Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Posted on Failblog:

This is fuzzy but funny. It says: "There, their, and they're. Get it right your in college."

Friday, January 27, 2012

Observations on Mangled Language

The theme of this little nugget I’d stashed away is New Year’s resolutions. However…

a) It’s still January, right?

b) The message is appropriate every day of the year.

CNN.com writer Doug Gross posted an article titled “Resolutions! Five Tech Behaviors to Drop in 2012.” Second on his list:

Mangling the English language on Twitter

We get that Twitter is meant to be quick. And that sometimes you have to tighten up the spelling to get your words of wisdom down to 140 characters or less.

But for the love of Bieber (16 million followers), take five seconds to get "it's" and "its" or "they're," "there" and "their" right.

You'll probably hold onto more followers in the new year if your tweets don't hurt their brains. And, if you're a celebrity, take the time to avoid reminding us that your clever dialogue came from a screenwriter or those meaningful lyrics were penned for you by a songwriter.

Touché, Doug.

The following comments, while interesting and somewhat entertaining, do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog - or maybe they do. Your call.

Commenter “dot71965” (whose icon is a picture of Einstein) said:

If it wasn't for poor grammar and poor spelling then I would have no way to determine which comments are worth reading.  Perhaps if everyone had to take an IQ test prior to signing up for any online forum or social media site then everyone's comments could be grouped accordingly.

To which commenter “BandTeacher” replied:

The correct wording of your remark about "poor grammar" should be "If it weren't...".  This is the subjunctive mood. A verb is in the subjunctive mood when it expresses a condition which is doubtful or not factual.

I agree, poor grammar is a serious problem, and anyone posting on the internet should be required to take an IQ test, Einstein.

Commenter “Joseppi” chimes in with his view of modern society:

Bad grammar is a staple of the internet…I'll admit, I'm a grammar-na.zi [sic] that won't hesistate to point out your mistakes while laughing at my own, but it is convenient when separating intelligent posts/tweets…from a jumbled mess of sentence fragments, run-ons, excessive punctuation, and misspellings from someone banging away on their keyboard. Honestly, you can tell a lot about an anonymous person just by studying their typing habits.

My favorite comment, though, has to be from “oldsmobile”:

I have a T-shirt that says "I'm silently correcting your grammar" on it. It's accurate most of the time. Other times I'm doing said corrections out loud.

I need to find one of those T-shirts… :-)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Double Meanings

Today we discuss the hazards of words with double meanings – especially when those words are read by under-caffeinated readers.

January 19, 2012 was the 203rd anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth. Since about 1949, an anonymous visitor dressed in black has commemorated the writer’s birthday by leaving three roses and a half-empty bottle of cognac on Poe’s Baltimore grave. However, no such visitor has appeared in the past three years, leading many to wonder if the “Poe Toaster” has fallen ill or died. Perhaps he simply decided to quietly end the tradition on Poe’s 200th birthday in 2009, since 200 is such a nice, round number. We may never know.

Naturally, the Poe Toaster’s non-appearance and the subsequent speculation surrounding it became a news item. The first link I saw was this one on the Yahoo! homepage:

Mysterious Edgar Allan Poe toaster vanishes and fans lament

At the time, I was eating breakfast (toast with jam, as a matter of fact) and was only about half-awake. I’d forgotten about the so-called “Poe Toaster”, so the first thought out of my sleepy little brain was, “Huh. Who would have thought that a toaster had fans, even if it did belong to Edgar Allan Poe?”

Of course, ‘toaster,’ even in the lower case, referred to the man in black who ‘toasted’ Poe on his birthday – not Edgar’s old kitchen appliance. Had the writer capitalized ‘toaster’ or placed it in quotes, as in the actual headline of the story below, the meaning would have been clearer:
Poe fans call an end to 'Toaster' tradition
A Yahoo! editor may have had similar thoughts. Later in the day, the link was changed to read:
Nevermore? Poe grave 'Toaster' vanishes
The Baltimore Sun used this headline:
Tradition of Poe Toaster may be nevermore
Even as we lament the passing of an intriguing tradition, let’s remember why it’s so important for writers to be clear and accurate. You never know what state of mind your reader is bringing to the table…

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Typotpourri for the New Year

Remember how I said that I was still collecting typos during my hiatus?  Today we crack open the cache and see what gems lie inside.

From a Fandango story about the Three Musketeers movie that was released in October:

Orklando Bloom talks about his rock star look…

(Oh, come on! Any Lord of the Rings nerd knows that Orlando Bloom portrayed Legolas the elf, not an orc. And besides, “orc” is spelled with a ‘c’, not a ‘k.’)

Headline from a news stations web site:

Man Stuck By Car Killed

Now, at first glance this doesn’t seem too absurd – it’s possible that a man was stuck in snow or mud by his vehicle and then somehow killed. But the opening line of the article sheds light on this typo:

“Eastbound lanes of Highway 50…have reopened after a man was struck and killed by a truck…”

Ah. “Stuck” is not a synonym for “struck.”

Then there’s this line in a Huffington Post article about the terrorist suspect arrested in New York in December:

“(His) mother...cited...increasing frustration with his lack of unemployment as a possible motive…”

(Most people would complain about lack of employment in this economy, but I guess this guy was different.)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Technical Definitions

If you’ve been following the news, you know about the recent rash of car fires in the Los Angeles area. A related story from the Associated Press carried this headline:

Police: More cars set afire in LA, arson suspected

Let’s take a closer look at this. The basic definition of arson as defined by multiple sources is the intentional setting of a fire. This headline says, “More cars set afire” – as in “someone set fire to more cars.” Thus saying that arson is suspected is redundant, since most readers with a modicum of common sense can infer that the fires were intentionally set by the way the first part of the headline is worded.

However, there is another aspect to consider: legalities. Law enforcement officials, legal authorities, and yes, even journalists, are taught to be careful with words when discussing criminal cases, especially during initial investigations. Until an incident is officially and legally determined to be a criminal act, it has to be labeled as a “possible” crime. The person(s) responsible is/are “suspected” of the crime, or “alleged” to have committed the crime, etc. They will later be described as “arrested for,” “charged with,” and, as appropriate, “convicted of” the crime. It's a word game intended to prevent libel suits.

Legalese aside, I think this particular headline could have been worded better to eliminate the appearance of redundancy.