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All the English You Will Ever Need


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

May 22, 2019

limn:  (verb)  (pronounced:  lim, with a silent "n,", just like "limb," which has a silent "b") to depict or describe in painting or words.  Once you finish limning what you saw, you're free to go.


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Word of the Every So Often

despicable:  (adj.)  deserving of hatred or contempt; note that this word is especially effective if you spit a little when you same the ess… you know… like Daffy Duck.  You, sir, are despicable!


7:57 am pst 

7:55 am pst 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Word of the Every So Often

plausible:  (adj.)  that which is possible.  It is plausible that politicians really care about their constituents, which is really hard to say without laughing.

12:24 pm pst 

Quick Rule:  Starting a sentence with "Well"

Well, I think the well is working well.

In the above sentence, the middle “well” is a noun, and the end “well” is an adverb… but what is the first “well”?  Answer:  Nothing.  (Well, actually, it’s an interjection, but that’s just a technical word meaning:  nothing.)  It has no purpose whatsoever.  It is the written equivalent of “Ummmm….”  Sure, in informal writing, who cares?  In fact, it can sound more natural.  However, in formal writing it should not be there at all.  After all, the point is to make your point as clearly as possible with as few words as possible.


12:22 pm pst 

So how important is paraphrasing…

The old adage states, “That’s OK; it’s not carved in granite.  Unfortunately, this time it is.  The Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial in Washington, D.C., which sought to honor one of the greatest men in American history, immediately became mired in controversy all because of a paraphrase which was carved into the base of the monument.

On the statue, King is “quoted” as saying:  “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.”  Of course, that isn’t a quote at all; at best, it is a paraphrase.  At best, it would convey the original intention behind the original quote:  “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice.  Say that I was a drum major for peace.  I was a drum major for righteousness.  And all the other shallow things will not matter.”  (Morello)  But it is not at its best.  And it should be, if for no other reason than the solemn duty that every author owes anybody he or she paraphrases for any reason:  It is an unsworn oath of honest and accuracy.  You simply cannot change someone else’s words to fit whatever purpose you have, even if that purpose is to simply make it fit in the allotted space you have been given.

To many, there may not seem to be that much difference between the two.  However, there are differences, and they are not minor.  The first is the phrase “If you want....”  Notice that the subject of the original quote is the second person non-specific “you.”  You say… not I say.  Not I was.  “I” is the subject in the botched paraphrase.  And that is important.  It shows that being referred to as a “drum major” is something King did not want.  King did not want to be remembered as the “showboat who led the parade,” which, to him, was synonymous with being a drum major.  (Morello)  And that is clear in the last phrase:  “And all the other shallow things will not matter.”  Unfortunately, in the present quote, it seems to be only the shallow things that mattered to Dr. King.  And that’s just not right.

The memorial, which originally cost 120 million dollars, (Quote) will not be cheap to change, though there is no firm idea on just what that price will be.  It will require removing the stone surrounding the quote and replacing it with another slab.  Good luck in matching those pieces of stone, and hopefully that process can be done without the entire statue being destroyed. (Park Service)

So how important is it to get paraphrases right?  That’s probably a conversation that the Park Service is really tired of having.


Work Cited

Morello, Carol.  “Quote to be replaced on MLK memorial.”  12 Feb. 2012.  The Seattle Times, A14.

“Park Service to remove inscription on MLK Memorial.”  11 Feb. 2012.  CBS News.  http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57375390/park-service-to-remove-inscription-on-mlk-memorial/

 “Quote on MLK memorial to be changed after complaints.”  12 Jan. 2014.  Fox.  12 Feb. 2012.  http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/01/14/quote-on-mlk-memorial-to-be-changed-after-complaints/


12:21 pm pst 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Quick:  Who’s the twenty-ninth president of the United States?

Remember back when you were in school and the teacher would stand at the front of the room and ask questions just like that, ostensibly to catch those who hadn’t read their assignment?  But really, more than anything else, she was trying to eliminate those who had read the assignment.   She was trying to figure out which students she didn’t need to call on again.

As a student, if you were like me, the one thing you didn’t want was to be called on, ever.  And if you were called on, please dear Alesh, let her embarrass me quickly and not keep asking me all these stupid questions.   But she always kept right on asking.  Until I discovered the answer.

What I discovered was confidence.  Even if I answered correctly, but without confidence – you know, that questioning tone in my voice, hesitation, or even declaring that I wasn’t sure – it all meant the same thing to the teacher:  I didn’t know.  She wasn’t going to let me off the hook if she thought I had made a lucky guess.  It wasn’t good enough to be right; I had to be right with confidence.  And then I discovered the coolest thing of all:  I could be wrong with confidence, too.  The only thing that mattered was the confidence.  My secret:  I acted like I wanted to be called on, even volunteered, and then I answered with confidence.  No hesitation.  No stammering.  No questioning lilt to my voice.  And never – never ever ever – did I state that I might be wrong.  I knew I was right, by golly.  And if I weren’t… it sounded like I had just made a silly blunder.  I had read the assignment, but I just got confused.  It was time to move on to some other student.  Oh, it didn’t always work.  She might call on me again.  But without hesitation, I knew that answer, too.  Barney Rubble could’ve been the 29th President for all I cared.  But I cared with confidence. 

And from that lesson I discovered that the secret to almost everything in life is confidence.  You can walk into the zoo and ride out on an elephant if you have confidence.

Picture this:  You’re in a chorus line on stage in front of 2,000 people.  You don’t want to be there, but that’s the sort of thing that can happen when you go to National Conferences.  The one thing you don’t want above everything else is to look stupid.  Now who do you think is going to stand out more?  The guy who is kicking his leg as high as everybody else, or the one who doesn’t hardly kick at all because he’s embarrassed?  It was a trick question.  You don’t really need to answer it.  It’s all about confidence.

Try selling a used car without confidence.  Try not getting suckered in to buying a car you didn’t really want without confidence.  Try getting a job without confidence.

One of the keys to confidence is never putting yourself down.  Why should you?  There are always others who are willing to do it for you.  Let them.  Then you can use your time for better things, like finding elephant chow.

Don’t apologize for a meal nobody has tasted yet.  Telling me that the chicken won’t be very good is a sure way to pique my appetite.  (That was sarcasm.)  When I taught speech, if I had a student declare that a speech wasn’t going to be very good, I deducted points before she ever began.  Heck, you tell me something is going to suck, then I’m going to believe you.  If you tell me a paper is not going to be very good, or that you may have made some mistakes, or you’re not sure if you did it right – hey!  You just made my grading easier.  Now I know what I’m looking for.  And I already know that when I find it, it will be bad.  And here’s the thing.  It may not have been bad at all.  It may have been one of those marginal things, something that, depending on how one sees it, could either be good or bad.  I’m likely to lean whichever way you’ve already pushed me.  If you say it’s bad, it’s bad.

Picture this:  You’re walking down a hallway and somebody yells, “Hey, stupid!”  Whatever you do, don’t turn around.  Just keep right on walking, because it couldn’t possibly be you.  If, on the other hand, somebody yells, “Hey, good looking!”  Then turn around.  Assume it is you.  And if it’s not… it was an honest mistake.

But… but… but… wouldn’t that be… dishonest?  I mean, what if I really know that my paper sucks.  I cut corners, I plagiarized the entire third page, and I mispelled misspelled.  Should I lie?  Well, I suppose that’s up to you.  But why is there a moral dilemma here at all?  Why do you need to say anything?  Being honest doesn’t mean that you have to say everything that pops into your brain.  Remember when your mother told you that if you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all?  A smart lady was your mother.  She wasn’t just talking about what you might say to others. 

Is there such a thing as over-confidence?  Hell no.  Ok… maybe.  You may want to give it some serious thought if its anything that has a lot to do with gravity.  You might want to tone your confidence down if it involves a tight wire, 200 feet of freefall, and no net.  Being confident that you can dodge bullets, swallow swords, or leap from one moving car to another while finishing your fourteenth adult beverage of the evening may not only be one of the worst ideas you’ve ever had, it may be your last.  And therein lies the difference.  You can still have really bad ideas, with or without confidence.  You can still think up things you really shouldn’t do.  Things that are incompatible with life.  However, if you’re going to do them anyway, why not do them with confidence?  With a little flair?  If you’re going to ride a surfboard over Niagara Falls anyway, you might is well be hanging ten with your chest out and a smile on your face when you do.  Go ahead and flash that thumbs up.  It’ll make a great picture for the wake.

By the way:  It’s William G. Harding.  Now, quickly:  What’s the “G” stand for?
4:07 pm pst 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Quick Rule:  Hyphens and Dashes

A hyphen, which works the exact same way as a parenthetical statement (and isn’t parenthetical a great word?) is two dashes.  One dash is just… well… a dash.  Dashes are only used to connect two words, such as “in-between” and “self-awareness.”  If you use one dash as a hyphen it can really get confusing.

11:18 am pst 

Word of the Every So Often

nebulous:  (adj.)  vague; foggy; clouded over.  The politician’s nebulous answer seemed plausible until we realized that she had really said nothing at all.

11:17 am pst 

Those Deep Thoughts Keep Coming:

Confidence is everything.  If you have confidence, you can walk into the zoo and ride out on a elephant.

11:16 am pst 

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