Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Perambulate."

Back to regular posting schedule (again)!

Today's word is "perambulate."  It is a verb meaning to stroll or to walk through or around, from Latin "per" (through, along, during) and "ambulō" (walk, traverse). The noun form, perambulation, can also refer in English law to walking around an area to determine its legal boundaries.

Because it was warm and sunny outside, we decided to perambulate in the park rather than be sedentary at home. 

She has figured out the spelling w-a-l-k.  
She would figure out the meaning of "perambulate" quickly enough.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Only YOU Can Prevent Grammar Meltdowns.

I don't go around continuously correcting people's grammar, but I do sometimes feel feverish when I see the same mistakes over and over again. I make no claim to perfection myself.  However, A) I get frustrated when people try to act like they have a superior intellect and use language they think makes them "sound smart" but isn't actually correct, and B) there are certain mistakes that I do not understand coming from students who have been required to attain at least a high school-level education and have had English classes from Kindergarten on. What I really don't understand is how students turn in school work or make speeches with these errors that could be easily eliminated by a quick review by peer tutors, friends/family, and even sometimes teachers themselves.

"By the donzerly light," is cute only when you're this age.

So without further ago, I give you my top five English language pet peeves:

#1  The Dr. Whom Complex: trying to sound more educated than others by using "whom" when "who" is actually correct.

If I wanted to sound condescending above, I could have said "I do not understand certain mistakes from students whom have been required to attain a high school-level education."

Sound fancy? Yes. Correct? No.  People often get confused when the word "who" comes after a preposition like from, by, with, for, etc. but isn't the object of that preposition. "Whom" is always an object, and "who" is always a subject. To test, remember that you can often rephrase a sentence as a question and substitute me, her/him, us, or them for whom and I, she/he, we, or they for who.

*Correct*: That is the girl from whom I borrowed some sugar.  (Whom did I borrow sugar from?  I borrowed sugar from her.)
*Incorrect*: I borrowed sugar from that girl whom has just moved in next door.  (Who just moved in next door?  She just moved in next door.)

Similarly, people sometimes use "I" instead of "me" when wanting to sound intelligent.  "Me" is an object, not a subject.

"The graduation party is just for the valedictorian and I."  Nope.

*Correct*: She is the same age as Julie and I.  ('Finish' the sentence: She is the same age as Julie and I are.)
*Incorrect*: She graduated with Julie and I. (Take out Julie to see if the sentence still makes sense.   She graduated with I?  No, she graduated with me.)

#2  Captain Carrot Syndrome: Overusing or underutilizing the comma.

As a general rule, use commas if you are making lists, in if-then clauses, or if you could take out conjunctions (and, but, etc.) and still form complete sentences.

Comma Needed: Commas are useful, but they should only be used when necessary.  (You can take out "but" and divide this into full sentences.  Commas are useful.  They should only be used when necessary.)

Comma Not Needed: Commas are useful but should only be used when necessary.  (You cannot take out "but" and divide this into full sentences.  Commas are useful.  Should only be used when necessary.  The second isn't a full sentence.)

Comma Needed: If you are a human being, you are a Homo sapien.  (If-then.)

Comma Not Needed: I am a human being and therefore a Homo sapien. (You cannot take out "and" and divide this into two sentences.)

#3  These are Not the Words You're Looking For: Using the words "irregardless," "kinda/sorta," and "like" in formal writing/speech.

Irregardless might be in the dictionary one day due to its widespread use... 

... but for now it is still a made up word that people use in place of "regardless," its real-word counterpart.  It is often another case of Dr. Whom Complex; people think "irregardless" is an intelligent-sounding word, so they don't bother finding out that it isn't a word at all.  

Kinda and sorta are fine to say or write informally, but they do not belong in formal papers or speeches.  If you must, write or say "kind of" or "sort of," but those are still wishy-washy terms that most teachers prefer you avoid.  Do remember, though, that "kind of" can be legitimately used to mean "type of."  

"Like" doesn't need much explanation. As with "kind of," remember that it has actual uses, such as in comparisons or explanations.  That whistling sounded like it came from a bird is a fine sentence.  The problem comes when you insert it into sentences that don't need it to make sense.  It's as if the whole world is like completely oblivious to the fact that people use the word "like" too much.

#4  Vowels, Vowels, Everywhere: the misspellings "independant," "definately," and "genious." 

I don't know why these particular misspellings bother me more than others, but they do.  Independent has only e's as vowels, definitely has two i's and two e's, and genius has no o's.  Perhaps it bothers me because they always have the red squiggly Spell Check line under them, so why not use Spell Check? 

(Image from
Those words must be underlined in red because they're just that awesome.

#5   Going Homophone Happy: "You're" and "your" being mixed up (also "they're," "their," and "there").  

These are probably some of the most common mistakes made, but they're like nails on a chalkboard to me.  You're = contraction of you + are.  You're riding a bike.   If you're ready, we will go to the movies now. Your = possessive adjective.  That is your bike.  Your friends would like to go the movies.  

They're = contraction of they + are. They're going with you to the movies.  Their = possessive adjective.  Those are their bikes. There can be a noun or an adjective but is most often used as an adverb meaning "to/in that place."  The movie theater?  We went there after dinner.

...You're going to roll your eyes at me for being a dork, now, aren't you?


It is true that language evolves.  Just one look at Chaucer's Canterbury Tales will confirm that.  It is also true that some grammar rules can (and should) be broken in certain cases; we wouldn't have poetry otherwise.  I break a few traditional rules fairly often.   I have no guilt using "And" or "But" to begin sentences when not writing a formal paper and sometimes will use one word as a "sentence" for emphasis.  But I suspect it will take a long, long time for language to evolve so much that the above rules become obsolete, and I doubt that your teacher will accept the argument, "We could be spelling independant with an 'a' in the next few hundred years or so!" when you turn in your paper.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

There is a Brain in the Body That You Need to Accept.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite.  I do think that all women should love their bodies.

But there are times when I really don't love my body.

Oddly, I can look at other women and see beauty in all of them, but when I look at myself in the mirror, the body acceptance that I try to espouse can often go flying right out the window.  I nitpick and self-criticize.  I find flaws.  

Most women are empathetic, until they find out that I often wear a size 2.  Then I'm no longer "allowed" to dislike my body and am just "whining." 

My family members sometimes do this.  Even Mr. Nerd occasionally does this.  It is an accepted practice in western culture- I can't speak for all- to say, "Oh, stop it! You're tiny!" as if being a certain size ought to make one happy for life.  Yes, we need to encourage women not to continuously find fault with themselves, but in trying to create a level playing ground for bodies of all shapes and sizes, is it fair to dismiss the body hangups of the size 00 and not those of a size 44?  I've always felt like my stomach is too large and my butt too flat; I wanted a breast reduction for years (before discovering properly fitting bras); I sometimes think my natural hair color doesn't only look mousy but is quite literally the color of a mouse.  

Mice are sort of cute, though.

I have a theory.*  My theory is that "body acceptance" should mean accepting all bodies and the feelings that come with those bodies.  We should accept the model's feeling that her legs are too skinny as just as valid as the hairdresser's feeling that her thighs are too big.  Then, and only then, can we present the idea that no, your legs are not too skinny, and your thighs are not too big, and you look amazing.

Who is going to listen to us say "All women are beautiful," if we don't first acknowledge that the feelings of inadequacy instilled by a looks-obsessed culture are real and detrimental emotions for all women?

So the next time you think about saying that a woman with larger hips is a "real" woman, remember that there are women with slender hips who might hear that and start disliking their bodies for not being "real."  When you feel like saying something like "Where are the curves?" when seeing a slender woman, remember that that woman might have hangups about her body that this might bring to the surface (and that curvy is a SHAPE not a SIZE!).  If you're about to say, "Now this is what a woman should look like," when seeing a certain woman, think of all the girls who might be trying to look like that woman but failing because they haven't got the same bone structure or musculature.  Remember that all women, regardless of shape or size, have feelings.**

We are all real women, we are all beautiful, and we need to act like it.

*Perhaps not scientific, as I don't know if it can be tested.
**OK, so not sociopaths, but you know what I mean.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Pulicide."

Hi all!  The word for today is "pulicide," a noun meaning "flea-killer" or "agent for killing fleas."

Thankfully the only time I've had to act as pulicide in lieu of the K9 Advantix that we usually use was the time we took our dog to the dog park; I had to pull quite a few off with tissues.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

15 Crazy Facts About Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail has to be one of my favorite movies.  I can almost say all the words with the volume muted (though I get tangled up with the Knights Who Say "Ekke-Ekke-Ekke-Ptangya-Ziiinnggggggg-Ni.).  It is 100% absurd from start to finish, and as you can tell by my blog title, I love absurdity.  So for any Holy Grail fans out there- and people who might watch the film- here is a list of 15 facts about the movie that you might not have known.

1.  The opening credits with the "Swedish" subtitles were actually made because the film had no budget left.  When it first opened in Cannes, the audience enjoyed the credits so much that they thought firemen coming in to escort them out of the theater after the credits ended was a part of the show.  It was a real bomb scare.  Thankfully, it was a false alarm, and everyone got to finish watching the movie.

I was sacked before I could do my cameo.

2.  It was very unusual for Monty Python to use women for female roles.  However, women played all female roles in MP&THG except one, Dennis's mother.

3.  Patsy's only line in the entire film is, "It's only a model."

4.  This person has spent way too much time figuring out the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.  Because of the movie, this question has become an extraordinarily popular for online search terms.

5.  There are various instances of black cats being abused in the film, probably as a nod to the superstition of black cats being bad luck.  Some say there are nine such instances in the movie, corresponding to the so-called nine lives of cats.  I haven't taken the time to count, because it's something I usually ignore (Note: I dislike animal abuse.  I don't think the film glorifies or promotes it in any way, though, and the "cats" are very obviously puppets).

6.  The "Scene 24" to which the narrator refers is actually Scene 13.

7.  Just in case you didn't figure it out from context: Fetchez la vache! = Get the cow!,  Ah, un cadeau! = Ah, a gift!, C’est un lapin. Lapin de bois. = It’s a rabbit, a rabbit of wood., On y va = Let’s go.

8.  The owner of the actual white rabbit used in the "killer rabbit" scene was not very pleased to find out that the red dye used as blood could not be washed out.  The cast spent quite a long time trying to scrub the rabbit clean before giving up.

"Oh, it's just a harmless little bunny, isn't it?"

9.  When King Arthur cuts the first leg off the Black Knight, a local silversmith with only one leg agreed to play the part.

10.  If you pay close attention, you will notice that Sir Lancelot actually breaks his sword while running to rescue a damsel in distress (who is actually Herbert).  Also, Herbert's potential wife goes from having blood on her face to having none on her face in a matter of moments after Lancelot slays many wedding guests.

11.  "It" has already been said by the time the The Knights Who Say Ni claim that the word is offensive to them.  In fact, they actually say "it" themselves ("It is a good shrubbery."/"You must place it here beside this shrubbery.").

12.  One scene scripted but not filmed had King Arthur and his knights finding the Holy Grail at Harrod's department store (because Harrod's has everything).

13.  Sir Not Appearing in This Film is actor Michael Palin's son.  The hand that turns the pages before the gorilla hand snatches it away is that of Terry Gilliam's wife (Gilliam himself wore the gorilla hand).

14.  "God" is actually a picture of 19th century English cricketer W. G. Grace.

Yes, this guy.

15.  Some people consider the ending a cop-out, because they did not film the British attacking the French castle at the end solely due to a depleted budget and time constraints. 

I hope everyone enjoyed these; if you want to see more, check out the resources below!


Thursday, March 7, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Inculpable."

Today's word  is "inculpable," an adjective meaning blameless, innocent or exemplary.

Even though she had chocolate all over her mouth, she claimed to be inculpable when asked if she had eaten the chocolate eggs for the Easter Bunny.

Completely inculpable.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Doctor Says What? How an "M.D." After One's Name Doesn't Necessarily Mean "Infallible."

My Thesaurus Thursday this week was a sort of sneak preview to my post today.  Like so many others, when I get sick or start to feel like something isn't quite "right" with my body, I tend to look online before heading to the doctor's office.  Unlike many people who do this though, I generally look up symptoms so that I can have a list of questions to ask my GP "in case of an emergency situation."  I generally don't panic and think I have some rare disease each time I get a cold with a few symptoms I don't usually experience.  I like to think that I'm savvy enough to know when the advice and information given online is factual and when it's complete nonsense, but nowadays it's very hard to tell.

... Words don't even describe how upset this article makes me. 
It doesn't even deserve a picture.

Most people with a throbbing headache on one side of their forehead have migraines, but type in the symptom, and you'll get millions of people asking "Do I have a brain tumor?" or "Am I having an aneurysm?"  I've found that doctors who answer questions online are not really helping the, for lack of a better description, hypochondriac culture that prevails on the internet.  And when something serious could be going on, but it's not within their expertise, they usually say, "This is generally not an issue," or go on to explain something that they do know, often insensitively and without regard for the feelings of the questioner.  

"Yeah, sure it'll hurt.  Not as much as getting the baby out, though, so tough noogies."

An example I found: one poor woman was told by her doctor that she had an STI when they tested her for a certain type of bacteria.  Her rambling question conjured up pictures of a young woman nearly in tears and on the verge of a breakdown because she was so certain both she and her husband had been faithful and had never been with anyone else before they met, and could she have gotten this any other way? The online doctor responded by saying that STI's are only spread through sexual activities, so either she or her husband must have contracted it, trying to "soften the blow" by saying "perhaps before the marriage."  After doing some research myself (and talking to a couple of my own doctors about it to make sure that I was on the right track), it became apparent that this type of bacteria is often spread through sexual activities but is not even a "true" STI, as it can also be passed by innocent skin-to-skin contact with a carrier or inhalation of the bacteria, such as when a carrier sneezes.  It can also pass through the placenta during prenatal development, so you can be born with it.  

So this "doctor" has now needlessly put it into this woman's head that she or her husband has either cheated or lied.  He ought to have done the research himself- she told him the bacteria- and reassured her that no, it could happen to anyone and is easily treatable.  "First do no harm" seems to go out the window when doctors start answering questions online.  I have seen doctors say that clearly life-disrupting symptoms are all in a patient's head (ever hear of tact?), that 1300 calories a day is a normal intake for a healthy woman, that you can't have PCOS unless you carry excess weight around your midsection, and make various other ridiculous claims, and they all have the letters "M.D." "Ph.D.", "RN" etc. after their names.  

So please, doctors on the internet, if you are going to be no more helpful than the people who answer questions on Yahoo! Answers who go around telling poor unsuspecting people that getting a common UTI is a sure sign that your partner is cheating on you, please get off the internet.  There are plenty of reputable doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and other health professionals out there who would be ashamed.