Archive for category Grammar Humor
“Words Matter Week during the first full week in March coincides with National Grammar Day. The week is designated to stamp out verbal slop and drivel.” — National Day Calendar
More importantly, I think, this week is about considering the value and import of words, each word we speak or write, and the effect they have on our audience. DO we even think about the words we use? Or do we often throw them out like confetti in the wind, not intending any meaning (the habitual insertion of “like” comes to mind) or, just as often, not realizing the power they have to injure, stir, soothe, inspire, control. Could we not be more intentional with our use of words, realizing that, as Mark Twain said, “The difference between almost the right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”
I’ll have more to say each day this week on the power and significance of words in a variety of contexts. Join me!
On a lighter note, grammarNOW! offers you some fun grammar resources suggested by NAIWE:
- Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English
- Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World
- Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins: The Careful Writer’s Guide to the Taboos, Bugbears and Outmoded Rules of English Usage
- The Elephants of Style: A Trunkload of Tips on the Big Issues and Gray Areas of Contemporary American English
Finally, to get you thinking and hopefully responding, each day this week, I’ll post a writing prompt. Let me know what you think in 100 words or less. Here is today’s food for thought:
Words can change history. What word, speech, or document do you believe to be most important?
I had to give you a laugh and something to consider about yourself today:
The first comment on this one is as funny as the name: “Is this syrup you put on a boy to make them taste better or syrup that comes from a boy?”
Now consider which punctuation mark best represents your social personality:
The correct use of an apostrophe is either to form a possessive or a contraction.
- Possessive: the teacher’s sign, a person’s signature, your foot’s toe
*The only possessives that do NOT use the apostrophe are pronouns:
his, hers, its, theirs, whose, theirs, yours, ours
- Contraction: don’t, isn’t, can’t
You will also find the apostrophe used when letters have been removed: rock ‘n’ roll, or when a plural would be misread: do’s and don’ts (It would be awkward to read “dos” and don’ts.).
For common acronyms or abbreviations that are typically capitalized, do not use an apostrophe to form the plural. Just add an s: DVDs, CDs.
Please, I’m begging here, do NOT use the apostrophe to form the plurals of nouns:
If you can find other examples of incorrect apostrophe use, and they’re everywhere so this should be an easy assignment, please post them here for our pleasure (or pain).
A necessary point of clarification here: Its is the possessive pronoun (Example: “The apostrophe is losing its meaning.”). It’s means it is (Example: “It’s not that hard!”).
I hope I am not a pedant, but even those who are must enjoy this artful commentary:
Language should be enjoyable. There are circumstances that call for correctness and others that call for pleasure. Being grammatically wrong can be fun if it is intentional. So what’s “wrong”? There are basic grammatical rules for communication that should be adhered to in order to be understood and that keep one from being thought of as illiterate or unintelligent. Then there are more specific rules that keep writing or speaking from being unclear or unpleasant as a result of confusion. These are the “rights” and “wrongs” of grammar.
It is important to know the difference between grammar and style, but that’s another post. Stay tuned, and meanwhile, enjoy your language.
First read the cartoon Candorville: Scare Quotes.
What are “scare quotes?” you ask. They’re the quotation marks people use to call attention to a word or phrase. Unfortunately, 99 times out of 100 they’re misused, causing the writer to look foolish or worse (stupid) or causing the message to become funny rather than achieve its probably serious intent. For some laughs, visit these sites, whose collections of misused quotation marks are just a few great examples of unintentional grammatical humor:
Just ponder this one paragraph in the article by a very literate, and funny, writer:
Interestingly, the indiscriminate use of “iconic” coincides with the profusion of computer icons, emoticons, and so forth. Perhaps those ideograms may be changing the language at a level we’re not entirely aware of — turning English into an amalgam of the alphabetic and the logographic, the result of which could be a debasement of words, an elevation of graphemes, a diminution of our ability to use abstractions with precision, and a consequent epistemological degeneracy.
Hinkle is only half serious here, and there are laugh-out-loud moments later in the article. Wonderful insights on an overused word.
A Case for the Serial Comma
The serial comma is the final comma before a conjunction (and, or, . . .) in a series. Its omission can result in confusion at worst or humor at best. That’s why most style guides prefer it. Here is an example of a humorous need for it (after the name Kristofferson).
The quote under the photo, in case you can’t read it, is this:
MERLE HAGGARD: The documentary was filmed over three years. Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall.
A comment on the caption, attributed to my copyediting colleague Bob Allen, in eastern Washington:
With those two ex-wives, I understand why Merle looks so Haggard.