Category Archives: Write and Wrong

Language and (mis)usage.

Good Luck, Indeed

I would if I could. Oh man, I’d cease it in a heartbeat.

Class of 2010: You’re going to need all the freaking luck you can get.

[From Cake Wrecks. Thanks, Amy.]

Best Intextions: Downgrading the Comma

I recently got a software upgrade for my piece of shit phone from Verizon. The upgrade did nothing to address the irritating little problem that causes the phone to spontaneously shut off. It did, however, randomize all my photos and change, of all things, the order of operations in predictive text. Moreover, it dissed the comma, one of my top five favorite punctuation marks.

It’s not enough that I have to unwire the muscle memory that I’ve developed using T9 for years, I’m also dealing with the conspicuous short-shrifting of the trusty comma. Once just a single “Next” press after the default period, the comma is now a full five keystrokes down the line, after the @ sign,  question mark, exclamation point and hyphen, in that order.

The comma is oft unappreciated, but to be considered inferior to the @ sign and the hyphen? A second class citizen, just one step up from an ampersand? It’s a sad, sad state of affairs.

Commas make your text(s) more readable. And they make you look smarter. (Bonus!) This is a call to action, folks. Don’t forsake the comma. Keep ’em coming, please.

Now I’ll return to quietly seething. Thank you.

Techy Wordplay Suggests Corporate Ass Play

Headlines like this one on News.com.au make me wonder if web editors are too pressed for time to see the big picture, or if web writers are quiet geniuses exploiting the 24-hour news cycle to publish subversively hilarious copy:

Possibly related posts:
RIM’s Balsillie Tears Jobs a New One;
Unimpressed, Jobs Turns Other Cheek
RIM Market Share Comes up on Apple from Behind
BlackBerry Claims It’s Not the Size of the Chip, but the Research in the Motion

BlackBerry Makes Reach for Jobs’ 10-Incher, Apple Could Take a Licking in the End

And another thing about the Twitter

….it makes it real easy to go off message. Like really, really off message.

One Politician's Incredibly Unfortunate Tweet

Monday night, a spokesperson for California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman left a letter off the end of a bit.ly address in a campaign-related tweet. In a world of tiny urls, one letter makes all the difference. Think genetic mutation.

What Sarah Pompei’s followers were treated to wasn’t the promised endorsement by the Deputy Sheriff’s Association of San Diego County. Instead, the truncated link takes you here:

So, vote Whitman! Recommended by cross-dressing Asian pop dubbers the world over. And please, people, remember to tweet responsibly.

[Via Gizmodo]

On Wife Beaters, Just a Thought

Ever find it weird how comfortable we are with the term “wife beater”? I mean, it’s kind of twisted. If you stop to think about it.

Headline Limns Limits of Popular Comprehension

I saw a short article on MerriamWebster.com that caught my eye the other day. Yeah, I hang out on a dictionary website, what of it? Anyways, it said there was a spike in lookings-up of the word “limn” earlier this month after it was used in the headline of a Baltimore Sun article: Opposing votes limn differences in race. The unusual, even esoteric word choice got people’s attention, for better or worse.

One reader described the usage as “unbelievably arrogant and patronizing.” Others thanked the paper for expanding their vocabularies.Responding to the controversy, the paper’s eminent blogger about language, John McIntyre, pointed out that it “may not have been the shrewdest choice for the front page.” However, he added, “Speaking as a language maven, I applaud when people consult dictionaries to add another little brick to the wall of their vocabularies. Now that you know what it means, it is yours forever.”

Limn, says MW, means “to outline in sharp detail” or “to describe,” by the way.

I’m torn here. Being a word nerd and constant mourner of the English language (like the Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten), I praise a paper for introducing some nutrition into what junk food writing people usually devour. But I don’t think a headline is where you ought to do it. A headline — of a news story, anyway — is supposed to be the bit that tells you, in as few words as possible, what you’ll get from the article to follow. Throw in a $10 word and you’re defeating the purpose for a large majority of potential readers. You may even alienate some of those readers and lose valuable eyeballs.

You got to sneak it in there, like a pill in a dog treat. Trick folks into wisenin’ up. Insinuate a new word or usage into an easily apprehendable context and maybe you’ll manage to surreptitiously augment a vocabulary or two.

Lookups on Merriam-Webster spiked on September 8, 2010.

Why:

On September 7, The Baltimore Sun ran the headline, “Opposing votes limn difference in race.”

That unusual word choice ended up making headlines of its own.

One reader described the usage as “unbelievably arrogant and patronizing.” Others thanked the paper for expanding their vocabularies.

Responding to the controversy, the paper’s eminent blogger about language, John McIntyre, pointed out that it “may not have been the shrewdest choice for the front page.” However, he added, “Speaking as a language maven, I applaud when people consult dictionaries to add another little brick to the wall of their vocabularies. Now that you know what it means, it is yours forever.”

Limn means “to outline in sharp detail” or “to describe.” It’s a close relative of illuminate.

Best Intextions: I Had A Accident!

This morning my friend and I came up with a great plan for the day. (Sitting near one another, with our laptops.) I sent her a text message that I’d come over and pick up a few snacks on the way. She thought that idea was “Perf!” But her iPhone didn’t approve of her creative abbreviation and sent me a text that said simply:

Peed!

Today’s lesson? Getting too excited over text can leave an embarrassing smudge on your reputation.