Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Defender Of The Language Returns And Threatens To Strap On Her Six-Gun--No More Ms. Nice Defender!

In a slight departure from our usual feature here at the Dept., the Defender of The Language has decided to use this space to air her own personal grievances regarding some linguistic faux pas she has encountered in the world of print media.  She will not, therefore, be answering Reader Mail in this installment.

Thank you, Nance.  Unfortunately, it would seem that the world at large and print journalism in particular either suffer from a sort of language laziness, or worse, a basic ignorance of English.  I have recently noticed no less than three abuses of homophonic words in professional print sources. 

They are:

1.  faze/phase:  "Faze" means to disturb or embarrass, usually a person.  For example, you might say, "The stuck teleprompter didn't even faze him; he continued his speech without a problem."  "Phase" indicates a stage or an aspect of something, as in "All children go through a finicky phase as toddlers."  It is astonishing to me that so many native speakers are not even aware that "faze" exists as a correct word.  (Yes, I am continually fazed by that fact.)

2.  pour/pore:  How I cringe at this error!  Truly, it is horrid.  When you "pour," you send a liquid flowing out of a vessel.  Metaphorically, you could even send a stream of words flowing forth.  When you "pore," however, you scrutinize or study something.  "Pore" used as a verb is generally accompanied by the modifier "over," as in "She pored over her notes before the exam."  (If she poured over her notes, she'd ruin them and fail the test.)

3.  palette/palate/pallet:  I have seen this error on menus in restaurants which pride themselves on being upscale.  Needless to say, they no longer enjoy my patronage (although I do find myself patronizing them).  An artist uses a "palette" upon which to hold and mix his/her colors.  This word can also refer to a range of colors, sometimes within a particular family of hues, such as a warm palette or a wintry palette.  A "palate," however, is one's sense of taste, aesthetics, or more concretely, the roof of the mouth.  One might say, "Burgers and beer are too ordinary for Fawn's refined palate."  Finally, a "pallet" is either a low wooden platform used in warehouses or a small, makeshift bed, usually of blankets and no mattress.  (It would be ridiculous to try to sleep upon a palette or palate, and with a bit of concentration and attention to basic spelling, one would never have to worry about such an arrangement.)

Simply put, all of these errors never should have happened.  Someone should have caught them before they appeared on materials disseminated to the public.  Perhaps the time of Grammatical Civility is over and the era of Grammar Vigilantism is at hand.  If that is what is necessary, so be it.  I hope I can rely on each of you to join in the struggle.

Thank you, Defender of The Language!  I know you can count on all DoN Readers.  For the Defender Fans, 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, July 19, 2012

Stupid Is And Stupid Does: Time Once Again For A Smackdown At The Dept. Of Nance!

What with my wine cellar and my Retirement, I find that I have strayed from one of my Original Missions here at the Dept., that being to Smack Down Some Stupid from time to time.  Let me assure you that This Time Has Come, and while I'm not nearly as viciously ready as I have been in the past (even though it is an Election Year), there is plenty of Abject Idiocy clamouring to be clobbered.  Here we go:

1.  Starting Small:  Yesterday was our wedding anniversary (#31) and Rick and I went to a wine bar for appetizers and drinks.  They have a nice atmosphere and some delicious lamb sliders.  Anyway, since I never eat sweets there, I never saw this on the menu, till last night:
Poor Mickey!
I don't want to give up on this place, but you know my policy.  Plus, how do you spell words like "caramel" and "chevre" and "arugula" correctly, but not "mousse?"  Especially when it's another thing entirely, like a small, furry animal? Someone should at least be smacking himself...on the forehead.

2.  Giving The Rest Of Us A Bad Name:  It's bad enough that the word "blogger" is ugly to say, hear, and even look at.  It sounds like swampy old oatmeal or something. And thanks to the stereotype of ruthless and/or jobless Internet addicts who sit hunched over a screen in a basement while launching scurrilous rumours worthy of Faux News personalities intent on damning the Democrats or finding evidence of Jesus/Ronald Reagan in an order of Clams Casino, we all get the bad rap.  Case in point:  NEO's own Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Connie Schultz was contacted via email by a conservative blogger who was "doing an expose on journalists in the elite media who socialize with elected officials they are assigned to cover" and wanted her comment regarding how she seemed to be cozying up to Ohio's Senator Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election. 

(Brief digression here:  Look, given the chance, I would cozy up to Sen. Brown in a heartbeat. I adore Sherrod Brown.  Back many years ago, my sister Patti and I considered a campaign wherein we would offer to sleep with Sherrod Brown in order to convince him to run for Governor.  I am not kidding.  Then, Patti told me...well, wait a minute...)

Ms. Schultz emailed back, and I quote: "I am surprised you did not find a photo of me kissing U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown so hard he passes out from lack of oxygen. He's really cute.  He's also my husband.  You know that, right?"

(...and that's why Patti and I ended our campaign.  As an avid reader and admirer of Connie Schultz, we could not, in good conscience, pursue our strategy. I still love Sherrod Brown.  When ads for his opponent come on and urge me to call Sen. Brown's office to bitch about something he purportedly did, I instead call and say wonderful things. I really do.  EVERY TIME.  And I tell them why.)

Back to The Stupid.  The only scandal here, Conservative Blogger, is that you are too damn dumb to USE THE GOOGLE.  Now put down that Starbucks, wipe those Cheeto crumbs off your face, and let me smack ya.  ;)

3.  Le Bullshit.  Holy crap, could you not be any more nauseated by the sophomoric petulance of...oh, pretty much everyone when they saw that Our Sacred American Olympians would be wearing OhMyGOD a BERET!?  I mean, what on earth was Ralph Lauren thinking?  That is a French Hat!  A Goddamned chapeau!  This is AMERICA last time I checked!  We wear HATS.  NO ONE IN THIS WHOLE EFFING COUNTRY WEARS SOME FRENCH-FRIED WUSS HAT LIKE

US Army Special Forces


2002 US Team Uniforms
Oh, yeah.  Canada.  Well, at least they're in North America. 

Point is, What a bigass lot of grandstanding over something that, in the final analysis, means little.  (How about the fact that ONE beret costs 55 bucks and ONE men's blazer $795?)  If the American People want to get jazzed about something Of Vast Importance, certainly there are a myriad of things far more worthy of their distress.  I know I can think of about, oh, eleventy hundred of them, not the least of which is the fact that the republicans keep bitching about Jobs Jobs Jobs, yet they keep trying to legislatively crawl up my vagina and into my uterus as if they are going to somehow find them there.  Take it from me, Speaker Boehner and Candidate Mittens, many people, including my husband and several Medical Professionals have been there both officially and recreationally, (not in that order), and THERE ARE NO JOBS THERE.

Glad I could clear that up for you.  Consider yourselves both enlightened and smacked.

My!  That was invigorating!  Why oh why did I wait so long?  What do you think?  Or who has been languishing on your list?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm Back--Again--And I Might Shave My Head (But Not In Honor Of The Pseudo-Druids)

 It's like all I do is pack, unpack, and repack my suitcase. 

Rick and I have just returned from an extended holiday at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Wonderful Canada.  We thought we'd be escaping from the searing heatwave here in NEO, but The Canadians, who are everso polite at all times, kindly provided identical climatalogical conditions there so that we would not miss it.


But why should I bitch?  Our car has airconditioning and so did all of the wineries.  Suffering was minimal.

(Allow me for a moment, however, to digress here and Be A Stereotypical Woman and say this:  My hair looked like crap and gave me fits the entire six days of this vacation as well as the preceding one in Virginia.  So much so that, in Virginia, I called my stylist from the resort in order to book an appointment for the day I returned, and my hair still looked like hell during my Canadian vacation.  Honestly, I've just had it.  I've switched shampoos four times, styling gel three times, tried something called a "root volumizer", and used a round brush while I blow dry.  I've spent more time with my hair in the past month than I did with my kids during most of their babyhoods.  At the age of fifty-three, I want to let go of My Hair as an Issue.  I know my Vanity is an enormous Part Of My Pathology--I KNOW THAT.  But every single woman in the world knows that, even if you have a mustard stain on your shirt, if your Hair Looks Great, nothing else matters.  Even your mascara and do not get me started on that.)

Heavy Sigh.  Anyway.

On one of the days when it was not terribly torrid, we went to The Niagara Horticultural College grounds and walked all over for hours, looking at all the various plants and trees and gorgeous vegetable and herb plantings.  It took all my restraint not to raid some incredible onions, ruffly lettuces, perfectly chubby and charming cabbages, and grab some other interesting things I knew would be much happier in my yard.  They have so many lovely trees there, too, and I am fascinated by the variety and placement of some of them, and the striking black squirrels they attract.

Near a large pond area was a Dawn Redwood, one of my favorite trees.  As we approached it, we noticed these little...figures assembling all around its base.  Here, look:
Can you see them?  I took the photo with my iPhone as I walked nearer and nearer.  I thought that perhaps they were a student project because they look like little carvings--like little Druids or something, and they were all converging to the right, like they were headed to worship or something.  We moved closer to get a better look and another shot:

I soon discovered that these are, in fact, the upraised roots of this Dawn Redwood tree.  They are very sturdy and some are covered in bark.  There were other Dawn Redwoods on the grounds, and none but this had the little Druid Root People.  This tree, though, was the only one near the water.
Here's a little clutch standing by the shore, like a family.  Aren't they just fascinating?  It's unfortunate that there is no one on the grounds or anyplace to ask about the interesting things you see at the College.  I would have loved to know anything about this phenomenon.  It's not something I recall from my reading of The Wild Trees, the terrific book that inspired my love of redwoods.  But it was a long time ago that I read it; I think it's time to visit it again.

Once we were done wandering, we sat on a bench near the entrance to have a cold drink and do a little people-watching. The Niagara area is always great for that because it draws so many international visitors.  We sat near a very lovely, very patient horse hitched to a carriage-for-hire.  Nearby, its companion also waited, just as beautiful, but not nearly as patient, for it stamped its rear hoof whenever a child came near.  Soon, we heard a lot of screaming.  Not pained or frightened, just some kid who felt like screaming.  It was a black-haired boy of about four with obviously a lot of energy.  His parents were completely indifferent.  He approached the cranky horse, who stamped his rear hoof several times.  The driver skillfully intercepted the boy and stood at the horse's head.  The patient horse was not so lucky.  At least the boy settled somewhat for the following scene:

Boy approaches horse.  Mother and father rush over.  Father bends to speak to boy and then encourages him to pet the horse.  Mother is obviously fretting, but holds up camera for photo.

Nance:  That poor, long-suffering horse.  Now that kid is going to badger it.  You know darn well that instead of petting it, he'll clobber it.
Rick:  The parents are oblivious.
Nance:  I would think the best way to approach that horse would be to--
Rick(interrupting)--get in there as quick as you can and just go for it!  Before the horse even knows what hit it!
Nance (looks at him in shock and disbelief)...What I was going to say is "hold the kid's hand and pet it very slowly so that he doesn't go crazy".  What in the hell...? 
Rick:  Or, you could try that.  Yeah.  That.

End Scene.
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