Thursday, August 27, 2009

Losing ground on the "like" vs. "as" front

"Everybody is talking about health care - but they don't understand it like Ted Kennedy did."

The use of "like" before an expression with a verb in it is basically accepted now in newspapers, including the N.Y. Times, even though it is not AP Style. It has always been accepted in conversation, in quotes in stories, for veracity ("We didn't play like we wanted to"), and in Peter Frampton songs such as "Do you feel like we do?"
But students need to know that such usage can burn them big time in serious writing. And would it kill anyone to say "as" or "the way"?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Defenestrate -- toss out a window



PRONUNCIATION: (dee-FEN-uh-strayt)

MEANING: verb tr.: To throw someone or something out of a window.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin de- (out of) + fenestra (window).

There have been many defenestrations over the course of history, but the most famous, and the one that inspired the word defenestration, was the Defenestration of Prague on May 23, 1618 . Two imperial regents and their secretary were thrown out of a window of the Prague Castle in a fight over religion. The men landed on a dung heap and survived. The Defenestration of Prague was a prelude to the Thirty Years' War.

See a Lego sculpture of the Defenestration of Prague. Also, check out the defenestration of various articles of furniture in this unique San Francisco sculpture.

USAGE: "When someone in a Joe Lansdale novel is defenestrated, you feel like shaking the glass shards out of your lap."Jeff Salamon; The Further Adventures of Hap and Leonard; The Austin American-Statesman (Texas); Jul 4, 2009.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Simpatico -- like-minded, Mediterranean style



(sim-PAH-ti-ko, -PAT-i-)

adjective:1. Like-minded; compatible.2. Congenial; likable.

Via Italian or Spanish from Latin sympathia (sympathy), from Greek sympatheia, from sym- (together with) + pathos (emotion, suffering).

"Basil and tomatoes are simpatico in so many ways. One major trait they share is that neither should ever be refrigerated unless they have been chopped." - Bill Ward; Warm, Flavorful, Fresh Summer Food; The Arizona Daily Star (Tucson); Jul 29, 2009.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Yay! Personality assessments being added to the college-admissions circus!

from The Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2009
Adding Personality to the College Admissions Mix
by Robert Tomsho

For years, colleges have asked applicants for their grade-point averages and standardized test scores.

Now, schools like Boston College, DePaul University and Tufts University also want to measure prospective students' personalities.

Using recently developed evaluation systems, these schools and others are aiming to quantify so-called noncognitive traits such as leadership, resilience and creativity. Colleges say such assessments are boosting the admissions chances for some students who might not have qualified based solely on grades and traditional test scores. The noncognitive assessments also are being used to screen out students believed to be at a higher risk of dropping out, and to identify newly admitted students who might need extra tutoring.

For the rest of the story, click here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Equanimity -- evenness of temper



(ee-kwuh-NIM-i-tee, ek-wuh-)

noun: Evenness of temper in all circumstances.

From Latin aequanimitas, from aequus (equal, even) + animus (mind, spirit).

"Even as a young netball star, Tharjini had no inflated opinion about herself nor did she ever take offence at the numerous teasing remarks or stares that her height drew. She met both celebrity status and silly remarks with equanimity."
-- Thulasi Muttulingam; A Player With Many Highs in Her Life; The Sunday Times (Colombo, Sri Lanka); Jul 12, 2009.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Lie vs. lay -- Dylan should have sung "Lie, Lady, Lie"

I once heard a lecture on the poetry of Bob Dylan, in which the lecturer described the tension in the lyric "Lay, lady, lay /Lay across my big brass bed" as deriving from the fact that it should be "Lie, lady, lie," but the singer fears that by uttering the word "lie" he might open up the possibility of her lying to him, turning their love into a falsehood.

Sally Alexander -- longtime English teacher at the Holton-Arms School in Bethesda, Md. -- offers this perspective on those oft-misused verbs to lie and to lay.

Sally writes:

Principle parts: lie (pres. tense) lay (last tense) lain (participle). This verb is intransitive - i.e., does not take an object. E.g., I lie on my bed, yesterday I lay on my bed, I have lain on my bed all day. (On my bed is an adverbial prepositional phrase, not an object.)

Principle parts: lay (present tense), laid (past tense), laid (participle). This verb is transitive - i.e., must take an object. E.g., I lay the book on the table, yesterday I laid the book on the table, every day this week I have laid the book on the table.

I once had a male teacher in the English department at Holton who, when I pointed out that these two verbs should be taught in the ninth grade, told me, "Teach it somewhere else. I'm not telling fourteen year-old girls that you can lie by yourself, but you have to lay something."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

assiduous -- "all over it" from the root sed "to sit"



adjective: Constant; persistent; industrious.

From Latin assiduus, from assidere (to attend to, to sit down to), from ad- (toward) + sedere (to sit). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sed- (to sit) that is also the source of sit, chair, saddle, assess, sediment, soot, cathedral, and tetrahedron.

"The reason for his presence there [a Donald Duck statue in a temple garden] remains a mystery despite the author's most assiduous inquiries."Jeff Kingston; Chiang Mai: Thailand's beguiling Rose of the North; The Japan Times (Tokyo); Jun 28, 2009.

Don't confuse "your" and "you're"

From Grammar Gremlins, Knoxville News Sentinel 8/9/09
by Don K. Ferguson

The misuse of "your" for "you're" is far too common.
I have seen this error several times recently, mainly in e-mail messages.
It is common enough that several handbooks make note of it. One says the two words are confused surprisingly often.

"Your" is the possessive of the pronoun "you."
"You're" is a contraction of "you are."

Here are examples from the Gregg Reference Manual that show both uses:
1. Your thinking is sound, but we lack the funds to underwrite your proposal.
2. You're thinking of applying for a transfer, I understand.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Should it be "more important" or "more importantly"?

From Garner's Usage Tip of the Day:

more important(ly)

As an introductory phrase, "more important," has historically been considered an elliptical form of "What is more important," and hence the "-ly" form is sometimes thought to be the less desirable. Yet three points militate against this position.

First, if we may begin a sentence "Importantly, the production appeared first off Broadway . . . ," we ought to be able to begin it, "More importantly, . . . ."

Second, the ellipsis does not work with analogous phrases, such as "more notable" and "more interesting." Both of those phrases require an "-ly" adverb -- e.g.: "More interestingly, he earns lots of money." David Beckham, "Why Are They Famous?" Independent, 31 Aug. 1997.

And third, if the position is changed from the beginning of the sentence in any significant way, the usual ellipsis becomes unidiomatic and "-ly" is quite acceptable -- e.g.: "Shrage believes that the strategy should not be to reverse the intermarriage rate, as some activists argue, but to make sure that intermarried couples embrace Judaism and, more importantly, commit to raising their children as Jews." Diego Ribadeneira, "Jewish Community Flourishing, New Report Says," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 6 Sept. 1997.

The criticism of "more importantly" and "most importantly" has always been rather muted and obscure, and today it has dwindled to something less than muted and obscure. So writers needn't fear any criticism for using the "-ly" forms; if they encounter any, it's easily dismissed as picayunish pedantry.