Category Archives: Television

A Lesson from the Best Show on TV

From 30 Rock:

Tracy Jordan, insane actor: Hey, boy. How are you doing?
Toofer, Harvard-educated comedy writer: I’m doing good.
Tracy Jordan, insane actor: No, you’re not, idiot! Superman does good. You do well. You gotta start taking care with your English, son!

30 Rock is the best, funniest and most unjustly ignored show on TV. Click here to buy the DVD on Amazon.com (well worth it) or click here to watch an episode for free. You can also watch the first season on demand via Netflix!

The Office: Whoever vs. Whomever

Ryan: What I really want — honestly, Michael — is for you to know it so you can communicate it to the people here, to your clients, to whomever.
Michael: Oh, okay…
Ryan: What?
Michael: It’s whoever, not whomever.
Ryan: No, it’s whomever…
Michael: No…whomever is never actually right.
Jim: Well, sometimes it’s right.
Creed: Michael is right. It’s a made-up word used to trick students.
Andy: No. Actually, whomever is the formal version of the word.
Oscar: Obviously, it’s a real word, but I don’t know when to use it correctly.
Michael (to the camera): Not a native speaker.
Kevin: I know what’s right, but I’m not gonna say because you’re all jerks who didn’t come see my band last night.
Ryan: Do you really know which one is correct?
Kevin: I don’t know.
Pam: It’s whom when it’s the object of the sentence and who when it’s the subject.
Phyllis: That sounds right.
Michael: Well, it sounds right, but is it?
Stanley: How did Ryan use it, as an object?
Ryan: As an object…
Kelly: Ryan used me as an object.
Stanley: Is he right about that?
Pam: How did he use it again?
Toby: It was…Ryan wanted Michael, the subject, to, uh explain the computer system, the subject–
Michael: Yes!
Toby: –to whomever, meaning us, the indirect object…which is the correct usage of the word.
Michael: No one asked you anything, ever, so whomever’s name is Toby, why don’t you take a letter opener and stick it into your skull?
LOVE THIS!
Thanks to Jess and everyone who told me I had to post this. I’ll be watching the actual episode later today.

I’m watching this right now:

Does the missing comma bother anyone?
As a grammarian, it bothers me a LOT. After all, this is money that is both dirty and sexy, not sexy money that also happens to be dirty. That necessitates the comma.
As a person, and as someone who technically works in “marketing,” it actually doesn’t bother me as much. Incorrect as it is, it adds a certain boldness to it. BOOM BOOM BOOM. Dirty Sexy Money. The comma would have taken away some of the impact….
….even though it is WRONG to leave it out in the first place!
I’m in a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde mood tonight.
This is a good show.

VMA Errors

The VMAs (not the VMA’s) just took place, and already, there are several news stories full of errors about the awards show.

From cnn.com:


To that end, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, Kanye West, Fall Out Boy and the Foo Fighters were each hosting four separate suite parties, where much of the show’s performances would be held.

The Grammar Vandal says that there were many. Many.


That might have been the purpose — to whet the audiences appetite for repeat viewings by promising glimpses of what they missed during the traditional broadcast.

The audience’s appetite. Please use that wonderful apostrophe.

From people.com:

“Was that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone,” Silverman said. “Wow. She is amazing. She is 25-years-old and she’s already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life. It’s mind blowing.”

At 25 years old, Britney is a 25-year-old. Sarah Silverman’s mind was blown by the mind-blowing accomplishments of Britney Spears.

Come on. I know that the awards show JUST happened, and it was live TV, but come ON! Accuracy isn’t that difficult!

I don’t like this tense.

When reading news articles and other sources of Web journalism, the tense is nearly always the past. The past makes sense because the stories describe events that have already taken place.

I hopped over to People.com after a night at Johnny D’s to grab the last news of the night, and I came across the following story. It describes Usher’s appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Here is a clip:

Dad-to-Be Usher: ‘I Want a Boy’

“Last time you were here, you were single,” DeGeneres also tells him. “You said you wanted a lady that you could take from the Waffle House to the White House. You found her.”

“I did. I found someone that I’m very, very happy to call my wife,” he tells her. “Tameka Raymond. She’s beautiful.”

Only DeGeneres also wants to know why she wasn’t invited to the wedding, which was originally scheduled for July 28 in the Hamptons but ended up taking place in a civil ceremony in Atlanta.

One thing that complicates the issue is that this show already taped, but it’s set to broadcast this Tuesday. The conversation already happened, obviously, but it hasn’t shown on TV. In a strange way, it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist yet.

I particularly find the third paragraph awkward-sounding. The tenses are all over the place.

I’m trying to imagine why this seems so familiar, and I think I recognize the usage of the present tense from reviews of children’s books and movies. “Mary Anne realizes that it’s true — she, in fact, misses Logan and wants him back.” “Kristy wants to start a softball team, but a little boy named Jackie Rodowsky is completely accident-prone!”

But, now that I think about it, why would that be restricted to children’s works? It shouldn’t be. All reviews are in the present tense.

I’m thinking more, and after reading through the story again, I think it’s more a stylistic issue than anything else. The writer, describing what each person says, seems to do something that is extraneous. We don’t need to be told every line in advance. Doing so makes it seem like we don’t understand it, which is paradoxical, because as celebrity gossip fans, we want to hear every line!

I’m having a hard time explaining this, and I wish I could do it better.

What do you think? Does using the present tense and describing each line each person says make it sound juvenile?

In other news, while having pizza at Mike’s in Davis Square tonight, I noticed a grammatical error on the cocktail menu.

“Do you have a pen?” I asked my sister.

She stared at me coldly. “DON’T.”

I am no longer permitted to vandalize grammar in front of her because it embarrasses her.

Crocs and Sideshow Bob

I have made my feelings regarding crocs quite clear in Kate’s Adventures. In fact, they relate to two amusing stories. Check out this entry first, then this one. You will have a very clear idea of how I feel about these abominable, hideous shoes.

Therefore, I was quite delighted to see a feature in Metro condemning them and recommending shoes that offer just as much comfort, but are much more attractive. I was not, however, delighted to see the grammar in the headline:

Die crocs die.

It should be Die, crocs, die. The statements are directed at the crocs, so they should be separated by commas.

This reminded me of Sideshow Bob’s tattoo on The Simpsons. His tattoo reads, “Die, Bart, Die,” and even though I haven’t seen that episode in years, I could have sworn that the commas were included in the tattoo.

I did a Google Image search, and this is the best image of him with the tattoo showing that I could find:

It doesn’t look like any commas are used, but there may be a period at the end. Technically, that period isn’t even necessary.

Interestingly, I remember in that episode that he tells the parole committee that the tattoo reads, “Die Bart, Die,” in German. He pronounces it with the commas as I placed them just now. Perhaps that means that there were never any commas, which allowed him to pronounce the sentence the way he did.

When you don’t understand the question….

I was excited to watch the LGBT issues debate on LOGO last night, and the historical debate didn’t disappoint.

(I only wish I had LOGO — I had to watch the debate on my computer, and my internet can be awful at times. I missed part of Senator Edwards and all of Senator Clinton. My internet then cut out for the rest of the night, which is why there were no posts from yesterday.)

The most shocking moment of the debate was when Governor Richardson took his seat. Melissa Etheridge, one of the panelists, asked him if he believed that homosexuality was biological or a choice.

“It’s a choice,” he said simply.

My mouth dropped open. Richardson has always been one of the worst speakers of all the candidates, but this was something beyond egregious. (You should have heard the gasp my roommate, Christie, made when I told her about it later.)

“I — um, I don’t think you understand the question,” Etheridge said. She was clearly in shock as well.

Richardson went on to say, “I’m not a scientist, but all people should be equal,” a half dozen times, and as time went on, it became clear that he simply misspoke. His camp also released a statement after the debate saying that he does not believe homosexuality is a choice.

Why am I bringing this up here?

I felt the same way when I had my interview on NPR. I totally missed the point of the first caller’s question, and because of that, I got so much hate mail from listeners.

I don’t think that Melissa Etheridge phrased the question incorrectly. There wasn’t anything wrong. I think that this just goes to show how complicated language can be, at times, especially when you have to answer questions cold. Writing is different; at least you get a chance to look over your work before submitting it.

Sometimes, words do not take effect immediately. You need a few moments to let them take shape the way you need to let one of Mario Batali’s risotti cool before you can taste the subtle pumpkin flavor. (Can you tell it’s Restaurant Week? I went to Smith and Wollensky last night, or as my family now calls it, F—ing and Awesome.)

Sometimes, you need a minute. Bill Richardson did not get that minute. Most people understood what the question meant — I sure know that I did, and I’m sure that most people did — but he didn’t.

That being said, I knew it was over for Richardson as soon as I saw the first Democratic debate. It was painful. He has done so much great work and he has, after Senator Clinton, the best political experience of all the Democratic (and Republican) candidates. It’s too bad that his public speaking skills are costing him his candidacy.

If a Democrat gets elected, he’ll be in the Cabinet, for sure.