September 15, 2006 | Comments Off on Heinzelmaennchen

And if you liked drachenfutter, you won’t want to miss heinzelmaennchen. (No, it is not a large house covered in ketchup.) Thanks to Leslie Rose and Katrin Mueller for the link.

Vocabugap (vo-CAB-you-gap)

September 15, 2006 | Comments Off on Vocabugap (vo-CAB-you-gap)

A Constrained Vision, a blog with “Thoughts on economics, education, politics, and other stuff from a recent-ish graduate of Duke University now living in Washington, DC,” directs us to William Safire’s invitation to enjoy such words as mishpoche, schadenfreude, and drachenfutter.

Language Log

July 8, 2006 | Comments Off on Language Log

Thanks to April Orcutt for the link to Language Log, a site for language lovers.

Michael Erard writes about it on June 20, 2006, for the New York Times Science Desk: “Serious linguistic scholars don’t usually write about talking dogs and street signs — not for publication, anyway. But that is what they do on Language Log, a funny, wide-ranging blog that provides up-to-the-minute linguistic commentary written for a wider audience. Now three years old….”

WRITING TIPS: Mind your metaphors

April 23, 2006 | Comments Off on WRITING TIPS: Mind your metaphors

Sometimes writers stretching for the lyrical founder on infelicities. They may come up with combinations that just don’t jibe, like a description of a cybergang member whose eyes were ‘black as blueberries.’ (Since when are blueberries black?) David Mamet, in Make Believe Town, mocks screenwriters who gush, ‘She has a pair of eyes that makes you think of olives in a plate of milk.’ Bet you wouldn’t want to taste a combo of olives and milk. Who would want to behold it?


April 14, 2006 | Comments Off on Floccinaucinihilipilification

Thanks to Kathryn Abajian for elucidating floccinaucinihilipilification: My OED says…it means your second definition: The action or habit of estimating as worthless, as in the 1746 entry: “I loved him for nothing so much as his floccinaucinihilipilification of money.” Now if I could just figure out how to pronounce it.

“Floccinoccinihilipilification” is my new biggest-word-I-ever-heard. Well, I haven’t actually heard the word, but I’ve heard of it, thanks to a recent e-mail from my mom. Actually, it’s one letter shorter than antidisestablishmentarianism, but floccinoccinihilipilification is a much more useful word than antidisestablishmentarianism. It means either “seeing meaning in everything, even when there isn’t any,” (according to my mother) or “the act or habit of considering things useless” (www; unattributed). Please let me know if you have a definitive definition. 🙂 (I don’t subscribe to the OED online.)

And in searching for the definition, I can across “hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia,” which means fear of long words. Ironic?

Copyediting listserve

February 16, 2006 | Comments Off on Copyediting listserve

Thanks to Suzanne Stewart for telling me about copyediting a listserve “for copy editors and other defenders of the English language who want to discuss anything related to editing: Sticky style issues; philosophy of editing; newspaper, technical, and other specialized editing; reference books; client relations; Internet resources; electronic editing and software; freelance issues; and so on. Carol Roberts started the list at Cornell University in December 1992 and passed ownership of the list to Beth Goelzer Lyons. Bill Blinn and Jane Lyle are the current list owners.”

Washington Post’s Style Invitational

December 4, 2004 | Comments Off on Washington Post’s Style Invitational

Thanks to April Orcutt for forwarding this:

The Washington Post’s Style Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year’s winners.

Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

Taking the War out of our Words

November 13, 2004 | Comments Off on Taking the War out of our Words

In the interest of taking small steps towards peace, I offer a link to what looks like an important book. I haven’t read it yet, but look what others have to say about it (on Amazon.com’s review section):

“Her theory that we need to ‘take the war out of our words’ before we can achieve peace at home and in the world, to me, seems like an obvious but brilliant perception. She seems very dedicated to spreading this message and educating people. I think she does an excellent job. This is the kind of stuff I wish we were learning in our schools! Great read.”

Mis-written signs

September 26, 2004 | Comments Off on Mis-written signs

Thanks to April Orcutt for sending these silly signs. April says, “While I doubt that these are real signs, they are fun in the grammar-punctuation way of “Panda eats, shoots and leaves.”



National Punctuation Day

August 22, 2004 | Comments Off on National Punctuation Day

Sunday, August 22 was National Punctuaton Day! If you didn’t celebrate, it’s not too late. Resolve today to erradicate an errant apostrophe, commend the common comma, hype a hyphen — whatever you feel is appropriate. (And no, my browser does not support em-dashes.)

You might also want to stop in at local writer Jane Straus’ grammarbook.com, a site which promises to “reveal to you the mysteries of grammar and punctuation.”

How I Met My Wife, by Jack Winter

July 25, 2004 | Comments Off on How I Met My Wife, by Jack Winter

Ten years old and still a fun read:
How I Met My Wife, by Jack Winter, Published July 25, 1994 in the New Yorker

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldly umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way.

New Words

June 2, 2004 | Comments Off on New Words

You may have seen these 26 definitions on the Internet. I’m passing them along in the interest of helping us all stay up to date on ever-changing technical terminology. Thanks to Chris Lunn for forwarding them; author unknown.

1. Assmosis – The process by which some people seem to absorb success and advancement by kissing up to the boss.

2. Blamestorming – Sitting around in a group discussing why a deadline was missed or a project failed and who was responsible.

3. Seagull Manager – A manager, who flies in, makes a lot of noise, craps over everything, and then leaves.

Language Rationing

May 12, 2004 | Comments Off on Language Rationing

Thanks to Bill Zarchy for sending the link to this funny story “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut” (Little Red Riding Hood), written by Prof. H. L. Chace of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio to demonstrate the importance of intonation. It’s written with real English words, but they aren’t the “correct” ones. Chase wrote it in the early 1940s “in the days of rationing during the war and I thought about what would happen if we had to ration language. If our vocabulary were cut in half, we’d have to get along with other words.”


May 3, 2004 | Comments Off on Glossarist

My new favorite website is the Glossarist, a “searchable and categorized directory of glossaries and topical dictionaries” covering topics as diverse as beverages, biometrics, body art, bar codes … and that’s just the Bs (or do I mean B’s?). There are also glossaries of Scottish Food and Drink, Cambridge Terms, Harry Potter, Terms and Definitions of the Minnesota Legislature, and a Banjo glossary. I promise you’ll love it.

Punctuation Police

May 3, 2004 | Comments Off on Punctuation Police

Thanks to Jim Mannix for forwarding this article about punctuation by John Rosenthal, Executive Editor of the New York Times Almanac. As for the author’s contention that people who are bothered by errant apostrophes are anal retentive (or is that anal-retentive?) fussbudgets, I prefer to think of myself 🙂 as a logical positivist who understands the simple — though apparently elusive — truth that language and reality are inextricably intertwined. And I don’t want my reality messed with by people who aren’t well-versed in what they’re messing with; in this case, English. (I’m a constitutional conservative, too. Or do I mean Constitutional Conservative?) Article here.

And by the way, how can the Times possibly prefer “CD’s” over “CDs”? Although Rosenthal claims not to be a grammatical anarchist (my spell checker prefers “Antichrist,” but I’m trying to be fair), he stretches credibility by condoning the sale of carrot’s. After all, if one can sell carrot’s without fear of reprisal, whats to stop hole’s in the ozone, the wide’spread use of handgun’s, and even the de’struction of rainfore’st’s by fa’st food addict’s high on Ciali’s? The answer is obviou’s: get out your red pen’s!


April 23, 2004 | Comments Off on Metaphors

I remember when I was first thinking about being a “real writer,” and figured I’d be required to start using metaphors. This was discouraging, as metaphors come to me as naturally as, as, um, donuts to bears. I even pulled out a couple of my favorite books and calculated their page-to-metaphor ratios. It was a silly exercise, but nowhere near as silly as this e-mail my parents forwarded.

Subject: Metaphors and Similes Found in High School Essays

– Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two other sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

– His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

– He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.


April 7, 2004 | Comments Off on Signspotting

I saw this in Lonely Planet’s online newsletter: Doug Lansky’s Sign Spotting will pay you $50 for a photo of a funny sign. See site for details and examples. Best photo of the year wins a Star Alliance ’round-the-world ticket!


April 2, 2004 | Comments Off on Euro-English

This was circulating on the web a while ago, and I just saw it again. Too good not to post. I don’t know the original source:

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European nation rather than German which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5-year phase-in plan that would become known as “Euro-English”.

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of the k”. This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter.

Phrase Finder

March 25, 2004 | Comments Off on Phrase Finder

Ever wonder about the origin of phrases like OK, scot free, and the full monty? Click onto the the Phrase Finder site to learn more. And if you’re looking for the meanings and origins of proverbs, euphemisms, Mondegreens (misheard song lyrics, such as, “the girl with colitis goes by”), quotations, or Shakespearean phrases, well, “Bob’s your uncle.”

Word of the Day

March 10, 2004 | Comments Off on Word of the Day

Thanks to Dick Katz for sending this link to Dictionary.com’s word of the day. Even if you already know the word, you’ll enjoy the examples of literary usage and information about the word’s origin.

Why English Is Hard To Learn

March 9, 2004 | Comments Off on Why English Is Hard To Learn

32 Reasons Why The English Language Is Hard To Learn:

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

Eye halve a spelling chequer

March 9, 2004 | Comments Off on Eye halve a spelling chequer

If you’ve ever struggled to learn a foreign language (I know I have) you’ll appreciate how difficult it is for foreigners to learn English:

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
It came with my pee see,
It plainly marckes for my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Poetry everywhere

February 10, 2004 | Comments Off on Poetry everywhere

Some people find poetry in the strangest places. Thanks to Chris L for forwarding this from our newest beat poet: “Man, that Rummy cat is outta sight and alright! I think that he’s going to reinvent himself as a beatnik poet and tour small, basement coffeehouses around the country, dressed in dark shades and a black turtleneck sweater, reading his poems like this one:

Body language

February 2, 2004 | Comments Off on Body language

Click to learn about body language in other cultures. Here is some info from the site:

* For a Japanese person, waving one’s hand in front of one’s own face with the palm facing outward can signal that the person doesn’t know or doesn’t understand something. (This may also signal the person feels undeserving of a compliment.)

* The American head signals for “yes” and “no” are reversed in Bulgaria. A Bulgarian nods to signal “no” and shakes the head from side to side to signal “yes.”

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