Bloody Well Write

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!



April 16, 2009

The en dash and em dash or How two goldfish came into — and quickly exited — my pre-wedding life

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who love fish (as pets) and those who, uh, don’t really get it. The same might be said for dashes; some people love ’em like mad, and some people, uh, don’t really get ’em.

Me? I fall into opposite camps. I don’t really get the whole fish-as-pets thing. They’re sort of cool to watch for a while, but fish can’t snuggle. Fish can’t cheer you up by nuzzling your cheek when you’ve had a bad day. Fish can’t wake you up by walking up and down, up and down your legs.

On the other hand, I totally get dashes. I think they are fabulous. They clarify. They add visual interest. They inadvertently amuse by infuriating the designers you work with. They give your brain a tweak while you’re writing.

What’s the fuss? Heck, what’s the real story? (There is a story here, but I’ll get to the fish later.)

There are two kinds of dashes: en dashes and em dashes. (Hyphens are not really dashes and are thus relegated to a separate entry.) The em dash began as the length of a “typical” m and the en dash began as the length of a “typical” n. These length conventions are not necessarily followed in these days of a gazillion font styles. When using an em dash, though, almost always include a space on each side of the dash. (Attributions are exempt.)

The em dash is used to set off parenthetical statements. Although commas and parentheses can be used for the same function, the em dash is — by far — the most emphatic separator of the three. It can also indicate a sharp transition: The coyote must attempt to catch the roadrunner — but at what cost?
The em dash can also be used for a series within a phrase: His menu listed the pies — pumpkin, blueberry and mud — that he made weekly.

Use the em dash in attributions, without a space: Oh, I don’t think I’m a lot dumber than you think that I thought I was once. —Ben Stiller as White Goodman in “Dodgeball”

The en dash is used in ranges:
• 45–50 clowns
• 11:00 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
• Ages 2–3
• November–December 1967

The en dash is also used in relationships, including compound adjective situations. These usages, however, can depend on your level of comfort in deviating from AP Stylebook guidelines. AP does not recognize en dashes as valid. So in the following instances, a plain, ol’ hyphen will suffice, but the more adventurous writers (and designers) can use the en dash for a slightly more fine-tuned approach:

• KU beat Nebraska 76–39 (whoomp!)
• New York–London flight
• A 5–4 vote

As far as I know — and that’s not very far when a PC’s concerned — there are no shortcuts to create an en or em dash on a PC. Here’s how to create the dashes via computer longhand for both a PC and a Mac:

• Go to Insert in the program menu and open up Symbol.
• Highlight the appropriate dash located there.
• Click on Insert.

Macs do have shortcuts, so you don’t have to move your mouse around through various windows.
Here’s how to create the dashes on a Mac:

En: Option+hyphen
Em: Shift+option+hyphen

Gee, I almost feel as if I could pass for IT support sometimes. Lasts for about three seconds before my head starts to implode.

So — what’s my big fish story?

Well, I was working at another ad agency in town when I became engaged (to one of the agency IT guys — OK, you got me). Our co-workers threw us a shower, and one gal — the one we all fondly referred to as Martha Stewart because she was crazy-creative in all creative endeavors — gave us a pair of goldfish. She had already named them En Dash and Em Dash, in my honor as the agency editor-proofreader. Cool, funky gift, not to be forgotten.

En Dash and Em Dash

En Dash and Em Dash in better days

I took them home in their baggies and put them into a small bowl. The next morning, I thought it would be a good idea to give them some fresh water. Fresh water is good, right? Right, I thought. I went to work and came home. My roommate told me to look at the fish, because they were “hanging out” at the bottom of the bowl. Well, they couldn’t be dead, I thought, because dead means floating, right? Right.

I looked at the bowl. Those fish weren’t floating, that’s for sure. But they were sideways. At the bottom of the bowl. Not swimming. Just … sideways. Ugh. I had killed En Dash and Em Dash, in less than 24 hours.

Imagine my horror at finding out that you can’t just use tap water for fish. How the heck was I supposed to know that, the fish virgin that I was? I felt horrible. So burial was my responsibility for these two unlucky souls. I took them to my roommate’s bathroom and — whoosh — they were gone. Just couldn’t bring myself to flush them down my own toilet. Isn’t that nuts?

I never told our Martha Stewart friend. I couldn’t bare the embarrassment, frankly. Now, almost six years later, I’m hoping that, if and when she reads this entry, she can forgive me for being such a cad. SD, I’m sorry!

OK, that’s it for today. I’m going to go re-mourn the loss of the goldfish while listening to some em dash–free Arlo.

Happy trails!


December 11, 2008

The Americanization of language

Filed under: grammar — bloodywellwrite @ 10:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

So here I am, sittin’ on the Group W bench. I mean, I’m just sittin’ here, thinkin’ ’bout writin’ my next blog.

OK, so, I’m not sitting on or anywhere near a Group W bench. Thank the gods for that one, I guess. But I love Arlo Guthrie’s tunes so much, and they enter my mind at random times, and just now was one of those times. Perhaps because the subject of this blog revolves around language changing due to popular usage, and Arlo’s simple yet masterful storytelling style often changes the way I talk or think. So I’m offering that little snippet as homage to Arlo. Gotta love Arlo.

Now the thing is, this is only my second entry on Bloody Well Write and I have already received suggestions for topics, which I’m thinking is pretty cool. So I’m taking one of these suggestions to heart.

I overheard some co-workers lamenting the various spellings of certain words (theater vs. theatre, gray vs. grey, color vs. colour) and I told them — briefly — about Noah Webster’s “Dictionary of the English Language.” One guy said, “Hey, that’s what you should write about. It’s very Cliff Clavin, the sort of offbeat information that people love to hear.” Or, as the case may be, that they love to read. So here’s a little background on Mr. Webster and his effort at cleaning up the American language:

  • Noah Webster was born in Connecticut in 1758. At 16, he went to Yale College (during the American Revolutionary War) and earned his law degree. He practiced for a while and then set up a few schools, which succinctly tanked. He moved to New York City to edit a newspaper; he then started his own paper.
  • Webster wrote “A Grammatical Institute of the English Language,” which consisted of a speller, a grammar and a reader. His intention was to save “our native tongue” from “the clamor of pedantry” that marked English grammar and pronunciation. He also believed that the people must guide the language; the “general custom is the rule of speaking — and every deviation from this must be wrong.” His trifecta, of sorts, was the most popular American book of its time; by 1861, it was selling 1 million copies a year and earning him a royalty of less than a penny per copy — a decent return in those days.
  • Webster is known as “the father of copyright” due to his efforts that led to the federal copyright law of 1790.
  • In 1807, Webster began writing “An American Dictionary of the English Language.” He learned 26 languages, including Sanskrit, in order to substantiate his work. Wanting to standardize and simplify American speech since Americans spelled, pronounced and used words differently throughout the country, he often changed “c” to “s” (“defence” became “defense”) and “re” to “er” (“centre” became “center”); he changed double l’s to single l’s (“traveller” became “traveler”); and in later editions, he dropped the “u” in words such as colour or favour and the “k” in words such as “musick.” He also added distinctly American words, such as “hickory” and “chowder.”
  • Webster completed the dictionary in Paris, which was then published in 1828. It contained 70,000 words, 12,000 of which had never appeared in a published dictionary.
  • Webster died May 28, 1843.

So there’s a little history lesson on the simplification of the English language. Pretty interesting, I think. Who knows how “American” language will transform itself in the future? With all the texting that is going on these days, abbreviations such as DV8 (“deviate”), ENUF (“enough”), PEEPS (“people”) and PLS (“please”) just might make it into the popular lexicon.

And what goes around comes around, right? So since we started with Arlo, our favorite all-American singer who sings it like it is — no complications, just pure and simple words woven for the listening ear — we’ll end with Arlo: “Good morning, America. How are you? Don’t you know me? I’m your native son.”

Happy trails!


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