I was writing about teen slang the other week. You may recall there was a quiz. Now, I love slang. And teenagers in particular love slang. But I have to admit there’s a time and a place. And what’s worrying is there seems to be a whole generation of kids who don’t know when to drop the innits. Because no-one’s told them they should.
One of the things I found shocking during the recent London riots – apart from the wanton vandalism – was the linguistic capabilities of many of the yoofs that were spoken to by the media. There was one kid they interviewed who finished every half garbled and unintelligible senetence with ‘ya get me?’. No mate. I don’t get you. Oh and by the way you don’t live in the Projects in Baltimore, so why talk like you do. He may have had a very valid point about social injustice, poor education and the lack of affordable housing in the Capital but I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. How will he get on in an interview I wonder?
A couple of weeks ago I read a brilliant article by Lindsay Johns in the Evening Standard about this very same subject. It’s a good read. Here’s the link. Ghetto grammar robs the young of a proper voice.
There are some words which get even the most competent writers in a twist. I always struggle to spell the town Grimsby (luckily it’s not a word I have to type often). And I have to really think about the homonyms bear and bare. Is it ‘bare that in mind’ or ‘bear that in mind’?
So this post is for me as much as it is for you.
Bare means lacking a natural, usual or appropriate covering i.e. butt naked. It also means exposed, unfinished, empty, lacking, having nothing left or added, or not being disguised or embellished in any way. And it means reveal or uncover.
So anything to do with nakedness, uncovering or revealing is bare:
- She was completely bare faced
- Bare as the day he was born
- With my bare hands
- He bared his teeth
- Riding barebacked
- Bare one’s soul
- The house was stripped back to its bare bones
- The top revealed a bare midriff
Whereas bear (as well as those big furry things) means to carry or transport, to show a feeling, to have a name, to give birth, to produce fruit or flowers, to support weight, to go in a certain direction, to show patience and to aim a gun.
- Can you bear with me a moment?
- At the next turning bear right
- To bear the cost
- He’ll bear the scars for years
- Will it bear the weight?
- She’ll bear the brunt of that
- Bear down
- I think it will bear fruit every year
- They’ve been ordered to bear arms
- I’ll bear that in mind
So if it’s not anything to do with nakedness, uncovering or revealing – it’s bear.
For more tips on grammar and punctuation download the ebook.
I was at a networking meeting the other day when someone declared that blog posts should always be infotaining. i.e. informative and entertaining. Well, quite.
It got me thinking about portmanteaus: those words that are a blend of two other words. Or to be more precise they’re the beginning of one word joined to the end of another.
Some are rotten. Like infotaining for one. Or copelessness (from cope and hopelessness). Or those famous couple ones like Brangelina or Bennifer or errr…umm…Jedward.
And some are just invented by marketing departments to get us to buy more stuff. “Oooh you’re a chocoholic. Here. Buy another three bars why don’t you?”
Some portmanteaus are now so part of our everyday language it’s hard to think of their origin as two separate words. “Come over in a fortnight for a ginormous brunch and bring your camcorder with you.”
And, of course, our online language is awash with portmanteaus including Internet, email, malware, blog, netiquette. emoticon, webinar, WiFi and Wikipedia to name just a few.
The word portmanteau itself is a blend word as it combines the words porter (to carry) and manteau (cloak) and actually means a small leather travel case. It’s often thought portmanteaus originated from the author Lewis Carroll who used them liberally in Through the Looking Glass published in 1872. Chortle and Galumph are two of Carroll’s portmanteaus. Not so, according to fellow copywriter Jonathan Gabay who states that examples of word blending have been found in 7th century Old English manuscripts.
So without further ado here are a few famous portmanteaus.
Advertorial: Advert and Editorial
Brunch: Breakfast and Lunch
Bionic: Biology and Electronic
Blog: Web and Log
Camcorder: Camera and Recorder
Chillax: Chill and Relax
Chortle: Chuckle and Snort
Dumfound: Dumb and Confound
Email: Electronic and Mail
Emoticon: Emotion and Icon
Fanzine: Fan and Magazine
Fortnight: Fourteen and Nights
Galumph: Gallop and Triumph
Ginormous: Gigantic and Enormous
Glitz: Glamour and Ritz
Hassle: Haggle and Tussle
Humongous: Huge and Monstrous
Infomercial: Information and Commercial
Intercom: Internal and Communications
Internet: International and Network
Malware: Malicious and Software
Motel: Motor and Hotel
Muppet: Marionette and Puppet
Netiquette: Internet and Etiquette
Piffle: Piddle and Trifle
Prissy: Prim and Sissy
Smog: Smoke and Fog
Squiggle: Squirm and Wiggle
Telex: Teleprinter and Exchange
Webinar: Web and Seminar
WiFi: Wireless and Fidelity
Wikipedia: Wiki and Encyclopedia
Got any favourite portmanteaus? Or portmanteaus of the future? Let us know in the comments.
Image courtesy of Samikki
Well that’s that then. The fat lady is singing and we’re all as sick as a parrot. Following England’s early bath we’ve started the post mortem and the clichés have been spewing out quicker than Lionel Messi on speed. ‘We’re failing at grass roots level’. ‘We need to have a roots and branch investigation.’ ‘England needs an English manager.’
What is it about football and clichés? Don’t know. But a World Cup wouldn’t be a World Cup without a few ‘played his socks off’ would it? Here are some other favourites we’ve heard in the last few weeks.
He’s not that kind of player
Said of a player whose crunching tackle on the opposition’s No. 9 has led to him being carried off on a stretcher. Thus proving he is that kind of player.
He should have scored
Yes, that is the idea.
Couldn’t have hit it any better (as the ball whistles by the far post)
Did it go in? Nope? Then he probably could have hit it better.
The defender’s done just enough to put him off
Said of a centre half who has just clattered into the back of a player, sending him into the first row.
It’s important……we get off to a good start/score first/keep our heads up/defend well/ concentrate
Win. We just need to win. That’s the most important thing.
A game of two halves
Yep. Since the rules of Association Football were written in about 18 hundred and frozen to death it has always been a game of two halves. Unless your mum called you in for your tea early.
They’ve parked the bus in front of goal
Actually, no. The other team is defending well. And I think you’ll find the bus is in the car park where the driver left it.
If it wasn’t for the keeper they would have scored
Nooooo! Really? Damn that goalkeeper.
Six inches lower and that was in
Aaah that’s the point see? The crossbar is there for a reason.
Take one game at a time
In fact, there’s no other way you can play apart from one game at a time. Even if you’re ‘efficient Germans’ you can still only play one game at a time.
The Manager has lost the dressing room
Look it’s there. Next to the broom cupboard and the toilet. That Pavlos Joseph bloke seemed to find it ok.
Gerrard and Lampard can’t play together
What are they? Seven? ‘That’s my ball.’ ‘No, it’s mine.’ ‘Mine!’ ‘Waaaah!’ They’re two adults who play football professionally. Of course they can play together. Oh wait…
A good day at the office
Not really. Prancing round a bit of grass for an hour and a half is not like working in an office is it? Do I see a PC, a printer, a fax machine, stale milk and random coffee cups left in the sink? I do not. It’s not an office.
We always knew we were in for a tough game
We were crap and were played off the park.
They’ve got a lot of quality players
They worked very hard and made it difficult for us
Any more? Leave ‘em in the comments!
The other day I asked my nephew what the capital of France is. He replied ‘F’.
Yep, most of us know that capital letters are used for proper nouns and at the beginning of a sentence. But take a quick look at the intertubes and you’ll discover that the misuse of capital letters is now reaching epidemic proportions.
So here’s a handy capital letters checklist.
Use capital letters for:
The first letter of a sentence: It was there
Days of the week and months: Monday, July
Personal pronoun: I
Proper names: Sarah, London, River Thames
Brand names: Microsoft, Sony
Countries: England, Australia
Languages: French, German
Job titles if the title comes before a name: Vice-President Jeff Atkins
Salutations: Dear Sir
Acronyms and abbreviations: BBC, UN
Holidays and festivals: Christmas, Easter
In titles of books and films: Confessions of a Shopaholic, Crime and Punishment
When you’re shouting: HOW HAS THIS HAPPENED?
In the US capital letters are used for every word in a heading apart from prepositions (to, over), conjunctions (and, but) and articles a and the: The Simple Power of a Killer Offer. Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.
But don’t use capital letters for:
The seasons: summer, winter
When a country appears as part of a well-known phrase: danish pastries, french windows, english muffins
Relatives: mum, dad, aunt (unless they’re my Mum, my Dad or my Aunt)
Compass points: Drive east on the A3, he lived on the north coast of France
Job titles if it comes after a name: David Cameron, the British prime minister, is due to meet with Barack Obama this afternoon
So how about online stuff? (For the record online is lower case and all one word.) Purists write Web and Internet with capital letters but web and internet are now widely used. So just pick one style and stick to it. The word website is lower case as is email. But the jury is still out on Ebooks and Enewsletters and you’ll see them written with upper and lower cases.
Agree or disagree with any of the above? Let us know in the comments.
A comma should be used to separate two or more co-ordinate adjectives that describe the same noun.
Or to put it more simply, if you’re using two similar words to describe a thing, person, place, animal or idea you should use a comma to separate them.
She worked in a happy, relaxed office.
He pointed to the big, tall guy in the gym.
Her boss was a strong, confident woman.
The easiest way to test if the two adjectives are similar is to reverse their order or stick an And inbetween them.
She worked in a happy and relaxed office. She worked in a relaxed, happy office.
He pointed to the tall and big guy in the gym. He pointed to the big, tall guy in the gym.
Her boss was a strong and confident woman. Her boss was a confident, strong woman.
Yep, they all work. Which means they’re all co-ordinating adjectives and need a comma between them.
Now use the same the rule to spot non co-ordinating adjectives.
He wore his blue cotton shirt to the office.
It was a stripy football jersey.
The extensive briefing document was nearly finished.
If we swapped them round or added an And we’d get:
He wore his cotton blue shirt to the office.
It was a stripy and football jersey.
The briefing extensive document was nearly finished.
Nope. These don’t work. So no comma.
As a general rule, adjectives of size come first, followed by adjectives of age, shape, colour, material, origin and purpose.
Blue cotton shirt.
Tall, young guy in accounts.
New French film.
Your dirty laundry is coming home to roost. And other metaphors, similes, idioms and clichés we love
I was thinking about metaphors on the journey into work this morning. And that’s because practically every single segment on the radio used a metaphor at some point.
Metaphors make a comparison between two things that are basically different but have something in common. So
Arsene Wenger was boiling mad over Porto’s dodgy goal
Bankers’ bonuses are difficult to swallow
The ball rocketed into the net
His recollection of events was foggy
London is a melting pot
He’s a rock
Of course the ball didn’t literally go like a rocket. But it did go very fast, like a rocket would. And London isn’t literally a melting pot. But it is full of all types of people, things, smells and colours. And some bloke isn’t literally a rock. But he is strong and sturdy. You get the drift.
And then I started thinking about similes, idioms and clichés. (Yeah, thank goodness it’s only a 15 minute drive.)
So what are similes? Similes are when two things are compared to each other and are said to be like or as something.
She felt as free as a bird
It fitted like a glove
That joke is as old as the hills
She was as thin as a rake
They were as scarce as hen’s teeth
He was as tough as old boots
Life is like a box of chocolates
How about idioms? An idiom is a common expression which is part of every day speech and often breaks all rules on grammar and meaning. In fact, the word idiom comes from the Greek idios meaning ‘one’s own, peculiar, or strange’.
The histories of some idioms such as skate on thin ice are obvious. Some are not. Here are a few of my favourite idioms.
Gone for a burton
Sleep on a clothes line
Give the cold shoulder
Not my cup of tea
Fly off the handle
Go the whole hog
Keeping up with the Joneses
Don’t mince your words
In a pickle
Get the sack
Back to square one
Storm in a teacup
Many idioms are metaphors such as bed of roses and on the back burner. Some idioms such as like a bear with a sore head and bald as a coot are similes. Some idioms are dyads – pairs of words joined by and – such as airs and graces, beer and skittles, and above and beyond.
Which brings us on to clichés.
Clichés are like their close relative idioms. But unfortunately, clichés have gone round the block once too often and have become overused and tired. Avoid them like the plague.
Move the goalposts
Another day another dollar
The ball is in your court
Laugh all the way to the bank
Blood, sweat and tears
Chomping at the bit
On time and on budget
Blast from the past
Can’t see the wood for the trees
Got any favourite idioms that you love to death? Or any clichés that you avoid at all costs? Let us know in the comments.
Friend and SEO colleague, Rob Dobson, emailed me this pic this afternoon from the Fulham Road, London. Hmmm…nice shop. Poor sign.
But La Maison is in good (bad?) company. Take a look at these corkers that have been sent to the MSN News site recently.
Do not cling? Do not climb? Or what the heck. Let’s have both.
Yeah, help us reduce crime against the English language.
I wonder if there were enough Ofxord Dictionary’s left to be handed out as leaving presents.
We hope you’re fluent in English ‘cos we’re not. Although we make awesome stuffed olives.
You say tom-ah-to we say to-may-to. Let’s call the whole thing off.
My personal fave. Sue’s Snax’s. So wrong. So very wrong.
I sort of love this sign. I like the fact the loo is referred to as a powder room. And it’s only 5p to have a tiddle. That’s a bargain.
What I especially like is one of the comments left on the MSN News site.
Also, in number 17, the apostrophe is not superfluous, merely in the wrong place as the word “ladies” is a plural, and the toilets are “ladies’ toilets”.
Oh, so it’s merely in the wrong place. That’s ok then.
I spotted this on the Holloway Road this week.
Well we have just had a recession. So I guess some businesses may be stationary. But I don’t suppose this is what they are talking about.
Come on people. This is a schoolboy error. The easiest way to remember the difference: stationers (with an E) sell stationery (also with an E).