Across, Acrosst, Acrossed

When you have gone from one side of a street to the other side, you have gone across the street—–not acrossed the street, acrosst the street, or acrost the street. I’m not sure how people who use this non-word are spelling it, and I guess it doesn’t matter since it isn’t a word.

I crossed at the light and ran across the street to take the subway across town, where I ran across an old boyfriend to whom I warned, “Don’t cross me.”

Sherry

Paul’s book–Literally, the Best Language Book Ever;

Sherry’s Grammar List

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Ball Security Issues

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

Twice today, during two different football games, I heard an announcer say about a player who fumbles often: “He has ball-security issues.” Twice!

If you need further proof that we’ve become afraid to simply state what we mean in a simple, direct fashion, then I don’t know what to say.

I’m trying to imagine football announcers of the 1970s saying that a player who fumbles often has ball-security issues; having a hard time imagining it. Ball security issues!

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Random Capitalization

random capitalization

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

I’m not someone who sends a lot of text messages, but I’ve sent enough to understand the need to use short-cuts and the desire to never use capital letters. In other words, I’ve been known to use “thru” instead of “through” and to not bother capitalizing proper nouns and first words of sentences.

With my ability to type on a phone, my goal is for the message to be almost in English–nothing more.

Random Capitalization

With texting trends spreading into other forms of communication, what I don’t understand is why so many people employ random capitalization. Out of nowhere, a word that clearly does not need to be capitalized is.

Examples (in addition to the image above):

  • I’m having a great time at the Beach.
  • I was on the Bus when the Driver fainted.
  • Boy, I can’t believe that Tomorrow is only Wednesday.

Reasons

Maybe people do it simply for emphasis, for the same reason that people used to think saying something like “Best. Day. Ever.” was a good idea. (It’s working just as well, which is to say that it isn’t.)

Maybe people no longer know the difference between a proper noun and a common noun.

Whatever the Reason, the Trend can Stop any time now.

(Image from Flicker)

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Confused Word Pairs: Orient, Encase

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

Here’s something I wrote in AIS Writing Tips that I thought would work well here.

Viewer Mail (Circa 1984): Confusing Word Pairs

The late-night shows are in the news again, so as a shout-out to the longest tenured late-night comedian, David Letterman, I thought this month’s tip would replicate Letterman’s old Viewer Mail.

It’s pretty much the same, except Dave’s Viewer Mail was real letters from Late Night viewers, and this writing tip is made of fictional letters based on real suggestions from AIS staff.David Letterman

In other words, this is what Writing Tips might have looked like (if it had existed) in 1984.

Orient/Orientate

Dear Writing Tips,

I’ve always been a big fan of AIS Writing Tips, but I recently heard Teri Garr say “Let me orientate myself.”

Perhaps you should never have Teri on Writing Tips again since she made two egregious errors in one sentence.

Frist, having been in State College many times, I know that the set of Writing Tips is pointed in a westward direction. Since the word orient means to turn to the east, does this mean that Teri turned her back on the audience? Second, isn’t orientate just a grammatically incorrect version of orient?

Sincerely,

Bewildered in the (Shields) Basement.

Dear Bewildered,

We’ve always said two things: There will always be a place on our set for Teri, and we’ll never leave NBC.

You are correct that orient was originally defined as “to turn toward the east,” but it’s been used in a more general “getting your bearings” sort of way since the middle         1800s.

As far as your other concern, whether it should be orient or orientate, that’s a sticky one. Most standard grammarians (like me!) prefer orient (oriented) to orientate (orientated). “Orientated” just sounds like one of those new made up words that we toss around all the time (like snackables), but according to the big, shiny New Oxford Dictionary that’s sitting on my desk, orientate (orientated) has been in use since the mid-1800s as well. That’s longer than Hal Gurnee’s been around!

I’m going to keep using orient/oriented rather than orientate/orientated, but it looks as if both are technically correct.

Sincerely,

Writing Tips crew

Incase/Encase

Dear Writing Tips,

The Writing Tips blog has gone downhill since Merril Markoe left, but I’m a devoted fan nonetheless. Can you send an autographed picture of Larry Bud Melman so that it can be incased in my growing memorabilia collection?

Sincerely,

Jerry Mud Welman

P.S. Long live the man under the stairs.

Dear Jerry Mud,

Enclosed is your requested Larry Bud Melman autographed picture. Please ignore the white powder–it’s nothing nefarious–just leftover from when we dunked Dave while he was wearing a suit of Alka Seltzer. The powder is everywhere!

Please note that there is no word “incase/incased.” The word you were looking for was “encase/encased.” In case is always two words, as in “Just in case your letter gets lost in the mail, please don’t send us another one.” Encase means to place in an enclosure.

Sincerely,

Writing Tips crew

P.S. We’ll give Chris Elliot your regards.

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Communicating with Tact, Confusing Word Pairs, and More

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

Just a quick reminder: This is not the only place where I post my language ramblings. Feel free to check out AIS Writing Tips, which is associated with my job at Penn State.

I recently wrote about the need to be tactful in communication and confusing word pairs.

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How to Write Good

 

A friend sent this along recently, and it’s worth a look (and maybe a laugh).

humorous list of language errors

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Proof that Dictionaries Are Not Source for Proper Grammar: “Thx” Now in Dictionary

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

We at languageandgrammar.com have taken some criticism for saying things like “Dictionaries are a source of common usage, not necessarily correct grammar” (see What Does the Word Dictionary Mean?), but now that the Oxford Dictionary has added thx as an entry, we’ve been proven correct.

It’s in the dictionary, so it has to be right: That’s what we often hear when a non-word (such as drug as the past tense of drag) is used. Now, thx to the Oxford dictionary, either words don’t have to include vowels, or it is true that dictionaries are a reflection of usage, not necessarily proper grammar.

We’re not saying that dictionaries serve no purpose, but it is important to remember that they are not the final word on what is gramatically correct.

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Descriptivism Versus Prescriptivism

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

This sounds more like the wars the erupt between descriptivists and prescriptivists to me: 4 Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence.

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Subjunctive as a Way of Life!

st patrick's day banner

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

We’ve written about the subjunctive a couple of times (Subjunctive Uses Were, Not Was and I Wish I Was Wrong, But I’m Not), so this is a more philosophical post on the topic.

The subjunctive is used when we wish things were different from the way they actually are, and based on what I see in life, that seems to be how we live our lives–wishing things were different.

It’s December 30, meaning that New Year’s Day has not arrived yet, but the stores are brimming with candy and decorations for Valentine’s Day. A local grocery store even has candy out for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter!

I know that retailers need to plan ahead and get merchandise ready to sell, but we, as a society, seem obsessed with whatever is next, as if whatever is now is not good enough.

The reason Christmas is only a six-week obsession is that Thanksgiving slows down the train a little, but it’s depressing to me to start thinking about spring already. Winter just started. Sure, maybe people don’t like the weather as much as I do, but still, we don’t have to subjunctive our lives away!

(Image from http://heiditunnellcatering.com/st-patricks-day/)

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Managing Expectations

Managing expectations is one of the business terms that is effectively a trendy way of saying something in an indirect manner.

I thought of the term today when the general manager the team with the longest consecutive streak of losing seasons in professional sports history, the Pittsburgh Pirates, talked about how the trade value for the best relief pitcher isn’t as great now as it would have been during the season. They didn’t use the term managing expectations, but the mighty Buccos seem to have been saying: Sure, we’re going to try to trade Joel Hanrahan (the pitcher in question), but don’t expect much.

In other words, they were managing expectations.

The term is used regularly in the business world, when results might not match expected results. (We need to manage customer expectations.) It might also be used by managers when dealing with workers. (We need to manage employee expectations about raises this year.)

This Dilbert cartoon exemplifies the term as well as anything:

managing expectations image--Dilbert cartoon

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