Friday, February 26, 2010

Giving Nothing Away

I'll take two and double my savings.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Too Big for Our Breeches

As you may have heard by now, the Winter Olympics are on now here in Vancouver. As you may not have heard (it didn't get a lot of media play), some deranged meatball tried to get at U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden during the opening ceremonies, but was foiled by some crafty Mounties who questioned his (the meatball's, that is, not the Vice-President's) cereal box cut-out credentials. According to an online CTV report entitled Man Infatuated with U.S. VP Breaches 2010 Security:
The RCMP says it has not made any changes to its security protocols because of the breech.
My favorite online dictionary gives the first definition of breech as: "The lower rear portion of the human trunk; the buttocks." Hence, a breech birth. So, while the interloper in this story was clearly an ass (who the hell has an infatuation with a Vice-President?), the word to be used here, as it was in the headline, is breach.

Speaking of the Olympics and the opening ceremonies, we took the kiddies downtown last week to spend a day exposing ourselves to Olympic fever and its attendant symptoms (over-exuberant patriotism and over-priced souvenirs). On our stroll down Granville Street, I spied through a window this sign, with its criminal breach of standard spelling protocol, lying on a desk in a cluttered office beside the box office to the Vogue Theatre, which is offering big-screen coverage of major events.

And finally, speaking of the Olympics and Vancouver, allow me to recommend this amusing divertissement  that appeared in The Province last week. It's wry, witty, and wise, and well worth the time to read and pass along. And I'm not just saying that because I wrote it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

I'll Wait for the iFamilyMiniVan

I remember reading somewhere awhile back that what the ailing U.S. auto industry needs is some of the playful and seductive design ingenuity behind Apple's best products. Well, behold: we give you the iMo.

Alas, the iMo is only (for now, at least) a work of fiction. It's one the concept cars featured in this Huffington Post slideshow. The description, as composed by the iMo's designer, says:

iMo is a robotic car based on the Apple philosophy which consists of applying a process of elimination to come up with simple and elegant design solutions, by means of cutting-edge technology.

First of all, we have the problem of  which  being used with a restrictive clause--a gaffe I covered in obsessive drunken detail recently. But the thing is, with this example, we need not fuss about with whichs and thats at all. Why not just: "the Apple philosophy of applying a process of elimination..."? That, I think, would be in the Apple spirit of simple and elegant solutions.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Home is Where the Heart Attack Is

I was having breakfast at A&W this morning with my little guy, Sam (if you can call sharing a greasy Bacon N' Egger with a drooly 15-month-old having breakfast), and between bites I stole a look at today's edition of the Metro, the freebie commuter paper. Their book review page (if you can call three artlessly composed, error-ridden single-paragraph summaries book reviews) bears the headline "Rice hones in on religion"--a reference to Anne Rice's debut novel of her new series, in which she has evidently traded vampires for angels.

But of course, Anne Rice isn't honing in on religion. To hone is to sharpen, either literally (as with knives) or metaphorically (as with wit or skills). To focus attention is to home in on, and that is clearly the trite phrasing the author was going for here.

Some dictionaries have now starting including "to focus" as a second definition for hone, but that only means that so many careless writers have made the mistake that descriptivist lexicographers feel obliged to record it. Any writers worth their salt (900 mg of which can be ingested in a single Bacon N' Egger) who have honed their skills will continue to home in on the difference.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Capital Offense

This is something we're seeing more frequently--particularly in internet forums and message board posts: the feckless use of the "Shift" key. Usually, it  seems, the author is taken with the idea that Capitalizing a Word gives it Emphasis. In the case of the headline in this mailer, it's more a matter of random capitalization (why the shout-out for Year but not helping or children?).

Sure, you can argue that conventions around capitalization, like fashion conventions, are essentially arbitrary, and that Shakespeare himself played with spellings and capitalization with freewheeling abandon. I would argue that if you want to follow language conventions from the 1600's, you should be required to wear an Elizabethan ruffled collar.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Naked Truth About Super Bowl Ads

The Fifteen Most Brilliant Super Bowl Ads is a feature today on The Daily Beast--and who can resist skimming a few moments off one's life to watch these clever and captivating pitches?

The caption blurb for #13, a Sierra Mist commercial, has this to say:

This ad stands out thanks to recognizable D-list comedians and the common problem of dealing with irreverent airport security personnel. We've all been there. The product is important to the ad, but the entertainment burden is bared by the story and the characters.
We all know what it means to bear a burden; turn that around and you have a burden being borne. But a burden bared? Sounds like this sentence had a wardrobe malfunction.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Drink Up, Kids, or You Won't Amount to Anything

According to a notice from my daughter's school, "February is Healthy Kids Month!" The rest of the year, the tykes are free to be morbidly obese, disease-ridden alcoholic chain-smokers, but for the next 28 days...well, shape up, kiddies.

In keeping with the spirit of the occasion, every child in the school will be receiving a monogrammed stainless steel water bottle (or "Stainless Steel Water Bottle," as the caps-happy author of the message would have it) as a means of encouraging the regular consumption of fluids. In my day, schools were outfitted with hallway water fountains, which gave you an excuse to leave the class by saying you were thirsty, and afforded you the opportunity to, with the deft application of a thumb, spray passing girls with a jet of H2O. Education just ain't what it used to be.

In any case, we parents are advised that:

There will be a small amount of water bottles set aside, in case you would like to purchase an extra one.

 The problem here is with the word amount. Any time you're dealing with discrete individual units, the word to use is number. Amount is for those nouns that can't be counted. As in: "With the amount of water these kids will be drinking, we can expect to see an increase in the number of bathroom visits."