Bloody Well Write

May 27, 2009

Red herring, red herring

Filed under: Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 2:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

First order of business: Please accept my sincere apologies for the hiatus. Unforeseen circumstances kept me away from my beloved Bloody Well Write. But I’m back! (Lesson learned: Be careful what you wish for.)

All kidding aside, on to the topic at hand: What the #%$* is a red herring? I came across this little tidbit via my husband. Of course, my memory being what it is, I can’t remember the exact circumstances, but let it be known that he was the one who gave me the idea for this entry.

I can admit when I don’t know something; I do it all the flippin’ time. And even though I had once known the definition, I hadn’t retained it well enough to say, “Oh yeah, I know what you mean, honey.” So what exactly is a red herring?

Its most organic definition, I suppose, is a fish. It’s a herring that’s been cured by a process of drying, salting and smoking; after the process is finished, the fish takes on a dark brownish color that some people might consider red — maybe because red is more festive. Who knows? But there you go.

Red herring

Red herring

When my husband used the term, though, he meant a secondary definition: A red herring is something that deliberately diverts attention from the real issue at hand. Its origins are not 100 percent clear, but Wikipedia (good, ol’ Wikipedia) has this to say:

The term originates from an article written published 14 February, 1807 by journalist William Cobbett in the polemical Weekly Political Register. [4] In a critique of the English press, which had erroneously reported Napoleon’s defeat, Cobbett recounted that he had once use a red herring to deflect hounds in pursuit of a hare. In response to the press mistake, Cobbett declared, “It was a mere transitory effect of the political red-herring; for, on the Saturday, the scent became as cold as a stone.”

Red herrings can be found throughout mystery novels, as the bad guy or gal tries to throw the scent onto an unsuspecting passerby or perhaps the hero/heroine of the story. Pollyanna endings usually have the red herrings exposed for what they are — diversions — while the villain sulks off to jail. A bit of karma, of sorts, for trying to fool those who won’t be fooled.

Happy trails!



May 14, 2009

Misspellings, mispellings, miss pellings

Here’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Not sure why I can’t just let them go; I think it’s just my nature, good or bad. I was a pretty decent speller growing up and did well in the school competitions (although it peeves me to no end that I never won a title of any sort). Even today, there are some (what I consider to be) basic words that I have to look up to make sure that I’m getting them down correctly. Or at the very least, I have to type them two ways to know which one is the correct one.

Example? Weird. Or wierd. Nope, it’s weird. The i-before-e-except-after-c rule doesn’t apply. Isn’t that weird?

So what bothers me enough to write an entry on it are those misspellings that I see frequently, some from people who have multiple degrees and make — I’m guessing — six times more money than I do (sniff) and some from average Joes and Normal Nancys. ’Cause there are SO MANY average and normal folks running around, right? Yeah, sure. You let me know when you meet just one.

And what’s perhaps worse than seeing misspellings in other people’s writing is finding out that I’ve been misspelling something my entire life, thinking it was just fine and dandy. So I try to remain vigilant in my journey. But by all means, folks, if you see something from me that ain’t right, please tell me. As Arlo sings it (17:37), “I’m still not proud.”

Anyway, here is a list of words that I often see misspelled (followed by how they are misspelled):
Accommodate (accomodate, acommodate)
A lot (alot)
Amateur (amature)
Apparent (apparant)
Barbecue (barbeque)
Broccoli (brocolli)
Calendar (calender)
Cannot (can not)
Cantaloupe (cantelope)
Carburetor (carborator)
Caribbean (Carribean)
Cartilage (cartillage)
Cemetery (cematery)
Chili (chile)
Collectible (collectable)
Committed (commited)
Congratulations (congradulations)
Copyright (copywrite, copywright)
Daiquiri (daquiri)
Defendant (defendent)
Definite (definate)
Desperate (despirate)

Disappear (dissappear)

Ecstasy (extasy)
(guage, gage)
(grammer — ha!)
Handkerchief (hankerchief)
Harass (harrass)
Health care (healthcare)
Independent (independant)
Indispensable (indispensible)
Inoculate (innoculate — I would’ve missed this in the spelling bee)
Irresistible (irresistable)
Its (it’s)
Jeweler (jeweller)
Judgment (judgement)
Kernel (colonel)
Knowledge (knowlege)
Led (lead)
Leisure (liesure)
Liaison (liason)
License (licence, lisense)
Lieutenant (leutenant)
Lightning (lightening)
Maneuver (manuever)
Marshmallow (marshmellow — just learned this one a few years ago)
Medieval (medeival — I always look this sucker up)
Memento (momento)
Minuscule (miniscule)
Mischievous (mischeivous, mischievious, mischevious)
Misspell (mispell — aha!)
Nauseous (nauseus)
Neighbor (nieghbor, neighbour)
Noticeable (noticable)
Occurrence (ocurrence, occurence)
Parliament (parlament)
Pastime (passtime, pasttime)
Perseverance (perserverance, perseverence)
Personnel (personel, personnell, personell)
Pigeon (pidgeon)
Playwright (playwrite)
Plenitude (plentitude)
Possession (posession)
Precede (presede)
Preferable (preferrable)
Principal (principle)
Principle (principal)
Privilege (priviledge)
Pronunciation (pronounciation)
Publicly (publically)
Questionnaire (questionaire, questionairre)
Raspberry (rasberry)
Recommend (reccommend)
Religious (relegious, religous)
Renowned (reknowned)
Separate (seperate; remember — there is “a rat” in separate)
Sergeant (sargeant, sargent)
Supersede (supercede)
There/Their/They’re (their/they’re/there)
Threshold (threshhold)
To/Too/Two (too/two/to)
Tomorrow (tommorrow)
Truly (truely)
Twelfth (twelvth, twelth — horrible word, really; sounds like a Welsh town)
Tyranny (tyrrany, tyrany)
Until (untill)
Vacuum (vaccuum, vaccum)
Weather (whether)
Whether (weather)
Weird (wierd — very, very weird)
Your/You’re (you’re/your)

Try entering all that data with spell-checker activated. Oy! What a mess. By the way, if you think of any others that I can add to this list, please write them in the Comments section and I can add them.

And — I’m spent. (Name that movie and you get five bonus points!)

Happy trails!


May 13, 2009

Backyard shenanigans

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 9:16 pm
Tags: , , ,

I had no idea. That’s what I should call these random entries that don’t have much to them beyond proving how flipping much I have yet to learn. Anyhoo …

Back yard. Backyard. Which is it?

Well, the previous time I checked — which was apparently a very long time ago — it was back yard when it was a lone noun (I am going to start a garden in my back yard) and it was the single-word backyard when it was an adjective (The rabbits will no doubt be backyard hooligans when I get a garden started).

Rogue rabbit

Rogue rabbit

How wrong I have been.

Sometime in the past several years, the AP Stylebook folks have changed the rules on me. Now, it is backyard (one word). No matter what. Even though front yard is still two words. Grrr.

Live and learn. I follow AP for the vast majority of grammar issues, and this bad boy isn’t big and bad enough for me to call out the troops, so backyard it is.

Happy trails!


May 11, 2009

Trademarks, their symbols and decluttered writing

I don’t know about you, but the day that I learned how to make a trademark (registered and otherwise) on my Mac was a happy day, indeed. I knew that I was a successful Mac user who had mastered a few keystrokes for something that would make others break out in a hot sweat. Co-workers would yell over the wall to me, begging for those pearls of wisdom: Share — please share the knowledge! How the heck do you insert a TM again? And don’t even get me started on the em dash and its shy cousin, the en dash. It was almost as if I were Steve Jobs’ right-hand gal, the way I could throw around directions for special characters.

OK, I can hear you snickering. I suppose it may not have been quite that awe-inspiring. Time gives memory an expansive quality; everything seems bigger, better (or harder, worse — depending on your mood) back in the day. But I will tell you this: Those circle R’s and TMs and such gave me a sense of accomplishment. And now I’d like to share that information. It’ll come in handy if you’re on a Mac (if you’re on a PC, I’m of zero help — sorry!):

® = Option+ R
™ = Option + 2
And for good measure, here are a few other fun symbols and inserts for you:
© = Option + G
En dash = Option + Hyphen
Em dash = Option + Shift + Hyphen
Ellipsis = Option + Semicolon

The funny thing is, though, now that I know these simple keystrokes for trademarks, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to use them. You see, I work at an advertising agency that follows AP Stylebook guidelines. In fact, most agencies follow the same guidelines. And the Associated Press does not use trademark symbols. So, poop — I’ve lost my mojo.

Of course, I still have to make sure that when I write or edit copy, any brand, symbol, word or whatnot is rightfully acknowledged as being trademarked. The solution is simple: Initial-cap the word or phrase. That uppercase letter is enough to get most corporate lawyers off your back, so don’t feel obligated to add trademark symbols plus the generic terms unless you just really have a hankering for them. AP suggests using the generic equivalent whenever possible, unless the trademarked name would give some extra punch to whatever you’re writing.

So many words out there are actually trademarks, but a lot of folks don’t realize it. Kleenex is, perhaps, the most obvious case, as most folks and the proverbial dog say Kleenex when they really mean tissue (maybe they are wiping with a Puffs brand or a Great Value brand, but they still say Kleenex). Other examples aren’t quite as well-known. Here’s a fun list of trademark examples, with their generic equivalents in parentheses:

Ace (elastic bandage)
Adrenalin (epinephrine hydrochloride or adrenaline)
Aqua-Lung (underwater breathing apparatus)
Band-Aid (adhesive bandage)
Bobcat (excavators, backhoes and such)
Boogie (bodyboard for surfing)
Books on Tape (audiotape)
Bubble Wrap (packing material)
Caterpillar (crawler tractor)
Chemical Mace/Mace (aerosal tear gas)
Coke (cola, soda or pop, depending on your locale)
Clorox (bleach)
Dacron (polyester fiber)
Deepfreeze (freezer)
Dictaphone (dictation recorder)
Disposall (garbage disposer; often a descriptor for a male in the house)
Dixie cup (paper cup)
Dramamine (motion sickness remedy)
Dumpster (large trash bin)
Fiberglas (fiberglass)
Florida Keys (no, not a trademark; just seeing if you’re paying attention)
Formica (laminated plastic)
Frigidaire (refrigerator)
Frisbee (plastic flying disc)
Google (Web search engine)
Jacuzzi (whirlpool bath or spa)
Java (computer programming language; also an island of Indonesia; if lowercase, coffee)
Jeep (four-wheel-drive vehicle; if lowercase, a military vehicle)
Jello (gelatin dessert)
Jet Ski (personal watercraft)
Kitty Litter (cat box litter)
Kleenex (facial tissue)
Kodak (cameras and associated products)
Levi’s (jeans)
Lycra (spandex)
Mother Nature (not trademarked, but definitely initial-capped; are you still with me?)
Muzak (recorded background music)
Naugahyde (fake leather)
Oreo (chocolate cookie with white filling)
Ouija (board game)
Photoshop (photo editing software)
Ping-Pong (table tennis or pingpong)
Plexiglas (plastic glass)
Polaroid (instant picture camera)
Popsicle (flavored ice on a stick)
Pyrex (oven glassware)
Q-tips (cotton swabs)
Realtor (a service mark to represent a member of the National Association of Realtors; if subject is not a member, use real estate agent)
Rolls-Royce (automobile)
Scotch tape (transparent tape)
Seeing Eye dog (guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. in N.J.)
Sheetrock (gypsum wallboard)
S.O.S (soap pad — note that there is no final period; wild, huh?)
Styrofoam (plastic foam)
Tabasco (hot pepper sauce)
Taser (stun gun)
Teflon (nonstick coating)
Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
Velcro (fabric fastener)
Victrola (record player)
Welcome Wagon (wheeled vehicle carrying information and gifts)
Windbreaker (wind-resistant jacket)
Xerox (photocopy machine)
Yahoo (online computer service)

Schnikies! That’s a long list, and I guarantee that there a ton more, so be ever-vigilant in your writing and editing. Look stuff up if you have any question about its trademark status. I learned a few new ones as I was typing the list, so I’m a happy camper. If you have questions about other trademarks (or trademark issues), you should check out the International Trademark Association’s Web site.

Happy trails!


May 1, 2009

Palindromes: Yo, banana boy!

Grammar gets a bad wrap. It’s not a subject that the general public thinks of as interesting. That’s too bad, really, because being a good communicator gets the point across better. Yes, you could argue that you don’t have to be able to write perfectly in order to have your agenda accepted, but I would say that a flawless document (or a speech) gives the author (or speaker) more credibility, which in theory presents a greater return on investment.

OK, off subject. My point is that grammar isn’t all hard work and drudgery. It has its fun aspects, just like every other topic out there. Take, for example, palindromes: words, phrases, numbers or other sequences of units that can be read the same way in either direction. Punctuation and spaces between words are a nonissue in palindromes.

Palindromes date back to the wee A.D.s (as in 79 A.D.); the Latin word square “Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas” was found in the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum. It may It be read top to bottom, bottom to top, left to right and right to left. Some have attributed a variety of magical properties to the word square, considering it one of the broadest magical formulas in the occident. It has been credited as a spell against fire, a cure for animal bites, a cipher to prove whether or not someone was a witch and a curative against poisonous air, pestilence and sorcery. It is also thought to be a powerful charm to protect the bearer from evil spirits. I need to pick me up one of them there word squares.

“Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas”

“Sator Arepo Tenet Opera Rotas”

What else — how about some examples? How about words:
• Eye
• Nun
• Noon
• Poop
• Tot
• Civic
• Level
• Madam
• Racecar
• Otto
• Bob
•Redivider (the longest single English word in common usage)

Phrases, you say? Yes, indeed:
• Step on no pets.
• Dammit, I’m mad!
• Never odd or even.
• If I had a hi-fi.
• Yo, banana boy! (See? Now I make sense!)
• No devil lived on.
• Ah, Satan sees Natasha.
• Was it a car or a cat I saw?
• Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
• No lemon, no melon.
• Nurse, I spy gypsies—run! (Yeah, like this is gonna happen.)
• Was it Eliot’s toilet I saw?
• No, sir, away! A papaya war is on!
• Go hang a salami, I’m a lasagna hog.
• I, madam, I made radio! So I dared! Am I mad? Am I? (This is fantastic.)
• So many dynamos!
• Red rum, sir, is murder.

Numbers, you ask? But of course:
• 101
• 10101
• 2002
• 47974

Other sequences of units? Let’s look at words that form phrases, but instead of each letter being specific to the achievement of a palindrome, it’s the sequence of words:
• Fall leaves after leaves fall.
• First Ladies rule the State and state the rule: ladies first.
• Women understand men; few men understand women. (Remember that punctuation doesn’t play a part in palindromes.)

Palindromes also occur in music. Take Hüsker Dü, for example. The band’s concept album “Zen Arcade” has the songs “Reoccurring Dreams” and “Dreams Reoccurring.” Even though “Dreams Reoccurring” appears earlier on the album, is actually the intro of “Reoccurring Dreams” played in reverse. The title track of Béla Fleck and the Flecktones’ “UFO Tofu” is a palindrome. In classical music, a crab canon has one line of the melody reversed in time and pitch from the other. And Joseph Haydn’s “Symphony No. 47 in G” is known as The Palindrome; the third movement, minuet and trio is a musical palindrome, going forward twice and backward twice and arriving back at the same place. Now that’s some tricky stuff.

There are also examples of palindromes in biological structures and computation theory but, lucky for you, those definitions vary slightly from the palindromes of written language, so you don’t have to read the gory details here. No matter that genomes and the automata theory ain’t my thing (so really, lucky for me).

Happy trails!


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