Friday, 14 December 2012

The Circle of Life etc

I've been struck lately by a few odd things. My sister-in-law in the UK sends all of us marvelous and thoughtful Christmas cards every year - only last year they arrived at the end of January. Instead of opening them, I told her that I would keep them for the family for this year instead. We opened them last week.  The thing I hadn't bargained on was that she would have signed all the cards on my dad's behalf as well. He died in July this year. By the same token, the several cards are addressed to each of us individually - except that our new baby's name is absent. He arrived in October. Another funny thing:  I've been finding lately, that new words I've come across, whose meanings  I have had to look up, have suddenly popped up in another context a couple of days later. Mostly, I've dismissed this as heightened awareness on my part, maybe the words weren't that unusual, but then came this one:  "Blefaroplasty". I read it first on the after-care instructions given to me by my surgeon after my eyelid op.  Two days later, I came across it in the middle of a detective novel.  How weird is that? Do you think the universe is trying to tell me something?


  1. The thing with words always happens to me, and I go through the same internal questioning: is this heightened awareness or is something magical going on. My bet is heightened awareness, but something about the wisdom of the universe blowing the winds of fate and sunshine up our tushies just seems so much more metaphysical.

    NB. (First time I ever used NB...never heard of it until I started reading your blog. Probably not using it right. Lets go with IE: I was trying to remember the word kitsch for my comment in your previous post. Googled tacky art and somehow got schtick (same letters btw) so I decided to put both in my word lists. Little later I read the word schmaltz in a book review. Not the same words but all related. So I put all 3 in my word list. It is a list where I put related words, easily confused words, and tip of my tongue words.

    Just looked up NB, I wasn't using it right. IE is not right either. It should have been e.g.

    From ie / eg

    When you mean “for example,” use e.g. It is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase exempli gratia. When you mean “that is,” use “i.e.” It is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est. Either can be used to clarify a preceding statement, the first by example, the second by restating the idea more clearly or expanding upon it. Because these uses are so similar, the two abbreviations are easily confused. If you just stick with good old English “for example” and “that is” you won’t give anyone a chance to sneer at you. If you insist on using the abbreviation, perhaps “example given” will remind you to use “e.g.,” while “in effect” suggests “i.e.”

    Since e.g. indicates a partial list, it is redundant to add “etc.” at the end of a list introduced by this abbreviation.

    Obviously I should follow this guy's advice.

  2. Never thought of being confused by e.g. and i.e. I did Latin at school but I didn't know the Latin for e.g. In all my years as an English teacher, the greatest challenge was always to try to teach the use of the Apostrophe. Have you read Lynn Truss's "Eats, Shoots & Leaves?" Highly entertaining - for a grammar book.

    1. English teacher! There was a time in my life that I would have flung boogers at you! But then I grew up. In the early 90s during a bout of midlife crises, I fancied myself a writer instead of a blue collar slob--fortunately I didn't do anything stupid like quit the blue collar job.

      I would sit around in a mid-life, existential, metaphysical swoon and dream of telling my boss to go ______ himself, jump in the car and go to Montana (fill in the blank with what ever word comes to mind). Having a rudimentary understanding of systems, the question always arose...THEN WHAT? Having a rudimentary grasp on reality, poverty, drunkenness, and the gutter always came to mind instead of some Robert Pirsig-ean publishing success in which Phaedrus, having told his boss to go _____ himself, now lives on a 5000 acre ranch and casually writes about new age spirituality, sacred sexuality, philosophy, and the finding God within; and on rare occasions bugs his property manager to let him take the tractor out and play farmer for an hour or so while huge royalties roll in from his series of books that would solve all of mankind's woes. Thank God this all occurred before self publishing in e-books...imagine the ruin I could have brought on myself.

      Anyhow all this to say (I am still full of shit) my book of choice was Strunk and White's Elements of Style for grammar. My underlying drive to write was driven by a combination of "Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance", John Jerome's "Stonework", and several of Brenda Ueland's works notably "If You Want to Write" and "Me".

      My difficulties were not with apostrophes (except on possessives of plurals) but rather who and whom, the semicolon (which I want to ban), affect and effect, seen / saw, run on sentences and fragments.

      Being a cranky old man I no longer give a shit about any of that stuff. Now I am far more concerned about my nasty habit to leave out the word "not", leave off the s in plurals, and use homophones in entirely the wrong way. I no better, they just role of my fingertip uncontrollably requiring extensive proofreading. Then I have some favorite errors such as the interchangeability of thing and think. The think is on this problem is that their is a 50% chance that I will right the wrong won done. I thing it may be advanced onset of dementia. Done and down is another won, as is won and one.

      Misfortunately I also have a tendacious habit of inventing words. For 10 years I ignored the red squiggles under the degradate (ha I see Apple actually tries to put degrade in their and hear I though I inventoried the word).

      Rapid loss of temperature in the test medium will cause the pressure to degradate.

      I also usually leave of the final t in thought, so I end up tho-ing many concepts.

      Here is my favorite. I was 53 years old before I realized that the word fiery was pronounced FIRE-y. I pronounced it FEAR-y. Two words existed in my mind simultaneously: the audible FIRE-y which one would hear on the news (and I had no idea how to spell) and the written fiery which one would either read or write and was pronounced in my mind FEAR-y. Never once did I give it a thought that I never heard the word FEAR-y, and apparently never once tried to write the word FIRE-y.

      I will have to check out Eats, Shoots & Leaves.

  3. Whew! Anyway.... did you know that the title of my recommended book depends on its interpretation on the position of the comma? NB - my best friend has what I conclude must be a kind of aural dyslexia - she pronounces things the way they are spelt. e.g. the phrase "it will stand me in good stead" - she pronounces as 'steed'. The only person in my acquaintance who says it this way. Maybe you and she should meet?

    1. I hadn't noticed but now that you mention it, yes, the comma changes everything.

      Well show your friend the word fiery ask her to pronounce it.

  4. I was inaccurate about the book title... the reader is meant to think of the title without any comma and think of what a panda eats... or of (with comma) a panda as a cowboy in a shootout.

    1. You were only inaccurate in your mind because you never stated what the title means only that the meaning was dependent on the comma.

      If you look at the cover art, a panda is up on a ladder painting over the comma. A second panda walks away carrying what I presume to be a pistol.

    2. Okay - I didn't think about googling for once. I bought my dad a copy about 10 years ago, and I was trying to remember...Anyway, I highly recommend it as an entertaining read.

    3. Everything I ever need to know, I learned from tee shirts: