Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Verbing Nouns Again

I've been a long-time fan of Vaseline Intensive Care Fragrance-Free Hand Lotion. Now, however, they're selling a newer formulation that is--ta-da--unfragranced! (If you can't update the scent--Now, newer, fresher, nothing!--might as well make up your own words!)

Name Play

Google often has fun with their name on days that they feel are special in one way or another. If you happen to hit their site on one of those days, you're treated not only to fun art like this one,
but also clicking on the image often takes you to more, related info, like this:
http://www.google.com/search?q=edvard+munch

and it makes people like me want to read more, for example by looking in Wikipedia, like this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edvard_Munch

So, simply by having a little fun, Google can spread culture and knowledge to those who choose to look. It's a cool idea.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Is It the Puzzles or the Brain That's Getting Harder?

For a long stretch over the last 2 to 3 years, I've felt that I've been getting better and better at doing the San Jose Merc daily crosswords, faster and faster completion time, almost never leaving any blanks and having to look things up less and less often.

But recently they seem to have gotten hard again. I don't really want to spend 20-30 minutes in the morning doing the crossword--7 to 10 is fine with me. But I seem to be creeping back up there. Today's puzzle took me 22 minutes, including looking up words in the crossword dictionary. Now, really:
  • Black currant liquer: cassis

  • Munich's river: Isar (maybe if you've been to munich you'd know this? Why have I never heard of it?)

  • Swenson of "Benson": Inga. Inga? OK, I don't watch TV. That's a TV show, right?

  • Green finch: serin. (You'd think that, as a Finch myself, I'd know. But no.)

  • Long stole: Tippet (that wasn't even in my crossword dictionaries.)

  • Cell body: Soma (should I have remembered that from biology? I don't think I heard it before--)

  • Carolina rail: Sora (yeah, right)

  • Whole: Unitary (unitary? Jeez, we're stretching here)

  • Stubby, erect tail: scut (even with all the dog-related research I've done, I've never heard this term)

  • Russian chess great: Tal (OK, chess players might know this. I've never heard the name, that I know of)

  • Communion plates: patens (maybe if I'd ever had communion I'd know this. Do communionators know this, or do they call them "communion plates"?)

OK, I DID know that a black cuckoo is: Ani (from doing crossword puzzles only), that a grain beard is: Awn (from doing crossword puzzles), that an inverse math function is: arcsine (after filling in 3 or 4 of the letters first), and that a Flemish map maker is: Mercator (ditto), but this one just really seemed to have more than its share of obscure terms.

All Those New, Creative Xmas Shows

Ah, how sweet it was, every year in the years of my TV-watching childhood (we never had a TV until I was 5 or so), when the new Christmas cartoon special came out. I didn't realize that I was in the prime of Christmas cartoons! Never before--or since, apparently--has there been such a successful run of watchable, endearing holiday shows. And, since they happened in my lifetime, of course they're *new* shows, not "classics" (which is what Miracle on 34th Street or Holiday Inn are, sorry, mom & dad!).

So here's when all these brand-new holiday cartoons made their appearances:
  • Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, 1962 (what fun to have watched Mr. Magoo on Saturday mornings all my life and then to have him star in his own Christmas movie!)

  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964 (what fun to have sung that song all my life and then for them to finally make a TV show out of it!)

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965 (what fun to have read the comic all my life and then for them to finally make a TV show out of it!)

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1966 (what fun to have read the Seuss book all my life and then for them to finally make a TV show out of it!)

  • Frosty the Snowman, 1969 (well--OK, it was a good try but I never liked this one as much as all the others. It was a latecomer to the crowd, and anyway by then I was in high school, so I'm sure I wasn't its target audience.

And then--that's it! No more! How can one beat such successes! So no kids today are having the experience that I had, year after year, of having old favorites given new life.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Those Spam Email Subject Lines

Some of the subject lines that show up for spam in my inbox truly perk up my jaded brain cells from time to time. Don't you want to know more when you read these? Or at least don't they conjure images you hadn't previously considered having conjured?
  • Hurry! Limited time only!, nose ape
  • "And it smells of sulfur still today."
  • Niminy-piminy
  • Absentee crockery
  • Apparel computers
  • Cloak-and-dagger imminently
  • Crucial bagpipes
  • Digression contraption
  • Feel young, moss-bordered
  • Gold medalist harmlessly
  • Heroin layaway
  • How to make 1,566% throwing darts
  • Humanist shoplifting
  • Insensitively bodice
  • Joyriding Pyrex
  • Never sleep for it causes early death
  • Perpendicular roman numeral
  • The detergent that stays in your washing machine
    (As to this last, I wonder about the opposite, perhaps detergent that leaps from the washing machine despite all attempts to nail it in place during the wash cycle.)

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Words Lose Some Allies

The news has not been of the best the last two days. Among those lost to lovers of words and language:
  • John M. Ford, one of my favorite science fiction writers and one of the most versatile around. He was younger than me.
  • Esther Martinez, a prime contributor to the preservation of the Tewa language, a Pueblo language threatened with extinction. She created the first (and only?) Tewa dictionary, for example. Killed by a drunk driver, at age 94.
  • Norman Lewis, author of 30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary, one of the most enduring of vocabulary books ever published. (He was also a long-time columnist, author (63 books), and professor, and "one of the nation's foremost authorities on vocabulary and language skills".) Age 93.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

National Punctuation Day

It's National Punctuation Day. Visit the official site for details, including interesting discussions about various punctuation marks and photos of stores who don't spend enough on proofreaders.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Seal Those Leaks! Cuckoo!

Fortunately I don't have to go to such great lengths as the now-disgraced Hewlett Packard Board went to to seal its leaks; mine are simple ones under the kitchen sink and in the bathtub.

When I find that ideal man, he should know what I'm talking about when I wander around the house muttering "The plummer is a cumin in." Or, when trying to track down the original spelling, finding that PDQ Bach has recorded a song titled "Summer is a cumin seed."

Now, back to singing Cuccu...
Read about "Summer Is Icumin In" on Wikipedia.

Another Corny Experience

When handed several ears of corn the other evening whose outer covering needed removing, I realized that I used both the verb "shuck" the corn and the verb "husk" the corn to mean the process of removing the outer covering and cornsilk. Naturally I had to look it up.

To shuck means to remove the shuck.

To husk means to remove the husk.

Are you feeling as enlightened as I did?

Both shuck and husk refer to the outer covering of something, the former specifically nuts or "Indian corn"; the latter, a dry or membranous outer covering of various seeds and fruits (such as corn). Husk, the noun, comes from roughly 14th-century Middle English and the verb form from the mid 1500s, whereas shuck, the noun, dates back to at least the 1600s and shuck, the verb, to the late 1700s, but has unknown origins.

So I dare say that you can either shuck or husk your corn without danger of doing the wrong thing.

What Happens When Amateurs Use Language

I think you should have to have a license to use the English language. It's so badly abused.

I've been alternately amused and puzzled by the man in a particular radio ad, who states that "I am the father of two small girls, and a wife of sixteen years." Is he a father and wife? Is he the father of a wife? Who can tell?

Friday, August 25, 2006

What Can Taste?

I'm a bit puzzled by this wrapper on my Weight Watchers Snack Bar:

Sweet Crisp flavored

Is it sweet-flavored, or is it crisp-flavored? Last I knew, neither sweet nor crisp were flavors. And I don't think that "sweet crisp" is an entity in an of itself.

Sweet is a taste sensation, along with sour, salty, and bitter. It either IS sweet or it ISN'T.

And crisp isn't even a taste; it's a texture. Otherwise, you could have lattice-flavored, smooth-flavored, chunky-flavored...

Monday, August 07, 2006

Writing and Painting

The final painting as it was given to me.
Why you shouldn't always trust Photoshop's (PhotoShop Elements anyway) automated color correction, although often it does an amazing job.

At my agility trial this weekend, the spouse of one of the competitors sat working at an artist's easel all weekend. On Sunday I finally asked whether he minded if I looked over his shoulder, and he said not at all, and then kindly asked my opinion. We chitchatted about the painting off and on over the next few hours. I started out by saying how amazing it was that he could create a wilderness scene while sitting at an agility trial with a big barn in front of him, but then quickly amended that to muse that, in fact, when I'm writing fiction, all I have in front of me is a keyboard and monitor, and I'm using words to paint a scene that might or might not exist anywhere in reality.

Every time I stopped by, the scene had changed. At first, there was a road winding off through the hills. By the end of the day, it was a stream flowing down into the foreground. In the morning, there were bluffs in the background to the left and the right; by the end of the day, there were several sets of differently shaped hills and bluffs at different distances in the background. The cabin and the log across the stream didn't appear until the very end.

Early in the day, it was a bluish sky and a mostly vaguely populated foreground and background. During the day, trees came and went, grassy areas came and went, the shape and makeup of the large dead tree on the right varied gradually.

It reminded me more and more of what writing is like. If you're lucky, the words and scenes and characters flow directly onto the page exactly as they need to be, but more often you discover more about a character as you write, and go back to earlier parts of the story to tweak here, erase there, add paragraphs somewhere else, to strengthen the story that you want to tell. The background might change, too. Perhaps you hang a gun on the wall in the first scene, intended the character to use it later, but eventually you omit the gun from the plot, and so you erase it from the wall. Or, vice-versa, you add it as it becomes necessary to the later story.

It has me thinking about writing fiction again.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

About Jargon

A friend emailed about science fiction:

...the authors usually assume you read a lot on the genre and throw in tons of jargon that you are supposed to know...


So of course I had something to say (hmm--I almost ALWAYS have something to say--), in which I used jargon from dog agility to pontificate about jargon in SF and TV sitcoms:

This reflects an interesting challenge in writing for any specific community: the assumption that most readers in that community are, in fact, already familiar with what has gone before and don't want to keep seeing the same things explained over and over.

On the opposite side, you see SF editors tearing their hair over story submissions that go into great deal explaining concepts or terms that were originally described in the '40s or '50s and have been explored at great length since then and sometimes have even been abandoned as being outdated, overused, etc. and that most readers can identify easily with a single word or phrase and have all that context already in their heads.

It's a little hard to draw parallels with dog agility, but it would be like someone wanting to write an article for Clean Run explaining what each of the pieces of agility equipment is. Someone who's never done agility and picks up the magazine for the first time might be mystified by what a dogwalk is (like I foolishly dropped into my conversation with someone just the other day about trying to fit a dogwalk into my yard, and he interjected, "whatever that is"), but most readers don't want to have to read a definition or description or see a simple picture of a dogwalk every time they read the magazine. And someone who tried to sell an article about how they have an obedience dog and just heel the dog on the left through agility obstacles or lure them through with a goodie in front of the nose would probably get laughed out of the magazine's office forever. And imagine a newcomer to agility coming to class and being told to do an RFP or lead-out-pivot or blind cross without an explanation...most of us would tune out the ensuing conversation because we already know it.

So there is a bridge between someone who's never had any experience with any science fiction and the current state of the literature. It's not an easy thing to resolve, but it's not really (IMHO) all that different from coming into a TV series halfway through the season and having no idea what everyone in the room is laughing about (because you don't know the character's histories or where they work or who they're married to or people they used to date or that they're fanatic about nascar or whatever). If one thinks it's worthwhile, one explores more and reads (or watches) more and gradually learns.

In other words, if one is baffled by the terms and concepts and so doesn't read much in the field to avoid being baffled, one will continue to be baffled...

Same or Different?

Today's entry for best redudant duplication of information is this subject line from some spam that squeaked through again:

look-a-like replica watch

I'm waiting for the follow-up "look-a-different replica watch". Don't you think replica watches that didn't look anything like what they're replicating would be hot sellers?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hyphenating Compound Adjectives

A friend asks:

Is the hyphenation correct in the following:

They currently operate a number of credit-card based and other loyalty programs in the US and elsewhere around the globe.


My response: "credit-card-based" all modifies "programs," so hyphenate the whole thing. It's confusing only because the noun "credit card" is two words; if it were, say, "money-based programs" it would be obvious that there's a hyphen before the "based".

If you want to be *really* technical about it, because of the "stacked" hyphens, in this case the credit-card hyphen would be a regular hyphen but the -based would be an en dash.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Something I Was Thinking In My Head

Recent crossword puzzle clue: "Mental telepathy." So, tell me, what other kinds of telepathy are there? Is there physical telepathy, for example? And, if so, which body part would be communicating extrasensorily, and could it communicate only with other like body parts?

Then there was the radio announcement about an "explosionary device" that was found at a local school. Hopefully that sort of vocabulary isn't what they're teaching at that school, or maybe that's why someone wanted to explodify that particular school.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Treasured Keepsake

I had the opportunity--not offered to just anyone--to obtain, for a mere $3.95 (what a bargain!) "The beauty of poetry--a treasured keepsake for a child you love." Now, aside from figuring out whether I in fact love all my nieces and nephews, or love them equally, or in fact whether any of them are worth $3.95 plus postage and handling, let alone whether they can truly appreciate the beauty of poetry reproduced on 8x10 parchment weight paper, ideal for framing, I thought I'd share their two examples with you:

MATTHEW
M is for manly, so handsome, grand.
A is for amiable, friendly li'l man.
T is for treasure, talented, smart.
T is for thoughtful, caring heart.
H is for happy, so full of fun.
E is for expressive, devoted one.
W is for wonderful, an ideal boy,
that's Matthew, pure pride and joy.

JESSICA
J is for jewel, heart of pure gold.
E is for expressive, a happy soul.
S is for special, beauty that's rare.
S is for sweet, loving and fair.
I is for intelligent, bright as the sun.
C is for caring, thoughtful one.
A is for angel, a joy from Above,
Jessica, so precious, and so loved.

So I have a friend whose daughter's name is "K". Do you suppose we get a discount off our $3.95 for having only one letter? Or would it come out something like this?

K is for knowing, missing some letters,
frankly, I could've spelled Kay much better.

And I'll have to think for a while about the beauty of this particular poetry--"friendly l'il man"? Frankly I think it's the beauty of making the line fit on 8x10 parchment weight paper.

Because you're my personal friend, I'll let you know that you can go here to order your own treasured keepsake.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

It's Always Too Young

Tragic news today--but aren't most deaths tragic?--a woman I knew casually for many years just died in a motorcycle accident. I mention her here because she was a classically trained musician who loved good folk music; she was in her own performing group(s) and wrote her own lyrics and music in the "Celtic rock" vein, which ranged from poignant to rollicking fun. She was also a writer. A lively woman of many talents.

Leigh Ann Hussey of Annwn and Brazen Hussey, so long. Goodbye.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Get an Education Instantaneously

Just got this email:


Subject: Attention To Your Eductaion [Word Whirled notes: spelling not required!]

Attention Potential Candidate:

You may now qualify for our unique University Education Program. For a limited amount of students - No tests, classes, books, or interviews required*

Yourself, and a limited number of other candidates are invited to take advantage of this Special Enrollment [Word World notes: grammar and punctuation also not required! In particular, periods are 100% optional!]

Bachelors, Masters, MBA, and Doctorate (PhD) available in the field of your choice - 100% Verifiable Documents will be shipped to you within 2 weeks. [WordWhirled notes--not 50% verifiable, not 99% verifiable, but, Yes! 100% verifiable! Dare I ask who exactly is verifying what exactly?]

Thank You
-Internet Admissions Office

*Education awarded on life and past work experience. Pleast note, this loophole won't last. [Word Whirled notes--Ah, ha, you thought that you ALREADY had an education based on your life and past work experience? No, you merely had the life and experience; you must be AWARDED the education! And you must pay dearly for it, too! (And it's good that they include only "past work experience" and not, say, "future work experience," which might in fact be very educational but is probably not at this time 100% verifiable.)]

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Ization, What Goes Around, and beerhandedness

Yes, language evolves (sometimes in a pathetic, tortured way) as people create the words that they need (or that they think they need):
  • Heard on KCBS today, a spokesperson for some organization in San Francisco, discussing the "condominiumization" of apartments. Frankly, "condominiumizing" would have at least had one fewer syllables.
  • As a writer and editor, I often give people grief over their sloppy/casual use of language. You should have heard the roasting I got last night (in agility class) when I mentioned that "I attend an annual party every year..." Now, note that in fact the party could be an annual one that I don't attend every year; none-the-less I chose to let them have their say and then moved on to the real purpose of my blathering, which was to discuss:
    • Beer-handedness: The ability of one to play challenge croquet while holding a full beer cup in the other hand.
    • This goes in line with the agility people discussing the various subjobs assigned at agility trials when rebuilding rings of equipment, such as the Table Taker-Offer.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Crosswords Sometimes Evoke Cross Words

Most crossword puzzles are not merely vocabulary tests. They're also trivia tests. Sometimes moreso than they are tests of one's working lexicon. What's really annoying is when they are tests of language trivia--words that normal people would never know and that even crossword afficionados would never have occasion to use in even the most extreme intellectual emergencies.

On the other hand, a year or so back, the San Jose Mercury did use the word adit in an article about closing old mine entrances in the Almaden-Quicksilver area. (Adit being a mine entrance...sure, it's quicker, but who understands you when you use it?) But I've never yet had anyone say to me, "Hold on, I don't seem to have my etui" (needle case or ornamental case); and maybe it's only because we live in a monogamous society that I've never had occasion to ask where the oda (harem room) is. Perhaps when I become ambassador to Bahrain (capital of: Manama; or--capital of: dinar).

The San Jose Merc's crossword puzzle is a comfortable speed for me. It takes me 15-20 minutes to complete, and I can almost always eventually fill in the whole thing, although it's challenging enough that I have to work across and down and across and back again and in and out and puzzle a few things out. Still, it is interesting to note how much one needs to know to be able to get through it.

For example, aside from what I'd consider "normal vocabulary" (and nontricky clues), to do this morning's puzzle, one had to know:

  • People: Meg Ryan, Elvis's middle name (Aron), Nanette Fabray (never heard of her), Willie Mays, Edna Ferber (never heard of her before I started doing xwords. Still don't know what she's known for except having a first name that's popular in crosswords), Edna Best (ditto), Len Dykstra (who?), Raoul Walsh (who?), Yoyo Ma, Lenin's love (Yoko Ono)
  • Places: Florida city (yeah, like there's only one... Ocala, in this case), Laguna Beach (CA), San Miguel (CA), Uru. neighbor (know what countries border Uruguay), French city (yeah, like there's only one... Caen in this case), Las Vegas, where Nova Scotia is
  • Other languages: Spanish lariat (reata or riata), Seine sights (Seine is a french river containing islands, hence iles), Corrida cheer (olĂ©), modus operandi, Alain's affirmative (Alain being a French name, hence oui)
  • Esoteric vocabulary: Eosin (ink ingredient), cote (dove shelter), eclat (great brilliance), tael (Old Chinese money), oda (harem room)
  • Miscellaneous: Madonna hit "La ____ Bonita", three-letter names of Greek letters, characters in Lohengrin,who and what Scrooge is, Hawaii Five-0 villain


Some of these were easily within grasp in the parts of my brain that I never knew were devoted to trivia, but many weren't. And you surely know some that I didn't. What a balancing act for a crossword puzzle creator and editor, to aim at a reasonable audience without knocking them backwards in a dead swoon after half an hour (like the NY Times Sunday xword does to me--usually I can get most of that one if I work at it for a couple of hours. But who has that kind of time? And it becomes frustrating when I have to look up half the words in a crossword puzzle dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, almanac, or encyclopedia).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

A Pun is Worth a Thousand Words

It's hard for me to imagine people who love language not also loving puns, but --gasp-- it's true, some folks are like that. But I'm not like them and I like them (there's a turn of phrase for ya). So here are some nice, short ones I've found or remembered recently:

  • What did the bald man say when given a solid-gold comb?
    Thanks, I'll never part with this.

  • A dog walked into a saloon wearing a gunbelt and with one foot in a bandage. He said:
    "I'm looking for the man who shot my paw."

  • What do you call a fish with no eyes? (Note: This is a tricky one. The answer is much clearer when written, but the pun in the question really works only when spoken (hint--think of homophones for "eye").)
    Fsh.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

License Plates

Ah, the American dream: Expressing oneself through your very own license plate and frame.

Today's intriguing combination on a car:

License: BYAVOWL (or maybe BYAVWEL)

Frame: M_T_RC_CL_ / Thanks Pat and Vanna!

Soooo... did they win the car on Wheel of Fortune? Did they win a motorcycle on Wheel of Fortune? Are they simply fans of WoF? I wanted to leap out of my car, run forward (we were stopped at a light), pound on their window, and ask. But I didn't. So I'll probably never know.

And what a cultural phenomena, that even I, who almost never watch TV and have probably never watched Wheel of Fortune, still know that it's Vanna White and Pat Sajak and that contestants can "Buy a vowel" to complete a mystery word... Is there anyone in America today who does NOT know that? Is the program even still on? Who knows?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Unclear Pronoun References

Another entry found in Wikipedia (and that I fixed): "These dogs are very loving with children, provided they do not tease them." Who's teasing whom?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Important Is Sentence The of Order A

Here's a good one that I just excised from Wikipedia:

"Game show host [[Bob Barker]] is known for advising viewers of [[The Price is Right]] to help control the pet population, to have their pets spayed or neutered at the end of each episode."

My own personal dog would likely become exhausted being spayed at the end of each episode, not to mention the ongoing cost. But it would certainly give the vet something to do to keep him off the streets, committing random acts of veterinarianism.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Time Flies Like an Arrow, Fruit Flies Like a Banana

I can't believe it's been 3 weeks since I posted something here. It seems like only yesterday--or maybe 1996. I have trouble realizing that it's--like--2006 already! I still have trouble believing that I'm still not in the 20th century. January til March hardly seems like an aphid on the leaf that is my life on the plant of time (OK, I just felt the need for a bad metaphor).

For other Groucho Marx quotes (as in today's title line):

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Word Play

I happened to notice that, in yesterday's Mercury News, three of the comic strips were based on plays on words--yes, puns!--although milder forms than some: The Duplex, The Quigmans, and to a lesser extent, Family Circus (http://www.familycircus.com/), where Jeffy? asks, "When did cowboys and start ridin' horses instead of cows?" Today, only one squeezed in wordplay.

Hmm, I'm thinking I'm going to make a point about the prevalence of wordplay in the English language because of so many "overloaded" words and phrases (those with multiple meanings), but I don't have time to do any research. Hate when THAT happens, too. Meanwhile, you can entertain yourself by reading Wikipedia's articles on word play and paronomasia (there's a word for ya).

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Voodoo, Hoodoo, You Do...

Juju. It seems to have inserted itself violently into my current working vocabulary sometime in the last year or so. "Weird juju" or "bad juju" seem to be the sole phrases in which it's used. And I'm not the only one; it pops up everywhere in conversation. I got to wondering what it meant really (I know that in my mind it means sort of like voodoo or some hint of dire magic, but really what did it mean) and where did it come from and how long has it been a current slang?

I had an odd experience about 10 years ago where I encountered the phrase "sea change." Wow, thought I, what a lovely and creative way to express something that has altered profoundly. What a unique, original way to express it! And then--I encountered the phrase somewhere else. And somewhere else again. And in yet another place. And I heard it on the radio. And someone used it at work. And it was in magazines, fiction, newspapers. Everywhere. As if the world had undergone a sea change in its vocabulary overnight. But, in fact, I learned, the phrase had been in common use for a very, very long time, and most anyone I asked was familiar with it. Somehow for 40 years I had managed to completely avoid noticing a phrase that probably appears at least once in every novel or magazine ever published.

I tell you that story to tell you that juju has not only been around for longer than the last year or so, and that it is in fact in the dictionary, and to boot dates back to at least 1894 in American English. It originated in the languages of west Africa, probably related to the Hausa word jùju meaning fetish--as in the charm type of fetish. Its modern meaning is synonymous with charm, voodoo, fetish, or the supernatural power ascribed to such things.

Sooooo has the word been in hiding for all these years and is just coming into popular use? Or have I been sea changed again?

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Zzzzzzzzz

The English language doesn't make a lot of use of the letter Z. The whole Z section of my Merriam-Webster's 1459-page Collegiate Dictionary is 4 pages. Zs in the middle of words aren't common, either, but they seem to follow a pretty predictable pattern of pronunciation; consider: puzzle, muzzle, guzzle, nuzzle, fuzzy-wuzzy wuzza bear, buzzer, defuzzer. So if a shopping mall offers "Kiddee Kruzzers" for the kids to ride, how WOULD you pronounce that?

Someone I was with—perhaps My Sister(tm)(*)— suggested that they meant it to be pronounced as cruiser...kroozer...like that. My belief is that some nonnative-English speaker came up with the phrase and the executives in charge laughed so hard about Kiddie Kruzzers (not Kroozers, mind you) that their resistance to common sense was overruled. Or perhaps they're meant to be Kruzzers, not Kroozers. After all, they spelled it to be Kruzzers, not Kroozers, and one has to give some credit for intelligence to someone who had the creativity to come up with little red car-shaped doohickeys for kids to be pushed around in in shopping malls. Right.

I always fantasize about going down to the mall office and asking what a Kruzzer is, and arguing ingenuously that I don't want a Kroozer, I want a Kruzzer and can they explain what one is.

But I probably never will.

* (My Sister (tm)--this phrase gives me a lot of leeway in blaming things on someone other than myself, but no one can become particularly steamed because it can apply to so many people, so I can argue ingenuously that I wasn't referring to her but rather some other sister.)

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Said Word Order Is Important Who?

I left myself a note about the Wikipedia article on Doberman Pinschers ("Dobermann" is the title). The note said:
Dobermann needs editing badly.

The problem, of course, is that it has already been edited badly. What it badly needs is editing.

Who invented this language anyway?

The moral of the story is that your adverb should always be placed so as to modify the verb that you intended to modify. Elsewise modifications happen at random, and good not random placement word is.

Voice

I learned about this while skimming the questions at the Wikipedia Language Reference Desk:

You've heard of active voice (I hit the ball), you've heard of passive voice (the ball is hit by me); now, how about passive-aggressive voice (your butt will be kicked by me)? Just a thought--