Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Intrigue of Personal Names


What's behind the choice?


I find it fascinating to think about why so many people have so many unusual, seemingly out-of-synch names. It's equally fascinating to discover the reasons/history behind the call letters of radio and TV stations.


Similarly, it's fun to imagine why a mother chooses to spell her son's name "Jon" or "Jahn" rather than "John"; or another mother…"Jakub" rather than "Jacob"; as well as another mother who chose just one "n" rather than two for "Denis" or "Dennis". 


Sean Jensen — an Asian football reporter for a St. Paul newspaper; the ultimate fusion name; Irish first name, Scandinavian surname.


Shonn Greene — black NFL football recruit whose mother probably wasn't aware of the original Irish spelling "Sean"; she just liked the way it sounded.


Rashad Johnson — NFL football recruit whose mother might have idolized former player and sportscaster Ahmad Rashad, who changed his own birth name of Bobby Moore.


Vontae Davis — NFL football recruit. I can't even speculate about why. But a Google search for "Vontae" will show this guy as the #1 result.


Ramses Barden — NFL football recruit whose mother might have wanted to reflect ancient Egyptian royalty.


Travis or Jason or Jared or Josh — the first name for any male whose mother probably watched too many soap operas…at a time when William (Bill), Charles (Chuck), Thomas (Tom), David (Dave), James (Jim), Michael (Mike), etc. were commonplace.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorized




Lazy mouths!


How have we managed to corrupt good English pronunciation of common words into goofy words or contractions that we can't even spell? 


Let's start paying attention to our great language…articulate and pronounce so many of the words, letters, and syllables that are often neglected. It should be embarrassing to anyone who slurs our words, as if they are drunk. Most amazing is the fact that some of our most prominent violators are television news and sports personalities who should have a higher professional standard of performance.


— "different" — a 3-syllable word that is sloppily spoken, leaving out the middle syllable.


— "family" — also a 3-syllable word that has become a whiney, shrill sound reduced to only 2 syllables…"FAAM-lee".


— "supposed to [do something]" — spos'd to (?)  spost to (?) spos't to (?) sposed to (?)  How can we spell that…even write that?  Where is there a dictionary or guide book to help us with our own verbal laziness?


— the "g" factor — anyone refusing to sound the "g" at the end of words…running (runnin), throwing (throwin), thinking (thinkin), passing (passin), coming up (cummin up), etc. Is this some sort of early childhood fear of sounding smart in class, especially among boys? This verbal cancer has even infected women — but why? Do they just want to seem like "one of the boys"?

And when a TEACHER doesn't even know how to spell her subject (elocution) properly, we're in deep doodoo!  I'd say "puddy tat," too.

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Uncategorized


Understanding the “s”


Stanford University "Cardinal"


It's a rare and pleasant surprise to discover a sports writer who correctly understands the names of sports teams — their brand names and how we should talk about them — and reflects that understanding in his/her articles.


Example…this excellent piece in The New York Times about the Stanford University "Cardinal" — not Cardinals — and the school's outstanding football quarterback, Andrew Luck.


Pay special attention to the writer's use of an apostrophe when she says "Cardinal's"…"Cardinal's game…Cardinal's victory," etc.  Major kudos to Karen Crouse!


If the brand name of the team was "Cardinals" rather than "Cardinal" the apostrophe would follow the "s"…"Cardinals' game…Cardinals' victory," etc.


As I have said before — and will repeat forever — the names of sports teams that end with the letter "s" do not mean that the names are plurals for multiple players. Instead, they are registered brand names; so an individual player is not the team's brand name minus an "s".  Hence, Derek Jeter is not a Yankee.

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Posted by on November 27, 2011 in Uncategorized


Punctuation Dummies


They're everywhere…on  TV sports and even Martha Stewart!


For you people who cite a Web address…


A "slash" looks like this:   /

This is also called a "forward slash".


A "backslash" looks like this:   \


The backslash is rarely — if ever — used in website addresses (URLs).


If your brain is too small to understand this simple difference, you have no business blabbering on network television!

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Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Uncategorized


Sloppy Words


The popularity of lazy pronunciation. Shameful. 












The list goes on.  Unfortunately.  Let's clean up!

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Posted by on November 25, 2011 in Uncategorized


Dallas Cowboys


Logo Confusion


Which one is the official logo of the Dallas Cowboys football team? And why do they have two? What determines when and/or where they wear the plain star?  


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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Uncategorized


Directional Logos


A major design problem. Something to be avoided!


They add a serious complication to brand identity and trademark protectability. This isn't a matter of English grammar, but it certainly is in the realm of human — personal and business — communication.


A few examples:

 Arizona Cardinals

  Philadelphia Eagles

    Denver Broncos

     Detroit Lions



The problem is most obvious on football helmets, where there are two sides (right and left). The logo graphic must always appear to move forward, never backward; so it's necessary to FLIP the logo to comply. This flipping violates the logo integrity; because the logo is legally registered only for a two-dimensional page, like a magazine, TV commercial, website, or t-shirt.


This problem usually doesn't exist when the graphic is inert…something as simple as a numeral or letter or graphic like a star…a non-directional logo, such as the one for the Indianapolis Colts, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Green Bay Packers, and New Orleans Saints.



An exception is the unique "W" on the helmets of the University of Wisconsin football team; the designer originally intended to suggest forward movement, so it changes shape depending upon which side of the helmet it's applied. That specific letter is not inert, and poses a problem for legal protection.

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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


The Vagaries of our English

Enough to make heads spin! Thanks to the author of this poem for so much fun.



We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes, 

But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.

One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,

Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,

Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice. 


If the plural of man is always called men,

Then shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,

And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth, 

Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?


Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren, 

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,

But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!                                                                                 


Why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,


Let's face it – English is a crazy language.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; 

neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren't invented in England ..

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,

we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, 

and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.


grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. 

If you have a bunch of odds and ends

and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?


If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? 

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English

should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.


In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship. 

We have noses that run and feet that smell.

We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,

while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?


You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language 

in which your house can burn up as it burns

down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out,

and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

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Posted by on November 21, 2011 in Uncategorized


Weekend Grammar


Big Ten football…Michigan vs. Nebraska


"He could have RAN the ball…He should have WENT…He should have THREW…runnin'…throwin'…thinkin'…soundin' "…STUPID.


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Posted by on November 19, 2011 in Uncategorized


“in”…”into”…”in to”


They're different, believe it or not.


We often hear cooking-show hosts talking about popping something "in" the oven. Well, probably the only thing we can pop IN the oven is popcorn. What they should say is, "pop the dish INTO the oven."


"Into" describes an action, a direction toward the inside of a place, like jumping into a swimming pool; whereas "in" describes a location…in rather than out of a place or outside, like in the water of the swimming pool.

So…what about "in to" — not "into"?


"In to" might also involve an action, such as "I turned my test paper IN TO the professor."  


Or "He refused to give IN TO the kidnapper's demands."

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Posted by on November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized