Cute Grammar Pun

Here it is, folks. Got it from a friend off Facebook. Don’t know whether the link still works, but the source appears to be something called Captain Grammar Pants.

Too bad the guy on the left isn’t a monocle. Then I wouldn’t have thought, “should be ‘corrective lenses.’ “

Watch out for Irregular Verbs

People seem to play fast and loose with irregular verbs. They use “snuck” when they should have used “sneaked,” for example. And they tend to use the wrong form when the verb is irregular. Even professionals do it (for shame):

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) will have a 25-foot golden mirror that will be able to collect light from the first stars and galaxies that sprung to life just after the Big Bang.

It’s spring sprang sprung, guys. Simple past is sprang!

While I’m complaining, here’s another grammatical goof from the same article:

In recent months, much of the focus has centered around the telescope’s primary contractor Northrop Grumman.

You center on something, not center around. I even wrote about this. Twice.

I like to put pictures in my posts, so here’s one of the telescope.

Even the caption to this picture has a goof, though a subtle one. Here’s the caption:

An artistic rendering of what JWST will look like in space

Artistic? This is a caption, not an opinion piece. Remove the word. Keep things factual. Harrumpf.

Is “None” Singular or Plural?

“None” is is derived from “not one” and since the “not” is an adjective, you can ignore it; all that to say that “none” is singular. So this sentence from an NBC news article is correct, even though it feels wrong.

None of the 103 people on board — 99 passengers, two pilots and two flight attendants — was killed.

“Was killed” feels wrong because of attraction, which was permitted in classical Latin, but not in modern English. Attraction is when a word picks up its grammatical form from a nearby word rather than from the “correct” word. And this sentence has a whole lot of plurals for “was killed” to wade through before you get to the subject, and “none” isn’t a strong singular anyway (People tend to give it its number from the context. When they talk about plurals, “none” becomes a plural, even though it isn’t.).

Nobody’ll criticize you if you get this construction wrong, but you’ll score points with the experts if you get it right.

Subtle Use of a Comma

Normally, a comma indicates a small pause of some kind in a sentence. And using a “from-to” construction indicates a range. I just ran into a usage where a comma changed the type of range in a from-to construction. It’s a headline to an article about a hockey team:

From underdogs, to National Champions

Without the comma, the headline might be above an article listing teams starting with low skill and ending with the top-of-the line team. But with the comma, the meaning changes to a passage of time for one team.


A Writer’s In Joke

Mark Anderson of Andertoons does a pretty good job of creating cartoons with an intellectual bent (as opposed to. say, scatological), and he even sells them for use in business and school presentations and the like. Check out his website.

Anyway, maybe today’s comic has two points. Do you get them both?

I’m pretty sure everybody can get the obvious joke; P.M. Roget wrote the Thesaurus, used by generations of writers to make their writing more lively, hence the list of synonyms for “peace.”

The second punchline isn’t exactly funny, perhaps. I haven’t opened my copy of his book for years. It’s too easy to go online, including here. And here. And here. And here. Where, ahem, I can also find Roget’s version.  Not to mention typing “synonym for [word]” in the address line of my browser.

So it’s a fitting epitaph, eh?

What is Metadata?

You’ve probably seen the word “metadata” in articles about computer security, such as references to the government collecting only metadata from phone calls.

Metadata is a description of something, a title, if you will, but not the actual data itself.

Clickbait is mainly metadata. Here’s a Bizarro comic with a lot of metadata bumper stickers. The comic has enough of them that it should give you a good feel for what metadata is. [Side note: “clickbait” has become so common a word that it’s no longer written as “click bait.” But my spell checker hasn’t caught up yet. It still says I should use “click bait.”]

Today’s rule of thumb: The place for metadata in expository writing is in headings, not in the content.

The Kid Gets One Thing Right

I saw the misuse of “your” and “you’re” when I read this JumpStart comic and began to wonder to myself how I might use the errors in a Writing Rag post. Then I read the last panel. Problem solved.

You do know the difference, right?

A Joke that’s a Lesson

My first rule of expository writing is to be clear. The humor in this joke plays on that.

So this couple were driving north following the Lake Superior shoreline, and a ways northwest of Milwaukee, they passed a sign that read, “Oconomowoc City Limits.” A discussion ensued about how to pronounce the name of the town. Soon they came upon a fast food place and they pulled in. They went inside, and the lady said to the clerk behind the counter, fairly jumping with eagerness, “First, tell me where we are, and say it slow so we can get it!” The clerk got a puzzled expression on her face, but she leaned forward and said, “bur, ger, king!”

Har har. Oconomowoc is a real place, too:

Here’s the lesson:

When you write, think of how you might be misunderstood, and prevent that.

An Infrequently-used Punctuation Mark

—in English, anyway.

First, Pearls Before Swine will illustrate:

We don’t call it an umlaut in English, either. We call it a dieresis. The dieresis serves a different function than an umlaut does, too.

The umlaut changes the pronunciation of a letter. For example, you pronounce Ü and ü by shaping your lips to say “ooo” but shape your tongue to say “eee.”

The dieresis changes a diphthong (two vowels pronounced as one) into two separate vowel sounds. For example, coop (think chicken coop) changes to coe-op when you spell it “coöp” (think co-operative). And “naive” technically would be pronounced almost like “knife” and “naïve” is the two-syllable word for someone without experience.

Yeah, yeah, I know—we usually leave off the dieresis in English. Mainly, I think, because we don’t have easy access to the punctuated  letters on our keyboards. But at least now you know how they work when you see one.

In case you want to use a letter with a dieresis, here’s a handy little chart. Position the cursor where you want the letter to go, then hold down the Alt key while you type the numbers on the numeric keypad, then release the Alt key.

Why You Need to Hyphenate Compound Adjectives

The hyphen tells you that both parts of the compound refer to the same noun. Take a look at the first panel of today’s Grizzwells:

Ever hear of a time rut, especially a big one? Me neither. It’s a big-time rut.

Now if the phrase isn’t a compound adjective, you don’t need the hyphen; in fact, the hyphen would be wrong. So you might say, “I’m ready for the big time!” and you’d be correct.

Here’s another, longer example:

We got an up-to-the-minute weather report.
The weather report was right up to the minute.

Both of those are correct.