Friday, December 31, 2010

And Mark It with a ...

I really wanted to wrap 2010 up in a nice little package and start 2011 fresh and new. By 11:59pm tonight, I wanted the house to be spotless, the laundry washed and folded, the fridge stocked, my car washed, my split ends cut off, my nails done, my legs shaved, Lindsay Lohan rehabbed, and the world at peace.

I made extensive lists of the cleaning and organizing that would take place during my winter break, but then I won a Blu-ray DVD player at my work Christmas party raffle, and my husband and I figured out how to stream Netflix through it. (Do see She’s out of My League; don’t see Couples Retreat.)

So instead of ending 2010 with a period and starting a fresh, lovely sentence in 2011, it looks like my year will be ending mid-sentence. I guess that would mean my year will end with a hyphen, the kind of hyphen used to divide words at the end of a line when the whole word can’t fit. January 1, I will finish the word and go from there.

Actually, make that January 2; I’ll nick myself if I try to shave my legs while hungover.

How would you punctuate your 2010?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Spell Checking It Twice


Ewe better watch out

Ewe better knot cry

Better knot pout

I'm telling ewe why

Santa Claws is coming two town

He's making a list

And checking it twice

Gonna fined out whose knotty and nice

Santa Claws is coming too town

He seize ewe when your sleeping

He nose when your awake

He nose if you've bin bad oar good

Sew bee good four goodness sake!

Based on the fact that spell check didn't highlight one word in this song, let's hope Santa doesn't solely rely on spell check when he checks his list twice. Katy might end up with Katie's doll house and Jeffrey might end up with Geoffrey's scooter.

As for you, I hope you get all the presence you asked for.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Can't Win 'Em All

Rocky, Karate Kid, Jerry Maguire, The Comebacks, The Blind Side: I’m a sucker for a sports movie with an inspirational montage showing the athlete, after a long struggle, finally getting their groove. Stallone making it up the gigantic flight of stairs, Macchio finally nailing those kicks, Cuba scoring touchdown after touchdown- you just know that when it comes to the big match or game they are going to win.

Well, what if they didn’t? What if after all that dedication and hard work they lost?

That’s kind of how I feel at the end of every quarter. After months of shedding blood, sweat, and tears to provide my students with winning writing skills, I find these sentences in my students’ FINAL essays- the essays that should showcase all the wonderful skills they acquired:

The 1980’s is what made the 1980’s so different from other decades.

I would love to be able to experience this eventful event.

There are still many stuff we can’t explain.

T-shits can be very expensive.

You don’t realize it until you actually realize it.

Is it too early to have a drink?

Dedicated to Hula Buns who wrote, “I want to know how many made up words you see in your students' papers? I would love to hear some of the things they come up with.” There aren’t many made up words, but they do come up with some pretty crazy sh.. things.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lost in Translation

Rachel: Guess what, guess what, guess what!
Chandler: Um, OK. The fifth dentist caved and now they're all recommending Trident?

Ross: It would be so cool to live across from you guys.
Joey: Hey, yeah. Then we could do that telephone thing. Y'know, you have a can, we have a can and it's connected by a string.
Chandler: Or we can do the *actual* telephone thing.

Ross: I don't know what I'm gonna do. What am I gonna do? I mean, this, this is like a complete nightmare.
Chandler: Oh, I know, this must be so hard. "Oh no, two women love me. They're both gorgeous and sexy. My wallet's too small for my fifties AND MY DIAMOND SHOES ARE TOO TIGHT."

Audiences around the world could not get enough of Chandler Bing’s humorous sarcasm. I mean, could it have been anymore funny?

But, even Chandler Bing ran into trouble with his sarcasm. Remember the episode when people at his work were so used to his sarcasm that when he was being serious they assumed he was joking?

Sarcastic folk do run the risk of being misunderstood- especially when trying to convey sarcasm via the written word. At least, when you’re sarcastic in person, your facial expression can help convey that you’re kidding, or you are there to explain that you were just joking. When it’s written, the words are out there on their own, vulnerable to any interpretation.

So, for example, imagine I received an email from a colleague that said, “Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome?”

I wouldn’t know if he really enjoyed the party or if he was being sarcastic.

Well, today, we have something that Chandler didn’t have at his disposable back in 1995: the emoticon.

So, if my colleague really had a good time, perhaps he would have included a , and if he were being sarcastic, he may have ended with a .

Personally, I feel the same way about emoticons as I feel about fanny packs. I get it; they’re convenient and helpful, but I am not a fan.

Why? Probably the same reason I would rather lug around a handbag than strap on a fanny pack. It looks sleeker. I’d rather the writer provide a follow up sentence to clarify his or her intention than a cartoony face. For example,

“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? Can’t wait till next year.”


“Could that holiday party have been anymore awesome? I can already tell that next year I am going to have the stomach flu on that date.”

But, that’s just me. If you want your writing to look like a first grader’s, that’s cool.

What are your feelings about emoticons?

, , , , or

Dedicated to Walks like an Egyptian and Talli Roland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Two Heads Are Better Than One

Isn’t it great when two people come together and create something wonderfully unique?

Sometimes the creation is another human being:

Sometimes it’s music:

Sometimes it’s the perfect woman:

Words can also come together to create something unique.

They often merge together to form one word:

fore + play = foreplay

You’d think that when fore and play came together to form one word it would mean before play, like we would say, “Foreplay, I think we should stretch.” But, no; it has an altogether different meaning. (It may still be a good idea to stretch, though.)

Sometimes words come together to form a hyphenated word:

half + mast = half-mast

And sometimes, two words, although they don’t merge into one or use a hyphen, stand side-by-side to create new meaning:

For example, although Bill Clinton was a president with a vice, we wouldn’t call him a vice president.

So, when we’re writing, when do we know if two words make one word, a hyphenated word, or stand side-by-side?

If you’re a linguistics major, you’re in luck. Apparently, compound words of Germanic origin tend to be written as one word. History majors may also have an advantage; the longer the words have been used together, the more likely they are to have merged into one over time.

But, notice I used the words tend to and more likely. There are no set rules.

I mean, why is schoolwork one word, but school day two? Why does mind-boggling have a hyphen, but mind games doesn’t?

I guess that’s the beauty of creation, though, isn’t it? It’s unpredictable. It’s exciting. It’s awe inspiring. Or is that awe-inspiring?

Google, here I come.

Dedicated to Theresa Milstein

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taking Requests

Robin Williams’ stand-up routine circa 1985 if his coke dealer was out of town.

TMZ if all celebrities decided to lay low and make it a Netflix weekend.

Rush Limbaugh if Democrats decided that government spending and regulations should be cut.

Me during winter break with all my students gone- and with them, their grammar errors that largely inspire my posts.

Please inspire me while my muses are out; bombard me with your burning grammar questions and/or pet peeves.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forever Young

My friend and I are each other’s stylists. Every so often we scrutinize each other’s closets and force each other to get rid of the crap and help each other put together new outfits with what we have.

The other night it was my turn to do her closet, and she stepped out of the closet wearing a dress and asked, “What do you think of this?”

“You look great,” I said, “but it’s too…oh… I don’t know.”

“What!” she insisted.

“It’s kind of too young.”

It was the first time I consciously realized that I am too old to wear certain things. It felt so final; never would I be able to don another really short dress, knee socks, or belly shirt (because, you know, up until that moment, that was my standard outfit).

I don’t want to be one of those women who desperately clings to her youth:

And while we’re on the subject, there are a few common faux pas that make our writing look too immature. To make our writing look more age appropriate, we must do the following:

• Capitalize the word I.
• Add apostrophes in contractions (e.g., I’m, don’t, he’ll).
• Write out numbers one through ten.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to aging gracefully- if gracefully means I can dye my grays, spend my 401K on anti-aging products, and drink the blood of virgins to maintain a youthful glow.

Friday, December 3, 2010


The last thing I want to do is make an ass out of you and me, so I try to be pretty careful.

I learned never to ask a woman, no matter how tiny the rest of her body is compared to her belly, when she is expecting.

I learned never to express joy, no matter how in love she claimed to be two days prior, over a friend’s new relationship. (Oh, he broke up with you last night. Ooops. Um, drinks are on me.)

And I certainly never assume anything when it has to do with the English language.

We can’t even assume our most popular rules are correct.

Remember i before e except after c or when sounded like a as in neighbor or weigh?

What about heir and seize and weird, huh?

And most of the time we simply slap an ly on the end of an adjective to make it into an adverb:

Bad + ly = badly
Clear +ly = clearly
Genuine+ ly = genuinely

Unfortunately, we can’t assume that this is the case for all adjectives. It’s certainly not the case for true. True loses its e before it gains its ly:

True - e + ly = truly

Isn’t that outrageous? It’s truly, truly, truly outrageous!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Grammar, Make Way for Talli

This is my first grammar-free blog post. Well, I am going to encourage you to read, which will help your grammar, so it’s not completely unrelated.

Help Talli Roland's debut novel THE HATING GAME hit the Kindle bestseller list at and by spreading the word today. Even a few sales in a short period of time on Amazon helps push the book up the rankings, making it more visible to other readers.


When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy. After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £2000,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes. Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?

No Kindle? Download a free app at Amazon for Mac, iPhone, PC, Android and more.

Coming soon in paperback.

Keep up with the latest at

Good luck, Talli!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Does This Belong to You?

Whose hair is this?

You are correct. It’s Justin Bieber’s hair.
To show that the hair belongs to Justin Bieber, as you can see, we add an ’s to the end of his name.

Whose head is this?

Wrong! It's not Bruce Willis's; it's Britney Spears's head.

To show that the head belongs to Ms. Spears, we also add an ’s. But because her name ends in an s, if we feel like the pronunciation would be too awkward with the extra s, we have the option to simply add the without the s:

Britney Spears’ head

Whose black coats are melding together?

You are correct. Those are the Olsen twins coats.

Because the coats belong to both twins, we place the apostrophe after the s, which shows that the coats belong to both twins. If we wrote the Olsen twin’s coats, it would incorrectly imply that the coats only belonged to one of the twins.

To illustrate why apostrophe placement is so important, let’s take a walk down Olsen twin lane.

Remember a few years ago when Mary Kate’s struggle with anorexia was all over the tabloids? Imagine that this was a US Weekly magazine headline:

Olsen Twins’ Struggle with Anorexia Intensifies

The apostrophe’s placement suggests that both Olsen twins struggled with anorexia. Because of the tabloid’s strict policy on the integrity of their material, US Weekly would simply be mortified to discover that their tiny punctuation faux pas incorrectly implied Ashley had an eating disorder too.

Well, that’s it for apostrophes. I’m off to read about where Brad and Jennifer are secretly meeting this week.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Waistline by the Wayside

When I got home from teaching Wednesday night, I curled up on my bed in fetal position for a good twenty minutes. That’s how wrecked I was after trying to teach three hours of capitalization rules and the value of concise sentences to students who had visions of turkey dancing in their heads.

After unsuccessfully trying to win my students over with promises of knowledge and better writing skills, I resorted to bribery: if they merely pretended to be interested in the next lesson, I promised to let them out fifteen minutes early. Even that only kind of worked. Midway through the next lesson, a student randomly asked me, “What are you doing for Thanksgiving, Ms. Baranick?”

It was even obvious from the typos in their most recent essays that they had Thanksgiving on the mind.

One student, when writing about three changes she plans on making in her life, was obviously subconsciously contemplating the effects of the delicious food she would be consuming the next day:

I plan on letting the trivial things in my life fall by the waistline.

I like how this one thinks. I’m all for letting my waistline fall by the wayside on Thanksgiving too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pilgrims and Plumbers

Last night, I watched a show on the History channel about Thanksgiving, which reminded me why I should just stick to HBO series and America’s Next Top Model. I found out a lot of things about my favorite holiday that I would rather not have known.

First of all- and most disturbing- did you know that on the day after Thanksgiving plumbers receive the most emergency calls? Eeeeeew!

Another disappointment: Pilgrims didn’t actually wear black hats and buckled shoes. Next, someone’s going to ruin my St. Patrick’s Day by telling me that Leprechauns don’t actually wear green top hats and knickers.

And check this out: historians are not even sure that turkey was consumed at the original Thanksgiving feast. And my favorite, pumpkin pie, definitely was not.

Oh, and that whole lovely story about the Pilgrims inviting the Native Americans to celebrate with them in thanks of the good harvest- bullshit. The Native Americans did what I had to do in high school when I wasn’t invited to the popular crowd’s parties: they crashed. And I just read that days before the feast the Pilgrims tried to chop off the local chief’s head.

So much for the colonial Woodstock I had in mind.

But, I’ve been thinking about it, and despite Thanksgiving’s origin, I think it’s important to celebrate. It’s not just a holiday dedicated to eating delicious food; it’s about gathering with family and friends, and, most importantly, being grateful for what we have. In fact, although it’s a couple of days early, I am going to start being grateful right now:

I am grateful for my students. Without their overflowing cornucopia of errors, I wouldn’t have been inspired to start this blog, nor would I have the fuel to keep it going.

I am grateful to spell check and grammar check. If they did their jobs perfectly, I would be unemployed.

For similar reasons, I am grateful to the English language for being so crazy and convoluted.

I am grateful that I can eke out a grammar lesson about thank you:

Did you know that when thank you is used as an expression it doesn’t have a hyphen, but when it’s used as a noun or an adjective it does:

Expression: Thank you for saving me a piece of pumpkin pie.
Adjective: I deserve a thank-you note.
Noun: You at least owe me a thank-you.

Speaking of owing thank-yous, I owe Emily a gigantic thank-you for proofreading my posts.

And I owe all of you who are reading this blog millions of thank-yous. You could be on the TMZ website right now reading about Lindsay Lohan, but you are here. Reading about grammar. (What’s wrong with you?)I am eternally grateful for your lovely comments, the wonderful content on your blogs, and the supportive community.

Have a lovely Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cheap Thrills

Yesterday, I was trying to purchase a drink from a vending machine. I slid my relatively crisp dollar bill into the slot, and, as I am sure we have all experienced, it spit the dollar right back out at me. I smoothed the dollar out and tried it again, but again the machine spit it back out. After the second rejection, this thought actually went through my mind: “In this economy, the vending machine shouldn’t be so picky.”

Although the bad economy has affected some of us far more severely than others, I think it’s safe to say that the economy has had an effect on most of our psyches.

To cope, we’ve been embracing relatively cheap diversions that make us feel good. According to the Huffington Post, the following industries have experienced a spike: family movies, donuts, fireworks and gum.

It makes sense. Nothing on the list costs too much (especially if you sneak the donuts into the theater instead of buying a $10.00 bag of popcorn), and each product either makes us feel good or gives us a little spark of excitement.

Well, I would like to propose an addition to the list of cheap thrills: exclamation points.

Every time I read about exclamation points in a grammar book, the author warns us not overuse them. And, under healthy economic conditions, I totally agree with that. But, while everything else is so dreary, why not make writing feel more exciting?

Exclamation marks are like punctuation fireworks.

They’re fun! They’re cute!! They’re exciting!!! They’re free!!!!!!!!

And I promise that when the economy has recovered, I will do my part in reinstating exclamation point limitations. After I have returned from my Mediterranean holiday on my yacht, of course.

What cheap thrills have helped you through the recession?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nobody's Perfect, but...

Remember when Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder broke up? That was sad. In my opinion, sadder than the Brad and Jennifer split and the Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins split combined. Johnny and Winona were so beautiful together in that early 90s brooding brunette sort of way. And the tattoo. Oh, the tattoo!

Can you imagine having your name followed by the word forever on Johnny Depp’s arm? He must have been really into her. And I totally get it; I was really into her too. During the late 80s/early 90s, I pretty much wanted to be her- especially in Heathers and Reality Bites. If tattoo transfusions were an option, I would have signed up.

As you can imagine, I was pretty disappointed when I heard about the whole shoplifting scandal. Considering the number of times I rented Heathers, Winona should have had plenty of money to buy whatever she wanted.

And I don’t know how I feel about the excuse she gave to the security guard who caught her: that she was shoplifting to research for a role.

On the one hand, it sounds as lame as Lindsay Lohan telling the police that the pants she was wearing with cocaine in the pockets were not hers.

But, on the other hand, maybe she did actually think it was okay. Celebrities have their asses kissed all day. They get sent to rehab instead of jail. They are sex addicts rather than cheaters. They suffer from exhaustion rather than coming down from drugs. So, it is possible that she actually didn’t know any better; maybe she thought that if she needed to research for a role it would be totally cool because she was Winona ‘Effin Ryder.

Which of those scenarios is worse: ignoring the rules or ignorance?

I often ask myself the same question regarding the errors found in my students’ essays.

Is it worse when they actually know better but don’t proofread their work as carefully as they should and end up making silly errors (e.g., writing pubic instead of public)?

Or is it worse when they make errors because they don’t know the rules (e.g., sticking commas all over the place so that reading it gives you whiplash)?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grammar Fashion

I admit it. I have clipped a picture of Jennifer Aniston from a magazine and handed it to a hairdresser hoping it would change my life. I know I’m not the only one; the Rachel haircut even has its own Wikipedia page.

“The Rachel” phenomenon is just one of the many examples of how incredibly influenced we are by celebrities. Of course, it shouldn’t be that way. We should be inspired by our nurses, our teachers, our artists and our caretakers. But the reality is most of us would probably aspire to be more like George Clooney than George Washington.

This is why I appreciate when celebrities, like George Clooney, are outspoken about humanitarian causes. I know that some people get annoyed with the likes of George and Angelina and Bono for appearing a little holier than thou, but the truth is that people copy celebs.

One of the aspects people copy most from celebrities is the way they dress, so I’d like to thank the following celebrities for trying to promote grammar awareness through their fashion:

Heidi Klum is promoting an issue that is very dear to my own heart: she would like to remind everyone not to miss their periods.

Can you spot Rhianna's punctuation mark of choice? Hint: it's very close to her heart.

Her left breast is covered by a comma.

In a surprising move, Jennifer Lopez, never one to hide from the spotlight, promotes punctuation that whispers subtlety. With her breasts cradled by parentheses, she is conveying that her cleavage is by no means the focal point of this ensemble; it is merely an aside.

On second thought, maybe those are quotation marks, not parantheses, and she's trying to express that her breasts are speaking to us.

Yes, that makes more sense.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Confessions of a Shopaholic

I am shocked when people tell me they hate grocery shopping. What’s not to love? It combines two of the best things in the world: shopping and food. And what’s even better is that it’s mandatory shopping, like if you don’t do it, you will starve to death. I try to make a similar argument about clothes- that my soul will starve to death if it isn’t fed a new top or pair of shoes weekly- but my husband doesn’t buy it.

The only thing that makes me uncomfortable about grocery shopping is what sometimes happens when I am in the check-out lane. When someone lines up behind me and starts unloading items on the counter, I get anxiety about whether or not to place that rubber stopper between my food and theirs. I don’t want them to feel like I don’t trust them or that I am so cheap I am terrified of paying for their watermelons.

But, then I remind myself, “Jenny, we use the rubber stopper like we use the comma, to separate items from one another so it’s easier on everyone.” And that makes me feel better about slapping it down.

Example: I bought chocolate pudding fruit juice rice milk and beer.

Without the commas, we don’t know if I bought chocolate pudding or chocolate and pudding, fruit juice or fruit and juice, rice milk or rice and milk.

So, we add the commas and it’s crystal clear:

I bought chocolate pudding, fruit, juice, rice milk, and beer.

That's right, I like rice milk.

However, here’s a trickier scenario. Say you are going to the market on your lunch break and your colleague hands you twenty dollars and asks you to buy her a Red Bull. And you think, “Shit, that girl talks enough as it is without an energy drink, and I don’t have any cash, so I am going to have to pay separately for my stuff and her stuff. This sucks!”

Wouldn’t it be nice if, for those rare occasions, the supermarket provided two sizes of rubber stoppers: one small one to divide your items from your colleague’s items and then a larger one to divide your and your colleague’s items from those belonging to the person behind you? Otherwise, don’t you kind of feel guilty, like you are taking two turns in line?

The punctuation world offers something akin to the two sizes of rubber stoppers. If the items we list in a series already contain commas, then we use semi-colons to separate those items:

Last weekend, I shopped at Whole Foods, where I bought my produce; Ralphs, where I bought household items; and Trader Joe’s, where I went because the cute check-out guys always starts up conversations with me.

I know it must be part of the Trader Joe's customer service training, but, what can I say, I’m a sucker for male attention. Now, you see why I need to buy more clothes: so I can wear them when I go grocery shopping.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Where's the E?


Have you ever wondered why grades jump from D to F and exclude E?

You haven’t? Really? I don’t understand. What do you spend your time thinking about?

Well, I have wondered. So I poked around a little bit on Google, and I found a pretty logical explanation:

It dates back to the 1690s, around the time of the Salem Witch Trials. People were very superstitious at the time, and during an outbreak of the ebola virus, the magistrates prohibited anyone from using the letter E because they thought it would summons the ebola virus from the spirit world.

Okay, that’s not really why. It’s because, as many of you may remember, back in elementary school, this scale was used:

E= Excellent
S= Satisfactory
N= Needs to improve
U- Unsatisfactory.

So, if they had started to use E to indicate a failing grade, the students may have mistakenly thought they did an excellent job. Therefore, they opted for the next letter in line, which worked out swimmingly because F is the first letter in FAIL.

I can see their point, but still, I think it’s weird to just skip the letter E completely, so I propose this compromise:


I like it because it sounds like F, but it doesn’t just neglect E all together.

I also like it because, as you will see momentarily, it will help me explain something that has always been very difficult for me in the past, something I have managed to avoid during my eleven months of blogging about common grammar errors, something I knew I’d have to address one of these days and now have to because somebody asked: affect versus effect.

To tackle this daunting task, let’s start with the definitions of affect and effect:

Affect is a verb that means "to influence.”
Effect is a noun that means "a result.”

In a sentence, affect can be replaced with influence:

The weather affects my grades.
The barometric pressure also influences my grades.

And effect can be replaced with result.

Rain has a negative effect on my grades.
Barometric pressures below thirty have a negative result on my grades.

So, how do we remember this?

One way we can remember that affect with an A means to influence is because Type A personalities are the ones who do the influencing.

Another trick we can use is that affect with an A is a verb, which is an action word. Affect starts with an A and action starts with an A.

Now, on to effect:

Effect with an E means a result. Grades are results, and if we remember that EF is the new F, then we can remember to use EFfect when writing about results.

Have an effin' great weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Found My People

I mentioned in my last post that I was going to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Well, I went. I red eye flighted (I know that’s not a word, but that’s how tired I am) my way there on Thursday and flew home at 7am on Sunday. But, even though I sacrificed all that sleep, I never did get close enough to tell Jon and Stephen the good news: that I had opted to go out with them over Clive and Johnny.

All of these people were in my way:

But, you know, it’s cool. The rally was awesome. The music was fantastic, the comedy was hilarious, Jon’s final speech was inspirational, and I was basically in grammar nerd heaven. Check out this awesomeness:

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Indecision 2010

The toughest decision I can imagine having to make is this: what if one day I had to choose between going on a date with Johnny Depp and Clive Owen or one with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

Can you imagine the agony of having to choose between a night of unparalleled hotness or one of unadulterated humor. Dinner with a side of physical perfection and an English accent or a side of intelligence and wit. It’s even more agonizing than my savory or sweet breakfast dilemma.

When I'm lucky, timing takes care of these tough decisions for me. Sometimes I don’t even feel like savory. And sometimes- like this weekend- I am headed to Washington DC to attend the Rally to Restore Sanity hosted by both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Woo hoo!

So, today, if I were asked to make that difficult choice, I would probably go with Jon and Stephen. I’ll definitely be absolutely smitten after a day of their hilarity, and the three of us in the same city just makes it so convenient. Johnny is probably in France, and I have no idea where Clive is these days. I am nothing if not practical.

I just hope that these people aren’t in DC protesting anywhere near the rally:

If I play my cards right, I’m hoping there will be a PUBIC option.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's All Well and Good

It was Friday night at 2am. My husband was asleep on the couch and I was watching TV. All of a sudden, there was a knock on the door. The first knock was followed by louder knocks, which finally woke up my husband. We looked at each other, confused, maybe even a little frightened. The knocks were followed by strange voices identifying themselves as room service.

My husband angrily got up and looked through the peephole. I relaxed when I saw him smile. Turns out it was just some of our very own highly intoxicated friends who were returning from a bar down the street and needed a place to crash.

Usually, I like those kinds of spontaneous visits, but not this time. I was watching Rhinestone, the movie starring Dolly Parton and Sylvester Stallone in which country singer Dolly Parton must turn cab driver Stallone into a country singer in two weeks or else she has to extend her contract singing for sleazy Freddy and sleep with him! It was at the end, the part where Stallone was proving himself onstage, and I just wanted to be left in peace to watch Stallone sway back and forth on stage singing (I use that term loosely) country music wearing this outfit:

It’s not often that one gets to see Stallone in rhinestone fringe. Usually, he’s some kind of action hero.

In that way, verbs are like Stallone.

Like we do with Stallone, we tend to associate verbs with action. When we think verb, we think of such words as run, jump, fight, eat, sit, and swim.

But, as I mentioned in the last post, some verbs aren’t about action at all. One type of verb that doesn’t show action is a linking verb, also known as a copulative verb (hee hee hee).

To review, linking verbs connect the subject of the verb to additional information about the subject, often an adjective. Some common linking verbs are to be verbs such as is, am, was, and were.

Ex. Stallone’s outfit is pretty.

Others linking verbs are seem and become:

Ex. Even in their drunken state, my friends seemed surprised that I was voluntarily watching Rhinestone.

Some verbs are versatile. In certain contexts, they are action verbs and in some they are linking verbs, such as look, feel, and smell.

Linking: Dolly Parton looked great.

Action: I looked adoringly at Dolly.

Why does all of this matter?

Because it helps us come to terms with a very important issue: how to answer the question “How are you?”

Is it "I am good" or "I am well"?

Some people freak out when we say, “I am good” instead of "I am well" because they think that a verb should be followed by an adverb, and well is an adverb.

BUT… since am is a linking verb, it is appropriate for an adjective, like good, to follow it.

Therefore, it’s perfectly correct to say, “I am good.”

It’s also okay to say, “I am well.” However, when we use well in this context, it’s as the adjective well, which means healthy, not the adverb well, which means in a good or satisfactory manner.

When someone asks me how I am, I actually prefer to respond, “I am fine.” If you know what I mean. Wink.

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Naughty Verbs Need Love Too

I had a total Beevis and Butt-head moment yesterday when I read that there is such thing as a “copulative verb.”

Eager to find out more about this provocative-sounding verb, I poked around to get to the bottom of it.

It turns out the copulative verbs are not the verbs you might think. Doink is not a copulative verb. Neither is bone, poke, or grind. Copulate isn't even one. Copulative verb is another term for linking verb.

Do you remember linking verbs? They are, among others, such unassuming verbs such as is, are, was, were, and am.

Linking verbs are about connecting words together, not about actions.

For example, in the following example, are connects you and beautiful. (The example should be read in a Barry White-like voice.)

Baby, you are beautiful.

But, when you think about it, that’s really what copulative verbs should be about. Sure, words love a bit of action, but the focus should really be on the bond formed between them.

Let’s just hope they use commas for protection.