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?