Friday, December 21, 2007

Zell As Shining Example for Wordsmiths Everywhere

If I had a nickel for every time an English teacher told her students that language skills are essential for success, I still wouldn’t be as rich as Sam Zell, the Chicago kerjillionaire who ascended from humble beginnings as a garden gnome to become king of Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and some stuff to do with sports.

So I can’t help but think of those poor teachers as I reflect on something Zell said in yesterday’s press conference regarding his conquest of All Things Tribune. The question wasn’t audible, at least not to those of us listening in via the Tribune website, but through context clues (a concept I learned in an English class) I was able to figure out that a reporter had asked Zell whether he wanted to get involved in the editorial side of the newspaper business. Zell answered with a loud and resounding no, which he punctuated by adding that he got “shitty grades in English.”

There’s a lesson here for kids: If you want to be successful, don’t listen to your English teacher. She’ll never tell you that, in this world, success comes to those who have more use for the word “shitty” than for the word “subjunctive.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Great Moments in Copy Editing

"For a five-minute bathroom cleaning, try an all-purpose cleaner and
sanitizer on your bathroom mirrors, sinks, counters and stool."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

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


1. Given to stopping and refusing to go on: a balky horse; a balky client.
2. Difficult to operate or start: a balky switch; a balky engine.
-- American Heritage Dictionary

given to balking; stubborn; obstinate: a balky mule --

Came across this in this Los Angeles Times photo caption about the Mars rover: "A balky wheel on Spirit, one of two rovers that landed on Mars in 2004, scraped the soil to uncover silica deposits that could be evidence of ancient conditions hospitable to life."

Which leaves me to wonder: Could an ancient civilization on Mars have been any less familiar with the word "balky" thank I was?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Words That Should Get a Divorce (One in an occasional series on words whose relationships have grown tired)

various and sundry

... and it's sundry who should file. Various runs around town with countless other words while poor sundry sits home patiently and codependently waiting for various to validate it. It's just not right.


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