Category Archives: Stylistic Issues

Punctuation Contest — SEXY CAN I

I enjoyed your corrections to “Everything is super when you don’t you think I look cute in this hat?” so much that I’ve got a new one for you.

Let’s try this sentence, a gem of a lyric from singer and amateur porn star Ray-J’s hit song and McCulley favorite, “Sexy Can I”:

Sexy can I just pardon my manners girl how you shake it got a player like oh

Man, I love that song.

How would you punctuate it?

There seem to be a lot of possibilities…

The winner will get a chance to plug his or her favorite thing on this blog, whether it be the winner’s own blog or anything else!

Let’s see what we’ve got!

All I wanna know is — SEXY CAN I?


I’m Super! Thanks for asking!

Okay — your responses cracked me up.

If you would like to hear the original version of Big Gay Al’s “I’m Super” from South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, check out this video.  (I couldn’t find the original film clip on YouTube, so this is the next best thing.)  Fast-forward to 0:25 if you want to hear the line.

I did say that I would announce a winner, so here goes:

“Everything is super when you — don’t you think I look cute in this hat?”

Big Gay Al, in the heat of the moment, gets interrupted by his thoughts mid-sentence, leading to an entirely different outburst.

I’ll give props to the winners, Ryan and Alexa, who echoed my thoughts exactly.

Ryan writes Megorious, which is a really great blog, filled with politics, movies, amusing incidents and the like.  He is also the second person ever to successfully RickRoll me.

I’ll be honest about Alexa’s blog, Alexa Shrugged.  I do like it — except for the political parts, which is to be expected, as we have very different political views.  Though her blog has mostly been about politics lately, I love her entries featuring Overheard in New York quotes and updates on Knut the bear.

I also have to admit that after listening to the song, it looks like I got a word wrong.  The actual words are, “Everything is super when you’re — don’t you think I look cute in this hat?”

That may have impacted some of the entries.

Well, either way, I hope you enjoy the song in the clip!

One of these days….

When I originally switched to WordPress, one of my goals was to start blogging ahead of time, so I could write a post on Tuesday night and have it posted on Thursday at around 10:30 PM, around the time when I usually post.  That’s because I usually go out on Thursdays.

I don’t think there will be too much of value in terms of posts tonight.  The photo uploader is giving me problems today, and we all know that photos are the cornerstone of this blog.

At any rate, I think it’s worth telling a story from my friend, Beth, who currently lives in Texas but is a Massachusetts native, like me, and recently spent time at home.

She stopped by the Linens-N-Things in our hometown, Reading.  She then spotted an egregious error on an advertisement.

She took a few pictures for me with her cell phone.  (Thought I’ve had my cell phone for well over two years — I’m thinking of getting an iPhone this summer once the new model comes out — I still haven’t figured out how to send picture messages to my email.)

On the advertisements for Linens-N-Things, they listed a word of which I had never heard.


As in, “It’s time for you to buy some dishes, afterall.”

Or, “We need to buy a rice cooker and an omelette cooker to fool all of our houseguests, afterall.”

AFTERALL is not a word, last time I checked, Linens-N-Things.

How could you be so ignorant?

Is nobody checking your work?

Come on, now.  It’s not that hard to run spellcheck.  Hell, if you ran this advertisement in Microsoft Word, originally, you would have the telltale squiggly red line underneath the word!  There is no excuse for spelling the word like that.

I keep worrying…I keep thinking that my efforts are futile…

ATGV: Collective Singular Nouns

This is a really good question.  It came to me from reader Bailee?

Dear Kate,
There is a subject I am really hoping you could cover for me on your blog, since I’m sure you would do a better job than I would. The topic is singular collective nouns.  I am driven to the point of madness every morning when I listen to my local rock station, because the DJ insists on referring to bands whose names would be a singular collective noun in a plural sense.  For example, she recently said, “Radiohead are releasing a new album.”  Radiohead is a group, and “group” is a singular collective noun. Thus, it should be, “Radiohead is releasing a new album.” She does this all the time, and I am always thinking about writing a letter to her, but I’m sure I wouldn’t explain it very well.  However, I think you would probably do great.
Forgive me for any grammar errors in my email, as I’m only a novice grammar Nazi. I hope to hear from you soon.


This is tough.

Let’s start with an example.  The word band can be used as a singular collective noun.  Let’s say, for example, that you had plans to see your favorite band in concert.

  1. Singular: My favorite band is in town, so I’m going to see it.
  2. Plural: My favorite band are in town, so I’m going to see them.

Neither of those sound right to me, even though they seem to be grammatically correct.

I’m going to turn to the fabulous and useful Language Log.  Here is what the writers had to say on the subject:

Like most Americans, I prefer singular verb agreement for collective nouns like family and committee, unless the meaning of the phrase emphasizes semantic multiplicity, as in “My family all live in North America”. When the meaning is neutral or emphasizes unity, I strongly prefer the singular: “My family is gathering in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving”. However, I can’t imagine writing or saying “#My family is gathering in Philadelphia for Thanksgiving, and I’m preparing a traditional Thanksgiving meal for it.” The problem is not that the sentence is ungrammatical, but rather that it doesn’t say what I mean. I prepare the meal for them, not for it.

So, would I say that Pink Floyd is appearing in concert?  Or that Pink Floyd are appearing in concert?

Dear lord.  I think I would say either.  WHAT does that MEAN?!?!

Click here to read the rest of the Language Log’s analysis.  Seeing all those research notes makes me shudder.  It brings back traumatic memories of the 30-page research paper I had to write for my “Understanding the Sacred in Literature” class at Fairfield.

I’ll let them handle the heavy research.

In conclusion, I think that being able to say that your favorite band is in town and you’re going to see them has become so accepted in our language that it has become reality.

As for bands, Bailee, I wish I could answer your question better.  I don’t see anything wrong with saying Radiohead are any more than Radiohead is.

For now, you might want to hold off on that letter to the station.  :-/

And, just because:


YES!!!!!  GO, COOKIE!!!!!  This is the first time that my favorite contestant has won American Idol, so I’m very excited!!  (I haven’t had luck in the past with Clay, Constantine, Elliott and Sanjaya…shut up!!)

Thanks, Bailee.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

I’ve been an avid speller since I was quite young.  Spelling was one of my favorite subjects (besides geography) when I was little, and I was thrilled to be included in the accelerated spelling program from when I was seven years old.

That being said…

I was unable to spell the word “margarita” until I was 17 years old.

The reason?

I grew up in the Boston area.

People mock the Boston accent.  Most people say that I don’t have a Boston accent, but at the same time, they’re expecting to hear Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting.  Even within the region, there are several dialects of the Boston accent.  While my parents and other family members all have thick Boston accents, they’re from the North Shore — mainly Lynn and Revere.

(I often joke that every single member of my family except for my sister and me has spent time growing up in Lynn.  There are very few exceptions.  For background, Lynn was one of the few Boston-area cities allowing abortions, inspiring the rhyme, “Lynn, Lynn, city of sin, you never come out the way you went in, you ask for water, they give you gin…”)

People from Lynn and Revere don’t talk like people from Dorchester and Southie, except that they omit their R’s.  Seriously, you should come to a family gathering of mine.  And when the family members are around, the accent thickens.

(Personally, I live in the city now, but whenever I head home into the suburbs, I think that the accents kick into overdrive.  I always hear much more of a Boston accent among the older crowd on the North Shore than I do among the younger crowd in Boston.)

Therefore, there are three words with which I never enunciate the R: margarita, watermelon and drawer.  Mahgarita, watahmelon and drah.

It’s for this reason that I didn’t know how to spell the word “margarita” until I was 17 years old.

That being said, I hope you had as many mahgaritas as my friend Esther and I did, although we were unable to get into the Cactus Club.  Happy Cinco de Mayo!

A someecard for all of us

I’m a big fan of, a Web site with some of the funniest e-cards I’ve ever seen.  My friends and my co-workers are big fans.  Check it out!

This one is perfect for all of us:

Now, I have a question for you:

Has poor grammar, syntax, spelling or word choice damaged a friendship or relationship of yours?

For me, I wouldn’t say that it outright damaged a relationship, but I do have friends who use “your” and “you’re” interchangeably in emails and it drives me insane.  I will go so far to say that I don’t email them as often as I do my friends who write well.

Denounce vs. Reject

What do these words mean to you?

These words have been in the news in the U.S. quite a bit in the last 24 hours.

I will post a discussion on this tomorrow night.  (I’m about to fall over with exhaustion.)

Start thinking!