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Friday, December 23, 2011

May Your Days Be Merry And Bright

May your Holiday Season be full of light--in your heart, in your home, and in the eyes of all those you love.  Thank you for your kindness here at the Dept. in your constancy, your humor, and your never-surprising intelligence.

You are one of the Lights Of My Life. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Defender Of The Language Is Alerted To Internet Idiocy And Idiom Inconsistency: Bad Grammar Never Takes A Holiday

Once again, it's time for the Defender of The Language to answer a few questions from devoted fans and Readers.  Let's start it off from a fan of the Defender who signs herself Miss M. of Western Reserve,Ohio.  She writes:

Dear Defender, I'm sure you are not a fan, let alone a user of Facebook, but allow me to vent my spleen regarding a universal spelling error I see on that site every single day.  Whenever someone wants to express how cute or precious something is, they type "Awe" or, even worse, "Aweeeeee," which I read as Aw-eeeeee, in two syllables, the last one being the letter E drawn out like some huge scream. Can't we do something about this?  I mean, how hard is it?  Come on, people!  The word is "aww," and it's really not even a word.  It's more of a phoneme, really. This really, really gets me. Can you help? Please? And hurry.


Oh, my.  Miss M., this is indeed aggravating, and I share your irritation at this faux pas.  You are, obviously, correct that the word "awe," which means "wonderment" is sadly abused over and over again on social media sites and in text messages when its simple counterpart "aww" is intended. I suspect its misuse is widespread in traditional writing as well. The reason is not important, is it? It may never be known. We just want this dreadful egregiousness to stop (along with so very many other irksome things).  Your concern is noted, affirmed, and now further publicized.  I shall, along with Readers here, concentrate more energy into educating the masses regarding its foul existence and swift remedy.

Next we will hear from a Reader in New York.  Jake has not disclosed his city or town of residence, so let's pretend he's from Rensselaer!  He emails:

Hello from New York!  I know you often talk about sayings/idioms in your posts, so here's a question about that.  One that really puzzles me is "The proof is in the pudding." Lots of people say that, but I saw one reference that said the real saying is, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." Can't they both technically be correct? Isn't the first one pretty much implying that the proof of whether or not the pudding is any good is whether or not you can eat it? Do you get what I mean?  Thanks.  I think you're great.


Jake, thank you.  The truth is that the original idiom is "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." This very old English proverb's origins date back many centuries, back to when the meaning of the word "proof" was somewhat different than it is now. It may also refer to an entirely different kind of pudding!  During the medieval times, puddings were more like sausages--savories, not sweets. They contained blood, offal, and were stuffed into animal entrails to be steamed or boiled. It's been postulated that this proverb may refer to the safety of said pudding:  whether or not it was cooked long enough could only be determined or "proven"/tested by eating it.  If those who ate it did not become sick, then it was a good pudding.  This example helps to illustrate the earlier meaning of the word "proof," which was "test." Now if you go back to the idiom in its shortened form, it doesn't make much sense at all. Even the way you explained it, it still leaves a lot of mystery. Proof of what? What pudding? It's all very vague. Better to use the complete version and make a total analogy and sound more erudite in the bargain!

Finally, we have this Language Alert! from Defender Fan Alicia.  She did not tell us where she lives at all in her email.  I've assigned her the homebase of Benkelman, Nebraska.  She chortles:


Defender, I absolutely love, love, love what you do! And I have to show you this. I was searching the Internet for a recipe for an appetizer to take in to work, and I came across this review.  It is the absolute epitome of obliviousness when it comes to...well, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about.  Here it is, word for word. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  (But I laughed.  A whole lot.  SORRY!)

"As always, Alton makes something EXACTLY the way I wanted it to taste! It tastes like the best spinach and artichoke dip I've ever had and have tried desperately to find it again in restaurants, homes, or cookbooks....AND I'VE FINALLY GOT IT! Am making it in a bread bowl to serve chilled at a HUGE outdoor party tomorrow...I know its going to be a HIT! I made mine exactly as he states (except I used jarred artichoke hearts but I made mine slightly less fat by using reduced fat sour cream, reduced fat cream cheese, and half and half regular and reduced fat mayo....you dont taste ANY difference or lack of something. EXCELLENT! Thank you Alton!"

Someone needs to know what the word "exactly" means, right?  And are you still waiting for the other part of the parentheses? I know I am!  Have fun with this one.



Dear, dear, Alicia.  Really, you shouldn't have. I counted six basic mechanic/usage/grammar/punctuation errors alone, and that does not include the bothersome idea of cold spinach artichoke dip or the idea that she is substituting a cadre of low- or no-fat ingredients for this appetizer which is clearly supposed to be an indulgence.  I also did not count errors in logic in this tally.  I wish I could share your mirth; I honestly do, but this recipe review is a sterling example of what I must battle every single moment of every single day.  I cannot rest.  I cannot falter.  I must defend The Language, for its marauders never cease.

Thanks to Miss M., Jake, and Alicia for their questions and Language Alert.  For the Defender Fans and Readers, don't forget to submit your questions and/or Language Alerts to Nance here at the Dept. of Nance via email by using the clickable link in the sidebar.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

In Which I Do Not Grouse, Piper Almost Gets Doused, And The Tree Gets Soused (Seemingly, Anyway) And What Have You All Been Doing?

Not sure if you're aware, but it's December now and The Holidays are Imminent. 

I know, right?

This year, as you can imagine, I have Way More Time, and as a result, I am All Over It.  My tree went up last weekend, my shopping is 99% done and wrapped, and my Serenity Level is...well, goes without saying.  Way different than The Old, Working Nance. Do I still think that Christmas = Work? Yes, I do.  The difference is, this time I can make Christmas my only job.  What a luxury!

Anyway, couple of things:

~*~ While out shopping at a Retail Haven For The Upscale, I turned the corner in one store and almost ran directly into one of those Bigass Humvee Strollers. (You know the type--upholstered and uparmored and flagrantly expensive and ridiculous.)  I instinctively looked up at the Pusher to apologize.  She was about forty, dressed head to toe in winter white cashmere and a rabbit fur vest.  Her manicure cost more than my car.  She wasn't even looking my way, so instead I looked to the denizen of the stroller.  In it were two Schnorkies--Yorkie and Schnauzer mixes.  They stared at me with a bored, arrogant look, as if to say, "That's right, a stroller.  Got something to say?  I didn't think so. Now get the fuck out of our way before Mumsy calls security."  I wanted so badly to stick around and wait for the very no-nonsense lesbian couple who I had been chatting up earlier in housewares to discover this...tableau, but I had other shopping to do.  Besides, if I stood there much longer, open-mouthed and gaping, I was afraid I'd dry out.

~*~ Never in the history of the Dept. has the Christmas tree been without adventure of some kind or another.  Watering the tree is always an awkward job, what with the low-hanging branches, shifting the tree skirt, Cattens grooming my hair as I lie under the tree, and maneuvering the water pitcher, all as I keep a couple of fingers inside the stand to monitor the water level while I pour.  "Geeze," I commented to Piper the other day while I tipped the pitcher against the boughs, "this tree is taking a ton of water!"  As I emptied the pitcher entirely, suddenly Piper jumped backward.  A small pond was rapidly growing beneath the tree, sprouting one significant tributary headed toward the coffee table.  I had missed the interior of stand entirely--somehow--and was cheerfully and studiously pouring water down the stand and onto the carpet below.  Thankfully, Rick and I had just emptied a bottle of Old Vines Chardonnay 2006, which I rescued from the recycle bin*, and now I use it to water the tree far more accurately.

*It was a Christmas Miracle!

So, how are all of your Holiday Preparations coming along?
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