Tag Archives: spelling

Reign maker

Thank you, Mitt Romney, for raining on my wilting blog.

If you hadn’t noticed, the Word Nymph’s crop of lexicological sustenance has been as dry as the American plains. Until today.

The presumptive GOP nominee has given us occasion for instruction on a homonym we haven’t addressed in this place. In announcing his selection of a running mate, Romney’s press release said of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.):

“He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to reign in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers.”

Did you spot it?

Reign in federal spending. Wrong. It’s rein. As in a strap controlling an animal.

Perhaps Mitt was going for the pun. Or maybe his error was hopeful of his intent to reign in the new year. That’s reign, as royalty on a throne.

We see the spellings of these often confused.

It’s rote to me, but here’s a little clue to help get it straight:

Rein – think of Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer

Reign – pertains sovereign occupation of the throne. Sovereign has a g in it; so does reign.

Keep ‘em coming, Mitt. It’s been a long drought.

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Kids spell the darndest things

It seems my parents and I sometimes lived on different planes, because I’ve told a number of stories here that neither one remembers. I’m betting this will be another.

Either way, a childhood memory sprung to mind yesterday when a friend shared that she overheard her little tike singing in the bathtub: “I’m sexy and I know it.”

She wondered if her child knew what exactly he was claiming and how she would respond if asked to define “sexy.”

Immediately I buckled myself in and zoomed back to 1967, when I used to do my second grade homework in my father’s office in our basement.

One day my parents took me down to the office and asked me about some writing on the wall beside the desk. Printed in pencil, in a column, was an indiscernible word, in several different spellings, such as:

secksapeel
ceksepele
zexipeal
setsapile

I don’t remember why I worked this exercise of mine on plaster rather than paper; perhaps I planned, once I figured it out, to go back and erase it. But I didn’t. And I was busted.

Defending my devilish actions in my little Catholic school uniform, I pointed out that I was simply trying to figure out how to spell a word. When I told them what it was, their faces showed a mix of shock and stifled amusement. They asked me where I had heard this word and why I was interested. It was a television commercial for something this seven-year-old, not the target demographic, found appealing.

Thank Heaven they didn’t make me go to confession.

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Poof!

“The man turned his friend into police.”

I won’t name names, but this item caught my attention this morning.

Why did the man make news, because he betrayed a friend or because he worked an act of magic?

Tip of the day: Know the difference between “into” and “in to,” between “onto” and “on to.”

No one wants to be turned in to police, but it might be fun to be turned into police.

That’s all for today. Would anyone care to offer more examples illustrating the importance of a space?

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Corrective conundrum

A few weeks ago, my husband left a calling card of sorts on my desk. It was a clip from an advice column in The Washington Post, in which a man complained about his girlfriend’s correcting his grammar and pronunciation. I never asked my husband whether he intended this to be an idea for my blog or a hint that he was relating to the poor bloke whose girlfriend corrected him—and only him—in front of others.

In the meantime, over the weekend, an opinion piece by Slate writer Michael Agger appeared in the Washington Post Business section. The piece cited instances in which companies receiving online reviews of their products and services corrected the spelling and grammar of their posting customers. Agger questioned the ethics of such practices, raising the issue of altering the authenticity of the online review process. Companies argue that sloppy posts, including favorable ones about their products or services, make the company look bad and, hence, impede sales.

When I wrote a piece about correcting others and being corrected  last February, I got a sense of how my readers feel about it. But correcting what is posted as an online review is different. Or is it?

I must confess here that I occasionally do the same thing with this blog. Sometimes when a reader posts a comment and makes an inadvertent mistake in spelling, grammar or punctuation, I go in and make a minor correction. Not all the time, and not drastically. And I never alter the content.

Unlike text-tweaking online retailers, I don’t correct mistakes because they make me look bad. I do it to save commenters from potential embarrassment. You might say that I edit their comments to help them make their points more effectively. For example, if someone is preaching about the importance of good grammar, and misspells “grammar,” I don’t believe it’s a sin to go in and correct the spelling. Or if there’s a simple typo, I might go in and fix it.

This said, it doesn’t mean I don’t bristle when I see a comment lacking any upper case letters or essential punctuation, but I give benefit of the doubt when I suspect comments are generated on a mobile device. Occasionally, however, this has precipitated sidebar conversations with my loved ones, suggesting they reacquaint themselves with their friend, the apostrophe.

Where to draw the line with a red pen? Discuss.

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Occupational hazard

On Wednesday, when I wrote from a sleep deprived state about insomnia, there was one typo I hadn’t caught. Frankly, I was surprised there was only one. Readers Polly and Ellen were kind to point it out to me so that I could go back and correct it.

Fellow blogger Dennis would likely say that there’s no need to correct the typos; he believes that blogs are authentic messages from the heart, not to be over-thought or over-edited. Dennis is probably right, except when one publishes a blog that focuses largely on proper language and spelling.

I am reminded of a column that appeared in The Washington Post last month, entitled “The danger in writing about typos? Making one yourself.”

Earlier, columnist John Kelly had written a column about signs containing embarrassing typos, in which he made at least two himself. Readers noticed. They’ll do that.

Kelly faced his mistakes, laughed at himself and bowed to readers who no doubt were suggesting that, “when one is a pot, it is best not to call the kettle black.”

If that were the case, this blog would have to close up shop (and not just for April Fool’s Day).

We’re all human. We make mistakes. But doesn’t mean we can’t tee-hee at others in good fun, does it?

I think as long as we are willing to laugh at our own mistakes first, then we can snicker at funny typos.

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Correctile dysfunction

When it comes to matters of grammar and pronunciation, I observe two kinds of people:  those who appreciate being corrected so they can learn from their mistakes and those who are offended by being corrected.

One might argue that it depends on the tone and context of the correction. Certainly, most people would not care to be schooled in a harsh or a humiliating manner. My experience is that some people are open to learning and some are not. Somewhere in between are those who say they appreciate being reminded of the correct way to write and speak, but turn around and resort to old habits. I guess that’s why they’re called habits.

I put myself in the first category. While it is never fun to learn I’ve committed a grammatical error or mispronunciation, especially as someone who claims to know a fair amount about such things, I desire to learn and improve. I admit there are rules I don’t understand. There are several I have trouble remembering. This is one reason for the Red Pen Invitation I extend on this blog’s About page and also why I confess to being on a lifelong journey to get it right. I admit it stings a bit when a reader calls me on an error or challenges a statement, but I’m grateful for the lesson.

When I choose to correct others—usually family members or close friends—I try to be judicious and kind. As much as I’d like, I don’t correct anyone’s children but my own. Believe me, for every time I hear or read a loved one’s error, I let slide another nine. Where I step on shaky ground is in assuming everyone is as enthusiastic as I am about getting it right.

What about those in the second category? Those who say, essentially, “I’ve pronounced it that way since I was seven and there’s no way I’m going to start changing now.” Or “I know that’s the rule but it doesn’t make sense to me, so I am going to keep saying it incorrectly.” Or “Frankly, I don’t care what the difference is between ‘who’ and ‘whom,’ ‘its’ and ‘it’s,’ or when to use ‘I’ and when to use ‘me.’” “I don’t care.”

What I’d ask readers to consider is:  which kind of person are you when it comes to being corrected? Provided the corrector is polite and judicious, are you open or are you offended?

If you’re in the former group, do you have a process for remembering what you’ve learned? Do you write it down or come up with a clever mnemonic? Create an occasion to use it in a sentence?

If you’re in the latter group, what’s your reasoning for closed ears? Do you consider critique a nuisance or a blow to the ego? Are you apathetic about such matters? Or do you believe correct grammar and proper speech are unimportant?

My eyes and ears are open. Tell me and maybe I’ll stand corrected.

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Say your kidding

It’s encouraging to hear people talking about the Wet Seal store selling a tunic t-shirt with the lettering: “If your single, so am I.” The giant spelling gaffe has been highlighted in the news. This is good. After all, public awareness is the first step.

I can’t tell you how many intelligent adults I know who contract “you are” as “your.” Once again, this isn’t something they teach in college. Anyone who passed fourth grade should know this.

If you’re (you are, contracted) planning to purchase the Wet Seal shirt, I have two more pieces of merchandise to add to your (possessive pronoun) collection.

My parents and I have traded gag gifts for years; the tackier the better. The best ones are personalized with someone else’s name. Or have a spelling error.

One year for Mother’s Day, I gave my mother a hand-painted ceramic plate I found at the dollar store. She was gracious enough to have kept it all these years, and she submitted a photo for this post.

This reminded me of a conundrum my mother once had. She had bought a blouse at Chico’s that had all sorts of inspirational phrases and positive affirmations printed among various designs. When she got it home, she noticed one of the sayings was “Your beautiful.” She agonized over whether or not to keep it.

Yesterday, after she sent me the photo of the Mother’s Day plate, I asked if she could also snap a photo of the Chico’s blouse. She replied, “I don’t still have the blouse. I returned it because of grammatical issues.”

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

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