RSS

“me” vs. “I” and “we” vs. “us”

There's something in the spoken English language that baffles me more than anything else. It's the mis-use of "me" and "I" when talking about something that happened.

 

At the risk of sounding like a seventh-grade English teacher…"Me" is an object word; "I" is a subject word.

 

This means that you can give or tell things to "me"…you can't give or tell things to "I".

 

For some strange linguistic reason, legions of well-educated Americans think that proper English must include "I" when paired with someone else. For example, people who say, "Our parents invited Tom and I for a barbecue." If Tom hadn't been included, would that same person say, "Our parents invited I for a barbecue"?

Of course not…"Our parents invited Tom and ME for a barbecue."

 

One of the major NFL sportscasters, describing the action during a game, said "Between he (the quarterback) and the receiver…." Totally wrong. Correct version is, "Between him and the receiver…."

 

The same principle applies to "we" and "us"…"we" is a subject word, and "us" is an object word.

 

A prominent PBS radio host recently said, "You know, the eel is not the most appealing fish, especially for "we" Americans. OMG…bad grammar on public broadcasting!

 

She should have said "us" Americans. The word "we" is a subject word (like he, she, they, or I) that starts a sentence. The word "us" is an object word (like him, her, me, or them) that completes a sentence to finish a thought or statement.

It's stupid. Why can't well-educated people get this simple bit of grammar right?

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The “s” Curse

 

Derek Jeter is not a "Yankee"!

 

Admittedly, thinking about the "s" in brand names isn't worth sleep deprivation; but I think it's good, intellectual fun. And since we, once again, have an intellectual in the White House, it should be safe to think about and discuss such things.

 

The "s" curse is completely the province of BRANDING; and the most obvious problem tends to occur when referring to sports teams…collegiate and professional. There is no such thing as "Gopher football" or "Yankee baseball." It's "Gophers football" and "Yankees baseball." The brand names are "Gophers" and "Yankees".

 

"Gophers" is not a plural term for a group of players; it's a brand. Each player is not a "Gopher". 

 

But let's start with a simpler example, one that might be more easily understood: BAGGIES.

 

Baggies is a brand name, a registered trademark for a line of plastic "sandwich & storage bags." One of those bags is not a "Baggie" or even a "baggie." It's a sandwich & storage bag…the generic descriptor required by trademark law to designate the product category. Lawyers flinch at any mention of the trademark in a singular (without the "s") form; because common usage that might result tends to weaken the brand's strength and protectibility.

 

The same situation applies to Wheaties, the brand name of a "toasted whole wheat flakes," ready-to-eat cereal product made by General Mills. One of those cereal flakes is not a "Wheatie" or even a "wheatie." Nor is just one Starbucks store a "Starbuck" or even a "starbuck."

 

Also… "Kibbles 'n Bits". There is no "Kibble" or "kibble" and no "Bit" or "bit." And the product must never be referred to as "they." Kibbles 'n Bits is singular; because it's a brand name, not a collection of ingredients.

 

Likewise, if you know someone, a friend or neighbor, whose family name is Roberts; any one member of the family (mother, father, son, daughter) is not a "Robert" or even a "robert." Roberts is the brand name of the family.

 

In the marketing world, BRANDING is the holy grail. And brand names are protected by all the zeal that can be mustered by their owners. Those brands include ones without an "s" as well as those with an "s" and those with an apostrophe ('s). For example:

 

Cheerios

Wheaties

Tostitos

Doritos

Coors

Cheetos

Fritos

Ruffles

Planters

Baggies

The Beatles

 

Starbucks

Walgreens

Lunds

Surdyks

 

Campbell's

Hellman's

Hunt's

Baker's

Welch's

Wolff's

Bush's

Lay's

Macy's

Byerly's

 

Lunds and Byerly's

 

 

Hopefully, this will help your understanding of my previous comments about the "s" curse for sports teams:

 

Sports fans don't think about it. They probably don't think about much of anything. But the lawyers are kept awake at night trying to deal with it.

 

I'm talking about the ubiquitous "s" in the name of sports teams…Patriots, Dolphins, 49ers, Vikings, Yankees, Twins, Timberwolves, Black Hawks, Canadiens, Red Wings, Lakers…the list goes on, professional and collegiate.

 

But there are numerous teams that don't have to worry about this problem, a name that ends in "s".  Here are a few teams that are free of the "s" curse:  Minnesota Wild, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Miami Heat, Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic, Colorado Avalanche, Tampa Bay Lightning, Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Fire, LA Galaxy, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Alabama Crimson Tide, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Harvard Crimson. Of course some people can't even distinguish between "x" and "s".

 

So…what's the big problem, you say?

 

It's like this…the problem tends to be that one of the Vikings — for example — is a Viking, according to common thinking and media reporters; more than one player constitutes Vikings. That's how people talk about the players and how the media report about the players. In legal reality there is no such thing as a player who is a Viking; a member of the team is a Vikings (with "s") player. The trademark is "Vikings".

 

Likewise with teams that have no "s" but still sound like "s"…Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox. Are individual players called a "sock"?  The "x" in the brand name isn't a substitute for "s" as if the team's players together constitute a plural. No…"Sox" is part of the brand name; and the players are not "socks". Dustin Pedroia is not a "sock" or a "Sock".

 

The situation is even goofier for the Minnesota Twins. Joe Mauer is a star player for the Twins…the  Twins' All-Star catcher. Justin Morneau is the team's All-Star first baseman…the Twins' and League's MVP. But Joe and Justin can't possibly be "twins;" since they were born in different countries. They aren't even "Twins;" because that's the name of the team.

 

There's never a problem when you want to talk or write about individual players on one of the nine "non-'s''" teams. Members of the Minnesota Wild are never described as "Wilds;" nor are players for the Utah Jazz as "Jazzes," the Orland Magic as "Magics," or Crimson Tide as "Crimsons" or "Tider" or "Tiders".

 

Hence, the "s" usage or not has become a legal curse.

 

It's a shame that we have been feeding the legal profession another — avoidable — reason to take money from us for something so easily rectified.

 

I wrote this mostly for fun. But it probably merits some conversation…most likely as a cocktail party topic.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The Disappearance of “very”.

 

Is "really" the same as "very"…really?

 

It seems that nobody ever uses this word anymore; it has been replaced by "really." And we hear everybody peppering their language with "really"…really good, really big, really smart, really cold, really hungry, really really really….

 

The amazing thing about this disappearance of "very" is that it has several definitions — as an adverb and as an adjective. It's very useful. Or you might even say, really useful.

 

Why have we replaced it with "really" in our daily discourse?       

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The many faces of “just”.

 

Most over-used word on cooking shows.

 

If you ever watch television cooking shows — or other instructional, demonstration shows — perhaps the most over-used word is "just".  But it can have so many meanings, even beyond the instructional stuff:

 

just…it's so simple

just…not very important

just…no big deal

just…only (small quantity)

just…recently (time)

just…nothing more

just…simple action (stirring)

just…merely

just…so easy, so quick

just…simply

just…don't care

just…go ahead and do

just…measurement of length

 

These bewildering differences can be found in all corners of our culture. The cooking people merely make them more noticeable — and annoying with their constant, glib repetition.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

“premise” vs. “premises”

 

Notice to dumbasses of the world!

 

These are two of the most commonly misunderstood words in the English language; they're even used incorrectly in trade publications — by "professional" writers and editors, as well as on signage. The difference is very simple, so there should be no confusion.

 

premise A proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.

 

premises 1. Land and the buildings on it.

                  2. A building or part of a building.

 

The word "premises" is not a plural for "premise." Get over it…get with the program! Smarten-up your language skills — editors and everybody else!    

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

“tasty”?!

 

C'mon…

 

This is probably the wimpiest thing that you can say about something you're eating. Have you run out of good adjectives? Or don't you even possess a vocabulary? We hear it all the time when diners are interviewed on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."

 

Does it mean that something is merely okay…not really bad, but not especially good, not worth getting excited about, not worth eating again?

 

Unfortunately, we also often hear top-notch chefs describe something as tasty. If that's the best they can say about their creations, I'm not biting.

 

Tasty?!  Of course, everything is tasty. Even water.

 

But is it good tasty or bad tasty. Or are you only able to taste it…no opinion?

 

Useless word!   

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Syllables

 

3 not 2

 

"family" is a 3-syllable word, not 2

"company" is a 3-syllable word

"different" is a 3-syllable word

"difference" is a 3-syllable word

"favorite" is a 3-syllable word

"theater" is a 3-syllable word

"memory" is a 3-syllable word

"insurance" is a 3-syllable word

"medicine" is a 3-syllable word

 

Mispronunciation of these nine words always grates on my nerves…makes the hair on my neck stand out.

 

It's common suburban-mother-speak to extoll the virtues of "faamlee" in a whiney, shrill voice. Likewise the less-common "comp'ny" when talking about businesses. And to hear someone say "differnt" or "fave-ert" or "fave-rit" or "theeter" or "memry" is appalling. To hear Texans say "INshernce" is probably not surprising, however quirky. But hearing the Brits (gold standard English-speakers) pronounce "medcine" is very troubling. The Brits also ADD a syllable to words like "aluminum" when they say "aluMINium" while it's not even spelled that way; and SUBTRACT a syllable when they pronounce "secretary" as "secretree".

 

They are all 3-syllable or 4-syllable words; let's do our best to articulate…hear the syllables in proper pronunciation. "What is a syllable?" you ask. Dictionary definition below for your convenience; even though it doesn't help my understanding — and probably doesn't do much for yours, either!

 

syllable: 

a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word; e.g., there are two syllables in water and three in inferno.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Cocktail Silliness

 

Martini evolution to "appletini"…ridiculous.

 

Once upon a time in a world far far away, some smart dude created a beverage called "the martini." It was made with high-quality gin, a hint of dry vermouth, and a green olive.

 

Years later, as tastes evolved, the classic martini included an option, a simple option: vodka instead of gin…a vodka martini.

 

Somewhere along the line, the same ingredients (gin or vodka with dry vermouth) accepted the inclusion of a pickled mushroom or a pickled onion instead of the olive, so the drink was called a "Gibson".

 

Fast forward to the creatively-lazy days of the '90s, bartenders started plying their young, naive, hedonistic customers with a multitude of other flavors. But they always stole from the original name, calling them "'tinis"…"appletinis," "chocolatetinis," "zucchinitinis," etc.

 

Disgusting! Why couldn't those lazyasses come up with something truly clever in the nameathon?

 

C'mon, show some respect for the classic — still great — cocktail called MARTINI…no apples, no grapes, no chocolate, no zucchini, no walnuts…just gin or vodka with dry vermouth. It's not for children or teenagers; it's a classic cocktail for mature adults.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

The vagaries of “default”

 

There's good default, and there's bad default. What's the difference? They're world's apart.

 

Do you remember when "default" meant that you failed to do something, like pay your bank loan or mortgage — or the U.S. government defaulting on the national debt?

 

Well, I encountered the new definition a few years ago while talking with a computer geek. It seems that "default" means the "standard"…the basic way something is done/computed…default style or font or format, for instance.

 

Holy crap! How can one simple word have such a different meaning?

 

default |diˈfôlt|

noun

failure to fulfill an obligation, esp. to repay a loan or appear in a court of law : it will have to restructure its debts to avoid default.

 

a preselected option adopted by a computer program or other mechanism when no alternative is specified by the user or programmer : the default is fifty lines | [as adj. ] default settings.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

waiting waiting waiting

 

I must remind the language dummies about the difference between "waiting for" and "waiting on". Their meanings aren't even close, but language dummies continue to use "waiting on" whenever they think about waiting.

 

"waiting for" is a function of time…waiting for something to happen, someone to arrive (perhaps Godot), or something to be completed, like finish cooking or finish washing or finish writing, etc.

 

"waiting on" refers to service…something that people do for other people…waiters in restaurants and airline cabin attendants "wait on" their customers.

 

Examples: (1) A baseball hitter is not "waiting ON" a pitch; he is "waiting FOR" the pitch.

                    (2) Television watchers do not "wait ON" the news; they "wait FOR" the news.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Uncategorized