Everything Language and Grammar

Positive Language about Tropical Storm Isaac

Posted by languageandgrammar on August 24, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

Being a meteorologist and writer, I sometimes confuse myself, so let’s be clear: This is a language-related weather post, not a weather-related language post!

Do They Want Hurricanes to Strengthen?

Am I the only one who is disturbed by how often meteorologists (degree in meteorology) and weather presenters (“I’m not a meteorologist, but I play on tv”) make it sound as if they want tropical storms and hurricanes to strengthen?

I watched a Weather Channel update a couple of days ago on Tropical Storm Isaac, which could become Hurricane Isaac, and I heard several references that made it sound as if it would be a good thing for the storm to strengthen.

  • The upper-levels were not conducive to the storm developing.
  • Dry air being pulled into the storm was going to slow development.
  • Interaction with Cuba would slow its development to hurricane strength.
  • The broad circulation was preventing a rapid intensification.
  • The westward track was making it less likely to move up the East Coast.

Based on those statements, you might conclude that it would be good for the storm to strengthen and slam into the East Coast. The statements were all phrased in the negative (negative for the storm), but they all sounded like positive points to me, except for the regions that were going to be affected by the more westward movement.

Storm’s Perspective

Most people don’t want to see death and destruction from storms, of course, but it is worth nothing that there are a few ego-driven meteorologists who would much rather be correct about a forecast even if it means more destruction than be wrong about a forecast and have it be less destructive. That’s too bad, but it’s also not the point here.

The point is that since meteorologists dictate the tone of the discussion, they do it from the perspective that they care about (the perspective of the storm) instead of the perspective that is most important to the audience (the potential effects of the storm). For the record, I’m sure that I’ve been guilty of it myself.

Regardless, it’s not terribly effective communication.

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Simple, Direct Language Is Always the Best Choice!

Posted by languageandgrammar on August 3, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I know it’s been a while, but we’re still here!

And what better way to come back from a break than by focusing on the most important way to improve communication: Keep it simple and direct.

Seriously, communication that is riddled with extra words, unnecessarily complicated language, and indirect thoughts (which seems to be every work email being sent today!) is muddled, boring, and difficult to comprehend.

On the other hand, every communication that is stripped of unnecessary words, simplified, and direct is a pleasure to read and easy to understand.

For more information, please see a writing tip that I wrote for my day job: Plain Language Is Not Boring Language.

Posted in grammar, language, writing | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio on Wednesday morning

Posted by languageandgrammar on May 1, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I’m happy to report that I’ll be on Wisconsin Public Radio from 9 a.m. until 10 a.m. (Eastern time) on Wednesday, joining host Joy Cardin and listeners to discuss language pet peeves. Joy’s show is on the Ideas Network, a 19-station network serving Wisconsin and spilling into neighboring states, such as Minnesota and Illinois.

There is a live streaming option from the link above, and I’ll post the archive link when available.

Speaking of archives, this is the second time that I’ve joined Joy, with the first time being a few years ago after the book first came out. If you’re interested, you can listen to that interview on this archived stream.

It’s a good discussion, as might be expected from an NPR audience.

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“Stretchered” Off the Ice?

Posted by languageandgrammar on April 17, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

Although it’s often difficult to be (because of the unnecessary violence often intended to injure opponents), I’m a fan of hockey.

The hockey act that resulted in the ridiculous language example I’m about to cite is an unfortunate example of what could be a great sport; however, let us, for the moment, only look at the language use in question: Marian Hossa Was Stretchered Off The Ice After This Brutal Hit From Raffi Torres.

Stretcher is a verb? The word now means “the act of moving someone (presumably into an ambulance) while on a stretcher.”

Call dictionary.com; even they don’t have that verbification (what I called the process of turning nouns into verbs in my book) yet. Call the descriptivists who think that, as long as the meaning is understood, it’s legitimate usage. We have a new verb!

Let’s do a little conjugation of the verb stretcher, at least of the present tense:

  • I stretcher
  • You stretcher
  • He/she/it stretchers
  • We stretcher
  • They stretcher

You get the idea.

If you want a new word, then simply turn a noun into a verb and you have one. You verbed it.

We certainly wish Marian Hossa the best and hope that hockey takes serious steps to remove the unnecessary violence from the game.

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Language of Racism: Hoodies the Reason for Trayvon Martin’s Death

Posted by languageandgrammar on March 23, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

That’s right, ladies and gentleman, Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera thinks that what Trayvon Martin was wearing is as much of a factor in his death as the person who pulled the trigger (Zimmerman), proving that while language changes, racism remains the same.

Rivera:

I am urging the parents of black and Latino youngsters particularly to not let their children go out wearing hoodies. I think the hoodie is as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death as George Zimmerman was.

In other words, it’s understandable to Rivera that Zimmerman would think that the Skittles-carrying youngster was a danger because anyone wearing a hoodie is a danger. Today’s hoodie is most commonly associated with the urban/African-American culture–one that apparently frightens people like Geraldo. In fact, Rivera was quick to point out that he didn’t think that a Caucasian person wearing a hoodie would be perceived in the same light–he didn’t necessarily advise that the group stop wearing hoodies.

Until we start to hold people responsible for their actions rather than putting blame on stereotypes and racism, nothing but the words used to express racism will change.

Maybe dangerous people tend to eat more Skittles. Maybe we shouldn’t buy that kind of candy in the future if we don’t want to be shot, or at least we should have the understanding that we’re asking for it if we do.

For more, see this DailyKos article.

Posted in language, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Proper Way To Apologize

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 18, 2012

We all make mistakes, but apologizing is always difficult. That difficulty (and because many people apologize when they’re not truly sorry for their actions) is why there are so many conditional apologies issued.

That’s something I’ve talked about before here (I’m Sorry If I Offended Anyone) and in my book (Literally, the Best Language Book Ever).

To review, when you put a condition on the apology, you’re attempting to shift the responsibility from you (the person who did the offensive thing) to the person who was hurt by your actions because it’s now up to them to decide whether they were hurt. Don’t apologize that way.

Apologize the way actress Lisa Chan did after appearing in a political ad that was extremely disrespectful to her own culture:

I am deeply sorry for any pain that the character I portrayed brought to my communities. As a recent college grad who has spent time working to improve communities and empower those without a voice, this role is not in any way representative of who I am. It was absolutely a mistake on my part and one that, over time, I hope can be forgiven. I feel horrible about my participation and I am determined to resolve my actions.

She might not be proud of the ad she participated in (for Republican Pete Hoekstra), but she can be very proud of how she took responsibility for her action.

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Hollywood Continuity Mistakes

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 14, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

hollywood image

(Image from 123rf.com)

There’s not that much of a difference between editing text and ensuring that continuity is maintained in a Hollywood production, so I thought we could take a look at some of the Worst Movie Mistakes: Date Night Edition in honor of Valentine’s Day.

I’m sure that’s how St. Valentine, the saint of love, young people, and happy marriages would’ve wanted to be remembered.

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Don’t Fall For It: Super Bowl Commercials are Just Commercials

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 5, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I know I’m in the minority here, but think about it: Are commercials during the Super Bowl really less annoying than commercials during the rest of the year?

No, of course not. Sure, we’re seeing them for the first time–of many–and advertisers have somehow duped us into thinking that they’re must-see tv, but they’re commercials–plain and simple.

Do what you do normally during commercials–grab a snack, phone a friend, flip a channel, or go to the bathroom. But, please, I’m begging you, don’t make them seem like the show itself.

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Don’t Fall For It: Super Bowl Commercials are Just Commercials

Posted by languageandgrammar on February 5, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

I know I’m in the minority here, but think about it: Are commercials during the Super Bowl really less annoying than commercials during the rest of the year?

No, of course not. Sure, we’re seeing them for the first time–of many–and advertisers have somehow duped us into thinking that they’re must-see tv, but they’re commercials–plain and simple.

Do what you do normally during commercials–grab a snack, phone a friend, flip a channel, or go to the bathroom. But, please, I’m begging you, don’t make them seem like the show itself.

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The Microagressions Project

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 19, 2012

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever and Weather Whys: Facts, Myths, and Oddities

stereotypes image

(Image from TheViitals)

What we say matters.

What we say might not be considered outwardly racist–maybe we think we’re making a joke. Maybe we’re making a statement that seems like a reasonable assessment of the world around us, not a hurtful stereotype. Maybe we think what we’re saying is a fact. Maybe we have no idea what someone experienced in childhood or is experiencing in his/her life right now.

Regardless, what we say matters, and we’re responsible for the hurt we cause in others.

The Microaggressions Project blog is a collection of short stories of people being hurt, made to feel less than, or being ridiculed/laughed at. The individual statements or actions might not seem like much (some do), but when you see them all together, it’s easy to see how easy it is to cause pain in others.

There’s some information on their Facebook page about the purpose of the blog, and I’ll include a passage here:

The project is NOT about showing how ignorant people can be & simply dismissing their ignorance. Instead, it is about showing how these comments create and enforce uncomfortable, violent, and unsafe realities onto people’s workplace, home, school, childhood/adolescence/adulthood, public transportation/space environments.

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