Category Archives: Spelling

In the news … (Friday, Oct 21)

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Cod; Wikimedia Commons

In grammatical and usage news this past month: a political email scandal involving risotto and apostrophes; some fishy regional accents, literally; how we’ll all be talking in 50 years’ time; Trump gets it wrong yet again; a British supermarket with a name that’s already been taken (by Iceland, for itself); a dictionary goes online; and those familiar experiences and concepts that desperately need a word or name to describe them  … Continue reading

Proper adjectives: to Capitalize or not to capitalize?

Miniature of the "Alexander Romance", a 14th-century book, late Byzantine period / Wikimedia Commons

Miniature of the “Alexander Romance”, a 14th-century book, late Byzantine period / Wikimedia Commons

We use them all the time: adjectives that originally came from real or proper names. In its simplest form — a French kiss, a Shakespearean turn-of-phrase, a Freudian slip — it seems only fair that a proper name should retain its proper capitalized status when it steps out as an adjective. However, a word can lose its initial luster when an adjective starts to assert its own “improper” identity and emancipate itself from its lofty namesake. “In August, a teenager from Iowa cooked dozens of similarly Lilliputian pancakes for her chickens,” reported New York magazine yesterday. Here, the miniaturizing adjective named after Jonathan Swift’s fictional island was allowed to keep its proper L. “Toronto tries to simplify byzantine PATH map,” the Toronto Star said in a headline on Monday, with the Canadian paper’s editors denying byzantine its capital B despite the adjective taking its name from a real but ancient empire. Why is there a difference in treatment between the two? Continue reading

Spot the curious mistake

image

Can you see the curious mistake* in this tag on a popular lunch bag? (And I’m not referring to the headline-case caps; you can read more about cap styling at this earlier Glosso post.)

At the risk of giving away the answer, Glosso finds it slightly strange that it looks like the error of a non-native English-speaker who is spelling phonetically a word pair (and a curious choice of words at that), and the phonetic translation only works if it’s pronounced with a British accent — but the company that produces the lunch bag is U.S.-based. Go figger.

Answers on a postcard please

* Well, Glosso assumes it’s a mistake

*   *   *

In the news … (June 10)

trump

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In usage and grammar news this month: Trump is unaware of the hottest portmanteau of the year; a very sinister punctuation trend; Roald Dahl’s weird words get their own dictionary; a grammar mistake on a London Transport ad (can you spot it?); Texan Republicans either believe that most Texans are gay, or they just can’t string a sentence together; the name of a famous bridge has been spelled wrong for more than five decades; a comedian lands herself in trouble with a mispronunciation; and some awesome Bachelorette malapropisms. (And if you’re not sure what a portmanteau or malapropism is, check out Glosso’s earlier post here.) Continue reading

In the news … March 25

nypl

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. In this month’s language usage news, we have a high-profile hold-out on the use of the singular “their”; the word okay and its origins; a list of horrid words; a vulgar word finds its way into the OED; a spelling mistake that thwarted a bank heist; bad spelling used for effect in an ad campaign; Donald Trump’s 6th-grade linguistic skills; and a spelling quiz from a fine New York institution. (Warning: explicit vocabulary ahead.) Continue reading

All the Presidents’ day

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington / Wikimedia Commons

Gilbert Stuart Williamstown Portrait of George Washington / Wikimedia Commons

Well, which is it? Presidents Day, Presidents Day or Presidents Day? Is the name of the American public holiday, which we’ll be celebrating on Monday, spelled with an apostrophe or not? And assuming it is a possessive day, i.e. belonging to either the first or all of our presidents, where should the punctuation be placed accordingly? Continue reading

In the news … (Feb 5)

Sarah Palin gets in a 'squirmish' with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

Sarah Palin gets in a ‘squirmish’ with coherence/HuffPostUK Politics

That Gerund Is Funky — Feb issue. Recently in grammar and language news: a Palin portmanteau that NPR’s Ari Shapiro can’t let go of; Oxford Dictionaries faces an accusation of sexism; a grammar quiz from The Independent; how to pronounce the name of a Dutch musician with a Swedish-sounding surname; the new legitimacy of the singular ‘they’; and the end of the road for a punctuation mark? Continue reading

16 movie title bloopers

 

gotgame

He did? Get game? Or does that mean he has got game — currently — whatever “game”-without-an-article means? As in, “He’s got that thing called game”? Or did he get that article-less game last week, on the same night that he got milk? Maybe it becomes apparent when you see the movie (which I had the chance to do this evening when it popped up on my TV guide), but I think we can safely say that its title lacks clarity — unless game is an abstract quality that he acquired some time in the recent past…

Here are 15 other movie titles that could have done with a good edit. If you can’t work out where they went wrong, check out their copy-edited versions below. Continue reading

In the news … (May 22)

wimpykidlatin

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky. Stories about language usage in the news this past month include unexpected Latin translations; an inappropriate exclamation mark; a famous fictional advertising exec showing off his grammatical prowess; a grammatically correct bank robber; football fans ranked by spelling and grammar ability; a punctuation-free doctoral dissertation; and a very expensive web site name.

Continue reading