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Archive for March, 2012

The Helpful Pedant

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Comparing my fellow persons’ command of the English language to the earnest efforts of a fifteen-year-old boy fumbling to unclasp a brassiere swollen with promise and, um, tits, is great fun and all, but the voices in my head keep insisting that conveying criticism without offering compensating guidance makes me a dick. *

Therefore, today’s and future roundups of linguistic sins will come with handy mnemonic cues, lovingly crafted to aid my bretheren and sisteren in our mutual quest to communicate clearly and competently.

Here goes:

Think of “nauseous” as a cause. Something that is nauseous has the effect of being nauseating. If you say “I feel nauseous,” you are stating that you have the effect of nauseating others. Fine and well if true (perhaps it’s time to rethink the spandex?), but be sure that’s what you mean. An easy way to keep this straight is to substitute “noxious” (as in “noxious fumes”) for “nauseous” in your skull before opening your fool mouth.

See? Helpful.

Healthy versus healthful. Exercising is healthy. Nutritious foods are healthful. Therefore, stating that a carrot is healthy implies that it is watching what it eats and that it works out at the gym while doing its best to ignore you staring at its butt. I don’t really have a handy mnemonic for this one other than proferring the image of trying not to get caught staring at a carrot’s butt. Make it your own.

Compliment versus complement. I am reluctant even to bring this one up because people getting it wrong never fails to make me smile. “Compliment” means “to express praise,” whereas “complement” means “to enhance or complete.” So, it’s fine to say, “This wine complements the meal,” or “Asif complimented my d├Ęcolletage before ejaculating enthusiastically upon it.” To get this right, I offer this joke:

A man walks into an empty bar. While drinking his beer and munching on bar snacks, he hears a little voice say, “Nice tie.” Initially startled, he dismisses it as drifting noise, perhaps from a radio in the back. A short while later another voice says, “Love your haircut,” to which he replies, “What the hell is going on here?” The bartender comes out and asks, “Is there are problem?” The patron says, “Yeah, there’s a problem. I keep hearing little voices and they’re saying, um, nice things to me!” The bartender says, “Oh. That’s the pretzels. They’re complimentary.”

* I don’t want the voices to think I’m a dick. **

** I don’t care what you think.

I Am Such a Child

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

Although it makes not one bit of difference to anyone with widely available wardriving tools, as a matter of practice I do not broadcast my Wi-Fi network’s SSID. Recently, however, I decided to turn it up and present the neighborhood soccer moms and investment bankers with this one:


Nobody Likes a Goddamn Pedant

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

It’s been a while since I bled off some of the bile that periodically threatens to bubble over as a result of the seemingling enthusiastic and willful dumbing down of the English language that assaults me on a constant basis. Today being my favorite occasion, Daylight Saving Time (not * savings time, you inbred mouthbreathers), I thought I would focus on some time-related boners that really chap my ass.

Ah, that ever elusive mistress the apostrophe. For fuck’s sake, it’s ’70s, not * 70’s. The apostrophe serves two purposes, truncation and possession (and never pluralization). “Can’t” is the truncation of “cannot.” “Bob’s” indicates that Bob possesses something, like a sombrero. “It’s” is a bit tricky. It’s (see what I did there?) a truncation of “it is”, while “its” indicates possession.

So, ’70s is a truncation of (usually) 1970s. One is lopping off the reference to the century to save time (see what I did there?), presumably to focus on hassling Muslims in airports. Writing 70’s indicates that the decade possesses something, which, like wearing bellbottom trousers or sporting collars large enough to be capable of generating lift, is very silly.

Intermission: “past experience.” A bit like “male sperm,” i.e., yes, as opposed to what other kind?

Finally, “within the hour.” People say this because it sounds fancier than “within an hour.” The two, however, do not mean the same thing, unless the time is at the top of the hour, which is actually a handy mnemonic to avoid sounding like a knuckle-dragging hominid putting on airs. Back in olden times when few people had watches and relied instead on the chimes of clocks and clock towers to keep track of time, “within the hour” was used to indicate that something would occur before the bell indicating the top of the next hour rung. So, if it’s 11:54 and one says that something will occur “within the hour” one is indicating that occurrence will be within six minutes. However, since it is time-consuming (see what I did there?) and potentially insulting to inquire whether or not the person speaking is a knuckle-dragging hominid putting on airs (unless it is of immediate concern or funny) every time someone says “within the hour,” it’s probably simpler if everyone ceases using the phrase entirely.

And that reminds me of what a shame it is that Michael Jackson is dead. I’ve had to mothball the joke, “How do you know it’s bedtime at the Neverland Ranch? When the big hand touches the little hand.”

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