Bloody Well Write

October 28, 2009

Pet peeve No. 17: honestly, to tell you the truth and other questionable truisms

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 1:15 pm
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Believe you me, I hear — or see in print — those seemingly innocuous little words and phrases, such as honestly, sincerely, frankly, to tell you the truth and believe me, a lot. And when I say a lot, I really mean a lot.

I’m probably guilty of using a few of them in writings. Why? Not sure, really. Perhaps I was trying to emphasize something. To prove that I absolutely knew what I was writing about. To seem über-sincere. To up my word count for ENGL 726.

No matter. I didn’t fool anyone worth fooling. I absolutely didn’t fool my ENGL 726 professor.

The point is, truly (!), that whenever I come across one of those words or phrases these days, I automatically doubt the rest of the story. If it must begin with To tell the truth, what else am I supposed to believe but that everything that has come before is of questionable validity? You’ve been spoon-feeding me a big, fat lie up until this point but, to tell you the truth, the rest of what’s to come is honest-to-goodness true stuff. Yeah, that sounds trustworthy and believable. Hmph.

Honestly, how else am I supposed to react? Those phrases have flim-flam man written all over them.

The idea here is this: Say what you mean to say. Don’t add silly phrases that make you seem insincere; just be sincere. Say what you mean and mean what you say — don’t say that you mean it. Say it, don’t spray it. (Oh, wait a minute. That’s for another entry.)

Happy trails!



October 19, 2009

How to pronounce “patronize” or The childlike belief of willing something with all of one’s might until it becomes truth

Filed under: pronunciation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:22 pm
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Here’s an ideal example of the way I thought as a young girl growing up.

I thought, for sure, that if I believed in something “hard enough” — as in almost bugging my eyes out while holding my breath or just willing something to happen with my awesome, mind-bending power — I could make something become true. Granted, the thing I was usually willing with all my might was usually something that had been sitting on the proverbial fence, like would the folks let me have some saltwater taffy at the next rest stop? Or would my parents not care that much that my peas were hidden in the tiny mound of mashed potatoes still left on my plate? (I liked the potatoes, otherwise it would’ve been a massive mound of mashed potatoes hiding the rogue peas.) I thought that I could will my body into producing boys when the time came for children. I believed that I could will myself out of paralysis if the situation were to come up. Very Bionic Woman of me, I’d say.

Whoever did this doesn't know how to hide the peas very well (photo:

Whoever did this doesn't know how to hide the peas very well (photo:

I’m getting to the point, believe it or not, so stick with me for just a little while longer.

Up until very recently, I thought that patronize was spelled two ways because it had two meanings. It made perfect sense to me. It should be pronounced PAY-tron-ize if it’s supposed to mean that you are frequenting someone’s shop or buying a company’s stuff on a regular basis. Why? Because you are a patron (PAY-tron), so you are PAY-tron-iz-ing the shop.

It should be pronounced PAH-tron-ize (as in “pat”) if it’s supposed to mean that you are being condescending or are being treated in a condescending manner. Again, it made perfect sense to me. It’s condescending, as if someone were patting you on the head, saying, “Now, now, little Nellie, you just run along and play and the big girls will take care of everything. Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it.” Patronizing should totally sound like getting patted on the head or, perhaps worse, doing the patting on someone else’s head. That’s linear logic.

But there’s this pesky little thing called research.

I checked into the pronunciation issue on the word. And you know what? I couldn’t will the two pronunciations to mean what I wanted them to mean. Even with all my logic and self-admittedly rock-star Internet research capabilities, I couldn’t come up with facts to back up my beliefs. So disconcerting.

But I’ve decided to bend my mind around the facts at hand. Here’s the real deal on the pronunciation of patronize:

PAY-tron-ize = American English pronunciation
PAH-tron-ize = British English pronunciation

That’s it. Just the bloody American vs. English thing again. Doesn’t matter which meaning you’re trying to convey — just which side of the pond you’re on. If you’re in the United States, use the PAY-tron-ize pronunciation; if your primary audience is Britain-bound, use PAH-tron-ize.

Maddening as all get-out. You say “to-MAY-to,” I say “to-MAH-to.” Thank goodness that life goes on.

By the way, I have two lovely, amazing girly-girls. No boys. Go figure.

Happy trails!


October 7, 2009

Telephone numbers

Jenny, I got your number.

Here’s how the AP Stylebook folks would like to see telephone numbers in print: 123-456-7890.

Ah, hyphens. Hey — at least they dropped the parentheses around the area code. Be happy.

Now, I know this doesn’t jibe with all the designers out there. And you know what? It doesn’t necessarily jibe with me, either. I’m a fan of dots (er, periods). I would rather see this: 123.456.7890.

So I guess what I’m promoting is this:

• If you or your company says that AP rules the proverbial roost and there should be absolutely no deviation, use the hyphens in your phone numbers. (And I’m so completely OK with that, as I do believe that AP has your back nearly every time, grammatically speaking.)

• If, on the other hand, you have a designer itching at the keypad to produce funky (or just non-hyphenated) art with numbers, use periods, stars, squares or whatever else floats that designer’s boat.

Just make it readable. After all, if you’re putting a phone number in print, you probably want people to be able to decipher that number and then call it, correct? Correct.

Happy trails!


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