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All the English You Will Ever Need

 

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The English language is constantly evolving, both the words we use and the rules that control the usage of those words.  Therefore, it is impossible to ever have a definitive grammar guide, or, if you will, a Complete Guide of American English.  And that’s our excuse.

 

 

Word of the Every So Often

December 14, 2018 

albedo:  (noun)  the light reflected off a surface, usually that of a planet or moon, measured on a scale of zero to one, zero being completely non-reflective (such as black), and one being completely reflective (such as a mirror).  Sir, we're going to have to ask you to put on your hat.  The albedo off of your head is disturbing the other fans.

 

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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Not Responsible

It's hard to find a parking lot where the business hasn't posted a sign announcing they are not responsible, be it for theft, vandalism, or general mayhem.  Well, good for them!  I think I'll do that, too.  I can put a bumper sticker on my car saying I'm not responsible for anything that might happen while driving and texting to my friends about how drunk I am, or anything else for that matter.  I could put a sign on my house saying I'm not responsible for any accidents or violent attacks by pets or in-laws.  Or I can just put a sign on my back – or even better!  a tattoo! – that says I'm not responsible for anything.  Ever.  "Yes, your honour, I did run those nuns off the road, which set the orphanage on fire, all while running from the police after robbing the Git N Gone, but see the tattoo?"

Here's the thing, folks.  Just because you say you're not responsible doesn't mean you're not.  If anything, it means you know a problem exists, which should make you even more responsible.  You know that a customer's car is probably going to be broken into before she even gets to the door, but instead of improving your security you stick up a lousy sign.  I'm sure that brings comfort to your customers.  "Yeah, my car's been stolen, but at least the store's not responsible.  Boy, I wouldn't want that.  I would hate that they'd have to do anything more to ensure my safety while shopping here than to put up a lousy sign."

And while we're at it, putting up a sign saying that you "reserve the right to refuse service to anyone" doesn't mean you have that right.  "Nope.  We don't serve Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, Non-Native Americans, Episcopalians, Libertarians, Jews, Jehovah Witnesses, anybody with an accent, Southern Europeans, Northern Europeans, or anybody named 'Jim.'  And I have that right.  I got a sign that says so.  And if you make a fuss, I'll shoot you.  I won't be responsible for that, either."

8:52 am pst 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Unnatural Flavours

If a product says it contains natural flavours... what does that mean?  If my soda, say, has cherry flavour in it, all that really means is that "cherry" is a "flavour" that is found naturally... well... in nature.  We'll worry about redundancies later.  Therefore, anything that hasn't been produced by humans can be considered to have a "natural" flavour.  It tastes that way with no help from us, aside, perhaps, from the occasional manipulation of DNA by intrepid scientists.  Along those lines, chromium would not be a natural flavour.  Crude oil, on the other hand, would be a natural flavour, but gasoline would not.  Water would be a natural flavour (and, yes, water has a flavour), but Coca-Cola (to use a random example) would be an unnatural flavour.

But here's the thing:  Just because a product says it contains "natural flavours," even if the product itself is inherently unnatural, doesn't mean that any of those natural flavours are actually in it... at least, not the real thing.  For instance, if one of those intrepid scientists can make crude oil taste like cherries, then the Coca-Cola Company (still using a random example) could put that sludge in a Coke, call that mixture a Cherry Coke, and claim it was made with "natural flavours."  And they wouldn't be lying, especially if they had their fingers crossed behind their backs, which is a legal defense in several states, and, especially, the District of Columbia.

But, hey!  Don't take my word for it.  Buy a Cherry Coke (once again to use a random example) and read the ingredients.  Nowhere at all does it ever say that an actual cherry came anywhere close to that bottle, unless you happened to walk through the produce department on your way to the checkout.  So drink up and enjoy that bottle of water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel colour, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and, of course, all those natural flavours.  And while you're doing so, try and figure out just, exactly, what colour "caramel" is.

 

2:13 pm pdt 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Connote and Denote

To connote is to imply a meaning or a condition.  To denote is to define it exactly.  For instance, the inscription on the cave connotes that there may be a ferocious beast inside.  The name badge on the dragon denotes that she is, indeed, that ferocious beast.

 

12:45 pm pdt 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

To quote what the Buddha very well may have said, "Perfection is a fool's errand."
8:42 am pdt 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

"[God] is not an insurance agent."  H.G. Wells, from War of the Worlds
8:23 am pdt 

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