Category Archives: Word Choice Errors

We can only break the glass ceiling so much….

I found this on Facebook and it’s too good not to share here:

Over the Hill

My friend Andy’s aunt and uncle recently celebrated their fiftieth and sixtieth birthdays, respectively. Their children decorated their lawn with plenty of signs mocking their milestones. Check them out:


I don’t even know where to begin!
I honestly don’t know where to begin!

This is sublime.

This is one of my favorite reader submissions ever. In fact, I love this so much, I think I’m going to mark it under “Best of the Blog.”

I know that there are a lot of people out there who adore Wal-Mart — one of my best friends, Alexa, is one of them. Personally, I’m ambivalent about them — the prices are great, but the stores are messy and they always have a weird smell. Like popcorn, but worse.

Anyway, reader Marimba sent me this gem of an image from Wal-Mart. This was emailed to him from a friend who got it from her sister who got it from a friend who got it from a former co-worker….

Here is what it said:

HI… Had to share this. IT’s real. From a former co-worker in one of The Commercial Appeal bureaus. Read the message below, then open the pic.

Check out this cake. Chad said they ordered it from Walmart and told them to write “Best Wishes Suzanne” and then underneath that “We will Miss You.”
Look at what they did.
All I have to say is stay in school.

This is beyond priceless. Thank you so much for sharing, Marimba. I love this!
In other news, I just received my first paycheck for creating educational grammar materials for a big company in Boston. I’ve been freelance editing for a while, but this one, in particular, means a lot to me. I’m happy.
Enjoy your Halloween weekend, everyone!

Evil People

Since starting this blog, I have had tons of people try to trip me up. I do relate to this comic.

Amusing Courtroom Transcripts

I got these from this site. There’s some great stuff!

From actual courtroom transcripts:

–And lastly, Gary, all your responses must be oral, okay? What school do you go to?
–Oral.
–How old are you?
–Oral.

–Were you present in court this morning when you were sworn in?

–She had three children, right?
–Yes.
–How many were boys?
–None.
–Were there girls?

–So you were gone until you returned?

–The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?

–I show you exhibit 3 and ask you if you recognize that picture.
–That’s me.
–Were you present when that picture was taken?

This nearly made me wet my pants.

From the Gardiner Museum:

HANG ON, JUSTINNA!! DON’T GO INTO THE LIGHT!!
Yeah, I know this is just a kid, but this was too funny not to post.

Do NOT call him Smokey the Bear!

I have to admit that I’ve been having a tough time finding original ideas lately. I started leafing through my AP Stylebook to find definitions for unusual words, and then I saw something that blew my mind!

Smokey Or Smokey Bear.
Not Smokey the Bear.
But: A smoky room.

Evidently, we’re not allowed to call him Smokey the Bear!

What’s up with that?

It’s always been Smokey the Bear to me. When I was in high school, one of my friends took the screenname “smokeythebear1″ to harrass guys in our class. (We were fun.)

I find it astonishing that the AP feels the need to clarify that issue.

I have to warn you again…that I will not be posting tomorrow. Once you hear why, you will surely forgive me based on the sheer awesomeness of what I’m doing.

I’m going to Donnie Wahlberg’s birthday party.

The New Kid on the Block. The one who played the crazy guy at the beginning of The Sixth Sense. The one who burned down that house back in the 90s. Donnie was always the crazy one.

I love living in Boston.

(Let’s hope that his little brother Marky Mark is there! After meeting Vanilla Ice last March, I’m collecting all the early 90s hunks!)

Jail vs. Prison

I have something to admit: until recently, I used the terms “jail” and “prison” interchangeably. After all, that’s the place where you go when you commit a crime until you pay your debt to society.

These days, it’s much less ambiguous, especially with the bad girl trio of Paris, Nicole and Lindsay having faced/currently facing JAIL time.

Jail is where you go when you’re only in custody for a short time for a misdemeanor or other small offense. Prison is where you serve a much longer sentence for a much more serious crime.

According to the AP:

Prison is a generic term that may be applied to the maximum security institutions or reformatories. All such facilities confine people serving sentences for felonies.

A jail is a facility normally used to confine people serving sentences for misdemeanors, persons awaiting trial or sentencing on either felony or misdemeanor charges, and persons confined for civil matters such as failure to pay alimony and other types of contempt of court.

There you have it.

To think that all along I thought that Paris had been in PRISON! Not so.

Ah, a girl can dream.

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.

Celebrity Grammar

It’s a hybrid of my two favorite blog topics: grammar and celebrity gossip!

These pictures are great. Check them out:

I once saw a stop sign that read HAMMERTIME underneath the word STOP. This is ALMOST as good.

This is a bit old, but it’s just as bewildering. In this message, Britney talks about preparing for a “roll” in a movie. Being the trashy train wreck that she is, she was probably thinking about how hungry she was.

Seriously, though! This was taken from her official Web site!

She’s crazy, and she won’t listen to anyone….until recently, she had no manager or publicist, and she has been estranged from her family….it’s no surprise that she has no editor, either.

WASTE OF SPACE.

A Slew of F’s

Before reading this entry, try counting the number of F’s in this sentence:

FINISHED FILES ARE THE RE
SULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTI
FIC STUDY COMBINED WITH
THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS…

Count them….

I wish I knew how to hide the answer on this page….

Keep counting….

Okay.

Did you guess three?

I did, the first time I saw this. Most people do, as well.

There are six.

We don’t recognize the F in the word of because our brain recognizes it as a V.

This brings me to my newest topic. My roommate, Omni, told me that it drives her crazy when people write out must of instead of must have. It must come from people saying must’ve.

Must of does not exist.

I must have felt uneasy at seeing those two young boys at L’Espalier today, because I felt such immense relief when their mother came in and joined them; she must have been parking the car!

Ah, Boston Restaurant Week. It’s my favorite time of year. I went to L’Espalier with my sister for lunch today. Most people consider L’Espalier to be the best restaurant in Boston. Our food was fantastic. If you go, be sure to have the trout. Tomorrow I’m going to Smith & Wollensky with my sister and my dad!

Does “must of” drive you crazy? I know that there are several other words that are similarly misused — can you think of any?

ATGV: Farther vs. Further

I’ve had three people ask me about this so far. Here are abridged versions of their emails to me:

Other peeves of mine include complete confusion of “farther ” and “further,” and, of course, the complete abandonment of “who” and “whom,” especially among news commentators and other cultural icons.
–Herb

If you locate [10 items or fewer signs in supermarkets] I would appreciate it if you would share it with your audience. If I see it, I guess I will take a photo with my cell phone and send it to you. Despite the “what are you nuts?” glares I will receive from fellow customers, I will do almost anything to further your worthy cause! Speaking of further and farther…must be a handful of those examples around, too!
–Linda

I’m so heartened to see your blog evidence that good grammar is more than just appropriate punctuation, it’s also about appropriate syntax and vocabulary. So, a question that’s been bounced around our offices and homes of late : Further and farther.When at school it used to be that farther was used to mean distance and further was used to mean something that was metaphorically removed or distant…
Of late, “further” seems to be used for everything. Should “farther” be used more, or at all, or has language evolved such that “further” is applied generically to all such situations?
–Shiny Happy Person

To be as concise as possible, farther refers to literal distance, while further refers to metaphorical distance.

From the AP Stylebook:

Farther refers to physical distance: He walked farther into the woods. Further
refers to an extension of time or degree: She will look further into the
mystery
.

From the American Heritage Dictionary:

Since the Middle English period many writers have used farther and further
interchangeably. According to a relatively recent rule, however, farther should
be reserved for physical distance and further for nonphysical, metaphorical
advancement….In many cases, however, the distinction is not easy to
draw.

If we speak of a statement that is far from the truth, for example, we
should also allow the use of farther in a sentence such as Nothing could be
farther from the truth
. But Nothing could be further from the truth is so well
established as to seem a fixed expression.

Now, that doesn’t seem to be correct to me. Nothing could be further from the truth is, in fact, correct. It isn’t physical distance that separates anything from the truth! Nothing could be farther from the truth is as incorrect as it is awkward. The first sentence was right all along; I don’t know why the dictionary authors wrote what they wrote. Nobody should ever use farther in that sentence.

Interestingly, this is what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say:

There is no historical basis for the notion that farther is of physical distance
and further of degree or quality.

Hmmm.

Time for examples!

As I watched episode after episode of MTV’s Next with my roommate, Omni, I felt myself getting further away from intellectual stimulation.

Further into the date, Shane offered Guy #3 a second date and he took the money to go on a date with Guy #5 instead!

The more chocolates that annoying guy crushed while blindfolded and dressed like Cupid, the further he got from being able to find the chocolate-covered cherry.

As that douchebag of a guy took his date farther from the Next Bus and farther into the golf course, she went further into her dickmatization and actually accepted a date with him.

And that’s that!

(I’ve never watched Next before. Basically, it’s a dating show where a guy or girl gets to date up to five people and yells “Next!” when he or she is done with the person. I felt like I was losing brain cells and becoming more promiscuous just from watching the damn show! That being said, you do get sucked in, and it was a fun way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Remember when MTV used to play music videos?)

Thanks, Herb, Linda and Shiny Happy Person.

ATGV: Between vs. Among

DEAR GV:

I heard you on NPR – you’ve chosen a good mission!!!

Would you please write about the difference between ‘between’ and ‘among?’ I never hear ‘among’ anymore. People (newspapers, TV and even NPR) just use ‘between.’ The meeting was between Russia, China and Japan. He decided to share it between Connie, Ronnie and Vonnie. I thought between was for 2 only and among covered 3 or more. Am I wrong? Tell me no.

Thanks for your efforts. It is nice to know someone else grinds teeth when the lovely English language is abused and neglected and treated loosely. I guess misery loves company!

Namaste,
Judith

Judith, thank you for your question!

The answer: generally, you use between for two and among for three or more.

I’ve wondered about this rule on a few occasions. I’ve decided to check a few sources: the AP Stylebook (of course), the Oxford English Dictionary, the Columbia Guide to Standard English, and the University of San Francisco style (which is a combination of AP and Chicago styles).

1) However, what do you say when there’s a war among three countries?
–The war was between Angola, Norway and Papua New Guinea.
–From what I’ve read, it’s okay to use between if there is fighting between Angola and Norway, Norway and Papua New Guinea, and Papua New Guinea and Angola. You must be able to use between with any two choices.
–It’s the same if it were a horse race.
–They’re coming to the finish line, and it’s between Cheery Bosom, Superman’s Flying Low and Sand in my Pants!

2) It’s okay to use between if one or both of the sides consist of multiple elements:
–World War II was between the Allies and Germany, Italy and Japan.

3) If we’re talking about sharing one substance, among is standard:
–He divided the pasta among the four hungry students.

I think Kenneth G. Wilson of The Columbia Guide to Standard English says it best:

Between can be used of as many items as you like if the relationship is one-to-one, however much it may be repeated with different partners: Economic relations between Great Britain, France, and Italy [or between some members of the EEC] are tense at present. Among works with any plural number above two: Among the milling ballplayers, fans, and reporters were the four umpires.

Among the blog enthusiasts of the world, I think mine are the best. :-)

Overall, always use between for two. Use among for three or greater, unless it sounds wrong to you. In that case, use between if you could theoretically use between with any two elements in your sentence.

ATGV: Between vs. Among

DEAR GV:

I heard you on NPR – you’ve chosen a good mission!!!

Would you please write about the difference between ‘between’ and ‘among?’ I never hear ‘among’ anymore. People (newspapers, TV and even NPR) just use ‘between.’ The meeting was between Russia, China and Japan. He decided to share it between Connie, Ronnie and Vonnie. I thought between was for 2 only and among covered 3 or more. Am I wrong? Tell me no.

Thanks for your efforts. It is nice to know someone else grinds teeth when the lovely English language is abused and neglected and treated loosely. I guess misery loves company!

Namaste,
Judith

Judith, thank you for your question!

The answer: generally, you use between for two and among for three or more.

I’ve wondered about this rule on a few occasions. I’ve decided to check a few sources: the AP Stylebook (of course), the Oxford English Dictionary, the Columbia Guide to Standard English, and the University of San Francisco style (which is a combination of AP and Chicago styles).

1) However, what do you say when there’s a war among three countries?
–The war was between Angola, Norway and Papua New Guinea.
–From what I’ve read, it’s okay to use between if there is fighting between Angola and Norway, Norway and Papua New Guinea, and Papua New Guinea and Angola. You must be able to use between with any two choices.
–It’s the same if it were a horse race.
–They’re coming to the finish line, and it’s between Cheery Bosom, Superman’s Flying Low and Sand in my Pants!

2) It’s okay to use between if one or both of the sides consist of multiple elements:
–World War II was between the Allies and Germany, Italy and Japan.

3) If we’re talking about sharing one substance, among is standard:
–He divided the pasta among the four hungry students.

I think Kenneth G. Wilson of The Columbia Guide to Standard English says it best:

Between can be used of as many items as you like if the relationship is one-to-one, however much it may be repeated with different partners: Economic relations between Great Britain, France, and Italy [or between some members of the EEC] are tense at present. Among works with any plural number above two: Among the milling ballplayers, fans, and reporters were the four umpires.

Among the blog enthusiasts of the world, I think mine are the best. :-)

Overall, always use between for two. Use among for three or greater, unless it sounds wrong to you. In that case, use between if you could theoretically use between with any two elements in your sentence.