Bloody Well Write

December 16, 2009

Bloody Well Write has a new home

Filed under: Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 12:43 pm
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And my, I think it’s a lovely one.

Please check it out here and, if you’d like, bookmark the new URL (http://www.bloodywellwrite.com/). All the same info from this WordPress address is already at the new site, and new entries will be posted there.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Happy trails,

SAK

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
Tags: , , , , ,

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: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinwhelan/420240541)

Whoever did this doesn't know how to hide the peas very well (photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinwhelan/420240541)

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!

SAK

June 26, 2009

RSVP

Filed under: AP Stylebook,punctuation,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

This little acronym gets thrown around a lot. Often, it is used (not utilized, ahem); sometimes, it is abused. Let’s investigate.

RSVP stands for repondez s’il vous plait, meaning respond if you please. It is the French way of someone politely asking you to contact him or her in order to indicate whether you will be able to attend whatever event he or she sent you an invitation for. NOTE: The acronym does not call for periods, despite what some calligraphers deem necessary for high style.

RSVP

High-style RSVP, with unnecessary periods

Let’s say that your friend Frankie mailed you an invitation to her son’s birthday party. The invitation has RSVP printed in bold letters, with a telephone number and e-mail address below it. The polite (and expected) thing to do, as soon as you receive the invitation, is to check your availability and immediately call or e-mail Frankie to let her know that you can or can’t make it to the party. If you two regularly contact each other some other way, such as tweeting or texting, that would probably be fine, as long as you verify that she received your message; but since the invitation listed a telephone number and e-mail address, one of those options would have less chance of somehow not getting your RSVP to her. It’s your call — just verify.

The purpose of the RSVP, by the way, is to help the person hosting the event to plan said event more efficiently. If 30 invitations are sent out (with 30 invitees) with no RSVP, then the host is assuming that 30 guests will arrive; the host will have to prepare to adequately serve 30 guests, plus the host and any of the host’s helpers or family.

But if an RSVP is on the invitation, the host’s hope is that if not everyone can make it and if those folks notify the host by the requested date, the host will be able to adjust the event requirements in time to save money and supplies. So, for example, Frankie could plan on buying a smaller cake and fewer jugs of fruit punch because seven invited guests replied that they could not come to the party, while 23 guests replied that they would be there, with bells on. And in these interesting economic times (yeah, you try to avoid that phrase these days), saving a few bucks here and there is a very good thing.

So please, folks, follow RSVP protocol and RSVP on or before the deadline on the invitation. If you’re a friend of the host (and you presumably are, or else why are you getting an invitation?), help him or her out and say that you’ll either be there or you can’t come.

One other thing: Don’t write, “Please RSVP by xyz.” The please is redundant.
One last thing: Don’t write, “RSVP in advance.” Duh — you’re expecting them to tell you they’ll be there after the shindig’s over?

Happy trails!

SAK

June 22, 2009

Oral, verbal or written?

Filed under: AP Stylebook,grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Sometimes it may feel like a crapshoot, trying to decide which word correctly describes what’s going on, linguistically. Isn’t that “verbal agreement” really verbal, because the dude told you that he would come by the house and buy your old, electricity-stealing freezer? Or is it oral? How about both verbal and oral? Is it a binding agreement? And in what kind of world does it matter if it’s verbal or oral or whatnot?

Ah. Now, don’t get blasé on me. This is a grammar blog, if you’ll remember, so yes, it is vastly important whether it’s verbal or oral (or written).

What’s the difference?

Oral = the spoken word
Written = the committed-to-paper word
Verbal = the having-anything-to-do-with-words word

In its innate sense, verbal means that something has to do with words, no matter if they are written, printed, spoken or thought. Although it has come to stand for the spoken word in loose terms, oral still trumps verbal as referring to anything spoken. The AP Stylebook suggests using verbal “to compare words with some other form of communication.” Some examples for clarity:

Oral — He gave an oral promise to stop by and take the freezer off her hands.
Written — She had a written agreement drawn up that stated the time and date that the man would come take the freezer off her hands.
Verbal — Once she realized that the man was not coming for her freezer — and that he had never signed her written agreement — she cried elephant tears that were more telling of her mind-set than any verbal sentiment she could have expressed.

Oh, the humanity.

Happy trails!

SAK

June 19, 2009

Empathy vs. sympathy

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 10:13 am
Tags: ,

We’ve all been there. Or have we?

That’s the crux of the matter — the difference between having empathy and sympathy for someone’s plight. It seems as if everyone is sympathetic to our struggles, our pain, our anguish; they say as much:

“I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“I feel your pain.”
“I know just how you feel.”
“I’ve been there, friend.”

But are those phrases really sympathetic? We rarely hear people say that they empathize with us; they almost always say that they sympathize with us.

So let’s clear this up.

Empathy = You feel empathy when you’ve experienced what the other person is now experiencing. You’ve been there, done that. You actually do know what that person may be feeling (probably not the exact emotions, but you can draw on your own experience and remember the feelings that you experienced during your own saga).

Sympathy = You feel sympathy when you haven’t experienced the same situation, but you can imagine what the person is going through.

Let’s say that a good friend’s dad/aunt/dog has just died. If you’ve gone through that horrible experience with your own dad/aunt/dog, you are probably going to be empathetic. The language you choose to use can gently explain your position: “I’m so sorry for your loss.” “I feel your pain.” “I know just how you feel.” “I’ve been there, friend.” All of those phrases are valid and possibly appropriate (although “I feel your pain” is a little over the top, if you ask me).

In the same situation, if you haven’t lost a dad/aunt/dog (or any person/animal that’s similar in relation, such as a mom/uncle/cat), it’s not a good idea to say, “I know just how you feel” or “ I’ve been there, friend” because it ain’t the truth. And everyone knows that the truth is typically the best path to take each and every time. If you blurt out something like one of those phrases, the person in pain has every right to call you on it and you shouldn’t get your nose out of joint if you get an earful from this person. Just be sympathetic and provide a shoulder to lean on.

Clear as mud? Here it is, simply:

Empathy = I’ve been there.
Sympathy = I can only imagine.

Happy trails!

SAK

June 12, 2009

Envy vs. jealousy

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 4:43 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Scenario 1:
So your neighbor just got a hot, new car that makes your get-along heap look a tad uncool. And yes, you would love an auto just like your neighbor’s — same smart color, same moon roof, same front heated seats. Do you envy your neighbor or are you jealous of your neighbor?

Scenario 2:
Your man (or woman), who is a hottie by all accounts, is suddenly partnered up with an equally attractive co-worker for a rousing three-legged race at the employee picnic, and you (who recently sprained your left big toe and have to sit on the sidelines) are forced to watch the two of them hobble and giggle all the way to the finish line. Assuming you’re not the perfect mate who cares not a whit about this situation, are you just a teensy bit jealous or are you a little envious?

Envy
Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. The decidedly Christian list also includes lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath and pride. Although the listed items are also mentioned as being not very good things throughout all kinds of religions, early Christians corralled them into a list. (Interesting note: Pride usually “wins” for being the most horrid of all the sins.)

Envy can be described as an insatiable desire for something, either material or intangible. It implies that someone desperately wants something that another has, and that the desperate person wishes that the person (who has ownership of the wanted thing) would not have that thing.

Really, it’s not a nice feeling to have; hoping that someone else experiences failure or loss simply does not build ones’ self-esteem up, no matter which way you look at it. Let it go, people. Live and let live. Give peace a chance.

Jealousy
A person is jealous if he or she has something (or someone or an ability) that he or she deems cool, and he or she would do just about anything to not lose that cool thing. That person may believe that someone (anyone) is out to get that cool thing, so that person lives life always looking over his or her shoulder, assuming that something bad is about to happen or someone is about to steal the cool thing.

That’s a depressing way to live. What’s the old saying? If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never yours in the first place. There you go.

Here’s the psychologist version: If you love somebody, set him or her free. If the person comes back, his or her super ego is dominant. If the person doesn’t come back, his or her id is supreme. If the person doesn’t go, he or she must be crazy. Ha!

Are you envious or are you jealous?

Are you envious or are you jealous?

Let’s look at Scenario 1: your neighbor’s groovy car. If you wish you had that car — man, that’s the best car on the planet! — you might be a tad envious. Now, maybe you don’t hope that your neighbor gets a door ding that first week; that’s very big of you. But if you still wish you could have a car like that, you’re still considered envious. If you simply think that your neighbor has worked hard and deserves a beauty of a car like that, then you can admire the car all day long, and your inner you will feel ethereal. Well done.

Now for Scenario 2: the hottie partnered with your hottie. I suppose you can guess this one. If you can’t believe your bad luck (i.e., cast on left big toe during the company picnic), keep an eagle eye on the other hottie to make sure that he or she keeps hands appropriately placed during the three-legged race and secretly hope that the prerace lunch gives said hottie a case of the tummy blues before the rope makes it around the third leg, you’re jealous. If you think, “Hey, my mate lucked out; that partner is going to be lightning-fast on the field and they’re going to win the nifty award,” then you’re a well-adjusted person and could teach the rest of us a thing or two. Well done!

Happy trails!

SAK

June 8, 2009

Eager vs. anxious

Filed under: grammar,Uncategorized — bloodywellwrite @ 3:46 pm
Tags: , , ,

You hear it all the time: “I’m anxious to go out this weekend!”

Whaaat? Why? Are you worried about having a good time? Are you nervous to see your friends? To eat great food and do something extraordinarily exciting for once? What’s to worry about?

The problem is the choice of words. Usually, folks use anxious when they mean eager. Maybe eager sounds too, well, eager. No one wants to seem needy, and eager implies that you really, really need something. So anxious rules the day. But really, everyone needs stuff. That’s just how life goes, so let’s embrace our needs and go out and fulfill them (without stepping on any toes, of course).

Here’s the difference between being eager and being anxious (according to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary):

Eager — marked by enthusiastic or impatient desire or interest (eager fans)

Anxious — characterized by extreme uneasiness of mind or brooding fear about some contingency : worried (anxious parents)

In addition, a few other adjectives are similar to both eager and anxious but are slightly different in meaning:

Avid — adds to eager the implication of insatiability or greed (avid for new technology)

Keen — implies intensity of interest and quick responsiveness in action (keen on the latest fashions)

Athirst — emphasizes yearning but not necessarily readiness for action (athirst for adventure)

That’s the trouble with using a thesaurus to write your term paper, advertisement or contract: All the synonyms mean basically the same thing but not exactly the same thing. You can probably get away with it, but it’s a real drag when some smarty-patootie calls you on it in front of your peeps. And isn’t it more satisfying to just say what you really mean?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Happy trails!

SAK

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!

SAK

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
ABBA
• Civic
• Level
• Madam
Radar
• 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!

SAK

April 30, 2009

Pluperfect joke: Grammar is funny

G’day, lovers and loathers of the English language. This is just a quick something-something to help you while away your last afternoon of April 2009. I’d never heard this joke before and was impressed that an Aussie had made the cut as the lead. So, without further ado:

An Australian man wins a trip to Boston. His mates have been telling him how good the seafood is in Boston, and he can’t wait to hit some restaurants. He arrives and, after freshening up at the hotel, wanders out to catch a taxi and hopefully be directed to a decent seafood place. Unbeknownst to him, his cabdriver is a post-grad student going for his doctorate in linguistics and grammatical syntax. The Aussie says, “Hey, mate, where can I get scrod?”

The cabdriver turns to him with a look of intellectual curiosity and replies, “Sir, I have heard it asked for in many ways, shapes and forms, but I’ve never heard it in the pluperfect subjunctive before.”

That’s ace!

Lest you think that this is all just fun and games over here at BloodyWellWrite.com, here’s some info on what the heck pluperfect is:

The pluperfect tense is a perfect tense that exists in most Indo-European languages; it is used to refer to an event that has been completed before another past action.

Take a look at this: “The blind man, who knew that he had risen, motioned him to sit down again.” He had risen is an example of the pluperfect tense.* It refers to an event (someone rises from his seat), which takes place before another event (the blind man notices the fact that the other has risen). Because that second event is a past event and the past tense is used to refer to it (the blind man knew), the pluperfect tense is needed to make it obvious that the first event has taken place even earlier in the past.

Bloody oath!

Does anyone else have a hankering for a coldie?

Happy trails!

SAK

*From Charles Dickens’ “Barnaby Rudge: a Tale of the Riots of ’Eighty.”

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