Thursday, February 25, 2010

Keepin' It Real

So, as we already know, English is a crazy language. For example, take the word supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. For the most part, it's great, right? The first twenty-nine letters of the word- no problem. Supercalifragilisticexpialido is pronounced exactly how it looks. Go ahead, try it- I’ll wait.


It's the cious that's the problem.

It should be written shus, right?

But, that's the wacky English language for you: a c that sounds like sh, and iou that makes the same sound as u. And, it doesn't stop there; English is full of letters that take on the sound of other letters and letters that are silent.

One of the worst offenders is words that end ough. Ough is funny in that not only is it full of silent letters, but it also is pronounced differently depending on the word in which it is found. For example, in the word dough, it sounds like an o; in tough, it sounds like uff; and in through, it sounds like ew.

Well, there are certain individuals out there who are sick of our letters trying to be something they are not. Instead of trying to be all fancy and French sounding, they just want our words to keep it real. Therefore, sometimes when I am grading a paper or reading an email, I run into these words:




Now, I totally appreciate the sentiment behind this "Keep It Real" campaign, but before we change the spelling of rough, tough and through, we should click on this link to watch a cautonairy tale by this wise man

to see what happens when keeping it real goes wrong:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Yes, I Do Need All These Shoes

“Heather left behind one of her Swatches. She'd want you to have it, Veronica. She always said you couldn't accessorize for shit.”

Accessories are kind of a sensitive subject in my household. There's a lot of "do you really need all of those shoes?", "don't you already have a black handbag," and "what's this $300 Coach charge on the credit card."

"Oh, um... that must be when I flew coach to visit my dad."

So, I was pleasantly surprised when the dictionary confirmed the importance of accessories by defining them as:

An article or set of articles of dress, as gloves, earrings, or a scarf, that adds completeness, convenience, attractiveness, etc., to one's basic outfit.

Did you see that? The dictionary says accessories add COMPLETENESS. Do you want me to be incomplete?

But, it might as well just have shown this picture, right?

Now, I know that Angelina Jolie's lips are really the only accessory she needs, but pairing that black dress with those emerald earrings was genius, right? Here's a closer look to show their full glory:

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe it's Madonna's picture that should be found in the dictionary under accessories. The 80's wouldn't have been the 80's without the lace gloves, the bandana, the bracelets, and the beauty mark:

Although, I think my favorite has to be her newest accessory:

Here, let me get you a closer look to show its full glory:

Sometimes it's even a good idea to accessorize our sentences. We accessorize sentences by adding some extra detail or emphasis to an otherwise basic sentence. To show you how it works, let's start with this basic sentence:

Jolie's emerald earrings were gorgeous.

Now, I am going to accessorize it with some added detail:

Jolie's emerald earrings, which really made her outfit, were gorgeous.

Now, the reason the words I added to the second sentence are added detail is because I don't need them to convey the meaning of my sentence, which is simply that the earrings were gorgeous. I just felt like adding my opinion that they really did spice up her look.

Here's another example:

Madonna has impeccable taste in accessories.

And, now I am going to add some emphasis:

Madonna has impeccable taste in accessories, especially the ones with the glimmering torsos.

So, it's great to add detail and emphasis to sentences, but as you can see from the examples above, you have to make sure to set it off by commas.

It's important to set off the extra information with commas because the commas affect the meaning of the sentence. For example, here's a lie I told my husband:

Studies shows that women who are allowed their sartorial creativity are more creative in bed.

Now, we might ask ourselves whether or not who are allowed their sartorial creativity is extra information and should, therefore, include commas, like this:

Studies shows that women, who are allowed their sartorial creativity, are more creative in bed.

So, to check, let's take out that information and see what our sentence looks like:

Studies show that women are more creative in bed.

Well, that's not what I was trying to convey. I am not trying to say that all women are more creative in bed, just the ones that are not hassled every time they walk in the door with a Nordstrom bag. Without that information, I am not making the case that my accessories really are important for our relationship. Therefore, we do not insert commas.

Oh, and on that note, I might need to take another one of those coach trips. I haven't seen my mom in ages.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Because You Never Get a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

My mom: Guess who I saw at the market today?

Me: Who?

My mom: Mrs. Jenson. You went to elementary school with her son Kevin. Did you know that Kevin's a neurosurgeon now? He lives in a mansion in Newport Coast. He's really handsome too; his mom showed me a picture.

Me: Who? Poopy Pants?

Yes, when Kevin Jenson was five years old, standing on the diving board staring terrified into six feet deep water, he had a little accident. So, even if thirty years later he has saved thousands of lives, has Hugh Jackman's abs and Johnny Depp's haunting stare, he will still just be Poopy Pants to me.

= Still Poopy Pants

First impressions are hard to shake. Say you are introduced to a girl at a party and she snubs you, but after running into her a few more times, you come to find out that she's actually pretty cool. You also find out that on the day that you first met her she had lost her job, her dog, and her boyfriend- but, you still kind of think she's a bitch.

Because first impressions can be so damning, it’s important that we put the commas in the correct places. To see what I mean, check out these sentences:

When I eat the dog always waits for my scraps.

If you're ever in the mood to give head over to the local charity.

C'mon, admit it: after reading the sentences, your first impression was that I am some kind of sicko. Maybe after a couple of reads, you realized that I'm neither a dog eater nor a pervert, but for the rest of our lives, if someone mentions the Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares blog, you’ll say, “Oh yeah, that’s written by that perverted chick who eats dogs.”

Geez. Tough crowd. If I had only put those commas:

When I eat, the dog always waits for my scraps.

If you're ever in the mood to give, head over to the local charity.

So that you don't have some unfortunate misunderstanding for which you are judged forever more, allow me to explain this comma rule. The rule applies when we have a sentence that is comprised of two parts: an introductory phrase and an independent clause.

The introductory phrase is a phrase that begins the sentence telling us one of these five things:

Under What Circumstances

An independent clause is basically another word for a complete sentence. It can stand on its own. Hear it roar.

So, when an introductory phrase precedes an independent clause, it's kind of like when foreplay precedes sex: we need to separate foreplay and sex with a condom just like we need to to separate the introductory phrase and independent clause with a comma. Here are some examples of such sentences:

When Sam first met Alice, she had something in her teeth.

Between her incisor and molar hung something green and slimy.
*No comma because hung something green and slimy is not an independent clause.

Because Sam loves spinach, he reached over and kissed her.

With expert use of his tongue, Sam dislodged the spinach and swallowed it.

If she hadn't eaten that spinach salad, Sam and Alice may not be married.
under what circumstances

The real clue to knowing if we have an introductory phrase on our hands is the first word in the sentence. For example, if our sentence starts with the word when, we know that the phrase will be telling when. If our sentence starts with the word because, we know it will be telling why. If our sentence starts with the word if, we know it will be telling you under which circumstances.

Here’s a list of other words that commonly begin an introductory phrase (there are more, but hopefully you get the idea.):

When: As soon as, After, At, Before, During, Until, When
Where: Above, Across, Below, Behind, Beneath, Beside, In, On
Why: Because, In order to, So that, To
How: By, With, Without
Under what circumstances: Although, Despite, Even though, If

So, when you see one of these words at the beginning of your sentence, 90% of the time (when it's followed by an independent clause), you will need to use this little guy:

Ooops, I mean this one:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are You Just Going to Lie There?

When someone says that he or she wants to get laid, do you know what it means? Yes, it means that, but do you know what it says about that person? It says that the person is lazy- that he or she is just going to lie there and not do any of the work.

To understand why it means that, we must first understand the difference between lay and lie.

The difference between lay and lie is like the difference between sadism and masochism: one means doing something to someone (or something) else while the other means doing it to oneself.

So, if we think of it that way, then lay is the sadist-because we use it when we are putting or placing someone or something else down.

For example,

Please just lay the leather whip down by the handcuffs.

See? The leather whip is being placed down.

Lie, on the other hand, is when one places oneself down.

For example,

She told him to lie down on the floor and bark like a dog.

In this case, he reclined himself.

So, the reason that people who want to “get laid” are lazy is because laid is the past tense of lay. Therefore, it means they want someone else to do it to them.

Here's an example of when to use laid:

Yesterday, Carl laid Susan on the bed.

(Get your mind out of the gutter; she fell asleep watching Letterman, and Carl picked her up off the couch and laid her on the bed.)

Now, the thing that makes this all very complicated is this: guess what the past tense of lie is?

It’s lay.

I know- it’s totally screwed up right? It's like some weird, messed up relationship, like when your nemesis turns out to be your father:

Or the woman you are in love with turns out to be your sister:

Or your daughter is also your sister:

Anyhow, it's weird and complicated, and whoever was behind that decision was definitely a sadist.

So, we would write

Yesterday, Fluffy lay around all day, so he better not lie around today too.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Holiday, Celebration... Come Together in Every Nation

Except this nation.

We are called the United States of America, but we are about as united as Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. We can't even agree on the good stuff, like holidays.

For example, yesterday was Valentine's Day, and the nation was even divided about whether or not we should dedicate a day to love, chocolates, and flowers. I mean, does it get better than love, chocolate and flowers? (I know there are some people who claim they don't like chocolate, but I don't believe them. I think they are just secretly on a diet.)

On the one hand, Valentine's Day had one of its biggest endorsements ever. It was endorsed by Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Garner, Anne Hathaway, Ashton Kutcher, Janie Foxx, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, and, yes, even this woman:

But, on the other hand, some people just gave it a big W:

And today we are celebrating another holiday: Happy Presidents' Day! And, although I am sure most of us agree that it's awesome to have the day off, clearly we do not agree about the president, as evidenced by these bumper stickers:

Now, this first bumper sticker is definitely pro-Obama. It's kind of a Valentine's Day meets Presidents' Day, in fact:

I'm not sure if this next one is pro or anti. Either it means lots of love or laugh out loud, right? I told you I was no good at these acronyms:

This one suggests our leaders should be illiterate. I am assuming it's anti-Obama and pro-Bush:

This one is definitely anti:

So, yes, the country is divided about Obama, they were divided about Bush, they were divided about Clinton, and before that I was too busy worrying about Brenda and Dylan to know what was going on outside of Beverly Hills High.

But, what I do know is that this ambivalence about the president is reflected in our writing. Some people capitalize the word President while some people don't capitalize the word president.
Actually, there are two things both sides agree on:

We all agree it should be capitalized when it's used as a title in front of a person's name:

Did you know President Obama can bench 200 lbs.?

We also all agree that it shouldn't be capitalized when it's referring to the idea of a president in general:

Jill wants to be the president of a company when she grows up.

What we can't seem to agree on is whether we capitalize it in when we refer to the president. For example, I've seen it endorsed both ways:

Our P/president of the United States has read every Harry Potter book.

The P/president allegedly makes a mean chili.
So, until I hear differently, I guess we get to choose. It is a democracy after all. Although, one day I do hope we find something or someone the nation unanimously supports.

But, until then, I have a question for you: are you Team Edward or Team Jacob?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Bathsheba: David, guess what's coming up?

David: Is it the anniversary of when I beat the g
iant Goliath with nothing but this chiseled physique and slingshot slung casually over my shoulder?

Bathsheba: No

David: Then, it must be the anniversary of when I was anointed king over Israel?

Bathsheba: No

David: The first day of the Winter Olympics?

Bathsheba: No, David. Sunday is Valentine’s Day. It’s as though after 3,000 years you have started to take me for granted.

David: How could I take you for granite? You’re not even made out of rock; you’re oil on canvas.

Bathsheba: It’s not granite, David, it’s granted- G-R-A-N-T-E-D. The saying is take for granted.

David: Are you sure? For all intensive purposes, I'll take that with a great assault.

Bathsheba: It's intents and purposes and grain of....oh, never mind.

A Few More Because I Said So's

* Unless it's a question, never start a sentence with the word which.

* Don't start a sentence with the word hopefully.

* If you have written the words "in today's society," delete them immediately.

* Don't bother renting the movie Because I Said So.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mother Knows Best

As sure as you will go through a Led Zeppelin phase at some point in your teens, in your adult life, you will become your parents. This take over usually starts around the time you get your first apartment and little by little possesses your entire being. You'll open your mouth and out will come your mother's voice. You'll be having lunch with your dad and look across the table to find that you're both resting your left cheek on your left fist and tapping your right fingers on the table. You'll even start adopting their habits and ideals- even the ones that annoy the crap out of you. I bet you anything that to this day there is nary a wire hanger to be found in Christina Crawford's closet.

Well, I used to hate when my parents would answer one of my queries with a "because I said so."

Me: Dad, why can't I stay up and watch Dynasty?

Dad: Because I said so.

Me: Mom, why can't I play handball after dinner?

Mom: Because I said so.

But, here I go:

Don't put a comma before the word because.


Because I said so.

But, what about...

Don't talk back to me!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

In my humble opinion....

...acronyms are stupid. I have never and will never type the letters LOL, unless perchance I am in the beginning stages of typing the word lollypop.

And, is it a coincidence that I have never watched Gossip Girl and this was their promo?
I think not.

Now, I don't hate all acronyms-just the ones that have been created because people are too lazy to write out entire words or want to imply the word fuck without saying the word fuck.

For example, I have fond memories of using acronyms for the birthday cards I made for my friends in the third grade that looked like this:


And, how could I have made it through junior high yearbook signing without the three magic letters K.I.T?

And, there is no way I would remember all the colors in the spectrum without the handy ROYGBIV (Although, honestly, I've never had to rely on that knowlege too much in real life.)

And, now that I think about it, one acronym that has served me very well in the classroom is FANBOYS.

I know when we think of FANBOYS we think of this guy: The guy whose prized possession is his still-in-the-box Millenium Falcon. The guy you don't want to date because there's no way in hell you can compete with this:
But in English class it’s this very useful acronym:


So, what's so useful about FANBOYS?

Well, you'll notice that and is one of the FANBOYS. Remember what the last post said about and:

We put a comma before and when it joins two sentences. For example,

Drew watched every episode of Star Trek, and he even knew how to speak Clingon.

And we don't put a comma when it doesn't have a complete sentence on both sides of it:

Drew watched every episode of StarTrek and learned Clingon.

Well, it's the same with the other six words. If one of the FANBOYS joins two sentences, we insert a comma before the FANBOYS, but if it doesn't have a complete sentence on either side, then we don't insert a comma. Here are a couple of examples:

Emma liked Drew a lot but decided to break up with him.

He was smart and cute, but it was just too weird that he called out the name Leia in bed.

He had even given Emma a snake armband for her birthday.

She could never bring herself to wear it, for she suffered from herpetophobia (the fear of reptiles, not herpes).

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Don't Just Stick It Everywhere

I read somewhere that sometimes Matthew McConaughey gets so sexually aroused from food he has to stop eating. And, did you know that when Britney Spears checks into a hotel she uses the name Allota Warmheart? Somehow, these discoveries don't surprise me. However, sometimes I learn something about a person that seems totally out of character.

For example, the other morning my husband and I ran into a friend of ours. He’s a really nice guy, married, has a two-year old daughter he adores, and seems kind of shy. Now, I don’t know how we got on the subject, but I learned that back in his bachelor days he never left the bar alone. Here's the secret, Gentlemen: apparently, if you proposition over twenty women in one night, someone will go home with you. I just never took this shy family man for the Leon Phelps type:

But, when I thought about it, I realized that many of us take this same quantity over quality approach, especially with commas, especially before the word and. We stick a comma before every and we write and figure that eventually one will be correct.

We already talked about the optional comma before and: the one that goes (if you want it to) between the second to last item in a series and the and. In the following example, it's the comma between creamy and and.

Mmmm! This burrito is so spicy, warm, creamy, and tender.

But, not all commas before and are optional: some are required while some are forbidden. That's right- forbidden.

A comma is required before and if it joins two complete sentences. For example,

All you need is a bottle of courvoisier, and it really helps if you don't have any standards.

Let's break it down:

All you need is a bottle of courvoisier = complete sentence

It really helps if you don't have any standards = complete sentence

So, in other words, if you have a complete sentence on both sides of and, you must put a comma.

However, a comma before and is forbidden if it does not join two complete sentences. For example,

All you need is a bottle of courvoisier and no standards.

So, let's break this one down:

All you need is a bottle of courvoisier = complete sentence

No standards= not complete sentence

If you don't have a complete sentence on both sides of and, then no comma for you!