Showing posts with label language. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wonderings and Googlings: Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them

I'm no spring chicken = 647,000 hits
I'm a spring chicken = 18,000 hits

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

How to Speak Elevator

Welcome, visitors to the United States! While you’re here, you’ll probably have lots of opportunities to ride American elevators. Don’t worry! Navigating them is easy with this handy guide:


1 =
Ground floor OR
The first floor above the ground floor OR
The first floor below the ground floor

2 =
Second floor OR
Second floor not counting the ground floor

14 =
14th floor OR
13th floor OR
Certain death

P =
Parking OR
Penthouse OR
Pool OR
Patio OR
Presidential suite OR
Parking level Pink OR
Parking level Purple OR
Parking level Pocahontas OR

P1 =
Up one floor to lowest level of parking structure OR
Up multiple floors to the highest level of parking structure OR
Down one floor to the highest level of subterranean garage OR
Down multiple floors to the lowest level of parking garage OR

G =
Ground floor OR
Garage OR

GL =
Same as G

G1 =
Up one floor to lowest level of multi-story parking structure OR
Up multiple floors to highest level of multi-story parking structure OR
Down one floor to nearest level of subterranean parking garage OR
Down multiple floors to lowest level of subterranean parking garage OR
Lowest ground floor of a split-level area OR
Highest ground floor of a split-level area

B =
Basement OR
Balcony OR

B1 =
Highest underground level OR
Lowest underground level

R =
Roof OR
Reception OR
Rear door open OR
Restaurant level OR
Retail level

F =
Front door open OR
Fitness center OR
First floor OR
Faculty OR
Sound fire alarm

L =
Lower level OR
Lobby OR
Loge OR
Lower level of underground parking OR
Library OR

LL =
Lower level OR
Lobby OR
Loge OR
Loge Lounge OR

M =
Mezzanine OR
Maternity ward OR
Men’s department

C =
Casino level OR
Conference center OR
Cosmetics department

Two triangles pointing away from each other =
Open door OR
Close door with a hollow gesture of courtesy to the sprinting passenger you’re slamming the door on

Two triangles pointing toward each other =
Close door OR
Feel like you’re doing something productive as doors continue to close at the same speed they would have had you not pushed the button

Telephone symbol =
Call for help OR
You better have a cell phone because it’s the only way anyone will ever know you’re stuck here

Framed elevator inspection certificate =
This elevator has been inspected for safety within the last 12 months OR
The city official who oversees elevator inspections is blowing his bribe money in the Caribbean OR
Thank you for buying this ACME elevator-ready frame. Place your own certificate here.

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Monday, April 11, 2011

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

"I'm special" = 2,800,000 hits

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

Reading about creme fraiche today, I noticed that one website said it has a "nutty, slightly sour taste." Is it just me, or does it seem that every ingestible under the sun is, at times, said to have a "nutty" flavor?

I decided to find out. I did a Google search for the term "nutty flavor." Here are just a few of the foods that were described this way.

cheddar cheese
buckwheat groats
fundamentalist Christians
tawny port wine
butterscotch pie
Peterson Gran Reserva cigars
red snapper
"strawberry fields" marijuana
brown ale
parasitic grubs
soy milk
green tea
asparagus bean
apricot jam
brown butter sauce
lecithin granules
two varieties of apples
sesame seeds
hemp seed butter
basmati rice
soy bean flour
Irish whiskey
whole wheat biscuits
broccoli raab
purple asparagus
El Tesoro anejo tequila
nicoise olives
processed lard
cured raw ham
and, of course, the occasional nut

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Monday, October 25, 2010

It's Been 'A While'

Seems to me that not many people can tell you the difference between "awhile" and "a while." So it's surprising to me how often people seem to get them right anyway.

Today, someone at CNBC didn't:

Asset allocation strategists haven't had an easy time in recent years. They've grappled with deflation, recession, plummeting U.S. stock markets and surging
foreign economies. And for awhile they dished out bigger weightings to defensive plays-bonds, cash and commodities.

"Awhile" is an adverb. "While" is often a noun.

Prepositions like "for" take nouns or noun phrases as their objects -- not adverbs.

So after "for" you'd want the noun phrase "a while."

Here's how Webster's New World puts it:

Usage Note: Awhile, an adverb, is never preceded by a preposition such as for, but the two-word form a while may be preceded by a preposition. In writing, each of the following is acceptable: stay awhile; stay for a while; stay a while (but not stay for awhile).

So if CNBC can get it wrong, I guess it's still worth noting!

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Monday, October 11, 2010

Faulty Parallel in My Paper

It's surprising how seldom I notice faulty parallels in print. But here's one from today's L.A. Times:

In animal studies, they have been shown to cause cancer, liver toxicity and
interfere with growth and development.
The list is set up as parallel items that attach to "cause": "... cause cancer, (cause) liver toxicity ..." But the third item in the list has its own verb, meaning it doesn't attach right: "... to cause cancer, (cause) liver toxicity and (cause) interfere with growth ..."


Best solution is to break up the list form:

In animal studies, they have been shown to cause cancer and liver toxicity and
to interfere with growth and development.
(Side note: Sorry I've been absent lately. Crazy, crazy schedule stuff.)

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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Words that Should Get a Divorce (One in a continuing series on words whose relationships have grown tired)

for and naught

Poor naught. While its partner, for, runs around with every other word under the sun, naught can't find a single other preposition that will give it the time of day.

You'll never see from naught, to naught, with naught, or at naught. And no way will naught ever get to strike out on its own, heading up a sentence like "Naught is what you've got."

Nope, naught is hopelessly codependent.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What Part of Speech is the "Due" in "Due To"?

Came across this interesting usage note at Webster's New World's online dictionary. I hadn't realized that "due to's" function was disputed. Here's what I learned.

due to preposition: Because of

Usage Note: Due to has been widely used for many years as a compound preposition like owing to, but some critics have insisted that due should be used only as an adjective. According to this view, it is incorrect to say The concert was canceled due to the rain, but acceptable to say The cancellation of the concert was due to the rain, where due continues to function as an adjective modifying cancellation. This seems a fine point, however, and since due to is widely used and understood, there seems little reason to avoid using it as a preposition.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


This sentence is from an article I'm editing: "The groom was attired in a '50s-era linen suit."

In my little world, attire always shows up as a noun. "The attire is formal." If I've ever heard it used as a verb, I don't remember it. So I looked it up in Webster's New World, which is the designated dictionary for the publication I'm working for. Lo and behold, it lists attire as a verb first (transitive) and a noun second.

Attire me embarrassed.

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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

chaise longue = 984,000 hits
chaise lounge = 1,430,000 hits

"Chaise lounge" is one of those terms that gets sticklers up in arms. It should be "chaise longue," literally "long chair" in French, they say. And dictionaries clearly prefer "longue."

Under the entry for "chaise" alone, Webster's New World mentions the "longue" option, but does not mention "lounge." Under its listing for "chaise longue," this dictionary doesn't even mention the "lounge" spelling.

But if you look up "chaise lounge," it's in there as a term meaning "chaise longue."

This is on my mind because I came across a "chaise lounge" in an article I was editing yesterday. I changed it, of course. And I'll continue to do so. But it looks like the tide is turning.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

'Each of Whom Visits' or 'Each of Whom Visit'?

Came across this in a USNews & World Report online article today:

The retired couple has a maid and a gardener, each of whom visit once a week.

Should that visit be visits? Well, yes. Each has a singular meaning, so the verb should be singular as well. But in the process of researching this, I found some interesting stuff about each and when it might not be singular. It's a usage note from American Heritage Dictionary:

The traditional rule holds that the subject of a sentence beginning with each is grammatically singular, and the verb and following pronouns
must be singular accordingly: Each of the apartments has (not have) its (not
their) own private entrance (not entrances). When each follows a plural
subject, however, the verb and subsequent pronouns remain in the plural: The
apartments each have their own private entrances (not has its own private
entrance). But when each follows the verb with we as its subject, the
rule has an exception. One may say either We boys have each our own room or We
boys have each his own room, though the latter form may strike readers as
stilted. The expression each and every is likewise followed by a
singular verb and, at least in formal style, by a singular pronoun: Each and
every driver knows (not know) what his or her (not their) job is to be.

We readers have each her own opinion on this ...

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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Wonderings and Googlings (Wherein I wonder about words, then I Google them)

Came across this sentence in a personal finance article today:

One way crooks steal your name is by swiping preapproved credit offers from your mailbox to open an account.
I haven't heard "swipe" used to mean "steal" in so long I had almost forgotten about it. So I Googled it.

In the first two pages of hits returned, I saw a lot of references to credit cards, a few dictionary and wiki definitions referring to taking a swing at someone, physically or verbally. And even: "The Swipe is one of the most recognizable power moves in breakdance. The breaker leans back, whips his arms to one side to touch the ground, and his legs follow closely behind, twisting 360 degrees to land on the ground once again." (I would have called that the "Not Tonight I Have a Headache," but what do I know?) But not one reference to stealing.

So I guess thieves have had their word stolen from them.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


I know what bade means. It's the past tense of bid. Today I bid you farewell. Yesterday I bade you farewell.

That's not why I was looking it up. I looked it up because I wanted an official ruling on how to pronounce it.

On the rare occasions when I hear people use this word, they always pronounce it "bad." Seemed like a bad call to me. If they would pronounce it as ryhming with "made," there would be less chance of confusion. After all, "bad" is a very common word but "bayed" is pretty rare (despite the sudden emergence of werewolf chic).

So, at long (long, long) last, I looked it up.

"Bad" news. I was wrong. and Webster's New World College both said it's pronounced "bad," not "bayed."

Makes me wanna howl.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

My Computer's (Lack of a) Way with Words

At my freelance job, I used to be able to double-click the time on the task bar to call up a monthly calendar. Once launched, that calendar let me change the computer's date and time. But I never did. I just used it as a plain-old calendar.

A few months ago, my work computer got a security upgrade. Now when I double-click the time, the computer tells me, "You do not have the proper privilege to change the System Time."

You've won this round, rude, belittling, inarticulate computer ...

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Copy Edit du Jour

At present, the university has 15 schools and 52 departments.

... changed to ...

The university has 15 schools and 52 departments.

Feels so good to do that ...

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Copy Editing Conundrum du Jour

I'm still not sure what to make of this sentence I came across in my copy-editing work today:

Guests are given glowsticks to guide their way through the already freaky figures and dioramas—a gauntlet that’s pretty scary to run even with the lights on.

It's weird enough that it seems to be based on a metaphor mixing "run the gamut" (range, scale) and "throw down the gauntlet" (glove). But "a gauntlet that's scary to run"?

I changed it to "a course that's pretty scary to run." But it'll be a while before I'm confident about it ...

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


Learning a foreign language is always trying. But learning from speakers of a foreign language that you're deficient in your own language is truly frustrating.

I recently began listening to Italian language lessons in my car. (It's part of my "stop saying we're going to Italy someday and just go, dammit" campaign, which has been dragging on for quite some time and will likely continue through at least the summer of 2011.) In one audio lesson, the sample dialogue had two Italian speakers listing toppings they wanted on their pizza: " ... funghi, capperi, rucola ..."

Then they translated into English. I already knew that funghi would be mushrooms. I wasn't surprised to hear that capperi meant capers. I was anticipating the last word to be arugula, but it wasn't. I couldn't make out what they were saying. It sounded like "ararahkt." So I looked it up online and saw that rucola in English means -- rocket.


Turns out it's a synonym for arugula.

So to learn an Italian word I had to learn an English word. That's a long way to go just to order a pizza.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Words I Will Never Be Cozy With


Stanch is one of those words that's always on copy editors' radar. Like "founder" (to sink) vs. "flouder" (to flail), the stanch vs. staunch issue seems to make itself known to copy editors early in their careers. So I've been aware of the word "stanch" ever since I first started reading style guides.

Today stanch is all over the news, as BP execs talk about how they can stanch the oil leak. It's the perfect word for the job. But, at the same time, it's one of those words that seems unnatural somehow -- maybe because it doesn't seem to come up in everyday speech.

It's none too easy on the ears, either.

I guess that's why I'll never feel like I have a relationship with "stanch."

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


Came across this recently in my editing work. I was editing marketing copy, so I just assumed the writer made a mistake. I started to change it to "predominantly," but then stopped and looked it up.


to have ascendancy, authority, or dominating influence (over others); hold sway
to be dominant in amount, number, etc.; prevail; preponderate

Related forms:
predominately: adverb

In other words, predominately is a lot like predominantly.

I changed it anyway.

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