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February 15, 2008


Lately, I have been receiving a lot of emails from webmasters asking to trade links, but the sites are all wildly inappropriate (a sunglasses store, a wiffleball information site) and written in dubious English.

The latest was from "Simple Love Secrets," a website that is truly tossing away all outmoded distinctions between subject and object pronouns, and on which all prepositions are interchangeable.

From the post Best Way to Make Him Felt Hot:
14. Ask him to park the car in imperceptible place and to have sex at the back seat.

15. Nightly came at the garden and make sex at grass, under the tree, anywhere.
I also look forward to the great success I might experience with #12, "Bed him down the back and start to have sex." I think I need a diagram.


November 16, 2007

Naughty FreshDirect Copywriters

Seriously, did they think no one would notice?

"You'll never take it in the can again"?

Maybe, actually, you'd want some hydrogenated oils for that.

I see that not all comedy writers are on strike.

(Also, it's "the perfect complement", not "compliment").

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May 19, 2007

great gams!

Celebrity magazines apparently feel that, in a single-page feature about stars and their great legs, it would be inappropriate to use the word "legs" more than, say, twice.

  • stems
  • gams
  • sticks
Really? Mary-Kate is "displaying her sticks"? Is she playing drums?

It is not necessary to thesaurize your prose to keep from ever repeating a noun. For instance, if the New York Times runs an article about poverty, the writer might use the word "poverty" thirty or forty times. It's not a big deal. It is fine to mention the topic of an article repeatedly throughout the article.

If I write a blog post, on my comedy blog, about comedy, I might refer to "comedy" at really any time I am talking about, well, comedy. I do not feel the need to mix it up with references to "comicalness, "buffoonery," "jesting," "drollery," "schtick," or "cracking wise."

Dear celebrity magazines -- Dita Von Teese has "gams." Everyone else has legs. Thank you.

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April 21, 2007

Lalit Gupta wants your rich lady love

This man has seen fit to ask me to IM him, attempting to lure me with a message I first parsed as "u r sexy," but which I then realized I had transposed, perhaps due to its lack of a question mark. It was, instead: "r u sexy," the lack of conviction about which makes all the less likely any future IM communiqués.

From his profile:

"I want made with a very rich and open type lady for long time external personal serious relalationship,i wait for reply."

Is a "relalationship" perhaps, a personal affiliation with someone who has little grasp on reality? Re-LaLaLand-ationship?

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January 27, 2006

grammatical mnemonic devices I can't actually share with my SAT class

"I'd really like to get between those twins!"


"I'd really like to get among those triplets!"

"Your bosoms are lovely."


"Each of your bosoms is lovely."

Grammar is hot!

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January 17, 2006

in the (subjunctive) mood

Thrillist today wrote about a new product for men -- Balla Powder. Yes, those ballas.

I was amused at the subject heading "Thrillist: Wish You Were a Balla?" This, of course, is an allusion to Skee-Lo's hit, "I Wish," which goes, in part, as follows:
I wish I was little bit taller,
I wish I was a baller
I wish I had a girl who looked good
I would call her
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat
and a '64 Impala.
I often use this song in my SAT classes as an example of an incorrect use of the subjunctive mood. Skee-Lo should, of course, have said "I wish I WERE a little bit taller, I wish I WERE a baller." The rest of the excerpt is a bit obscurist, but grammatically unproblematic.

Thrillist even taste-tested Balla Powder, just to make sure it won't be off-putting to the ladies. Now that's investigative journalism.

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August 26, 2005

I always wanted to operate a popular grammar blog

I explained the semicolon while teaching class today, and then, strangely, I came home to a missive from my mother, also inquiring about the semicolon. For the benefit of all, this is my quick and dirty explanation of the semicolon:
Use a semicolon when you are combining two complete clauses and you don't want to have to say "and." So basically, use a semicolon instead of a comma with an 'and.'

Both of these sentences are correct:

I like Bill, and we are going to the prom.

I like Bill; we are going to the prom.

(See how "I like Bill" and "we are going to the prom" are complete clauses? Yay!)

But I CANNOT say:

If I like Bill; we will go to the prom.

(That one's no good because "If I like Bill" isn't a complete clause!)

I have now explained semicolons; you can use them whenever you like! In a paragraph, a semicolon can add variety to your writing; many writing experts consider this a plus. However, the overuse of semicolons can seem forced; this is bad.

It is even possible (although quite unusual) to use two semicolons in one sentence! For instance:

Some people learn how to use semicolons in high school; others learn from grammar books; a few learn from their adult daughters.
p.s. My mom is smart; she has been articulate for many years without the need of semicolons.

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June 26, 2005

oh, how I miss thee, purveyors of the fourth-grade reading level

Doing some research in my old hometown paper, I found this column by a columnist complaining that her editor won't let her use the word "schadenfreude" in the paper because "no one knows what it means."

"I see it all the time in The New Yorker," she protests.

He replies: “That’s nice. Next time you write a piece for The New Yorker, use it. In the meantime, don’t.”

I am so glad I moved to New York.

p.s. When I wrote for the Pilot, they would've let me say "schadenfreude." I would've insisted it was the "teen perspective" these days.


June 22, 2005

let's not even get started with the "fish and chip" shop

In Ft. Greene today, I saw a truck drive by with lots of Spanish phraseology painted on it, and one English heading:


rehabilitation center

In between the "Christian Drugs" and the subsequent explanation was a big logo, leading one to think that perhaps the truck is delivering Christian drugs somewhere (whatever those might be).

Of course, the "drugs" versus "drug" grammar issue here is one frequently seen in the business signage of non-native English speakers who have not grasped that the "drug" in "drug rehab" is being used as an adjective, and thus does not mean only one drug, as opposed to many.

So we get the "Nails Salon" and the "Flowers Shop," each of which makes sense in its own way -- of course they paint all your nails, and sell you many flowers at once.


June 9, 2005

like a "peccadillo", except with annexing other people's provinces

Today's Word of the Day is:

peccavi (pe-KAH-vee) noun

An admission of guilt or sin.

[From Latin peccavi (I have sinned), from peccare (to err).]

The story goes that in 1843, after annexing the Indian province of Sind, British General Sir Charles Napier sent home a one word telegram, "Peccavi," implying "I have Sind." Although apocryphal, it's still a great story.

Oh, those Brits. Colonialists, sure, but what punners.


March 31, 2005

I may have to send this in to

My friend Megan gifted me with this fabulous Japanacrazy bee-themed pencil box! (All bumblebee items now refer to spelling bees, whether entomologists like it or not. Funny, it's like the concept of the "spelling bee" is the one thing that unifies entomologists and etymologists).

The poem reads:

Good luck and happy will be friends
It is a funny and amusing story for you
We show you the real friendship
Come and join us quickly!

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March 26, 2005

maybe they could use hip-hop to teach proper capitalization

Today while art modeling, I thought, apropos to nothing, why hasn't some Japanese hip hop artist put out an album called "Rapanese"?

When I got home, I googled the phrase and discovered that "Rapanese" is a language learning method, best known in a Spanish language learning book, described here by a publisher apparently unfamiliar with the rules and conventions of English:
First the lyrics (each of twelve lessons) are repeated slowly without music in both Spanish and English, just like conventional language tapes. Then the lyrics are repeated, sometimes long, with Awesome music. We repeat the Spanish and English words and phrases twice. You Do Not Get Bored because your mind fixates on the music and you pick up the Spanish the way you pick up the words to your favorite song. Your Mind Becomes Bilingual.
According to the reviews, the "Awesome music" is not, in fact, rap. Thus, Rapanese is neither rap, nor Japanese. What a waste of a perfectly good word.


March 16, 2005

I want to form an all-girl band so I can call it this

Reader Mariluetta suggested I could submit my new word mammating to Wiktionary, as she did for "sugartime," as in "Sarah and Sally went home early to enjoy some sugartime." derives from the episode title of a children's television program that was condemned by the Bush administration and its ultra-conservative allies, then censored by PBS.... In January 2005 Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings wrote an open letter to PBS, complaining about an upcoming episode of the children's show Postcards from Buster.... Spellings objected to the episode "Sugartime!", which shows how maple syrup is made. The episode takes places in Vermont and features a little girl whose parents are a lesbian couple.


February 11, 2005

the official athletic shoes of Andover and Exeter

A friend of mine who is a GMAT instructor puzzled his class the other day with the following grammar question(pick one of each pair):

If I was/were he/him, I would not do it/so.

The (only) correct answer is "If I were he, I would not do so."

There was some major confusion among the non-native speakers over that. This also means that the Nike slogan, "Just do it," is incorrect, but can you imagine the pansy-ass shoes advertised by the phrase "Just do so"?

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February 3, 2005

Example Phrase Using Today's Word: Se debe usar el ascensor o las escaleras automáticas.

I recently discovered that "escalator" is plural in Spanish. Makes perfect sense. I mean, if "escalator" is singular in English, why are stairs plural?

I can see the argument for plurality (pluralism? both of these words have totally other and unintended meanings here) or singularity (singularism?), but it seems like a language should really pick one for both stairs and escalators and stick with it.

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