Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adverbial Clauses--Two warnings about

Here's the first sentence of a pretty good column in today's University of Tennessee Daily Beacon:

"This last election has seen a rather interesting polarization of American politics, something of which I have been guilty myself, such as when I wrote a column after the health care vote on how Democrats were trying to destroy America."
It conveniently illustrates both warnings in the Ruge Rule below -- about adverbial phrases as predicate nominatives and as objects of prepositions.


"This last election has seen a rather interesting polarization of American politics, something of which I have been guilty myself, such as [when] the time I wrote a column after the health care vote [on how] asserting that Democrats were trying to destroy America.
Here's an SAT Question of the Day that turns on the same rule:
British author Charles Dodgson, best known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, is renowned for when he wrote two of the most famous and admired children’s books in the world, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass.
A. is renowned for when he wrote
B. renowned in that he wrote
C. received renown, he wrote
D. is renowned for writing
E. was renowned and wrote
From Ruge Rules

1) An adverbial clause may never be the object of a preposition.

Wrong: I suppose death is like when you go to sleep and don't wake up.
Right: I suppose death is like going to sleep and not waking up.
(Note: in correcting for the used of the adverbial clause as the object of the preposition "like," we are automatically correcting for the used of the indefinite "you.")

2) An adverbial clause may never be used as a predicate nominative.

Wrong: The reason I like my math class is because Doc Arnds keeps me on my toes.
Right: The reason I like my math class is that Doc Arnds keeps me on my toes.

Wrong: Cheating is when you copy someone else's work.
Right: Cheating is copying someone else's work.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Be careful about the spelling of "bated breath"

No. 2 on Daphne Gray-Grant's Top 25 grammar and language mistakes is misspelling "bated breath."
"If you write baited breath," explains Gray-Grant on, "everyone will suspect fishing is your favorite hobby. The word should be spelled bated, which comes from abated, meaning held."

Another good one on her list is No. 5:
Confusing “racked” with “wracked.” If you are racked with nerves, you are feeling as if you are being stretched on the torture device, the rack. You rack your brain when you try to write difficult stories. Wrack, on the other hand, has to do with ruinous accidents. With luck, this won’t apply to your writing, but it might just apply to the stock market, which has been wracked by recession.

And then there's the very important No. 21:
Using “they” when referring to a business. “Starbucks said they would give everyone a free latte today.” Although this might sound right, the correct sentence is: “Starbucks said it would give everyone a free latte today.” And if that grates on your ears, then rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem: “Starbucks is offering everyone a free latte today.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mnemonic Devices (for spelling)

John T. Bird of Birmingham, Ala., is an old friend best known for writing Twin Killing: The Bill Mazeroski Story and successfully campaigning to get the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Lately Bird has put his energy behind mnemonic devices for spelling, as he prepares to publish Fuchsia Shock: 151 Common But Difficult Words You Will Never Misspell Again!

With illustrations by Stefanie Slaughter, Fuchsia Shock coaches us to associate exhilarating with hilarious. "Example: laughing in the theater at the hilarious movie was an exhilarating experience."

In one entry, Bird advises us to associate potato with NATO. Similarly, he advises us to think of currency to remember that second "r" in occurrence. When the book comes out, it should be a hit, although Bird and Slaughter may find themselves adding words in future editions.

A mnemonic device is one that assists the memory, from the Greek mnemon--mindful. (Mnemosyne was the Greek goddess of memory and the mother of the Muses by Zeus.)

We all know "I before e, except after c, or when sounded as "a", as in neighbor or weigh." Fewer people know the mnemonic sentence that can help us remember the major exceptions: "Neither leisure foreigner seized the weird heights."

FedEx executive Shane O'Connor writes, "I remember one class in which [Ferdinand E.] Ruge was teaching us a way to remember how to correctly spell “exhilarate,” since it is often misspelled “exhi lerate.” He stood in front of the class in his gray pinstriped three-piece suit and swung his pocket watch fob around as he sang, "La la la la la la la. Exhi-LA-rate exhi-LA-rate."

Try these---

There is a rat in separate.

I have an independent dentist. (We also have an independent superintendent, who comes from Boston.)

The principal is my pal. "Principal" can also refer to a matter or thing of primary importance, or the capital sum placed at interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund, as in the principal of a loan.

A principle is a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine or assumption. As in, you are always true to your principles.

For the dance, your attendance is requested, just as it will be for you descendants.

A vast area was devastated.

Finally, something definite.

Like the letters you'll write on it, stationery has an "e" in it. (As opposed to stationary, or unmoving, objects.)

We're all all grateful for congratulations.

The U.S. Capitol building has a dome on it -- as do the "o"s in both words. Confusingly, Washington., D.C., is the capital of the United States.
Why? The former word comes from the Capitoleum , the temple of Jupiter at Rome that sat atop the Capitoline hill. The latter comes from the Latin capitalis, meaning chief, or principal, (derived from the Latin word caput, meaning "head"). All you have to remember is the building has a domed "o." All other meanings are with an "a."

How can you learn for sure to spell tough words, like occurrence, or accommodate? Or parallel? One good start is to pay a visit to Harbrace Chapter 18: Spelling and Hyphenation. The first seven pages are invaluable for anyone.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

James Webb, Scots-Irish culture and guns

In this week's MetroPulse, Jesse Fox Mayshark does an excellent job of answering the question, "Why do East Tennesseans love their guns?"

Among many insights, Mayshark hits paydirt when he invokes Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, Sen. James Webb's 2004 book that was featured in a political context a couple of years ago in a Grammar Tip of the Day.

In Mayshark's story, he quotes University of Tennessee law professor (and blogger) Glenn Reynolds as he eloquently describes the Scots-Irish culture of Appalachia as follows:

“Their model is that of the independent frontiersman who takes care of himself and his family with no interference from the state.

"They are conservative in the sense that they cling to America’s unique pre-modern tradition—a non-feudal society with a sort of medieval liberty at large for everyman.

"To these people, ‘sociological’ is an epithet. Life is tough and competitive. Manhood means responsibility and caring for your own.”