. (Similar distinctions are found with already and all ready, though these forms have diverged to the point where they are not interchangable at all.) Thus the sentence “The Kids Aren’t All Right” can mean ‘not all the kids are right’, or ‘some of the kids are wrong’, while “The Kids Aren’t Alright” can only mean ‘the kids are not OK’.

This sentence is not theoretical; it appeared as the cover line in New York magazine in 1995, which occasioned such an outburst of criticism that the magazine felt obliged to run an explanation several issues later. Their main points were that alright was a clear allusion to the song “The Kids Are Alright,” by The Who, and the clarity issue mentioned above. Their explanation probably did little to satisfy the many outraged English teachers who called their offices.

The current status of alright is hard to assess. It is very common even in edited writing–some studies have suggested that it is more common, which seems unlikely. Many people and many periodicals use it regularly. Yet it is still loudly condemned (your spell checker, like most, is designed to reject anything that’s even slightly problematic). Depending on your linguistic philosophy, it is either an outright error that is distressingly widespread, or a perfectly standard usage that is unnecessarily condemned.

All Right vs. Alright — Part II

I spent last night enjoying the Harry Potter festivities in “Hogwarts Square” (Harvard Square), including a great concert by Harry and the Potters. I went with my sister, and despite not camping out all day, we got a spot right at the front of the line. We had our books in hand (only $22.01 including tax at the Coop — the cheapest I’ve seen) and were walking out of the store by 12:17.

Even so, I was a bit too tired to post last night.

A coworker, Spence, sent the following piece to me yesterday, telling me that it would provide great material for the all right vs. alright debate. It was written by Robert C. McGill, the resident “Grammar Maven” at Random House. You can check it out here.

This is a great piece because it has so much historical context and because the author is neutral. He makes a great point: language is continuing to evolve, and at this point in time, there is no truly official rule that states that alright should be stricken from the record permanently. All we can do is explore the debate further.

Here it is:

The other day my wife was composing an email message and used the word “alright.” The spell checker flagged it and she asked me why. I told her (because it was what I had learned in high school forty years ago) that it is wrong; that she should use “all right.” Since then, I looked it up in a dictionary and discovered that “alright” is…all right. When did this happen? Was my teacher (gasp!) wrong? And what about my spell checker? Enlighten me, please.

The spelling of all right–or more appropriately the spelling of alright, since the former is never questioned–is one of the Great Usage Debates of recent times.

Forms like all right, in whatever spelling, were around in the Middle English period, and then died out for no obvious reason. They reappeared in the early eighteenth century; it is uncertain whether all right was a re-coinage, or whether we just have no written evidence for four hundred years.

In modern times, the form alright is first found in the 1890s. Presumably, it was created and/or popularized based on analogy with such words as already and altogether. These spellings, though, had been long established by that time, while alright, being newer, could be criticized. And criticized it was, from the early 1900s onwards.

Usage writers and copy editors (and schoolteachers) tend to really, really hate alright. Some of the comments one can collect from them are “horrendous,” “ignorant,” “illiterate,” “over my dead body,” “lazy,” and the like. This hostility has not changed much in recent years, despite the ever-increasng frequency of the form.

It has always been true that the form alright has been more common in non-formal contexts. But it has also been used for the better part of the century by undoubtedly notable writers. Theodore Dreiser used it through the manuscript for The “Genius”, though H.L. Mencken made him change it to all right. Other alright users include James Joyce in Ulysses, Flannery O’Connor, Mordecai Richler, Langston Hughes, and Gertrude Stein.

While in general, alright can be found in all the senses of all right, in practice there can be a real semantic distinction between the two, because the two word form all right can mean ‘all correct’ or something like that, while alright can only mean ‘good; safe; healthy’, etc. when used as an adjective. (Similar distinctions are found with already and all ready, though these forms have diverged to the point where they are not interchangable at all.) Thus the sentence “The Kids Aren’t All Right” can mean ‘not all the kids are right’, or ‘some of the kids are wrong’, while “The Kids Aren’t Alright” can only mean ‘the kids are not OK’.

This sentence is not theoretical; it appeared as the cover line in New York magazine in 1995, which occasioned such an outburst of criticism that the magazine felt obliged to run an explanation several issues later. Their main points were that alright was a clear allusion to the song “The Kids Are Alright,” by The Who, and the clarity issue mentioned above. Their explanation probably did little to satisfy the many outraged English teachers who called their offices.

The current status of alright is hard to assess. It is very common even in edited writing–some studies have suggested that it is more common, which seems unlikely. Many people and many periodicals use it regularly. Yet it is still loudly condemned (your spell checker, like most, is designed to reject anything that’s even slightly problematic). Depending on your linguistic philosophy, it is either an outright error that is distressingly widespread, or a perfectly standard usage that is unnecessarily condemned.

Gearing Up for a Debate: All Right vs. Alright

I don’t even know where to begin when discussing the debate between the words “all right” and the colloquialism “alright.” I’ve discussed this several different times, in the classroom, online, and in conversation with my friends.

It has always been my opinion that “alright” is not a word fit for publication.

I prefer to go by the guidelines put out by the Associated Press. I love my AP Stylebook dearly, and use it as my authority. (I plan to examine other styles later on.)

Here is the AP Stylebook’s entry on “all right”:

all right (adv.) Never alright. Hyphenate only if used colloquially as a compound modifier: He is an all-right guy.

That is beautiful.

It’s true that “alright” is commonly used these days, especially amongst the IM generation, but never in professional publications.

And now it’s time to prepare for a debate.

Don’t start debating now; don’t do anything yet. I want both sides to take the time to prepare. I’m going to consult journalism experts. I expect to prove that “all right” is the only acceptable term to use in publication.

In the meantime, do your own research. Try to prove me wrong. I need reasons that are as GOOD as they are accurate — just because it’s in the dictionary, Andy, that doesn’t mean it’s enough to be acceptable in publication!

Let’s see what we have.

Gearing Up for a Debate: All Right vs. Alright

I don’t even know where to begin when discussing the debate between the words “all right” and the colloquialism “alright.” I’ve discussed this several different times, in the classroom, online, and in conversation with my friends.

It has always been my opinion that “alright” is not a word fit for publication.

I prefer to go by the guidelines put out by the Associated Press. I love my AP Stylebook dearly, and use it as my authority. (I plan to examine other styles later on.)

Here is the AP Stylebook’s entry on “all right”:

all right (adv.) Never alright. Hyphenate only if used colloquially as a compound modifier: He is an all-right guy.

That is beautiful.

It’s true that “alright” is commonly used these days, especially amongst the IM generation, but never in professional publications.

And now it’s time to prepare for a debate.

Don’t start debating now; don’t do anything yet. I want both sides to take the time to prepare. I’m going to consult journalism experts. I expect to prove that “all right” is the only acceptable term to use in publication.

In the meantime, do your own research. Try to prove me wrong. I need reasons that are as GOOD as they are accurate — just because it’s in the dictionary, Andy, that doesn’t mean it’s enough to be acceptable in publication!

Let’s see what we have.

Grammar Errors at Six Flags

This past Saturday, I went to Six Flags New England with some friends. This was my first time there, though I had been to three of the others (Over Georgia in 1996, Magic Mountain in 2002, Great Adventure/New Jersey in 2003). I was hoping for a day of lighthearted fun and some crazy rides. I didn’t expect to feel a dagger turning in my heart at the sight of so many grammatical errors on official theme park displays! Here are a few:


This is one of my biggest pet peeves. “Everytime” is not a word! For that matter, “everyday” is only used when meaning “typical” or “usual.” In all other cases, the words “every” and “day” must be separated. And, again, “everytime” is NOT a word.

Some recording artists have made this difficult to enforce. It’s bad enough that so many of them change “you” to “U” in song titles. Britney Spears had a song called “Everytime” and even though I liked the song, that bothered me SO MUCH! (It’s not like she was Musiq Soulchild, who squishes all his song titles together, like “HalfCrazy” and “Don’tChange.”) And then Dave Matthews, that godawful Dave Matthews that seems to be worshipped by everyone at Reading High and Fairfield U, goes and titles a song and an album “Everyday.” And he did not mean the context of “typical” or “usual.”

Again, aren’t there editors who proofread these albums and song titles?

“Do-It Yourself.”

My friend Andy and I had a bit of a disagreement over this. He thought that hyphens should never be used. I thought that there should have been hyphens between all three words.

Using no hyphens whatsoever is acceptable when speaking to someone.

I think that in this case, you need to do it yourself.

But “Do-It-Yourself” is in a category of its own, which has grown into a brand, even spurning off an abbreviation (DIY). It should be used only as a label, which is why I think that would be the best way to use it here.

“The One and Only Do-It-Yourself Coed Naked Lawn Bowling Kit”

Labels and signs. That’s it.

But it’s all good with Andy, because he’s now taking pictures of grammatical errors for his own blog.


Mens.

Yep, this is where the mens come in.

I saw that sign and told Andy that it looked like it belonged in an Alice Walker novel. (“Mens all look the same to me.”)

I didn’t get a picture of the women’s restroom on the other side, but it was labeled “Women’s.” In this case, for purposes of grammatical symmetry, the men’s room should be labeled “Men’s,” meaning that it belonged to the men, as the women’s room belonged to the women. Another acceptable form would be for the restrooms to be labled “Men” and “Women.”

“Mens” is never acceptable.

In spite of everything, we went on to have a lovely day at the theme park.