Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Worst wishes

Words to consider as we face another season of long lists and short tempers:

In the season of good will,
If you find you’re wishing ill
To those who help you to prepare,
It’s time to stop and get some air.

This year I dedicate this ditty with apologies to clerks at CVS and FedEx-Kinko’s.

The design and production of our Christmas greetings hit some snags this year. I might be on the naughty list of a few retailers, though I’ve tried to walk the line between charitable kindness and insistence on reasonable service. It’s taken years of experience to recognize that, when I catch myself about to wish someone harm, I need to take a breath and shut up, let up and, if needed, give up and do the job myself.

My husband and I often enjoy designing our own cards, though our creativity waxes and wanes with the years. One of our best featured a picture of our son in front of Italy’s leaning tower, with a caption reading “Pisa on Earth.” Another good one featured the son, after not having seen a barber in eight months, with the caption, “Hairy Christmas.”

One year, I took my design to Ritz Photo, which lost the order, botched the order, lost it again, and then pretty much banned me from the store. Eventually, I cancelled the order and channeled my anger into a new hand-made card:

‘Twas the month before Christmas
When the Welch family went
To order the greeting cards
They’ve traditionally sent.

They chose a cute photo
Of their 10-year-old son.
From a year’s worth of pictures
They chose the best one.

They went to Ritz Photo,
A reputable shop,
To make a photo greeting
But, oh, what a flop!

Surely Ritz can do photos
(Or so one would think)
Who’d have known that their service
To High Heaven would stink?

The incompetence displayed
By the photo shop staff
Got progressively worse
With each stupid gaffe
(They messed it up so many times, one should laugh!)

But it wasn’t so funny
For the Welches, this time
As they felt their patience vanish
And their anger level climb.

Back and forth to the lab
The Christmas greeting was sent
And back and forth and back and forth
Into oblivion it went.

The Welches gave up,
It just wasn’t worth
The stress in this season
Of the Christ Child’s birth.

So with help from their computer
And the angels above
They send you this hand-made
Christmas greeting with love.

Come to think of it, most of the Ritz Photo stores in our area have since closed.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Rants and Raves

It’s courtesy, stupid.

Humans communicate far more boldly from behind a wall than they do face to face.

Think about it. Many are quick to brandish a middle finger when cut off in traffic. Even a certain Southern Gentleman I know does it.

What is it about being safely encased in steel and glass that gives people the freedom to flash an obscene gesture or bark an expletive at a complete stranger—even if that person has done something unintentional, such as changing lanes prematurely?

Would we flip a digit at a fellow passenger who butts in line for boarding? Would we invoke the name of one’s dear mother for colliding with our cart at the supermarket? Of course not.

We’re uninhibited with our language on the telephone when we find a customer service rep incompetent or unsympathetic. Would our words be so harsh if we were looking the person in the eye? We know the answer.

If you and I travel in the same social media sphere, then you may recently have witnessed my (very polite) outburst over the way people speak about one another online. While I’ve since made peace with a number of my offenders, this provides occasion to reinforce a simple courtesy: Never say (or mime) anything from behind a wall that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

Tuesday night, when the presidetial election results were announced, my Facebook feed erupted with hateful comments. I’m not talking about comments expressing sadness about the outcome or disappointment in the process. Those are understandable when something you’ve hoped for—even worked for—does not turn out your way.

I’m talking about comments describing those who voted differently. Not aimed at circumstances; aimed at people.

The predominant adjective was stupid, with a few “idiots” sprinkled in. “How can people be so stupid?” “Well, that just proves you can’t fix stupid.” “50 percent of the country just showed us that stupid is as stupid does.” “The idiots who re-elected our current president…”

Hey, that’s me you’re talking about. And, in quoting you here, I’ve done you the courtesy of correcting your grammatical and punctuation errors. Just so you don’t look … well, you know.

In all fairness, some of the bullies and their cheerleaders have simmered down. Some have even apologized. I’m grateful for that and for the opportunity to remember that we all need to put the “face” back in Facebook.

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Filed under Politics, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Inspiration

In a concert Mary Chapin Carpenter once introduced her song, “The Last Word,” as many songwriters do, by telling the audience what inspired her to write it. She observed that often writers are inspired by the beauty of nature or an overwhelming feeling of love. “I wrote this one,” she said, “because I was pissed off.”

Today, all mankind is on my nerves.

Years ago, a loved one made me laugh when she shouted, very seriously, “What is everybody’s problem?” Today I can relate. Surely it isn’t me. (I know, it’s I.)

The experts say that making a list can be a good first step in addressing the source of one’s anger. So here goes.

  1. When people who borrow my books write in them
  2. When texters walk in front of moving cars
  3. Rush Limbaugh
  4. Rush Limbaugh
  5. Rush Limbaugh
  6. When people expect the Earth to revolve around them
  7. When people over-post on Facebook
  8. When people spew venom on Facebook
  9. Facebook
  10. When The Washington Post doesn’t know who from whom
  11. Me, for over-consuming and under-producing — and getting pissed off.

Thanks. I feel better.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Music, News, Politics, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Penalty for possession

Long before the Word Nymph aired her first grievance, a friend had whispered a complaint into my sympathetic ear. She wondered what prompted those close to her, God-love-’em, to make the names of all restaurants and retailers possessive.

She observed that her mother, along with so many of our mothers’ generation, always adds an apostrophe + s to the name of just about every business in town.

Perhaps it’s because so many businesses used to be owned by individuals: Mario’s Pizza. Harry’s Bar. Bertha’s Mussels. (All right, not Bertha’s; that’s another story.)

Years ago, department store names, such as Woodward & Lothrop, The Hecht Company and R.H. Macy & Co. were shortened to such neighborly nicknames as Woodies, Hecht’s and Macy’s. The nicknames took hold, to no one’s objection. Eventually, these stores branded their possessives.

Now, however, businesses whose names were neither possessive to begin with nor shortened to nicknames are being made so by those who link every business to a person.

In this shopping season, let us be reminded to call our retailers by their correct names. It is Nordstrom, not Nordstrom’s. Lord & Taylor, not Lord & Taylor’s.

Far more egregious examples exist with regard to restaurants. It’s gone rampant. Let us not assume that every restaurant is named after a person. Restaurants take great care to give their establishments fitting and clever names, many of which don’t bear the moniker of the owner, founder or chef. Yet we can’t seem to help adding an apostrophe + s. Examples of these violations are too numerous to mention, many coming from within my own circle.

Maybe these complaints are nit-picky. Can we at least agree that, when the name of a business has a possessive built in, we should fight any urge to add an apostrophe + s?

Here’s an example. A Mexican restaurant near me is called Mi Rancho, Spanish for “My Ranch.” Is it not redundant to call it Mi Rancho’s? The same goes for any establishment beginning in Mon, Mes, Notre, Nuestro or any other possessive pronoun, as well as any beginning with Chez.

This also stands when the name of the restaurant is a noun; Panera, for example, meaning “Bakery.” In English, we would not say we are going to the bakery’s. Why, then, do we say we’re having lunch at Panera’s? Let’s not.

Sorry for the grumpies. I’ve suddenly become very hungry.

(But while we’re at it, it’s Williams-Sonoma, not Williams and Sonoma. Jones New York, not Jones of New York.)

When in doubt, take your cue from the sign:

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Beauty and Fashion, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves

Dunce upon a mattress

Several readers have asked me to discuss the difference between lie and lay.

I hadn’t obliged until now, primarily because I thought it obvious. Also, the worst offenders either don’t read language blogs or don’t care enough to bother. But maybe there’s room in the middle for a refresher.

Raise your hand if you know the difference between lie and lay.

You’d think mattress marketeers would know.

There’s a mattress commercial running lately that encourages shoppers to come in and “lay down.” ARRRGGGHHH!

I recently saw mention of another manufacturer’s product, called the “Lay Down and Sleep.” ARRRGGGHHH!

One of the oldest mattress retailers is known for its jingle, which begins “Lay on it …”

 
ARRRGGGHHH!

Now, I know plenty of people who “lay down” when they’re tired, “lay on the beach” on a sunny day or “lay in bed” on Saturday mornings. As I type this, even spell check is cringing.

I hate to have to even say it, but it’s lie. When we recline, we lie down—usually on a mattress.

I admit, it gets confusing when the past tense comes into play:

Present tense = lie (She lies awake at night.)
Past tense = lay (She lay awake last night.)
Past participle = lain (She has lain awake since midnight.)

When do we use lay? When there’s an object involved. We lay something down. We lay down the law. We lay a book on the table. Now I lay me down to sleep (technically, it should be reflexive, I lay myself down to sleep, but that spoils the meter of the prayer).

The tenses of lay are as follows:

Present tense = lay (Every year I lay a wreath on the grave.)
Past tense = laid (She laid a mat at the front door.)
Past participle = laid also (The hen has laid an egg every morning this week.

Dear readers (you know who you are), did I explain this clearly, as you requested?

Dear offenders (you know who you are), would you consider making better word choices?

Dear mattress makers (you know who you are, though chances are you’re not reading this), are your marketing agencies asleep on the job?

Maybe instead of “Lay on it, play on it,” they could sing “Lie on it, cry on it,” Lie on it, sigh on it,” “die on it,” “get high on it,” “eat pie on it,” WHATEVER.

To be fair, as lie versus lay goes, there’s bad behavior beyond the bed business. Just listen to some of your favorite songs and you’ll find some doozies.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Rants and Raves

The new ‘shortly’

Greetings from the other side of Hurricane Irene.

I won’t judge whether the exclamation points and all-cap warnings The Weather Channel threw around last weekend were warranted, because Irene certainly punctuated her path across Caribbean and American territory. Those who remain without electrical power have every right to use every symbol on the keyboard to express themselves.

At our house, we just disposed of the 40 pounds of ice we socked away for the occasion, and are all too grateful to not have needed it. In fact, we were gleefully fortunate to not have lost more than a few pesky tree limbs.

Would I seem terribly ungrateful if I griped a wee bit about the 40 hours we had no television or Internet? I thought so.

Then how about if I just shared some innocent observations I made during that 40-hour period?

  1. I am far more addicted to TV and Internet than I ever imagined.
  2. I’m not proud of this.
  3. The word “momentarily” is still widely misused. Hasn’t corporate America gotten it yet that it is not reassuring to hear that service will be restored momentarily? (I’d prefer it stay on a while.)
  4. The word “shortly” is subjective, but by no stretch does it mean 40 hours.
  5. Comcast customer service representatives are unprepared to answer the question, “How much longer will you use ‘shortly’?” Based on the awkward silence following my question, I kept my mouth shut about “momentarily.”
  6. When you call Comcast and press 2 to report an Internet outage, the recording suggests, if you do not care to continue to hold during this period of heavy call volume, that “you may also visit us on the Web at www.comcast.net for assistance.” Now why didn’t I think of that?
  7. When, following your call to the help desk, Comcast calls you back with an automated customer service survey, and you press 4 to indicate your call pertained to a disruption of service, you are told that they do not recognize this response and the survey ends there.
  8. My days as a loyal Comcast customer are over. Unless I find a friendly and reliable competitor, I’ll hold my nose and go with that other big company.
  9. The new Comcast—XFINITY—needs a new jingle. It’s not fun for me. Come on everyone, let’s dump XFINITY.
  10. It’s time to get back to work; I’m backed up by about 40 hours.
  

How many Moments are in 40 hours?

Momentarily? I hope not.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Da bomb

Did the F-bomb recently fall off the list of most offensive curse words when I wasn’t paying attention?

More and more, I hear it creep into everyday conversation.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m neither sanctimonious nor hypocritical. I’ll drop the bomb when I drop something on my toe. In the safe company of friends and family, I’ll throw it around when I’m throwing a tantrum.

But I certainly don’t use the F word in public, and never, ever in the company of a stranger. Call me an old fogey. Conditioned at an early age, I still bristle when I hear it (not as much as G.D., but a close second).

Recently my husband and I were sliding our plastic trays through the line at a rest stop carryout. The people in front of us were stopped, holding up the line. We waited patiently.

Wishing to go around them but not wanting to take cutsies, I finally asked the woman, “Excuse me, are you waiting for an order?”

She replied, “Why, are we f—ing you up?” (I believe the word she was looking for was “holding.”)

We scooted around the waiting couple and got the heck out of there. Yes, heck.

Saturday night, we were having dinner at the bar in a neighborhood place. The dinner crowd had ebbed, so it was pretty quiet.

All of a sudden, I heard the woman beside me lash out at her partner, in an outside voice, “You’re just so f—ing impetuous!”

What’s the world coming to, gosh darn it?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Rants and Raves