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Friday, March 11, 2016

American-English — The Official Guide

If my pages look different, it’s because somebody who hates grammar (or has nothing else to do) broke into my space and befuddled much of what I had written. Sorry souls!

So we continue on our merry way (new password and such).

If you can’t spell and don’t want to learn how to use our delicious American-English language, stay out of my blog! Start you own!

Or get a copy of my new book AMERICAN-ENGLISH — The Official Guide. Honestly, it doesn’t hurt to learn (unless you haven’t used your brain lately).

—The Grammar Anarchist!

Friday, November 27, 2015

It's Black Friday for Writers

Okay — so it’s been awhile since you’ve heard from me. Easy answer: I have finished my new grammar book and you’ll be able to look at it after the holidays.  This one is titled American-English — The Official Guide

As you make your New Years resolution (to complete the book you started to write years ago, to write a new book, or to write YOUR book, period), let me tell you how easy it is to get it into print — and make money on it besides.
1) Finish the manuscript.
2) Find a reputable, experienced editor (like me).
3) Locate someone to make your book pretty, i.e., format it (like me).
3) Envision your cover and select a cover designer (not me).
4) Check out possibilities on CreateSpace. (Yes, they design book covers too.)
5) Select someone to work as liaison with CS (like me).
6) Lay out a marketing program to sell your book.
“Oh,” you say, “I’ll find an agent to sell my book to a major publisher and they’ll do all of that for me.”

Sorry, my writing friend, it doesn’t work like that anymore. Musicians now record their music independently; film makers produce their films independently; and writers publish their books independently. Takes much less time (a few months rather than years) and is much, much more profitable (you pocket the profits instead of a measly 10-15% royalty.) Besides, you retain full control of the end product — Your Book.

Get back to your writing desk. You have work to do!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Comical, Literate Grammar — Oh My!

Sometimes pure genius shows up in strange places. I look for — and find — it in the daily comic pages and my favorite grammar blogs. Every once in a while I trip over it on the Internet. As I warn my writer students, NEVER publish your work without your name and, if appropriate, a copyright symbol. Otherwise, your progeny becomes public domain, which means anyone can use it and you receive no credit. Tsk! Tsk! All that thinking and all that work and… no credit!

One such brainchild has appeared with no credits. Titled “Literary Devices”, it includes eight panels of clever drawings that illustrate these mechanical (over-used) devices. They are:
Random Analogy Generator
Foreshadow Puppet
The Great Golden Hammer of Hyperbole
Onomatopoeia Engine (puff! pop! clank! Whirrrr…)
Advance-Alert Alliteration Alarm (ahem!)
Personification Press
Irony Board
and my favorite: Metaphor Mixer and Simile Stretcher

You could almost make a song out of that last one! Somebody somewhere has a very fertile — and syntaxic, grammatic, linguistic, literatic — comic mind!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Want People to Listen to You?

I edit book manuscripts. When I discover an epidemic, like any good citizen, I must report it and warn against the dangers the disease can aggravate. Such diseases include (but are not limited to) over-use of a word, misuse of a word (and, then, but, well), abuse of commas, and a few hundred others. Today I wish to address the threat of the deadly… er… uh… um… , known as PFS (Pause Filler Syndrome). I put on my doctor’s white coat, place the stethoscope around my neck, and ask you to say “Ahhh” before placing your mask firmly over your fingers, leaving your eyes exposed so you can read on:

As speakers, when we talk off the cuff, spontaneously, without notes, we often insert the occasional uh, um or er to let our brains catch up to our tongues. If you ever attended a meeting of Toastmasters, you may have seen members fined for using these place-holders. The best speakers use a pause to take a breath while keeping their tongues quiet.

As writers, we let characters do the speaking (it’s called dialog). If you’re giving your characters unique sounding voices, you may let one of them hesitate and use the viral er, um or uh. But please, do so sparingly. Nothing holds up a reader more than too many ers, ums and uhs in dialog. Once I found an average of 75 of these germs per page in a writer’s ms. (yes, I counted). In addition, the writer kept adding the words: She paused. and He paused. By the time I removed most of the diseased words, the manuscript was considerably shortened — and activated.
Writers groan; readers cheer!

There is a difference between spoken and written words. Symptoms of oncoming PFS in writing include the deadly symptom of double verbing: making an attempt to write, rather than attempting to write. Or, taking the time to call home, rather than calling home. Or, I think; in my opinion; I feel, I sorta kinda gotta do this… and other place-holders. If you are writing an opinion piece, you don’t need any of those words (especially sorta, kinda, gotta). Your words — all of your words are your opinion, or you wouldn’t be writing them.

Read over the last few pages you just wrote. How many place-holders can you find? Do you need them? Does your character need them? Or are you just stalling while your brain catches up?

While waiting for the next idea or word, take a deep breath, speak slowly, pace your words to stay with of your brain — and reap the wonders of fine writing!

You will be more easily believed. Your writing will become more active (and publishable). You may rewarded with improved book sales, lower editing costs, or a raise from your boss. Most importantly, you will sound more authoritative.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

QUESTION: What is the Official National Language of the USA? ANSWER: None!

 Most worldwide citizens can answer that quite easily. They have only a couple of languages to choose from. Now — you in the great United States of America — do you know your Official National Language? The answer: NONE!

Did your heart drop as mine did when learning that? This powerful country, the only major country in the world to welcome all languages, the only one to mix many languages with an English base, the only country that does NOT recognize the uniqueness of its linguistics — the only one listed as NONE. What a shameful omission!

In order to fulfill that missing piece, I am petitioning the folks who administer the federal government to issue a proclamation (at the very least) to recognize USA-English as the Official National Language. Here’s how that petition reads:

Respectfully asking the United States Congress to designate USA-English as the Official Language of the United States, acknowledging the nation’s unique multi-cultural population with varied ways to write and speak a language based on English. No other nation can make this claim, and yet the USA is the only major nation without a designated official language.

Here’s the whole story:

CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT to make USA-English, with its inclusive languages from around the world, flexible to teach and learn, the official free language of the United States of America.

WHEREAS: The United States of America, a powerful international leader, has no designated official language;

WHEREAS: Widespread confusion exists over the “rules” of grammar that should be taught to USA students;

WHEREAS: The United States of America fought and won a war to be free of control from England, resulting in changes made to the language to suit the needs of a new nation, free and independent;

WHEREAS: The USA is the only nation in the world composed of immigrants from around the world, who bring with them their native culture: foods, music, rituals, art, customs, and language;

WHEREAS: USA is weary of having British English (The King’s/Queen’s English) foisted on its people as “proper, correct, accurate, and suitable”;

WHEREAS: U.S. teachers are not being trained to teach grammar — any kind at all — because of the contradictions in grammar texts;

WHEREAS: The USA has developed its own style of English that includes words and syntax of every other major language in the world (and a few not-so-major);

THEREFORE: The time has arrived to offer teachers and students of the United States an official language that provides guidelines for global usage, flexible word adaptation, freedom to make appropriate changes, and the right to be free of complex, outdated “rules” based on the language of England, from whom we claimed our independence.

 If you feel so moved, please join me in forwarding this blog to your Congressional representatives (House and Senate), to the President of the United States, and to any linguistics organization you know.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Righting a Wrong!

The daily newspaper quiz today asked for the “official” languages of a number of countries: from Egypt and Iran to Iceland and Pakistan. I wasn’t stumped when it came to “United States” because — as any red-blooded American knows — we speak and write English. So I was amazed to read the answers: Egypt, Arabic; Iran, Persian (Farsi); Iceland, Icelandic (duh!); and Pakistan, Urdu. 

And what is the official language of the United States? Answer: “None”! NONE! We have no official language in the U.S. What’s worse is that we are the ONLY country in the world without one! Alas and alack! Woe and misery! The most powerful nation in the world has no language (officially)!

So let’s fix that. Right here! Right now! The Grammar Anarchist declares publicly and loudly that the Official Language of the United States is… (drum roll)… USA-English. Other “English-speaking” countries use the hyphen-English language as theirs, officially. Why not the USA? You’ve heard of Canadian-English (eh?) and Australian-English (g-day!) even Indian-English (what-ho!). Well, beginning today — NOW:

At last! Aaaahhhh!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Temp-er, Temp-er, Temp-er!

Okay, I realize I’ve offered spelling advice that says, “Look to the root word when seeking better spelling.” But I have also suggested that you can ignore some advice that was absorbed as “rule”. And temp is one of them. This scruffy little root word has a variety of meanings. My dictionary (American Heritage, 4th Edition) lists more than two dozen words beginning with “t-e-m-p…” and a variety of meanings running from temper to temporary.

The etymology of this root is fascinating, but I won’t bore you with it. Know that t-e-m-p has been mished and mashed and put through a wringer over the centuries in order to produce quite a variety of uses in U.S.-English.

Most of the temp words refer to a root meaning of “time” or “mix” or “mingle”. Go figure! Here are a few of the differences:

A plain old temp can be that outsider who comes into your office “temporarily” to work on the books in your department.

A temper is “the tantrum” you throw when you weren’t asked to help.

That was when you were asked to temper your temper, “to moderate” it.

Temperament or temperamentally is “the way you handle” that temper.

Temperance goes further and asks you to knock it off completely, to “restrain” yourself.

When the office temperature rises, sometimes tempers also “get hot”.

Not wanting a tempest of “violent behavior of tornado proportions” to upset the office, your HR psychologist would likely suggest you temper your temper and avoid a tempest in a teapot with a well-tempered clavichord, with “tempered” music!

Remaining on an artsy level, tempera is a “mingling” of colors.

The temple in the Temple of Doom, on the other hand, draws meaning from sacred ground that was “divided” or “separated” (ironically meaning un-mixed) from ordinary ground. And from that, surprisingly, comes the meaning for the temple on either side of your eyes, originating from a Greek word meaning “vital spot”, as indicated by the Greek Vale of Tempe located between two important Greek mountains. (Classical Latin refers to that forehead area as the “temporal bone” or “temporal muscle”, protecting the precious vital eyes.)

No, I won’t miss some other t-e-m-p’s: as in Shirley Temple, Tempe AZ, or tempeh, an Indonesian dish made from fermented soybeans. Wonder where these t-e-m-p’s came from…

Ain’t language fun!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Well! Well! Well!

So now you know the difference between “well” and “well”! Ain’t grammar fun!

Thanks to Dan Piraro, my artist doppelganger, and BIZARRO!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Save the Earth—It's the Only Planet That Feeds Us

An author friend inquired about whether or not to capitalize the word “earth” when using it to refer to the planet, rather than to soil. While the planet is made up of soil, it gave me pause to consider the ramifications. As an editor and a citizen of Planet Earth and a concerned inhabitant of Mother Earth, I decided to capitalize the word as often as possible, using the lower case “e” only when referring to sod, soil, dust, or mud.

When I consulted my thesaurus, I found references under “earth” with a small “e”, only to soil. Under “Earth” with a capital “E”, were choices among: humankind, planet, and globe. Curious about the reference to “humankind”, I looked it up and found: human race, humanity, people, civilization. Now there’s a great metaphor! Earth means People, Humans, Us! We came from Earth (soil), or so it is said. We stay alive through Earth (soil) that grows food for us. We return to Earth (soil) when we finish living (“Earth to Earth, dust to dust”).

So tell me, understanding how interwoven we are with Earth, how dependent we are to the continued gifts from Earth, and as we watch civilization destroy the very ground we walk on — day by day… tell me why we cannot come to grips with the notion that it may all turn to dust and blow away soon, blowing us away with it at the same time?

We have discovered that people cannot be forced to be careful with Earth’s resources (water, air, soil), just as writers cannot be forced to capitalize that precious word: Earth.

However, I can ask writers to consider the importance of the deeper meaning of “Earth” every time they write it. Perhaps that will keep us around a few millennia… centuries… decades longer.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mass Nouns and Uncountable Nouns, 0-boy!

Have you ever heard of Mass Nouns?

Don’t feel bad. Neither had I… until I came across the term in a comic strip the other day and realized I’d never heard of this before — in more than 50 years of tracking language. So I looked it up. (Where was Google when I was a kid?)

It seems that Mass Nouns refer to things that are uncountable or non-count words. No, not unable to be counted, but uncountable (there’s a difference). Try to attach numbers to words such as: advice, fog, dust, furniture, knowledge, milk, water, or wood.

Sure, you can
take a modicum of advice,
see a layer of fog or dust,
own a houseful of furniture,
acquire a font of knowledge
drink a glass of milk or water.
stoke the fire with two pieces of wood
But can you take two advices; see three fogs, six dusts, or own two furnitures; acquire ten knowledges; drink three milks or waters; or burn two woods?

Note that many Mass Nouns are abstracts — names of things that are unable to be sensed, in the broadest understanding of sense. And there is no “rule” to cover the usage of such curiosities. Which makes for a Grammar Anarchist’s delight — the exception: most Mass Nouns are generally used as singulars.

All of that said, I wouldn’t be a Grammar Anarchist if I didn’t add that some nouns are neither or both countable as well as uncountable. Whoa! Slow down here. Consider the following examples of these feisty, uncooperative, loner-type nouns:
Work is required to earn a living; the work I do is important; give me the works in my salad; have you read all thirty works of Toni Morrison?
Paper is made of wood pulp; an alien does not carry papers; some people read three papers a day; can you write a paper about China?
Air is necessary to breathe; don’t put on airs with me; can you name three airs about love?
Coffee peps me up; some drink five coffees a day; different blends of coffees taste better.

Don’t you love US-English!?