·We’re at kinetic military action in Libya. You can read what some law professors say about it, if that will make you feel any better. Someday veterans will tell kinetic military action stories, just like they’ve been telling police action stories and conflict stories for the last few decades. Since “kinetic” and “action” are redundant, what does the word “kinetic” add, other than the assurance that we’re not waging military inertia in Libya?
·A fictomercial (or literatisement) is a novel that contains plugs for a product or even a region, not just a product. You’ve seen product placement on TV and in movies; look for it in popular fiction. If I could get Coca-Cola to pay me for a plug, I’d do it. But I have integrity; I actually like Coke.
·Taliban is the new Nazi, when applied to Catholics. Next time you see a pack of Catholics stoning a woman buried up to her neck, you’ll know what to call them. Actually, it’s not clear to me what this is supposed to mean. I suspect various people use it against traditional Catholics and some Catholics use it against other Catholics. I guess Taliban is the new Nazi, so people will start calling those with whom they disagree Talibani. It would be a change. Usually, of course, comparatively conservative (formerly “liberal”) people are called Nazis by people who forget that Nazi stands for National Socialist. The Russians started identifying the Nazis as “right” when they split politically, the Russian Communists being International and Germany being National Socialists. Since Germany wanted to spread itself all over, I don’t see that as a real difference.
One more time: comprise, compose, consist. Mark Nichol in Daily Writing Tips wrote about his entanglement with the word “compromise”. His explanation is slightly fuzzy around the edges, but he seems to have come to the correct conclusion. Examples:
·A dictionary comprises word definitions, etymology, and a pronunciation guide. (synonymous with “includes”)
·A dictionary is composed of many etc. (synonymous with “is made up of”)
·A dictionary consists of many etc. (synonymous with “is made up of”)
NEVER: A dictionary is comprised of many etc.
I would like to further confuse the issue by suggesting a new word, “comprision”. I think the verb needs a noun. Compose has composition, consist has consistency, comprise has zilch. How about, “The comprision of the dictionary was expanded to include imaginary words.”
Regarding the racquetball court that was out of order, then out of service, Mike Sykes said:
Nothing really [wrong with saying something is broken]. Except that, for me, 'broken' has always connoted a physical fracture, or at least some sort of fragmentation, rather than any malfunction. It always seemed a little odd to hear a colleague say, for example, that a specification was broken, meaning perhaps logically inconsistent. Yet I'm quite accustomed to think of a vehicle as broken down at the side of the road. Or break of day. Oh, give us a break! Time for a break.
And, I’m broke this week.
Mike also asked who goes around disabling all those disabled toilets, not a phrase we usually find in public bathrooms in the U.S. We usually, though not always, reserve “disabled” for people.
In Spanish, if you break something, you say, “Se rompio”, meaning “It broke itself”, neatly sidestepping culpability in the neat way that the passive voice does.
HOW HEADLINES WORK
Once again we see how word choice can editorialize, as in an article referenced on the cover of The Nation magazine:
The struggle for single payer in Vermont
Obviously, if there’s a struggle for something, there’s likely to be a struggle against it too, but would the author write about “the struggle against single payer in Vermont”? Does the actual cover line make you think the writer is for or against single payer health insurance? Why or why not?
It’s the word “struggle”. In politics that word always makes you think of a righteous campaign, complete with noble ideals and sacrifice, more so than “fight” or “battle” for some reason. The Nation is an opinion magazine, not a newspaper, so it’s justified in editorializing, but you often see these kinds of word choices in newspapers too, whether the choices are thoughtfully made or knee-jerk.
Again on writing from the art world, from something or other I read or heard:
He studied reproductive prints of English and American landscapes.
He studied reproductions or he studied prints. He’s not just redundant, the writer forgot that “reproductive” refers to procreation, not copies, though it would be nice if prints would reproduce themselves.
LOST LEAF BOOK
Classic children’s writer Munro Leaf published Grammar Can Be Fun in 1934 but it seems to be out of print. Someone published a page from it on Improbable Research and a few pages are viewable at Curious Pages, but a search on Amazon doesn’t even turn up used copies. Manners, Reading, and Geography can be fun too, by Leaf, and are readily available, but not Grammar. Our library doesn’t even have it. Alibris.com, however, lists a number of used copies for sale by various dealers, ranging from $30 to $225. I didn’t even know I wanted it until now.
I heard the word “flaccid” pronounced “flassid” rather than “flaksid”, which I thought was the correct pronunciation, like “success” where the two Cs sound different, but both versions of “flaccid” are acceptable. “Flassid” sounds limper than “flaksid” anyway. You can’t beat that K sound for impact.
Someone I know who’s living in Japan (and luckily untouched by the earthquake) says there’s a hybrid language composed of 1part English, 1 part Spanish, 1 part Japanese. For example:
Top of Form
わたしの amiga は on her phone cuando alguien でんわしました then she went a su trabajo
An online translation goes something like, “My friend was on her phone when somebody called then she went to work.” That’s probably not exactly right. I would avoid trying to use Jaspanglish, you could get hurt.
And doesn’t it always seem odd to think about the intersection of a foreign language with another foreign language, other than English? I mean, why would Spanish-speaking people go to Japan, and why wouldn’t they all speak English together? Maybe it’s just me, but the thought gives me the same disconnect as hearing a small child speak another language.
The TV comedy Community is back with a new season on Thursday nights (you can see episodes online; the one on politics is particularly funny), and continues to whack the culture as it so richly deserves. One character said, “Girls today are so un-desensitized.” Note the difference between this and “sensitive”. I’m still brooding over it.
WATCH THE BOOK
Another bookstore conversation reported on notalwaysright.com (that is, the customer is not):
Customer: “This book looks interesting. How do I watch it?”
Clerk: “Watch it?”
Customer: “Yes, where can I find the movie?”
Clerk: “I don’t think this book has been adapted into a movie.”
Customer: “What do you mean? Where can I go to watch it? I want to know what happens in the book!”
Clerk: “Forgive me for asking, but if you want to know what happens, why not just read it?”
Customer: “Read? How stupid! Where’s the movie! All books are made into movies so that we don’t have to read them!”
Clerk: “I am sorry, I can’t help you. This is a bookstore. Only popular books—usually adventure stories—are adapted into movies. I am quite sure that this book hasn’t been made into a movie.”
Customer: “Why not?!”
Clerk: “Because it’s a fishing manual.”
Of course a fishing manual could be made into a documentary or training film. However, I wonder if the people who think all books are movies weren’t read to by their parents when they were little.