Tuesday, May 25, 2021

If I Was...or If I Were?

If I were a rich man, 
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum

"If I were": Try these lyrics on for size!  

And poetry:

So, now, how would you say:

Hint: "Were" is generally accepted as correct. Grammatically, I'm talkin' about the subjunctive mood, which is "the verb form used to explore a hypothetical situation or to express a wish, a demand, or a suggestion."

It's so common in song lyrics, poetry, speeches--even everyday conversations-- that many people pick it up simply from exposure to it without realizing. Mwah ha haaaaa it has crept into your very brain! ...Maybe.

But also many other people aren't aware of the subjunctive. I had a lively discussion with my Dad--very well read, well educated, with 70+ years of experience--about the existence of the subjunctive mood. Because he apparently had not picked up the phrasing "If I were..." and thought it was wrong. "Discussion" with my stubborn, always-right Dad--too funny!  

In conclusion: You don't have to know the terms "subjunctive" or grammatical "mood" to now know how to do it--just think of these examples.

(There are other subjunctive forms, and there are other moods, and  I'd talk about those if I were in good form or the right mood [see what I did there?]...but I'm not, so the rest is left as an exercise for the reader.)

P.S.  Yes, "If I was" is also heard in conversational English. I wonder whether subjunctive mood will eventually exit the grammatical world stage right? But until it's official--subjunctive all the way, babee!

If I Were King
(poem by A.A. Milne, art by E. H. Shepard)

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

From Macrons to Macaroons... too many similar words!

On Facebook the other day, I posted:

Mmmm, for an evening snack, I had a single tasty lemony macaron! (Not to be confused with a macaroon, which is coconut, or a Macron, which is a president of France.)
One friend responded with this helpful image, for those who are visual:

Other comments added to the entertainment value of words whose spelling and/or pronunciation are reminiscent of each other, so the final list (at least, so far) is:

  • Macarena (a dance)
  • Macron (the president of France)
  • macron (a mark indicating a long vowel)
  • macaron (a layered cookie)
  • macaroon (a coconut cookie)
  • maroon (color)
  • maroon (as in Bugs Bunny saying, "what a maroon")
  • moron (similar in meaning to what Bugs is saying)
I'm sure that there are more.  No wonder young children can easily become confused when learning new vocabulary--and adults, too!

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Vocabulary from Other Places and Times

One fun thing about reading books written in different times or places is the vocabulary. Sometimes I scribble the interesting ones down. Some I've heard before but not often; some I haven't. From Northwest Passage (so far), written in 1937 about life in New England and elsewhere in North American in the latter 1700s:
  • ropewalk 
  • mensurations 
  • towcloth
  • furbelowed 
  • gundelos with lateen sails 
  • "as thick as bones in a shad"

And more fun words and phrases, from Nevil Shute's Pastoral, written in England in 1944:
  • deal (noun used as an adjective, as in, "the deal wash stand", "a deal chair")
  • batwoman (not Batwoman)
  • hutment 
  • roach bag (I think this was literal, as in bait for fishing)
  • gentles (in relation to fishing)
  • "it had been wizard!"
Internet will reveal all--relax and enjoy the searches and all the fun things you'll learn within just a few minutes!--good places to start are:

  •, a whole collection of dictionaries.  Merriam-Webster particular for American and Collins particularly for British/Commonwealth
  • Wikipedia, info on so very very many things
What interesting words have you encountered lately while reading?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ex Pertinacia Victoria

[Oooh, found this draft of a post from 2009; apparently I never posted it. Here ya go.]

There are many useful online tools for helping with one's dog agility achievements. Like this Latin Motto Generator. You have to use their selection of words in various combinations, but I was able to choose an apt combo for what I have learned about agility training through the years:

From determination comes victory.

Here's an extremely useful site for generating your own Shield with motto and icon and everything--So that you can proclaim your love of agility or promote your favorite agility dog. (The previous generator that I found, back in 2009, didn't work consistently for long periods, and I became tired of waiting. I wanted to put the whole shield up along with the motto back then, but, dang, oh well, I might sometimes be determined but I am not always patient. Hence, the whole thing never posted.)

And that's one of my challenges, I guess. As long as I feel that I'm making progress, I may continue working on an issue. If, however, I'm not getting anywhere--or backsliding--and I've tried a few different things--as long as they're easy things to try--then, ah, crap, faggataboutit. Impatient for results.

And speaking of "to work"--off I go, to determinedly earn some $ for more agility.

From persistence comes agility entry fees.

Up or Down? Lower or Raise? Redundancies in Directions

Yesterday, I sat on an adjustable-height table in a medical office. The medical person said, "Now I'm going to lower you down."

I said, "As opposed to lowering me up?" Wryly, I hoped.

But he just looked slightly puzzled and responded, "No, down, you don't need to go up."

Funny, the conventions that languages develop for casual conversation that include repetitions of meanings. For example, "lower" means "to move down," so "down" is unnecessary. Perhaps the redundancy has developed because people as a whole try their best to communicate clearly?  Or as a dramatic emphasis?  I'm sure there are doctoral theses on these questions.

  • Lower you down  (means, move you down down)
  • Raise you up (means, move you up up)
Our language has many other similar redundancies. Which ones do you notice?

This helicopter could lower you up or raise you down. Or some such. Helicopters are like magic.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

See my beard? Ain't It weird?

Don't be skeered*... it's just a beard.

Just in the course of texted conversation, I once again noticed the amazing versatility of the English language spelling rules (some might use a more pejorative word than "versatility").


All rhyme.
All with different spelling.

How cool is that?

* "Skeered" is a joking way of pronouncing "scared" so that it rhymes with beard...  but it's also a pronunciation that shows up in certain Englilsh dialects.  From

Word Origin and History for scare 
v. 1590s, alteration of Middle English skerren (c.1200), from Old Norse skirra "to frighten; to shrink from, shun; to prevent, avert," related to skjarr "timid, shy, afraid of," of unknown origin. In Scottish also skair, skar, and in dialectal English skeer, skear, which seems to preserve the older pronunciation. 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Twixt the eyes/ears and the brain

Funny how quickly one's mind can fill in words and phrases that just aren't there.

 My mother and I were traveling together last week, and she caught a glimpse of one of those highway warning signs that advertised the store Lands End. She did a double-take and realized that it really said Lane Ends.

 I'm working on a software media-relate project in which the main (core) pieces of software are stored in a folder named mediacore. No matter how many times I see it, my brain always translates it at first look to "mediocre". Which I swear the product isn't.

 Then there was the news brief on the radio a few years back, which started out, "The situation is getting worse in the Middle East, and [someone] blames it on a rock." After a moment of wondering what rock and waiting for the explanation, I realized that [someone] actually blamed it on Iraq (pronounced roughly "uh rock").

 If you're a programmer, you might understand this one: Many many years ago, I attended a software technical lecture in which the technology and terminology were way beyond me and I struggled to understand. At one point, the lecturer began talking about "K statements." I had no idea what they were, which fit in with me having no idea what most of what he talked about was. But I became more baffled as everyone around me started discussing the use of K statements as if they were everyday things. Seriously, my degree was in computer science and I worked as a developer and I'd never heard of them. My puzzlement resolved itself when I caught a glimpse of a colleague's notes, mentioning "case statements," which of course I'd heard of and used fairly regularly.

 Have you encountered any such visible or audible confusions?