Tag Archives: sherbet

Sounds easy enough

You’ve seen me refer to the Fake AP Stylebook before. The group puts out funny little comments about language every day on Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t use these, you can go elsewhere to see some great examples. Some really get me thinking.

Case in point:  A recent post observed, “there/their/they’re – What, seriously? This confuses you?”

I have never had trouble distinguishing among the three. I don’t find it confusing at all. But it’s not because I’m good at remembering rules necessarily; otherwise, I’d have gotten this bring-versus-take thing down long ago.

What I realized is that it says something about the way my brain works.

When I hear and when I speak, I see the words written out. I suppose this means I am a visual learner or perhaps a visual thinker. I envision words as they are spelled. Maybe that’s why I have such a sensitive ear when it comes to pronunciation. If people saw “sherbet,” maybe they wouldn’t say “sherbert.”

Like the Fake AP Stylebook, when I see there/their/they’re confused, I am tempted to wonder how anyone can get it wrong. I also wonder how anyone graduated from second grade without mastering it, but perhaps I’m too quick to judge.

“There,” “their” and “they’re” are homonyms. They sound exactly the same. It’s no wonder people who are not visual learners might be homonymphobic.

If we had to spell according to how words sound (“sound it out,” we were always told), especially in this confusing language we call English, how can we be expected to commit the difference to paper?

Maybe I can offer some tips.

Let’s start with “there.” “There” is often the answer to “where?” “Where are my glasses? There they are.” On top of my head, usually. So that one’s easy:  Where?  There! Spelled the same (after their respective consonant digraphs).

“They’re” is a contraction of “they” and “are.” Until I had a baby, I thought contractions were easy. You begin with what you are (you’re) trying to say and shorten it; for example, “They are” doing something. With a contraction, typically a letter and a space come out, an apostrophe goes in and, voilà, two words become one. In a sense, they’re getting married. To use song lyrics as a prompt, “They’re Playing Our Song” or, for readers of my generation, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa.” By now they probably are.

I haven’t come up with a tip for “their.” Maybe you have one. For now, let’s just say it’s the other one, and remember, “i” before “e” except after “c.”  Oops, and except in “their.”


Filed under All Things Wordish, Music, Technology and Social Media

A Giant spelling error

Re-branding.  It’s going on all around us.  Giant Food, one of the Mid-Atlantic region’s largest grocery chains, has just completed a massive re-branding.  This year they rolled out new corporate colors and a very cool logo.  My local Giant has transformed the inside and revamped all the signage in accordance with the new brand.  As a consumer, I appreciate the added in-aisle signs pointing specifically to what’s on the shelves. 

Anyone who has worked for a large corporation knows the magnitude of re-branding and the sizeable price tag attached.  I presume there was extensive research leading up to the effort—focus groups, studies of consumer behavior and due diligence on the legal and intellectual property implications.  I suspect a beefy staff of compliance experts oversaw the rollout.  But they omitted an important function—the spellchecker.  

I try not to be too judgmental (most times) but I can’t roll my cart down the frozen food aisle without bristling at the sign pointing to the “Sherbert.”   This word is commonly mispronounced.  It’s tempting to want to make it rhyme with Herbert.  But it’s sherbet, people, not sherbert!  

At least half a dozen times now, I have approached the customer service desk, now cheerfully re-named the Solution Center, at the front of the store, to alert management to the slip, but chickened out as I got close.   If I drew their attention to the error, would I be perceived a snob?  I often operate under the skewed assumption that people are grateful for being made aware of their errors.  But they don’t usually accept this edification as the gift it is intended to be.  Would management be any less offended if I alerted them to an expired sell-by date on a product still on the shelf?  

Likely the signs come from a central warehouse anyway and the store managers have no direct control or concern over what comes down from corporate.  Still, this is a Giant mistake.

1 Comment

Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, Marketing/Advertising/PR