Monthly Archives: July 2011

“learn ’em”


One of Major League Baseball's highly paid commentators said tonight — in a game between the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox — "somebody's gotta' learn 'em…" about a misplay on the field.


Where on earth did this guy attend school? "Learn 'em"?!?!  Do you know about the word "teach"?


I was able to survive the ignorance, mostly because the Red Sox were leading in the 8th inning. And I'm biased.


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Posted by on July 30, 2011 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.


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Posted by on July 30, 2011 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|


1 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.


2 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.

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Posted by on July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


“better” vs. “best”


I'm beginning to think that this month is my time for trashing sports commentators. Perhaps deservedly so. And now that we're entering the football season (collegiate and professional) with wall-to-wall television coverage, it's peak time for misuse of these words:


"Better" is the correct comparative word to describe the difference between TWO individuals or events…Tom is the better player (compared with David, for example).


"Best" is the correct comparative word to describe an individual or event among SEVERAL or MANY…Tom is the best player (on the team or in the entire league).


It is incorrect to say that Tom is one of the "better" players…; he is one of the "best" players….


This principle also applies to comparative words like "bigger" vs. "biggest", "smaller" vs. "smallest", "older" vs. "oldest", "dumber" vs. "dumbest".


The mistake is extremely common among broadcast sports commentators. In fact, they never get it right!  They are among the DUMBEST. Are we surprised?


Getting this right shouldn't be restricted to only the best and the brightest.

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Posted by on July 26, 2011 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.


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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized




This annoying word has worked its way into American speaking-English like a cancer. It began in the 1980s with the "Valley Girls" culture displayed on network television programs. "Valley" refers to the San Fernando Valley north of Los Angeles, and close to Hollywood — ripe for satirizing.


Anyone who talks like this gets slotted into my file as an AIRHEAD…ditzy, shallow, and too lazy to use good English. 


Wikipedia has this salient information to contribute:  


Valley Girl (or Val, Val Gal) is a stereotype leveled at a socio-economic and ethnic class of American women who can be described as colloquial English-speaking, materialistic, self-centered, hedonistic, and often sexually promiscuous. Valspeak is also a form of this trait, based on an exaggerated version of '80s California English.

The term originally referred to the ever increasing number of semi-affluent and affluent middle-class and upper-middle class girls living in the bedroom community neighborhoods of San Fernando Valley.[1] Due to the Valley's proximity to the Hollywood media machine, the demographic group which the term stereotyped garnered large exposure to the rest of the world. Consequently, the use became more general, and the stereotype can be found all over the United States, and also in other countries in different forms. During the 1980s and 1990s, in common with the trend in community orientation, interest, and education, the term metamorphosed into a caricature and stereotype of such women: a "ditzy" or "airhead" personality, and unapologetically "spoiled" behavior that showed more interest in shopping, personal appearance and social status than in intellectual development or personal accomplishment.


Once again, Hollywood comedy efforts have left a big stain on our language.

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized




Diminution is a noun meaning a reduction in the size, extent, or importance of something : a permanent diminution in value 


This word is so often mispronounced, most recently Thursday night by Tom Donilon, National Security Advisor, on the Charlie Rose show. The mispronunciation is always "dimUnition" rather than "diminUtion".


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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Not Paid to Talk

Today I received a comment about my "Standard Sports Interview" post. It said, "They're not paid to talk."

Wrong!  These professional athletes are obligated to talk to the media; it's in the contracts. They're not doing it because they're such good guys. Hence, if their primary language is English, they should do their professional best to sound smart to an English-speaking fanbase. This isn't an unusual expectation; it's what should be expected of any American with a high school education.


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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized




The word "just" has several meanings, but it has become a cancer among cooking-show presenters. For them, it seems that it's a way to convince their viewers that something is so simple and easy to do.


Try watching episodes of cooking shows like "Alex's Day Off," "Barefoot Contessa," and "Mad Hungry". Count the number of times each of the hosts tells you to "just…". It's annoying. You can't count that high. It's as if they don't have many more words in their vocabulary. Sure, "just" jump over the moon; it's a piece of cake.


But for others, it refers to something that recently happened…just married, just opened, just started, etc. Does "just married" mean that it was easy, so everybody should do it?


It also refers to justice…a just decision, for instance. Or for a policeman questioning a suspect or "person of interest" in the old "Dragnet" television series…just tell me the facts.


"Just" is also a key element in the Nike advertising campaign "Just Do It," probably encouraging people to go ahead and extend themselves…it's worth the effort, it's easy, no big deal.

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


“What we’re gonna do…”


This sentence beginning has become so common — and so stupid — I don't understand its popularity.


Famous chef Emeril Lagasse is a constant practitioner. While demonstrating the preparation of some recipe, he starts by saying, "What we're gonna do is we're gonna…".  That's nothing more than saying, "What we're gonna do is we're gonna do."


Why can't Emeril and others simply say something like, "Now we're going to roast this chicken"? Instead they say, "What we're gonna do is we're gonna roast this chicken." Wasted words — and crappy grammar.


Beginning every sentence — regardless of the subject, not just cooking — with a "What we're gonna do…" is ridiculous.


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Posted by on July 20, 2011 in Uncategorized