Monday, April 30, 2007

How Many Brigades in a Division?

No matter how many war movies we've watched, unless we actually served in the U.S. Army, we probably don't know the difference between Field Armies, Corps, Divisions, Brigades, Battalions, Companies, Platoons and Squads, nor the corresponding officers --- Generals, Lieutenant Generals, Major Generals, Colonels, Lt. Colonels, Captains, Lieutenants and Staff Sergeants -- who command each respective body.

The link below is to a nice organizational chart laying it all out.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Winning, but at too great a cost -- a Pyrrhic victory

Grammar Tip of the Day (No. 48) (from

From today's USA Today:
"The White House knows we're going to fund the troops, and that puts us at a severe disadvantage," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., a member of the House Appropriations Committee and the Out-of-Iraq Caucus. "I think we're ultimately going to lose this battle, although I think it will be a Pyrrhic victory for the White House because they are going to lose the war for public opinion."

"One more such victory and we are lost," exclaimed Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, as he described his costly success against the Romans in the battle of Asculum in Apulia in 279 BC. With those words he gave us a metaphor to refer to a victory so costly that it's barely better than defeat.

Pyrrhic victory (PIR-ik) noun A victory won at too great a cost.[After Pyrrhus, king of Epirus, (318 - 272 BC) who suffered staggering losses in defeating the Romans in 280 and 279 B.C.]

"With lawsuits multiplying like crazy and mutual accusations of stealing the election spiralling out of control, almost any result now looks as if it will be a Pyrrhic victory."
United States: Whatever Will They Think of Next?; The Economist (London, UK); Nov 25, 2000.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Don't be facetious! Or kid around either!

Grammar Tip of the Day (No. 287) from

facetious (fuh-SEE-shus) adjective
Jocular or humorous, often inappropriately. [From Latin facetus (witty).]

"Prof Bailey is particularly incensed that in some cases, the presiding judge makes facetious comments which trivialise the issue."
Barbara Gloudon; Of Bling and School Uniforms; Jamaica Observer; Mar 23, 2007.

Harbrace Rule No. 1 and Mr. Ruge's Big Three

Grammar Tip of the Day (Nos. 198 & 78)

Harbrace Chapter 1 : Sentence Sense, begins with the rule: To think more clearly and write more effectively, understand how sentences work.
Writing a clear, precise sentence is an art, says Harbrace, and you can master that art by developing your awareness of what makes sentences work.

In his handwritten, mimeographed class notes, Ferdinand E. Ruge stated this as, "Every sentence must lend itself to logical analysis. In other words, every sentence gotta make sense!"

Mr. Ruge was a legendary English teacher at my high school. More Patton than Mr. Chips, he was an octogenarian in 1972 but as devoted as ever to teaching his students to write "clear, concise, reasonably graceful" English. He referred to Harbrace (or the dictionary) as "the Good Book" and taught from his own set of parallel rules, which were assembled posthumously in a pithy volume, Ruge Rules.

More than once, Mr. Ruge posed some variation of the following question: "If a little green man from Mars came down to earth in a flying saucer and asked you for the three most important rules of the English language, what would you tell him?"

With the index, middle and ring fingers of his left hand shooting up on cue, he would answer, like a voice from the Old Testament:
"1- Place a period at the end of each complete thought.
2- Set off non-restrictive phrases and clauses in commas, and
3- Place a hyphen between two or more words used together as a single adjective before a noun."

There may be more important rules of grammar, but 35 years later, my classmates and I certainly know Mr. Ruge's top three.