you have to name your big gulp

Me: So, I’m desperately searching for this new book I read about online.
Ed: Oh?
Me: Yeah, and I can’t find it anywhere. I swear I read an article about it just a few days ago. But I can’t remember the title, the author, the main character, nothing. Not even where I read about it. But the basic plot is that objects disappear if you don’t say their names often enough.
Ed: Kind of like this book you’re talking about.
Me: Um. YEAH. That’s creepy.

Ed: And you’ve Googled it?
Me: Yes! And I can’t find it! I’m starting to wonder if I dreamed this, but it’s too detailed. The main character intentionally misnames hers suitcase to see how long it would take to disintegrate. So, look– *picks up cup* You don’t say “cup” when you pick this up, it eventually disintegrates. *pats table* Table. *touches Ed’s arm* Ed. *touches glasses* Glasses. Burgundy. Polka dots.
Ed *puts hands on his forehead*: Worried.

It’s a wonder I don’t give my husband a nervous breakdown fortnightly.

He named his Big Gulp before drinking it. Our 4yo looked at both of us as though we’d taken leave of our senses.
________________________

In other news, I finally found the book in question: AMATKA by Karin Tidbeck. Totally fascinating concept. It is now on my Kindle, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

He Made Me Loose, and 5 Other Shenanigans

Or: How You Spell Dis?! Part Deux

Greetings, O Fearless Writerly and Readerly Ones! I come to you today bearing tidings of great joy. And those tidings are that you, too, can learn to communicate clearly by improving your spelling and your grammar! Doesn’t that sound like fun?!

*ahem* You don’t have to answer that.

C-A-L-C-U-L-U-S

So, moving right along! Once upon a time, I regaled you with the tale of Riku and his encounter with a terrible, flying M-A-T-H. Aha! And there we’ve arrived at my first point, which is a reiteration of the moral of Riku’s story: If you don’t spell things correctly, people ain’t gonna know whatcha mean. How easily does Riku’s “math” become “moth” (which was the true source of the poor kid’s terror).

For the purpose of emphasis (and to make this post have something to do with its title [Yeah, we all see what I did there. {I don’t apologize.}]), I’d also like to restate one point from the Riku post:

THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LOOSE and LOSE.

He made me lose. = He caused me not to win.

He made me loose. = He turned me into a slut.
(Notably through no fault of my own.)

PLEASE STOP DOING THIS WRONG.

*ahem again* Thanks.

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s move on to happier things like lightning and cat pee.

Yes. You read that correctly. Lightning and cat pee. Here we go!

5 More Spelling/Grammar Shenanigans: How do you spell…?

1. THEY’RE, THEIR, THERE.

INCORRECT: They’re cat peed on my porch. = They are cat peed on my porch.

Now, if you’re trying to insult someone, you might say, “They’re (They are) cat pee on my porch,” but that wouldn’t be very nice of you.

“Their” is a possessive pronoun. A possessive pronoun is a word that replaces a name and indicates ownership of something. Instead of saying, “The Smiths’ cat peed on my porch,” I replace “The Smiths'” with “their.”

Correct:
THEIR cat peed on my porch.

INCORRECT: I saw the cat pee their.

What we’re looking for here is the word that shows where the cat peed. Remember, “their” is a possessive pronoun; it shows ownership. As-is, the sentence isn’t complete. I could say, “I saw the cat pee their coffee beans,” but that certainly wouldn’t be very pleasant for the cat.

Correct:
I saw the cat pee THERE.

THEY’RE = THEY ARE
THEIR = ownership
THERE = location

2. IT’s and ITS, YOU’RE and YOUR.

INCORRECT: I saw it’s mischievous look when the cat peed on my porch.
= I saw it is mischievous look when the cat peed on my porch.

INCORRECT: I saw you’re mischievous look when you peed on my porch.
= I saw you are mischievous look when you peed on my porch.

I saw it is mischievous look?
I saw you are mischievous look?

No, no. The “mischievous look” belongs to the cat — or to you, for shame! — so, once again, I am looking for a word that indicates ownership. “It is” and “you are” do not fit the bill.

Correct:
I saw ITS mischievous look.
I saw YOUR mischievous look when you peed on my porch. (Tsk, tsk, tsk.)

BONUS:
mischievous (MIS-chuh-vus) = CORRECT
mischievious (mis-CHEE-vee-us; rhyming with “previous”) = INCORRECT

3. LIGHTNING and LIGHTENING.

INCORRECT: When the cat peed on my porch, I saw lightening flash across the sky.

(This is quite the apocalyptic cat.)

LIGHTNING (noun) = those bright bolts of electricity you see during a storm

LIGHTENING (verb; well, technically a participle, but that’s more than I want to get into here) –> from TO LIGHTEN
= to change gradually from dark to light; opposite of TO DARKEN

Correct:
When the cat peed on my porch, I saw LIGHTNING flash across the sky.
The lightning highlighted the mischievous look on your face as you allowed your cat to pee on my porch.

4. INDEPENDENCE or INDEPENDANCE?

INCORRECT: Your cat peed on my porch on Independance Day.

(You really should control your pet’s behavior a bit better, you know that?)

I don’t know what the Indepen Dance is, but if someone wants to teach me it, I’d be more than happy to learn.

Correct:
Your cat peed on my porch on INDEPENDENCE Day.

(This is grammatically correct but conceptually quite bad form.)

5. WHOSE and WHO’S.

INCORRECT: I am perturbed at Mr. Smith, who’s cat peed on my porch.
= I am perturbed at Mr. Smith, who is cat peed on my porch.

Mr. Smith who is cat peed?

No.

If I wanted to insult Mr. Smith, I would say, “I am perturbed at Mr. Smith, who is cat pee on my porch. The worthless slime.” But again, that wouldn’t be very nice. And, again, I am searching for a word that shows ownership of the mischievous and apparently incontinent cat. “Who is” does not work.

Correct:
I am perturbed at Mr. Smith, WHOSE cat peed on my porch. AGAIN.

OR:
I am perturbed at Mr. Smith, who’s (who is) the man whose incontinent cat won’t stop peeing on my porch.

DISCLAIMER: Neither you, nor my porch, nor urine of any sort, nor any cats were harmed in the making of this blog post. Nor, even, Mr. Smith.

However: Terrible, flying maths will always be swatted.

I Got Sentenced

I have nerd friends, and I love them.

On December 31, 2011, a group of us got together for an evening of food and fun before ringing in 2012 at midnight. Part of our fun consisted of listening to the children complain that the adults were too loud (apparently, it was Opposite Day, and no one told me). The other part of our fun consisted of playing board games. Laughter and mayhem ensued, earning us stern talking-tos by the aforementioned, strangely perturbed children.

One of the games was “You’ve Been Sentenced.” In this game, each player receives 10 cards and must use these cards to build one sentence per round. There are five words or phrases on every card. A player’s task is to put together a real sentence and be able to defend its meaning to the rest of the players.

This game is a language nerd’s dream.

If one of you wants to buy me this game, I will not object. If you play it with me for hours on end, you will have my undying, variegated gratitude. That will flip my bangerang switch most assuredly, not to mention assuage my penchant for fiddling with language in the weirdest ways possible.

For posterity, I recorded a few of our sentences to share with you. Other than the challenge of building the sentences in the first place, the real creativity shone through as we defended our sentences to each other. Oh, the stories we told so that our sentences might serve as reasonable punchlines!

So, here are our sentences in all their (non-)sensible glory*. Borrow them for story ideas, if you like! I have the feeling there could be some story sparks in here. ; )

The squash kicked through the springs and slopped sentences.**

What if, presently, Americans under the outside pots liked to nose above the ground?

What if, early in the ’80s, Team Leader dumped orderly women on Houston?

Before the shocking trip to Jupiter, Tim gulped the merry-go-round color pink.

The slick, strong babysitter came to fake poisonings through the balanced diet.

Weirdly, Thomas Jefferson was saucing up Marie Antoinette until the blaster dangerously fired roughly.

From the kitchen: What did the licker Hippocrates break into?

Afterward, we decided that the advent of whale blubber was immediately preceded by an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet.

_______________
*Believe it or not, no phonemes were harmed in the making of this blogpost.

**This might have been the most prophetic statement of 2011.

How You Spell Dis?!?

This is the moth I drew with my mouse. And he is pretty. Shut up.

Once upon a time, a young man of my acquaintance named Matt told me the following story:

In college, Matt roomed with a foreign exchange student. I don’t remember the other guy’s name or where he was from, so I’m just going to call him Riku and say he was from Japan. Riku was always trying to improve his English, and anytime he heard a word that was new to him, he would ask Matt, “How you spell dis?” And Matt would oblige, spelling the word and helping Riku use the new word in a sentence.

One day, Matt came back to the room he shared with Riku and found his roommate cowering in a corner, pointing at the light fixture and making sounds of a concerned and fearful nature.

Matt: What’s wrong?
Riku (still babbling incoherently, stabs finger in direction of light fixture)
Matt (looks closely): Oh! You mean the insect flying around?
Riku: Yes! Yes! What is dis?
Matt: It can’t hurt you. It’s just a moth.
Riku: Moth?!
Matt: Yes, just a moth.
Riku (still jabbing finger at moth in fearful manner): HOW YOU SPELL DIS?

Expanding the Universe

I’m not gonna go into a long diatribe about how proper spelling lets us communicate better. There are enough essays and blogposts and master’s theses out there that cover the subject ad infinitum ad nauseam.

However, I do love Riku’s story and recount it here because it shows so clearly how we use language to define and comprehend the world around us. Giving something a name allows us to categorize it. Understanding a thing’s name lets us have a little extra measure of control (however illusory) of our environment. It makes our universe just a little bit bigger. Knowing a thing’s name and communicating it to another lets us establish a closer connection with that other person.

And, sometimes, this naming and communicating lets us remove the element of fear, which enables all of us to become more fully the people we were created to be.

Indeed: How do you spell dis?

But none of that fantabulous stuff happens when we don’t spell things in a way that gets the right message across. When Riku asked “how you spell dis,” Matt would’ve done his roommate a great disservice by giving him the wrong information. Imagine the confusion that would’ve ensued had Riku gone on to tell his friends that he’d had a close encounter with a terrible, flying “math.”

Spelling’s important, y’all. And by that, I mean “you all,” not a small, two-masted boat (aka “yawl”).

So, keeping said importance in mind, I shall now share with you five misspellings I’ve noted recently. Some of them aren’t misspellings per se but grammatical errors. But this is all part and parcel of clear communication, kids. So Ima mush it all together here. Because I want to. And this is my blog, so I can. Nyah.

; )

How do you spell…?

 
1. DEFINITELY

INCORRECT: definately, definatly, defiantly, definitly.

Correct:
DEFINITELY

2. LOSE and LOOSE

INCORRECT: I am going to loose my mind if you keep spelling this wrong.

“Lose” means “not keep” or “not win.”

“Loose” means “not tight” or “release.”

Correct:
I am going to LOSE my mind.

Maybe even if you start spelling it right. Only time will tell.

3. DRINK, DRANK, DRUNK

INCORRECT: He had drank too much the night before.

Correct:
He had DRUNK too much the night before.

Which was why he was drunken, if you want to know.

I drink. I drank. I had drunk. And don’t read more into this example than you have to, dears.

4. SPRING, SPRANG, SPRUNG

INCORRECT: Mount Olympus buzzed with gossip for a week because Zeus’s daughter, Athena, had sprang fully grown from his head.

Correct:
Athena had SPRUNG from Zeus’s head.
Olympus only knows why.

I spring. I sprang. I had sprung. Or, rather, Athena had sprung. I was born through more conventional processes.

5. A LOT

INCORRECT: Alot of people are afraid of moths.

Correct:
A LOT of people are afraid of moths.

As in, a certain quantity of people.

I don’t think Lot in the Bible was afraid of moths. But if he was, I’m sure a bunch of them burned up in Sodom and Gomorrah, and I’m sure the moth-fearing Lot was happy about that.

_________________
I had a close encounter with a terrible, flying math in high school. They spelled dis C-A-L-C-U-L-U-S. Riku’s fortitude was not mine. I lasted three weeks, then ran shrieking and never looked back.

Don We Now Our Contracted Apparel

Here’s some Christmas fun for you, my dear inklings!

Everybody always picks on the word “gay” in the familiar Christmas tune “Deck The Halls,” so I thought I’d share something with you concerning one of the other words in the song.

As I was piddling around with Elevator People, my low sci-fi WIP, I clicked over to the online Merriam-Webster dictionary to look up the word “doff.” And what to my wondering eyes should appear but the definition of “doff” (which I already knew, of course) and the following:

Origin of DOFF:

Middle English, from to do + off

Well. Isn’t that something.

But wait, there’s more!

It turns out that “don,” that thing we do with our happy apparel in “Deck the Halls,” comes from to do + on!

I love language so much. It flips my bangerang switch and swings my verge. Also, it makes me happy.

So, the next time you’re donning your clothing or doffing your cap, remember that you’re really doing these articles of wear on and off. Just be sure that in your stunned amazement at the versatility of the English language, you don’t end up doing your clothing off in a place where people aren’t supposed to see you.

Happy Christmas Season, y’all!