Tag Archives: The Washington Post

Regime change

Twice recently, I noticed a system of healthful habits being described as a regime.

The first reference was in a rerun of The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which Sally Rogers referred to her new diet regime. My ear twitched a bit, recognizing a potential misuse of regimen, while I also considered it might have been a colloquialism of its time some half a century ago.

Then yesterday, I read the same use in the Washington Post’s Health & Science section, in which the author of a recent book assured readers that, in order to age healthfully, they needn’t “go all out with a major fitness regime…” Prior to this, the only regimes I’d read about in the Post were systems of governmental power. I made a note to investigate.

My first scratch into the matter had me feeling pretty cocky. Indeed, the definitions I located defined a regime as a form of government (e.g., a fascist regime), a government in power, a prevailing social system or pattern, a period during which a particular administration or system prevails.

My cockiness wilted when I read an alternate definition—“a regulated system, as of diet and exercise; a regimen”—but I had just enough left to fuel one more regimen-related peeve.

Healthy Regiment

Healthy Regiment

I have a friend who likes to refer to her “regiment” of eating fruits and vegetables. My friend is not alone; the internet has no shortage of references to healthy regiments.

No matter how you slice your produce, there’s no room to rationalize that one. A regiment is an army unit. Period.

One of my favorite sources of analysis on such matters, the Visual Thesaurus, has a thoughtful explanation of regime v. regimen, pulling from various medical publications and etymological authorities to compare the two. They explain that regimen and regime are known as “doublets,” two words that have entered the language from the same source by different routes. They further advise, “If you use regime, you can be confident that you have a couple of centuries of accepted usage on your side. But if you want to make sure you don’t set off anyone’s pet-peeve alarms, stick with regimen.”

So technically, Sally Rogers and the Post are correct, though regime in this context appears to still bother many healthcare professionals. And me.

Nevertheless, Visual Thesaurus states, “Anyone who confuses regimen and regiment betrays ignorance of an elementary verbal distinction.”

They said it, not I.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Health

A mighty near mis-fire

It’s good thing I stopped myself before I acted irrationally and fired off another letter to the editor of The Washington Post. Instead I thought twice and had a good laugh at my own expense.

You might remember that some time back I wrote the Post, highlighting a grammatical error in one of the paper’s editorial page headlines. They didn’t find my letter fit to print and I didn’t hear a thing from anyone except my faithful blog readers. (I still owe Craig Dees a prize for best suggested follow-up).

Let me set the stage.

The summer before I started college, I worked in Georgetown with a woman from Charlotte. I’m not sure I’d ever met anyone from North Carolina before, and I found charm in her manner of speech.

Once, in conversation, a phrase she used caught my ear:  “Debbie said I might could borrow her car.” Might could.

I understood that what she meant was might be able to, although I actually thought she was joking when she said it.

As you know, I’ve since met dozens, if not hundreds, of North Carolinians, and have come to enjoy their colloquialisms. Might could is one I still hear a lot but, as many Southerners as I know, I don’t recall ever hearing it from anyone from South Carolina or Tennessee or Georgia or Arkansas or Alabama. No matter.

You’ll find no shortage of online dialogue about might could if you’re inclined to look it up. I learned there’s a Southern rock band called Might Could. Cute.

I also learned that might could is a “double modal,” and is as frowned upon as a double negative. Even so, the phrase, while structurally incorrect, has gained acceptance as a mere regional lapse. Frankly, I’ve heard it so many times over the past three decades that, when I do, only one hair stands up on the back of my neck.

But to read it in the paper, that’s a whole different grind of grits.

Yesterday the Post ran an opinion piece by leading foreign policy expert Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His piece was entitled: “Powering down: A decline in U.S. military might could upend the world order.”

I was outraged. Shame on Dr. Kagan for this sloppy title, if he indeed wrote it, and shame on the Post if they did. I drafted an angry letter in my head as I re-read the header over and over.

Then I realized – that the subject in the sentence was “a decline in military might.” Might. As in strength. Force. Power. The decline [in military might] could upend the world order. Duh.

I was reading it as though a decline in U.S. military might could upend the world order.

Maybe now I can calm down and read Dr. Kagan’s piece.

And maybe my readers from the lovely Tar Heel state, bless their hearts, might could forgive me for the snap.

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SOPA opera digest

I’d like it to be noted that I endured 24 hours without Wikipedia. But I didn’t. I got in.

Meanwhile, Internet stakeholders-turned-doomsayers appear to have scuttled the online piracy debate captained by the film and television industries. And judging by the millions of followers they engaged by blacking out popular websites, it appears the U.S.S. SOPA could sink, at least as of this moment.

In my aim to be an informed citizen, I spent way too much of yesterday trying to educate myself on this smoking hot issue, another in a long series that has Americans fiercely divided. As if we needed another.

I actually read the entire House bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act, as well as everything, pro and con, that was posted on my favorite websites by my favorite people, and I talked live with several stakeholders. I’ve cracked open the Senate version, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act, or PIPA.

As usual, I came away with mixed feelings.

As someone who has lived and worked in the hotbed of hullaballoo that is our nation’s capital, I continue to witness firsthand how advocacy groups can twist any public policy issue in their favor, and scare people—often with little effort–into supporting their causes. And people are willing to rally on a moment’s notice when they’re told the end is near.

Who remembers the rumor about 10 years ago that the federal government was going to impose a 25-cent fee on every e-mail message sent and received? I received about 50 bucks’ worth of messages from naïve friends urging me to help beat it back. They cited a bogus bill number that anyone with a clue would have known was neither a House nor Senate measure. It was a hoax.

I’m not saying the SOPA/PIPA proposals or the death knell the tech firms are singing are hoaxes. This is a real issue with high stakes on both sides. What I’m bemoaning here is how quickly some people who have never read a piece of legislation in their lives take up arms based on panic induced rhetoric.  You can’t tell me that every website user who is protesting actually understands what’s in both bills. I know I don’t.

Here’s how I see it.

People and companies who create artistic works are entitled to the income they earn for those works. And these aren’t just the big movie, TV and recording stars. They are members of camera crews, editing staff, key grips (whatever they do), hair and make-up artists, extras, even the little old ladies like my Aunt Patsy who play the small parts they work so hard to get. Their income is being taken from them when foreign websites pirate and traffic their work products.

I use Google and Wikipedia an average of 20 times a day. As an unpaid amateur blogger, I consider Wikipedia my official go-to source for unofficial useless information and Google my treasure trove of silly images, legally available and otherwise. Facebook and Twitter? Big fan. I’d like them to be there for me. I don’t believe Google or Wikipedia should solely bear the burden of policing the content that flows through them, nor do I think they should be censored. But I do believe they have a responsibility to refrain from facilitating criminal activity that harms U.S. workers and businesses and to cooperate when law enforcement has to intervene. So sue me.

Here’s what I’d like to see.

First of all, I’d like to see both sides avoid playing the jobs card. There are jobs at stake on both sides. And these days in the United States, everything has a jobs angle.

Next, I’d like to see the bill’s drafters do some redrafting to address any provisions that produce unintended consequences. This is a challenge given the Internet as we know it isn’t even 20 years old, and criminals are typically a step ahead of the law.

Further, I’d like to see all of us, as regular citizens playing happily on the Internet, simmer down, become better educated before we panic, and think for ourselves. Regardless of where we stand, on this or any other issue.

Need a chuckle break from the madness? Enjoy  yesterday’s amusing take on what would happen in a Wikiless world, by The Washington Post’s Monica Hesse.

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics, Technology and Social Media

Write me a letter

All right, wordies, who’s up for a Word Nymph challenge?

Here’s the background:  This week I wrote my first letter to the editor of The Washington Post. That’s significant considering I’ve been reading the Post since I could read. In fact, I still have the Sunday edition my father bought the day I was born. It’s also surprising that I only now penned my first gripe, considering the nitpickiness of my nature.

Like many newspapers, the Post has suffered sizeable cutbacks in recent years, many of which have hit the editing team. Up to now, when I’ve noticed an occasional typo or less occasional grammatical, spelling or punctuation error in my hometown paper, my reaction has been more sympathetic than critical.

However, last Sunday, an erroneous subhead provoked my inner schoolmarm. I fired off a pithy primer on subject-verb agreement that I thought might have a chance of being printed, if not in the daily Letters, then surely in Saturday’s “Free For All” space, typically set aside for granular grievances.

I awoke today—Saturday—with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning, and ran out to get the paper. I flipped directly to the editorial pages. Nada. I wondered: Was my letter too nitpicky? Too esoteric? Not well written enough?

Here’s the challenge:  1. Read the following headline, along with its subhead (sorry, I can’t find a link to the original editorial). 2. See if you notice the grammatical error. 3. Submit, in the Comments section below, your pretend letter to the editor, using fewer than 200 words (mine was 106). The best submissions will win a prize and the opportunity to help me the next time I’m stirred to speak up. Extra credit goes to anyone who can furnish the link to the editorial.

Picking on Catholic University
A complaint of bias against Muslims seem frivolous.

Go.

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Rigged

It’s humbling for a self-professed word nymph to discover  a flaw in her understanding of a word (though I deliberately chose “nymph” as a symbol of a work in progress).

Once and again, we all say or spell a word we think is correct for its context, only to learn we’re a letter or syllable off. It’s even more humbling, then, to find additional word mistakes in our quest to learn more about the first one.

I’m betting most of you know this one. I didn’t until last weekend.

In the past, when I referred to a process wherein things are constructed or repaired using only the limited resources available, I said “jerry-rigged.” Or maybe I thought it was gerry-rigged. Or geri-rigged or maybe jeri-rigged. I don’t think I’ve ever spelled it, but I know now I’ve mispronounced it.

On Saturday, The Washington Post referred to the painful process of cobbling together a federal budget compromise:

“When a frantic week ended, Washington still had no Plan A: a proposal that might give both Republicans and Democrats the things they want most.

“Instead, there was only a jury-rigged and unpopular Plan B.”

Jury rigged? Hmm. I didn’t know that, but  later learned that jury rigging (no Casey Anthony jokes) is a sailing term.

Wikipedia cautions us to not confuse jury rigging with jury tampering, not that such a temptation perked in my mind. Further, Wiki explains that “The phrase “jury rigged” has been in use since at least 1788.” Who knew? Not I.

It goes on to explain that “the adjectival use of ‘jury’ in the sense of makeshift or temporary dates from at least 1616, when it appeared in John Smith’s A Description of New England” and lays out several theories about the origin of this usage.

Webster’s honors “jerry-rigged” as “organized or constructed in a crude or improvised manner,” having first come into use in 1959, suggesting also it might have sprung from “jerry-built,” a term with which I am unfamiliar.

Urban Dictionary explains that “jerry” has come to refer to something that is bad or defective: “a pejorative use of the male nickname Jerry.” Jerry as a pejorative? I didn’t know this either; did you?

All the while I was poring over these contemporary sources, what was really lingering in the back of my mind was Michael Jackson’s 1980s jeri curl.

Wouldn’t you know, it’s actually a Jheri curl?

On the subject of all things jury, jerry or Jheri, I’m oh for three. Sometimes nymphs have days like this.

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Lil something for everyone

The other day I complained to you about a recent case of writer’s block. You reassured me with good advice.

Truth be told, I’ve also been suffering from acute reader’s block—provided that too isn’t a made-up disease of lazy people.

While I usually read more than ever in the summer, I’m still reading a book I started last December, while nibbling bits of other books and articles in between.

I’m three months behind on my Vanity Fair and two months behind on Esquire and, these days, it takes me longer than usual to get through The Washington Post in the morning—sometimes until well into the evening. Or the next morning, when I feel I must read it before starting that day’s paper.

I know this all seems strange; I know it’s strange for me. I’m still reading; I’m just reading a variety of things in no logical order. Habits change, I suppose.

All this said, a magazine has come into our house that recently captured my attention.

In April my husband received a birthday gift subscription to Garden & Gun. Perhaps you’ve seen it.

I know, Garden & Gun doesn’t sound like reading material suitable for a household of flaming libs. Well, maybe the gardening part. Our household is, however, composed of one native North Carolinian, one recently-returned North Carolina transplant and one whom my father calls the “Beltway Baby.”

The magazine’s full title is Garden & Gun: The Soul of the South and, obviously, covers all things Southern. This week I decided to crack open the last two issues—while I was in the middle of reading something else, no doubt.

I commend it to you. Rest assured; you won’t see Larry the Cable Guy or read anything that reveals, “You know you’re a redneck if…”

G&G a rather nice piece of publishing and superb writing on some interesting subjects.

Granted, you’ll be shown the anatomy of the perfect hush puppy and learn the characteristics of the ideal tomato and maybe learn something you didn’t already know about rhubarb.

You’ll also get to meet Nashville painter Emily Leonard; Merigold, Miss., pottery artist Lee McCarty; Athens, Ga., fabric designer Susan Hable; and Steve Huff, thought to be the Best Fishing Guide Alive.

If you pick up these latest issues, you’ll read about the so-called Memphis Mafia, learn the Rules of Yard Art and get a glimpse into Livestock of the Rich and Famous. This Beltway baby was tickled to see a spread on the Washington, D.C. dining scene.

Moseying through Dixie on your summer vacation and want to know where to find a good barbecue joint? I recommend their list of the 20 best, in part because Red Bridges of my husband’s hometown of Shelby is featured.

Last night I was finishing an article on Gregg Allman when I wondered why I hadn’t seen anything about guns. Then, near the back, on page 108 of the April/May issue, I saw a piece about Griffin & Howe, a famous gunsmith and store—in Greenwich, Connecticut. Maybe it’s in south Greenwich.

The piece notes that Griffin & Howe “is presided over by Guy Bignell, president and CEO of G&H and a Brit of such surpassing handsomeness that he is often assaulted on the streets of Greenwich.”

Am I the only person who finds that funny?

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Filed under Family and Friends, Food, Reading

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad lib

When I was a kid, they didn’t make cars with DVD players in them. Even when my son was little, we never had such a thing in the car.

When we went on long trips, we played games like Twenty Questions, “I went to the supermarket” and a word game called Ghost.

Often when we got to our vacation destinations, and there was no television, we played games. I recall many seasons as a kid in Ocean City, playing Mad Libs. I cut my little word nymph teeth on Mad Libs.

For those who don’t remember, Mad Libs were–still are, I guess–short stories written with blanks in them. The blanks call for certain parts of speech to be inserted in various places in sentences within the story. The person who holds the book asks his or her play mates for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and exclamations, and occasionally, names of body parts or famous people, which, of course, are provided arbitrarily and without context. After all the blanks are filled, the holder of the book reads the story aloud. Hilarity ensues.

This past Monday, Leonard Stern, co-creator of Mad Libs, died at the age of 88. Amusingly, his Washington Post obituary was written in Mad Lib form:

“As a writer, director and producer, Leonard Stern was a legendary (noun) in show business. He had an (adjective) career that took him to (geographic place) with (celebrity name). Fond of (article of clothing), standing (a number) feet tall with a gray (body part), he (verb) more than a share of (noun), including (liquid).”

I was interested to learn also that Stern was a writer and producer of “The Honeymooners,”  “Get Smart” and a few other classic sitcoms. Apparently, Stern got the idea for Mad Libs when looking for an adjective for a Honeymooners script. He and a friend then began writing stories with blanks in them and took them to cocktail parties; the rest is history.

Yesterday I discovered a website that allows you to play Mad Libs online.*

Maybe on your next family trip to the shore—or at your next cocktail party—you can pull out your iPhone, log in and have a rip-roaring good time.

Rest in peace, Leonard Stern. You were a (adjective) (noun).

*By the way, I tested the Mad Lib-generating website. You can only imagine what I did to Hamlet’s third soliloquy.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Family and Friends, Sports and Recreation