Posts Tagged ‘Grammar Friday’

I was listening to an old radio program, Quiet Please, from the 1940s, and kids in a classroom were singing an alphabet song, “A, E, I, O, U, and sometimes W and Y.”

I thought to myself, “Whenever is a W a vowel?”

Trust the internet to hold the answer.


    As Modern English evolved, the Old English letters were dropped or replaced.

    Here’s an example: In Old English, a letter called “thorn” represented the “th” sound (as in “that”) in Modern English. In the Latin alphabet, the “y” was the symbol that most closely resembled the character that represented thorn. So, thorn was dropped and “y” took its place.

    That is why the word “ye,” as in “Ye Olde Booke Shoppe,” is an archaic spelling of “the.”

    The Old English letter “wynn” was replaced by “uu,” which eventually developed into the modern w. (It really is a double u.)

So the above holds a second revelation: When we try to sound corny and pronounce “Ye Olde Bookshop” phonetically, we’re still all wet because we’re pronouncing it wrong! Doh!

– – Oh, and if you’re still scratching your head about the W being a vowel, just try pronouncing “water” out loud. The first sound is definitely not a hard sound, but sounds more like “ooo-ah-ter.”


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We were reading Storytime Favorites (1947) and came across this verse:

    “They dined on mince and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon”

and I just had to look that up.

From dictionary.reference.com
1871, a nonsense word coined by Edward Lear; used especially in runcible spoon “spoon with three short tines like a fork,” which first took the name in 1926.

So the spork really wasn’t that original after all….

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I usually point out errors in my Grammar Friday entries, but I’m pretty sure this “error” is intentional. I spotted this in our local Nickel ads this week in the “Pets” section:

FOUND: Red & white chicken killer, taking up residents in my barn, on Sagebrush Road, our town; call 555-123-1234

Ha ha.

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Grammar Friday: Podium

Anyone who didn’t sleep through high school English class, much less attended college level journalism classes, should not misuse the word podium. And yet, here in yahoo news:

“In recent weeks, President Obama has stepped out from behind the podium and taken his message on the economy to backyards around the country.”

    From Dictionary.com:
    –noun, plural -di·ums, -di·a  
    1. a small platform for the conductor of an orchestra, for a public speaker, etc.
    2. Architecture .
    a. a low wall forming a base for a construction, as a colonnade or dome.
    b. a stereobate for a classical temple, esp. one with perpendicular sides.
    c. the masonry supporting a classical temple.
    d. a raised platform surrounding the arena of an ancient Roman amphitheater having on it the seats of privileged spectators.
    4. a counter or booth, as one at an airport for handling tickets or dispensing information.

You don’t step out from behind the podium, you step off of a podium. You step out from behind the lecturn — that thing up on the podium that you stand behind and it holds your notes and water glass.

    From Dictionary.com:
    lec·tern   –noun
    1. a reading desk in a church on which the Bible rests and from which the lessons are read during the church service.
    2. a stand with a slanted top, used to hold a book, speech, manuscript, etc., at the proper height for a reader or speaker.

I give a little leeway to grammar errors in “news blogs” because they aren’t wholly professional, but if yahoo thinks it’s good enough to be news, then I think the grammar should at least be right.

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Grammar Friday: feed

Here’s a yahoo news story that just made me cringe because by using a word incorrectly the author implies children are animals. Over and over again.

Is Picky Eating an Early Sign of Autism?

From the very first paragraph:

    New research on the finicky eating habits of children with autism finds that while autistic children do tend to eat a less varied diet than other kids, their feeding preferences have little negative effect on their height, weight and growth.

Highlight that “feeding preferences.” Let’s go to dictionary.com

–verb (used without object)
11. (esp. of animals) to take food; eat: cows feeding in a meadow; to feed well.
12. to be nourished or gratified; subsist: to feed on grass; to feed on thoughts of revenge.

13. food, esp. for farm animals, as cattle, horses or chickens.

Here’s another example from the article, about five paragraphs down:

    Researchers found that by the time they were 1 month old, autistic children were already 35% more likely than unaffected children to be slow feeders.

The use of the word feeder is a little different:

    3. a person or thing that takes food or nourishment.
    4. a livestock animal that is fed an enriched diet to fatten it for market.

Doesn’t that just make you feel a little icky? I realize that rule 3 above does make this word pertain to children, but I would argue rule 4 is the more common use. My guess is that the author was trying not to repeat the word “eat” as often as needed, but ended up changing the tone of the story instead.

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This is just a fun post because I like learning things and maybe you do too!

For some reason I thought the word snarky was a recent word — probably because I had never heard it before, you know how that goes, we all think we are the first generation to think of something.

I am reading Ruggles of Red Gap (1914) (thanks dad!) because I like to read books that were turned into movies. Imagine my surprise to read this paragraph on page 225:

Since I like to know the origins of words I checked good old Websters to find out!

    snark·y   [snahr-kee]
    –adjective,snark·i·er, snark·i·est. Chiefly British Slang.
    testy or irritable; short.
    1910–15; dial. snark to nag, find fault with (appar. identical with snark, snork to snort, snore, prob. < D, LG snorken to snore) + -y

I love that my book (1914) is just about the time the word first went into use! The book must have been very hip for its day! The main character is a British chap who comes to America to at first find fault with the colonials and then ends up embracing all aspects of American life. It really is quite charming and made a good movie too, with Charles Laughton as the lead.

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I am all for using spell check but it can’t catch everything.

How did this headline at yahoo news even make it to headline status?

“Apple co-founder Wozniak shirks off Prius glitch”

From Dictionary.com

    shirk   [shurk]
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to evade (work, duty, responsibility, etc.). –verb (used without object)
    2. to evade work, duty, etc. –noun
    3. a shirker.

    1. shun, avoid, dodge.

Obviously the writer meant “shrugs off” Prius glitch

    shrug   [shruhg] verb,shrugged, shrug·ging, noun
    –verb (used with object)
    1. to raise and contract (the shoulders), expressing indifference, disdain, etc. –verb (used without object)
    2. to raise and contract the shoulders. –noun
    3. the movement of raising and contracting the shoulders.

    —Verb phrase
    5. shrug off,
    a. to disregard; minimize: to shrug off an insult.
    b. to rid oneself of: to shrug off the effects of a drug.

He minimized or disregarded the Prius glitch.

This is a lovely quote from the article, though, isn’t it: “It’s just like all the other gadgets we have… Everything today has a computer in it, so everything will fail.”

I know I will have to think of that every time I travel. Not just for myself but for everyone else too!

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