"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for approval, I can tell you I don't have any. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills -- skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you leave my language alone right now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will punctuate you."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"Is A 36-Pack One Item?"


I usually only post about abuses of our language, but this one time I wanted to give a shout out to an anonymous sign-maker who got it right.

When we first moved to College Town, and started occasionally shopping at the nearby Safeway, I was slightly off-put by this express lane sign. "Fewer" just sounded odd to my ears. Then the dimly remembered rule about fewer vs. less began to surface from the muck of my mind.

I double-checked with Grammar Girl, who explains these things much better than I can (because I'm lazy), and she confirmed what I already knew but had forgotten.

So kudos to this Safeway - which is in the most studenty neighborhood of a very studenty town - for setting a higher standard for grocery stores. After repeated trips to this market to replenish their ramen noodle and beer supplies, maybe this one rule will stick with these youngsters when they go out into the real world.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Caution! Bad English! Ahead!!!







This electronic sign outside a battery store has so many mistakes that I think we'd better approach this systematically:

First of all, the whole statement reads (mistakes and all): "ATV'S MOTOR CYCLES, JETSKI BOATS,, WE GOT THE BATTERRY FOR YOU".

Now let's break it down into its individual components:

1. "ATV'S": I don't know if you can make lower case letters on these signs. I'll assume that you cannot, so "ATV'S" may not be a mistake. I've always favored "ATVs", myself, but if you can't use lower case letters, it's probably better to go with the apostrophe so your plural initialism doesn't look like a weird word or acronym.

2 AND 3: "MOTOR/CYCLES": There obviously isn't room on this sign for "motorcycles" to fit on one line, so I won't call this a mistake (although I might have used a hyphen after "motor" - if indeed these machines can make hyphens).

4. "JETSKI": "jetski"? Singular? Surely they meant "jetskis", unless there are things called "jetski boats". I don't really know - I'm not a sporting fellow.

5. "BOATS,,": I think "boats," accidentally recieved "jetski(s)" comma.

6. "WE GOT": This is just poor English. I blame the California Milk Processor Board and their "Got Milk" campaign and its imitators for this dumbing-down of the language.

7. "BATTERRY": Enough said.

I wish people would just use these signs for their intended purpose:


Sunday, June 9, 2013

And And


The symbol "&" is called an ampersand. It has a pretty interesting etymology. If you don't want to click that link, or you've been leaving under a rock for the past couple of millenia, "&" means "and".

"Etc." is short for "et cetera", which means "and other things" or "and so forth".

So, if we put "&" and "etc." together, we're really saying, "and and so forth" or "and and other things", which is just dumb. I guess "Custom Draperies 'n' More" was already taken.

Muff Said

"What are you giggling about?"

I ran across a couple of funny instances of a word - well, actually the word itself and a homophone of it. I'm re-reading the original Sherlock Holmes stories after enjoying BBC's Sherlock series (which I highly recommend. It's available for streaming on Netflix).

I had a prurient giggle over this sentence in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Adventure III - A Case of Identity: “She pulled a little handkerchief out of her muff, and began to sob heavily into it.” That is a strange place to carry one's hanky.

A couple of days later, we ordered pizza from Papa Murhphy's. Included with each pizza are the cooking instructions, which in turn included this coupon:

Looks innocent enough, right?

Take a closer look at the fine print. Oh, here, I'll do it for you:

Oh my god! What!?
I couldn't even pruriently giggle because the idea of a miniature one was too unsettling.