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Archive for the ‘too dorky for words’ Category

So, we have:

Woman without her man is nothing.

And also:

Come and eat grandma!

And slowly, even the most stubborn souls begin to see the value of punctuation.

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Come and eat, grandma!

Oh, what a different a few dots and squiggles can make.

These are famous ones, of course. I was trying to remember a really wonderful one that wound up in print a while ago, and finally found it:

And this is all silly and a good reminder that commas are life savers (I know Ray’s family and dog are grateful for them!) … but there was a story the other day that also proved that a well-placed comma can mean the difference between winning and losing a legal battle.

I’ll admit that I’m a latecomer to the Oxford comma. I was forced to use it in grade school. But I was forced to do a lot of things with my writing in grade school, and many of them I heartily disagreed with and despised. Once I had a little more freedom to write how I wanted, I began to jettison those things I didn’t care for, and the Oxford comma fell by the wayside with the other castoffs. People have argued with me about it quite a bit over the years — which maybe says something about the folks I hang with¹ — but I have remained stubbornly against. I taught English for many years, and I taught the Oxford comma … but also made it clear that a) I didn’t use it myself and b) no one’s grade would be damaged by the decision not to use it.

But then I got my current job. I got this job, and one of the first things I had to do was edit the big, serious report we were producing. And before the editing began, I was asked to put together a style guide so that all of the people who were adding writing could try to have the same set of rules in mind as they worked and so that changes I made to text would all follow clear guidelines.

Making that style guide was, I have to admit, fun for me (which most definitely says something about the kind of person I am!). I saw the guide as my chance to lay down the law, list out my writing pet peeves, make our sleek and shiny report conform to my writing style. (Oh yes, a little power is truly a dangerous thing!)

Pretty quickly in my style-guiding I ran smack into the Oxford comma. And somehow, for reasons I couldn’t explain and can’t explain now, that comma suddenly made sense. Made perfect, why-didn’t-I-ever-see-this-before sense. And I’ve been using it ever since. (Somewhere, my 6th grade teacher is pointing, laughing, and saying, “I told you so!”)



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices

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¹ This wacky-grammarians-on-my-friend-list business did not extend to the guy who came to a party I threw years ago … who smugly diagrammed the sentences of the people who spoke to him. You may think this is a clever party trick. Trust me when I tell you that it really isn’t.

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I don’t know if I’ve ever been a particularly spontaneous person. I’ve had moments here and there, but mostly not so much. Not an impulse buyer. Not a pick up and fly to Tahiti in the middle of a quiet Tuesday traveler. Not.

And I started out writing this because I was going to talk about my extremely mild run at spontaneity today — suddenly throwing out a dinner invitation and meeting up with a dear friend instead of heading home — but then I got distracted by “spur of the moment.”

What an odd thing to say: on the spur of the moment. And I went to The Google to find out the origin, and got this:

Spur of the moment is in the OED along with other definitions of the word “spur”. The first recorded usage was in 1801. Spur also means at haste so perhaps spur of the moment – something done impromptu or with out deliberation grew out of spur in that sense, as in a quick decision.

Something in the moment (the brief period of time when a decision is made or an action is begun) acts as a spur-an incentive, an impetus-much as the literal spurs impel a horse to go. What motivates a “spur of the moment” decision arises quickly, as opposed to long forethought.

And that’s all well and good, but Google gave me something much better. “Spur of the Moment” is, it turns out, the name of one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone, an episode I’d only seen once but thought was really clever. In my head, it’s always been the “Face of Fear” episode, but that would have been way too heavy-handed as a title. Good thing Rod and Richard didn’t ask 18-month-old me!

“Spur of the Moment” was Season 5, episode 21, originally aired on February 21, 1964. As soon as I saw it in the search results, I set my slice-writing aside, went to Hulu and watched the episode. It holds up well enough, I guess. It’s not “The Invaders,” or “Eye of the Beholder” or anything, but it works. As was true when I saw it the first time, what really stands out for me is the repetition-with-a-twist of the opening scene. I like that shift in perspective, like using the same image to say something very different.

Ending my unplanned evening with an unplanned re-acquaintance with some classic TV. My variety of spontaneity is pretty seriously boring! But it pleases me.

Are you a “spur of the moment” kind of person? What things have you done spontaneously? Is your history with spontaneity as undramatic as mine? Do tell!



It’s the 10th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!

Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see all of today’s slices!

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I had a ridiculously late lunch yesterday, walking out of my building at 3:15 to find something I could buy and eat quickly enough to be ready for a 4pm meeting.¹ I walked outside, turned the corner and immediately saw a man coming up the block. It took a nanosecond for my brain to do the processing:

I turned the corner and immediately saw a good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

familiar-because-he’s-famous good-looking Black man with a nice afro coming up the block.

IT’S NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON!

Seriously. Neil deGrasse Tyson, in all his smooth-walking, self-assured glory. Dr. I-Make-Astrophysics-Crazy-Cool. Dr. I’m-in-a-Superman-Comic Tyson.²

Oh, do I need to tell you I am a science geek and Tyson fangirl?

But I was calm. Ish. I neither stopped walking and pointed frantically nor threw myself at him. Sadly, however, I couldn’t quite function well enough to either take out my phone and snap a pick, or better still, take out my phone and ask to take a selfie with him. Alas. All I could do was stare (yes, very cool). He gave me a knowing smirk and kept it moving.

Neil deGrass Tyson, people!

“The atoms of our bodies are traceable to stars that manufactured them in their cores and exploded these enriched ingredients across our galaxy, billions of years ago. For this reason, we are biologically connected to every other living thing in the world. We are chemically connected to all molecules on Earth. And we are atomically connected to all atoms in the universe. We are not figuratively, but literally stardust.”

Is it any wonder I was starstruck? As Dr. Tyson so grandly informs us, he’s made of “star stuff.”


 

It’s the Slice of Life Story Challenge! Head over to Two Writing Teachers to see what the rest of the slicers are up to … and to post the link to your own slice!

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¹ Ha! As if I could kid you that I had anything in mind other than pizza!

² No, really. He charted the location of Krypton for the Man of Steel.

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Like a fair number of people, I have a phone that allows me to send texts. This may be a bigger deal for me than for some, seeing as I still used a rotary phone as recently as 2007, seeing as I am writing this post with a fountain pen in my (handmade) notebook rather than composing directly on the computer.

I send a lot of texts. When I started texting, my phone struggled to understand me, inserting a lot of randomness into my notes … and a lot of deleted expletives. Yes, my phone thought I had a vocabulary like a stevedore. I would type “bookish,” it would come out “b****.” I would type “folkways” (yes really, folkways … hey, I’ve already explained that I use words other people don’t), it would come out “f***.” Clearly my phone and I had some serious disconnection issues.

Over time, of course, my phone has gotten to know me better. It no longer thinks I swear like a sailor. It still offers up wacky next-word options that I would surely never want to type. If I spoke the way my phone wanted me to, I’d be some kind of crazy, unintelligible philosopher, saying things such as, “I’m going on an adventure containing myself home.” Right. Because aren’t we all?

This morning, however, I realized my relationship with my phone has become a true luv thang.

I was typing an email to my sister and one of the sentences began: “I was missing … ” I was writing a very boring and ordinary exciting, “I was missing something important.”

Not for my phone I wasn’t.

I typed, “I was missing …” and my phone knew exactly what I needed to say, offering up: VONA!

I almost laughed out loud. “You know me, little Galaxy. You finally know me!”

Because of course, yes. Aren’t I always kind of missing VONA? Thank goodness our retreat is next week so I can get a fix!


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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Of course there is more to last week’s vocabulary story. Even as I was trying to figure out how “scuttle” suddenly found itself tripping off my tongue, there was a little something else poking at the side of my brain: scuttlebutt.

Here is what both Wikipedia and my dictionary have to say:

Scuttlebutt in slang usage meaning rumor or gossip, deriving from the nautical term for the cask used to serve water (or, later, a water fountain).

The term corresponds to the colloquial concept of a water cooler in an office setting, which at times becomes the focus of congregation and casual discussion. Water for immediate consumption on a sailing ship was conventionally stored in a “scuttled butt,” a butt (cask) which had been scuttled by making a hole in it so the water could be withdrawn. Since sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt for a drink of water, scuttlebutt became Navy slang for gossip or rumours.

How does this one little word that should really never have been a word in the first place take up so much space? And how did sailors get famous for cussing when they were running around saying words like scuttlebutt? Language is so wacky.

Navy slang, people. A scuttled butt. You can’t make this stuff up.


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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I had a rough day yesterday, ending with the scuttling of a project I’ve been pouring hours and hours of my day, night, and weekend time into. Felt a little shell shocked when I first realized we were going to call everything to a halt. This morning was a little better. This afternoon, having to make the announcement to all the partners loomed large and unpleasant over my head, but it was my job to do, and so.

As much as I am a snarky somebody some of the time, I hate being the bearer of bad news. Hate it. Which is silly to say. It’s only the rare person who enjoys bringing other people down.

In the end, the announcing wasn’t a complete misery. I pointed to some of the good things that have come out of this process and to the good-sounding plan we have for moving forward. So, you know, silver linings.

But really why I started writing this is word choice. Every time I talk about the end of this project, I use the word “scuttled.” This isn’t a word I use. I may, in fact, never have said it ever prior to now. Where did it come from to suddenly appear on my tongue? Let’s be clear: I use a lot of words that a lot of other people don’t. I am regularly mocked for this behavior by family, friends, coworkers. But scuttle? No.

And then I wondered if I was even using it correctly. Yes, because even though it seemed correct when it tumbled out of my mouth, the moment I paused over it, all I could think of was a “coal scuttle” (another super-commonly-used term!), and I knew that was wrong.

Happily, my dictionary had more going on than my brain in that moment. I learned that “scuttle” can also mean to scurry, which I’m not sure I care for unless we’re describing the sideways nature of crabs. And then I found my scuttle, which turns out to be an old nautical term for intentionally sinking a ship, meaning to wreck or destroy.

There is some relief in knowing I’ve been using it correctly. There is still, however, the puzzlement over using it at all. When did that word sink into some dark, quiet pocket in the back of my brain? How did it know to rouse itself just now? And what will it do with itself now that it’s here? Is it going to keep turning up in my casual speech? It certainly isn’t a word I’ve felt any need to introduce into wider circulation, so I hope not.

If I’m going to be given the chance to introduce a fallen word back into the day-to-day, I would prefer “swink.” Or, if you prefer, “swinken.” It means to work hard, work to the point of exhaustion. I learned this beauty from Chaucer. I love the sound of it, but I love this next even more:

Swink – third-person singular simple present swinks, present participle swinking, simple past swank or swonk or swinkt or swinked, past participle swunk or swunken or swonken or swinkt or swinked

I’m saying. Go ahead and try it. Say “swunk” a few times and see if it doesn’t make you giggle. That’s handy when you’re working to the point of exhaustion.

Or when your work gets scuttled.

 


It’s the annual Slice of Life Story Challenge, hosted by the wonderful people over at Two Writing Teachers! Every day this month, hundreds of writers will be posting their stories. Head on over and check out the other slices!

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I have a cat called Tristan.*

Tristan2

I knew I wanted boy cats when I’d decided I was ready to have cats again.  The two  I’d had before Tristan and Beau were girls and were — as is often the case with girl cats — extremely aloof.  They liked me fine, but they weren’t so interested in having anything to do with me, only wanted my petting in small doses from time to time.  Boy cats are usually quite needy.  (This is a trait I like in male cats far more than in male humans. Just saying.)  So I chose boys … and for nearly seven years I’ve been living with two super needy kitten-men who want as much of my time as they can get, who are jealous if I spend an extra second of time with one over the other, who cannot bear to have me spend any time with a pen in hand or a computer on my lap, who want to sleep all over me (including in my face, which means I wake up having an allergy attack at least once a week) …

But never mind all of that.  Today is about Tristan.  My half-mustache boy is quite the sweetheart.  He got his name almost immediately.  While it took me almost two weeks to name Beau, Tristan was Tristan within an hour of entering my house.  He walked toward me as he was exploring the apartment and … that was just the name that fit.  He’s long and tall and a true scaredy cat who hides at every ring of the doorbell.  His favorite places to sleep are a) draped over my legs, b) as close to my nose as possible, and c) curled in a ball in the curve of my body when I sleep curled on my side.  He doesn’t like to be held, but he kind of does, too.  He loves to have his stomach rubbed.  He is happy to sit on my lap and have me cuddle him, but only if I don’t try to multitask and clip his nails at the same time!  He has a crazy death-wish, actively trying to get himself squished by placing himself in front of and under my feet any time I try to move.

In the mornings, he likes to sit on top of the toilet while I brush and floss and take care of my morning routine.  He, too, has a routine, and it never fails to stop me in the middle of whatever I’m doing and crack me up.  He jumps up on the commode and turns around and around to find just the right spot to sit (which is almost always the spot where he started). He sits and looks up at me for a minute then out into the hall for signs of his brother.  Then his attention is suddenly caught by … yes, it’s that terrible, wicked villain who teases and eludes him every morning!  He leaps into pursuit, jumping and turning again and again, almost capturing, almost ensnaring, always just missing … his. tail.

My silly-sweet cat has not outgrown chasing his tail.  And I mean serious, full-on, break-neck chasing.  This boy is determined!

And once I’ve had my good morning laugh, it’s time for me to shoo him from the room so I can get myself ready in peace.

Tristan4

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Head over to Two Writing Teachers for more slices.

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* That’s an upside down bit of my other cat, Beau, in the background. I’ve written about him before, so it’s Tristan’s turn. Tristan and Beau are brothers from a rescue litter of mostly grey and white, mostly short hair, mostly male cats.  There was one female, and there were two long hairs.  Nature is so interesting.

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