Monthly Archives: August 2011

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:












The Beatles


















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.



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Posted by on August 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


“lend” vs. “borrow”


The difference in meaning between these two words is so basic, I'm almost speechless when somebody — anybody — in a responsible position doesn't know the difference. It makes them sound so stupid. Even 7th graders know the difference.



Jack Lucking, VP Auto Sales for all Walser dealerships in Minnesota, this morning on WCCO Radio said,  "This is such a nice car you will be happy to BORROW IT to your friends."


For those people who only understand sports analogies, the LENDER is like a football quarterback; he lends something to somebody else. The BORROWER is like a wide receiver; he borrows/receives something from the lender. That is, he catches the ball that the quarterback has thrown.


Got it?                                                                              

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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized




If you blogger fans need something to tip your voting over the edge for RedPencilworks, tune in on Wednesday for my blockbuster commentary.  I call it "The 's' Curse".




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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Major Attention

Wow…I just received an email from CBS that said RedPencilworks is a finalist in the "Everything Else" blog category!

You can get there if you want to vote for the importance of our English language:



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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


“hunnerd” and “hunderd”




This "word" comes from the mouth of a "professional" sports broadcaster (in-game announcer) for the Minnesota Twins on FOX Sports North…Robby Incmikoski (Ins–Muh-Cow-Ski ). Also from the mouth of the play-by-play commentator.


The word is "hundred," dumbass. Not some perverted version of a real word. I can't believe that some people still talk this way, in a civilized, educated society.


How and where did you find YOUR word…in a dumpster? And why do you continue to use it — in the face of enormous opposition? Especially on television.


Are you even able to spell and pronounce your own name properly?


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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized


Note to Joe Girardi


You seem to have some problems with basic English grammar, as evidenced by your comments after the Yankees lost to the Minnesota Twins last night:  

"I’m tired of people looking for something between me and A. J.  Me and A. J. have mutual respect for each other."


You should have said, "I'm tired of people looking for something between A. J. and me.  A. J. and I have mutual respect for each other."


Let's also hope that you can show greater respect for the English language.



Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


Out of the Box


My best friend from high school just discovered this blog; and here is his delightful, out-of-the-box response, completely in character with his goofy-at-times personality. I hope that you, too, will be able to smile:


OK-youse fergot ta rite yer modifyer fer da werd "SO" inyer last paragraphical descripture.  Everbudy noes dat "SO" hasta hava modifyer udderwise ya caint endup wid a sintince youse cin reed. Ialso tink everbudy gots ta larn dere spelin so youse cin allus reed gud.


Seriously,  I do think the word "so" needs a modifier.  A sentence like, "I love my wife so much." Is meaningless.  "So" needs a modifier-something like, "I love my wife so much that it would be difficult to live without her." That's one of my little "hang-ups".


I think your examples are good, but there are a great many more.  Staying away from the more important word misuse, we can talk of the punctuation.


Bear in mind that I am an "uneducated engineer" and FAR out of my field, as opposed to someone like yourself who is a journalist.  But I have noted that text-messaging seems to be hard on both punctuation and spelling.  Indeed, the use of computers seems to be detrimental to spacing between words, and misspelling too.  People will use the spell checker instead of proof reading their messages, and sometimes they come out rather funny.  I'm sure you have seen that.


That's it for now-gotta get goin' !!!!!



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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


Mashed Potatoes & Gravy


Classic comfort food.


This is one of America's favorite dishes; but are they separate (two things), or are they a single thing…one dish?


So…should you say, "Mashed potatoes and gravy ARE my favorite," or "Mashed potatoes and gravy IS my favorite."?


If you consider that mashed potatoes & gravy is a single dish — not two separate, distinct items — you must vote for "is".


And you would be right!  "Ham & eggs"…another matter for another day.

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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


Baseball Talk


"corner of the plate"


How goofy is this — when a pitched ball is delivered in a direction that's parallel with the EDGES of home plate…the sports-nut announcer says that the pitch "caught the corner" of the plate. 


C'mon…the plate is a 5-sided figure…like a square with one pointed edge. There are no "corners" to catch. The pitches either catch edges for strikes, or they're balls, high or low.


We hear this silly language all the time with MLB; and we're likely to hear it again during the upcoming Little League World Series.


Sorry about deviating from pure grammatical matters; but this choice of words is about accuracy of nouns…"edges" are not "corners".


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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Norwegian Patient


Last week, I was a patient at my dentist's office, and had to wait a long time before getting my tooth repair handled.


When the staff finally got around to taking care of me, they said, "Thanks for your patience."


I said, "I'm your patient; that's what I do…show patience." I was a patient patient.


But I almost lost my "patience" when my dentist/doctor (DDS) used some amazingly bad grammar…from the mouth of a highly educated professional who should know better.


I expect my doctors and dentists to be very good at what they do. But I also expect them to have acquired proper, basic English skills along the line.  After all, they paid big bucks for their education. 

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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized