Mighty Red Pen

April 12, 2012

Your usage is delinquent: access vs. assess

Filed under: Spellbound,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 7:27 pm
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H/t to my West Coast correspondent for sending this little tidbit.

Okay, here’s the deal: If someone is late making a payment, you may assess (M-W: “to subject to a tax, charge, or levy”) a fine.

If you are uncertain about whether you have the correct word, you may need to access (M-W: “to get at”) your dictionary.


September 28, 2011

Draw your letters

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 6:22 pm
Tags: ,

The most competitive Scrabble game you’ll ever play in. From the New Yorker.

H/t Peter Sokolowski.

September 13, 2011

Wordies to the nerdies

Filed under: Lit review,Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:41 pm
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H/t to Mister MRP, who was hip to the fact of the Mumford and Sons tune “Sigh No More,” which draws its lyrical inspiration from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Here’s Mumford and Sons, and here is Shakespeare (according to Kenneth Branagh’s version).

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never;
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Or dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.


Do you not know about War of the Words? It is described thusly on the website: “War of the Words is, simply put, the March Madness of the English language. It’s a bracket-style word tournament similar in structure to the popular NCAA basketball tournament except instead of picking the winner of a (1)Duke vs (16)Murray State match up you get to choose the (1)Palpable vs (16)Mongrel winner.”

Something for every word nerd, no? Brackets due September 22.

August 15, 2011

Literal links

Filed under: Pop culture,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 6:30 pm

Is literally literally the most misused word? This article thinks so. And if you agree, and if you also like comedian David Cross, you might like to see him literally ranting about the word literally.


In other news, I’m literally quite disappointed to learn that after 14 years at the helm of “The Word” column at the Boston Globe, Jan Freeman is signing off (although Erin McKean will continue to write). But you can still find her at her excellent blog, Throw Grammar from the Train, so be sure to visit her there.


August 1, 2011

Uniform for the fashionable grammar soldier

Filed under: Word wars — mighty red pen @ 7:18 pm
Tags: , ,

Although the blog Arrant Pedantry is more generally known for its word-related gems, it is also bringing us several sartorial gems in the form of these t-shirts for word nerds. What else can I say but I wants it!?

Here is the t-shirt Stet Wars.

And the t-shirt Battlestar Grammatica.

These are great for those days when it seems as though correcting even a simple misplaced comma or dangling modifier is just an uphill battle. Which can be, you know, pretty much every day.

H/t Copy Curmudgeon.

July 13, 2011

Summertime and the riffin’ is easy

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:50 pm

This arrived in my in-box the other day from Lands’ End. I know it’s so tempting (and I’m sure I’ve succumbed to the temptation myself), but I’d really could live with a moratorium on writing tags that riff off the George Gershwin tune from Porgy and Bess, “Summertime.” ’Cause, you know, everyone does it.

Some do it more elegantly than others. Here’s a post from the Forbes blog—a big no thank you to “the savings is easy,” please:

Here’s the New York Times with it:

And this article bypasses the whole summer time and goes straight for the point:

So let’s make a pact, shall we, to let this line rest in peace for a long, long time. After all, it’s summertime and the agreein’ is easy.

January 7, 2011

Sticks and stones: Epitaph vs. epithet

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:58 pm
Tags: ,

The New York Times has an excellent series of opinion pieces responding to the NewSouth Books edition of Huckleberry Finn. This is the edition edited by Alan Gribben which will redact the n-word and the word “Injun.” If you’re interested in this topic, it’s worth taking the time to read them. I was especially interested in “Why Is ‘Slave’ Less Offensive?” by Francine Prose.

One essay, “Why Read That Book?” by Paul Butler turned up this excellent typo (which has since been fixed):

Oddly enough, it took me a minute to figure out that a. epitaph was not the right word and b. that the word that was wanted here was epithet. It must be because neither of these are words I use particularly often. But here’s the deal: When you want to talk about the words written on a tomb or gravestone, that’s an epitaph. When you want to talk about “a disparaging or abusive word or phrase,” the word you want is epithet.

January 5, 2011

Editing Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 8:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Well, the InterWebs have been lighting up with the news that NewSouth Books plans to put out an edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn without the n-word or the word “Injun.” The n-word will apparently be replaced with the word “slave.”

Huck Finn has been the target of many a banned book campaign, but this approach seems altogether new to me, and altogether more sinister. If we start putting out sanitized versions of one book, why stop there? Why not create an entire library of Great Books Made More Palatable?

Of all the things I read today about this issue, here are a few of the notables:

“What he suggested,” said La Rosa, “was that there was a market for a book in which the n-word was switched out for something less hurtful, less controversial. We recognized that some people would say that this was censorship of a kind, but our feeling is that there are plenty of other books out there—all of them, in fact—that faithfully replicate the text, and that this was simply an option for those who were increasingly uncomfortable, as he put it, insisting students read a text which was so incredibly hurtful.”

My question is: There are gazillions of books out there. Teachers and schools choose all the time to omit books from their curriculum because it contains content they consider objectionable. Why isn’t it simply an option for schools that object to the content of Huck Finn to just not teach it?

  • Censoring Mark Twain’s ‘N-words’ is Unacceptable,” which points out in Twain’s own words, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”
  • Three Ways Removing the N-Word Will Screw Up ‘Huck Finn,’” by Cord Jefferson, which I especially appreciate because it attempts to answer one of my biggest question out of this whole thing: Is it true that there is a useful and accurate correlation between the word slave and the n-word, such that no meaning is lost or misconstrued by this substitution? Are we certain that in every case where Twain used the n-word, the word slave could be equally applied?

Gribben asserts in his introduction, “The n-word possessed, then as now, demeaning implications more vile than almost any insult that can be applied to other racial groups. There is no equivalent slur in the English language.” I don’t know if I agree with that, and I’d be interested to hear if people out there think that this is true. I’d also be interested to know if anyone has come across any defense of Gribben’s decision as an editor to tinker with Twain’s works in this way.

January 3, 2011

The island of misfit words

Filed under: Word wars,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 8:23 pm

As the word vuvuzela is robbed of one Word of the Year prize after another, one list I’m happy not to see it make is the Lake Superior State University Banished Word List. I have to say, though, that of the words that made the list this year, none of them really made me say, “Oh yeah, I’m so happy to see that word voted off the island.”

  • Viral has its place, epic is just a great word, fail is sometimes just the exact right exclamation at the end of an expression of disgust (unless what’s called for is epic-fail).
  • I would live without wow factor and a-ha moment (unless I’m having an A-ha moment) and back story,  I guess, but don’t find them offensive.
  • BFF? Who wants to banish BFF? That’s it, I’m BFF-breaking up with you!
  • Facebook and Google as verbs: to those who want to stand in the way of the verbing of such words, I say, get out of the way.
  • I’m just sayin’ I like to use I’m just sayin’.  So I have no problem with that. I’m just sayin’.

So you can check out the whole list, and you can also check out Jan Freeman (of Throw Grammar from the Train) on why we like to banish words that have become too popular. And what word would you like to see thrown off the island this year?

November 12, 2010

It’s a draw: drawer vs. draw

Filed under: Spellbound,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 7:14 pm

This little tidbit was spotted on the community classifieds  board at my local supermarket. If you’re looking for a three-drawer bureau, you’re out of luck. But if you need a bureau with 3 draws, this might be just right for you:

Oddly enough, this bureau actually seems to have way more than 3 draws. Does that make it multi-drawed? Bonus.

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