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This Vote Should Be Unanimous: It’s Electoral, not Electorial!

Posted by languageandgrammar on September 21, 2012

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

Estimated electoral college votes as of September 21, 2012; image from electoral-vote.com

We’re in the heart of election season, which means many things, one of the most annoying of which is how many people are going to say electorial instead of electoral.

You’ll hear it from your friends. You’ll hear it by television pundits (not pundints, by the way!). You’ll probably even hear it from one of the candidates.

There is no “i” in electoral or electoral college.

Now, of course, if you’re one of those people who believes that a mistake repeated often enough is no mistake–it’s new acceptable usage–then you might think electorial is a word. (Think dictionary.com, where electorial has a definition of electoral.)

P.S. Blue is my favorite color!

(Image from electoralvote.com)

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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.


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.

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Sarah Palin and Paul Revere

Posted by languageandgrammar on June 4, 2011

Who would have ever thought that we’d need to put the names Paul Revere and Sarah Palin in the same sentence?

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Deliberately Misleading Language

Posted by languageandgrammar on May 26, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

This is as much a political opinion piece as it is a language piece, but when has that stopped me before? If hearing political views that may not match yours (even though they should) is offensive to you, then please go to my completely non-political post about dates being printed on eggs–Jobs I’d Hate to Have.

Teleconference Town Hall?

I had never heard of a telephone town hall with a U.S. Congressman, but some automatic calling system invited me to participate in one with my (I use the term “my” loosely since he doesn’t represent my point of view very well) representative, Glenn Thompson.

I immediately jumped on the opportunity to listen and ask a question (details on that below), but I was struck by the deliberately misleading language he used during one of the poll questions during the meeting.

Yes Means No, and No Means Yes

The lack of support (and downright anger from many) for Paul Ryan’s budget plan to turn Medicare into a privatized voucher system that would basically destroy the program that has worked for the past 40-plus years has resulted in nearly all politicians backing away from supporting the plan.

People like Medicare the way it is; they don’t want their elderly family members having to shop for insurance on the open market with a government voucher that is only going to cover a portion of the cost that the plan used to. It’s simple: When people know the details of the plan, they don’t like it.

The political response, of course, is to muddy the waters so that people are confused about what’s really going on, which is what Thompson did with his poll question. (The following is not a direct quote; it’s a paraphrase since I wasn’t thinking that I’d be writing about it today.)

  • A recently issued report (I don’t remember the name) states that Medicare will be insolvent by 2020.  Do  you support reforming Medicare so that we can meet our commitments? (If so, press 1). Or, do you believe that the program should not be reformed? (If so, press 2).

First of all, we could argue about what state Medicare is going to be in by 2020; it (and Social Security) is not nearly the deficit-causing problem that Republicans like to make it out to be. The financial burden placed on Americans is NOTHING compared to the burden of the Bush tax cuts. That’s right. The Bush tax cuts have been a tremendous burden on all of us–all of us except the rich. Re-instate the taxes to Clinton-era levels, and the Medicare/Social Security “problem” would be solved.

Regardless, national polls indicate that a high percentage (70-80%) of Americans support no cuts in benefits to Medicare. Therefore, the question was framed in such a way that a vote to reform Medicare (which is a Republican code word for cut) seemed like it was a vote for keeping benefits the same as they currently are (meeting our commitment) while a vote for not reforming Medicare seemed to indicate that we couldn’t meet our commitment.

In other words, Thompson deliberately worded the question so that he could say he has support for cutting reforming Medicare when he doesn’t.

No means yes, and yes means no. We all used to call that a lie, and I still do.

Tax Question

Unfortunately (for me, not Mr. Thompson), time ran out before I could ask my question. I was, however, given the opportunity to leave a voice mail question (monologue/question).

Approximately 80% of the population agrees that we should raise taxes on millionaires and large corporations in order to help reduce the deficit, but all I ever hear is “Washington has a spending problem.” Washington also has a very serious revenue problem. The rich and large corporations pay less tax now than they did in 1980!! Do you support having the rich pay their fair share, or do you only support cuts–cuts to education, cuts to Social Security, cuts Medicare, etc.?

Oh, and please don’t insult me by telling me about trickle down economics. We’ve done that for nearly 30 years, and it doesn’t work.

Congressman Glenn “the rich pay too many taxes” Thompson or one of his staff promised to get back to all questioners. When he does, I’ll post his response on the blog.

Geez, I hope it’s not about trickle down economics. The blog might lose its status as a family blog.

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What Does “States’ Rights” Really Mean?

Posted by languageandgrammar on May 13, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

I love hearing the term “states’ rights” during  political discussions because of what it seems to mean, which is something like “This radical idea I’m espousing has absolutely no chance of becoming law at the national level, but a few of the wacky states might agree to it; therefore, I’m a strong proponent of states’ rights.”

I’ll use what I heard from Ron Paul today as an example.

He talked about how the legality of drugs, such as marijuana and heroin, should be decided on a state level (states’ rights issue). He also said that his personal view is that there is too much of an emphasis on “the war on drugs” and that legalizing drugs would make them easier to control, reduce the strain on prisons, etc.

There is something to this idea, but good luck getting anything like that passed in the U.S. What politician is going to want to face a re-election campaign with that as fuel for the opponents? I can hear it now: “Joe Smith wants more heroin addicts in the parks where your children play. Vote for me, and I’ll keep your children safe.”

If he believed that this idea had national support, would he still believe that it’s a “states’ rights” issue, or would it be part of his national platform? Paul actually might leave it to the states because that tends to be one of the tenets of a true libertarian; however, in most cases, the language of “states’ rights” is an attempt to get a foothold for a policy that has little national support.

Politicians just can’t be that transparent.

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“Correlate” Retirement Age with Life Expectancy

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 14, 2011

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Republican lawmakers who want to extend the number of years that you need to work before getting your social security benefits are afraid to say that they’re raising your retirement age.

Instead, they’re going to “correlate your retirement age with life expectancy.”

Knowing that you’ve been properly correlated will certainly make you feel a lot better when you’re trudging off to work at age 67, won’t it?

Doublespeak–a politician’s best friend.

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Way Off Topic: Wealth, Lifespan, and Taxes

Posted by languageandgrammar on December 10, 2010

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

Warning: I’ve done my share of off-topic posts on the blog, but this one is more off-topic than most, so I’ve included this warning:  Don’t blame me if the following offends your political sensibilities!

Politics is People

We often talk about politics in the United States as if it’s some sort of us-versus-them game, and that’s certainly been the case this week with the heated debate about taxes. Games though, don’t affect people’s lives, and politics is how we determine what kind of society we’re going to have.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, or Independent, anyone making a reasonable analysis of the tax “compromise” will conclude that it’s much more advantageous to the rich than the middle class or the poor.

The argument can be made–and has been made for the past 30 years–that tax advantages for the rich is the best way to result in widespread wealth, but since the disparity between the rich and poor has grown during that time, it’s a shallow philosophical argument.

Wealth and Life Expectancy

The richer a country is, the higher the life expectancy is of its citizens. Also, the richer a segment of the population of a country is, the higher the life expectancy of that segment is versus the rest of the population.

An AOL article, After Inching Up for Years, Life Expectancy Drops Slightly, notes that for the first time in the history of the United States, the life expectancy of children might be less than that of their parents.

Perhaps the only reason is obesity, which was the focus of the article. I doubt that, but even if that were true, we can expect the trend of decreasing life expectancy–at least when compared to nations with less wealth disparity–to continue based on our current political decisions.

Politics is no game.

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Come On, Dictionary

Posted by languageandgrammar on November 22, 2010

By Paul Yeager, author of Literally, the Best Language Book Ever

When you heard that refudiate, Sarah Palin’s mistaken combination of refute and repudiate, was made one of the New Oxford American Dictionary’s words of the year, I’m sure that the first thing you thought about was the rant that languageandgrammar.com was going to write.

We chose, instead, to allow Seth Meyers of Saturday Night Live to do our work for us since he did such a great job last weekend.

The second thing you probably thought of was how ridiculous the choice was. Seriously, refudiate? Come on, dictionary. It was two words slapped together by mistake by a politician, and by politician, I mean someone who prefers money to politics since Ms. Palin left her elected post 18 months early in order to earn more money.

I think that the reason to make a clear error a “word” of the year in this instance is because of the person who made the error and because of the interest it would generate for Oxford dictionary. Media and Web attention is often more important than substance for many.

Hmmmm…maybe Sarah and the Oxford Dictionary have a lot in common.

Wait! That’s right. I promised to let Mr. Meyers rant for us….

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Definition: Minority

Posted by languageandgrammar on January 15, 2010

I just want to get something straight since this sometimes seems to get confused:  The word minority, as it applies to a population of people, means “a smaller party or group opposed to a majority, as in voting or other action.”

Minority Doesn’t Mean Inferior

In other words, the word minority is not synonymous with inferior. Minorities do not deserve equal treatment because the majority decides out of the kindness of their gracious hearts that these inferior people may now have what the majority has.

They should be granted the same rights as the rest of us because they’re the same as the rest of us; there are just fewer of them.  Sadly, it’s more difficult for minorities to gain access to the same rights since they have less political and social influence–because of their number, not because of something inherently inferior about them.

Rush Limbaugh

That brings me to Rush Limbaugh’s quote about how President Obama wants to use Haiti to “burnish his credentials with minorities in this country and around the world, and to accuse Republicans of having no compassion.”

Most Americans, thank goodness, want to help the people of Haiti because they see people who need help. Rush sees a minority–apparently a minority who may or may not deserve our help. If we want to help them, it’s because we want to score political points with other minorities.

I’d love it if Rush Limbaugh went to Haiti to do his show on one condition–as long as he is treated the way he thinks a minority should be treated. He’d be a minority there–at least 90% of the population of Haiti is of African descent.

He probably thinks that the country is full of minorities, which doesn’t seem possible–unless his definition includes more than a reference to a relative number.


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What Did the Pot Call the Kettle?

Posted by languageandgrammar on September 13, 2009

I’ve said it before, and I’m sure that I’ll say it again:  We all make mistakes, so we at languageandgrammar.com don’t usually play the gotcha game when we see a mistake; however, there are instances when language and grammar mistakes are a little too funny/ironic/disturbing to pass up.

All of the political signs shown here come from a community.livejournal.com site, linked here and linked from the images. These aren’t our images (believe me, they’re not!), so we want to make sure that proper credit is given. Follow the link for even more examples.

What Did the Pot Call the Kettle?


I can almost hear “Prowd too be an Amaricen” playing in the background.

Honk for BETTER-ER Spelling


I hope that they didn’t take that poor kid out of school for this–some more learnin’ are needed.

Boycott Third-Grade English Class


I also have to wonder who would possibly think a hyphen would be needed—-and he looks so darn proud of his sign.

I could show more, but I’m getting too disturbed…


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