Category Archives: Grammar

A big bad “ablautive” exception to the grammar rule that went viral

By Felix Summerly, via Wikimedia Commons

By Felix Summerly, via Wikimedia Commons

As we discovered to our delight last week, we all use a grammar rule — a fairly complicated one involving the ordering of adjectives by property — without even realizing it. If you were hiding under a rock and missed the memo, you can see it explained in Matthew Anderson’s tweet, the viral post that was responsible for lighting up our inner grammatical souls. But what might delight you even more is to learn that there is in fact a big bad exception to this awesome astronomical rule, and you know that rule too … Continue reading

In the news … (Friday, Sep 16)

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/1498–1543) via Wikimedia Commons

In usage and grammar news this past month: how and why we curse (or swear, if you’re a profane Brit); a new app for grammar snobs; a celebrity scolds Siri for mispronouncing her name; names that parents regret giving their babies; the true nature of the word gypsy; and a grammar rule that we all use without knowing it. Continue reading

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.)

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As became apparent in a Hollywood Reporter piece at the beginning of the month, presidential wannabe Donald Trump seemed to be unaware of the most famous political portmanteau of 2016, which is on the lips of most Brits — especially during this month of the EU nation’s historic referendum. At one point during a lengthy interview with Michael Wolff, the Donald was asked what he thought about the two-syllable word that’s currently dividing the UK into warring factions: “And Brexit?” Woff asked. “Your position?” … Trump: “Huh?” … Wolff: “Brexit”. Trump: “Hmmm.”

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“Over the past few days, Twitter users may have noticed an increase in the number of fellow users who have surrounded their names with ((( ))). The symbols appear harmless enough but have become controversial after an investigation revealed that they were being used by a small minority of white supremacists to target Jewish writers with anti-Semitic abuse.” The BBC reports on this disturbing punctuation trend.

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“It’s an error that has loomed over New York Harbor for more than 50 years: The name of the majestic Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is spelled wrong. Despite a new petition drive to make it right — the bridge is named for 16th-century Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano (two Z’s) — the state authority that controls the span has stubbornly held to the one Z position it’s taken for years: We know it’s wrong, but we’re not changing it.” New York’s Daily News has the full story.

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Can you spot the grammatical error in this TfL (London’s public transport) advertisement?

tfl ad

Clue: it’s a singular mistake. The Evening Standard has the full story.

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“A Texas-based LGBT advocacy helped spark a grammar debate … over whether an errant comma in the stridently anti-homosexual Republican Party of Texas platform can be read as saying the majority of Texans are gay. … “Homosexuality is a chosen behavior that is contrary to the fundamental unchanging truths that has been ordained by God in the Bible, recognized by our nations founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.” I’m not so sure it’s an errant comma that causes the confusion, as Reuters reports; isn’t it those two “that”s and those plural “truths” with a singular “has” that make the whole statement incomprehensible?

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According to the UK’s Independent, a woman from Georgia is suing Ellen DeGeneres after the comedian and chat show host mispronounced the litigant’s name on daytime TV. “Titty Pierce” was the name DeGeneres sounded out as she poked fun at the estate agent’s advertisement in her segment “What’s Wong With These Ads…. and These Signs?”. Pierce, 35, insisted in the lawsuit that her name is pronounced “Tee Tee … as grammar dictates”. Maybe she means spelling. Either way, it’s a shame she wasn’t just called Mildred.

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“Roald Dahl was the master wordsmith who wrote some of the nation’s most memorable children’s books. To mark 100 years since his birth, almost 8,000 of the phrases he used in his novels are going to be published in a special dictionary. The BBC asked some of his biggest fans in Manchester what they thought of his language.” See the video here.

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And finally, 10 awesome malapropisms from the season premiere of ABC’s The Bachelorette, courtesy of Mashable.

 

 

 

In the news … (April 29)

TGIF … In language and usage news this month (and it’s been a good one), we have a Presidential hopeful having some trouble abroad —  in pronouncing the name of that place he’s never been to;  some landmark capitalization rules (or make that “DEcap” rules) at the AP; how personality is behind grammar nazis; does the name “Jim Wilson” mean anything to you (especially if you’re in the aviation world)?; find out which words were born in the same year as yours truly; the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; some words made famous on an iconic TV show; and some dope on pugs … Continue reading

You say lit, I used to say lighted

Cate Blanchett in "Carol" / Tumblr

Cate Blanchett in “Carol” / Tumblr

Anyone who has seen Carol — or read The Price of Salt on which the movie is based — will remember how often our heroine lights up during the story. And by that I mean she lights a cigarette, although most will agree that she also lights up the room — and simply lights up — when she’s portrayed by the great Cate Blanchett on the big screen. But here’s a question: we’re back in the ’50s here, very much in the past tense, so is it correct to say that she “lighted” cigarettes, or that she “lit” them? What would you say? 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

Honey, Obama shrunk his past participle

obamagun

Speaking at his televised town hall meeting on gun control this evening, President Obama caught himself making a classic linguistic gaffe involving the past tense of the verb “to shrink”. I shrink, I shrank, I have shrunk; it shrinks, it shrank, it has been shrunk. But as Obama talked about the ATF budget in the past passive, he picked the wrong participle — as many people tend to do with the verb these days. “It is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank,” our President said, with a slightly faltering voice that hinted he knew he’d messed up. And sure enough, after skipping just a couple of beats, he provided one of the few moments of levity in the evening’s otherwise deadly serious discussion, when he corrected himself with a smile and an apology for his tardy self-edit: “Has been shrunk. It is a little late,” he said, realizing that he fessed up a bit too long after he made his gaffe, and eliciting the one and only peal of laughter from his audience, “but you knew what I meant.” We know what you meant, Barack. But we’re glad you realized and pointed out your mistake. Even you can be fallible.

See Glossophilia’s earlier post on the shrunk/shrank confusion that gets even the most articulate and eloquent speakers.

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“Grammar slammers: Dems crush GOP”

Chafee       Trump

Yes, that’s a real headline: it appeared in USA Today last month. Glosso is a little behind the curve here, having missed this important political news when it first broke at the beginning of October — but hey: it’s never too late to help educate the electorate, especially in the all-important matter of grammatical competence. If you’re still on the fence about which party or presidential candidate you’re going to support over the coming 12 months (but do hurry up, because you’ve only got a year left to decide), and grammar happens to be an important voting issue for you, we have some useful inside info, courtesy Grammarly. Here’s the scoop. Continue reading