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Category Archives: English language

I refuse to count these chickens. Utterly refuse. You can’t make me.

In the past here, we’ve talked about stupid saying and platitudes and such that make me want to stab things with knives. But when I was at work last night (when you work the late shift and things get slow you have a LOT of time for ponderings) I thought, huh, there are totally some of those old sayings that I not only believe, I totally follow as if they’re laws of the land. So I think that means that somewhere deep inside me there’s some sort of old-world housewife or something who throws salt over her shoulder and forks the sign of the evil eye at traveling salesmen.

SUPERSTITIOUS!!!

My mother and grandmother (and I would assume their people before them, but I didn’t know many of them) were very into old country sayings. I’ve mentioned it before, but my favorite saying of my grandmother’s, ever, was “Love will go wherever it’s sent! Even up a pig’s ass.” (This was in reference to a family member who had fallen in love with a jerk.) My grandmother is salty and cusses a lot and hates a lot of people and revels in gossip. She’s not the kind of grandmother you see on sitcoms who comforts you and makes you baked goods (although, yes, she does make baked goods, and they are FANTASTIC. My grandmother’s cooking is a., some of the best, and b., guaranteed to put fifty pounds on you in about 4 days. Her baked beans are known all around the county. People she doesn’t even KNOW ask her to make her famous baked beans. And if you ask her for the recipe, she doesn’t HAVE one. She’s all, “I don’t know, I just throw things in the pan, you know.”) She’s more the type who tells you lurid stories of the time your third cousin’s dick rotted off from the clap because he was having sex with all the whores (if you say, “there were all the whores? In the country? Really?” she changed the subject, so I don’t know that you can believe ALL of her stories), or long, rambling stories where she assumes you know who she’s talking about so she doesn’t use anyone’s names, just “the old guy” or something, and you’re all, “Um…I don’t…who is that?” and finally half an hour later you find out it’s your cousin’s husband’s grandfather who you’ve never met. I assume the pig’s ass saying is kind of a backdoor (heh) way to talk about bestiality. It made me laugh so hard I choked, and she just looked at me benignly, like, “what, that’s just a thing we say around here.” She is also the exact age (to the day!) of Hugh Hefner. I like that both my one-of-a-kind grandmother and smoking-jacketed Hefner were born on the same day, and one started a nudie empire, and one talks about pig-fuckery.

Twinsies with my gramma! I don’t know that she’s the most proud of this fact.

Anyway, as much as I think there are a lot of very, very stupid sayings (I just found, in doing research for this post – WHAT? I totally do research – a whole website of the WEIRDEST SAYINGS EVER, which I will share with you someday) there are some that I totally believe in. Whether this is because I am from cow-country and it’s in my genes (no, not my JEANS, never-you-mind what’s in my jeans, Ding Dong Joe) or this is because I am superstitious or practical or what it is, who knows. WHO EVER KNOWS. Let’s see what country-fresh sayings I totally think are valid, out of the billions of weird ones that are out there that I just (honestly) don’t understand at all.

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. Meaning: don’t count on something before it happens.

Don’t. Don’t you even.

Dad and I talked about this one just the other day. We are in complete agreement about our refusal to chicken-count. He was all, “oh, no. No, of course you don’t do that. Only idiots do that.”

Let me explain. Let’s say you get potential good news. Um…let me make up some potential good news. Someone tells you that in a month, you might get an awesome opportunity to do something you’ve always wanted to do. I’m making this up, please don’t read into this and think I have some sort of opportunity I don’t. Let’s see. Let’s say you’ve always wanted to skydive (ugh, why) and a friend tells you that a month from now, a friend of theirs with a plane and skydiving training will be in the area, maybe, so if they come, would you want to come along and skydive? So you tell EVERYONE YOU KNOW. And you get SO EXCITED. And you start a countdown on Facebook all “22 days til I’m flying like a BIRDIE!” And then a week before the supposed date, your friend sends you a message, “Oh, that fell through, sorry.” You feel like an asshole and you’re so let down and your friends keep asking about the opportunity and you have to tell them all it fell though. If you had just kept QUIET about it, you wouldn’t have to keep EXPLAINING it.

Dad taught me that if you get good news, until you have that good news LOCKED DOWN, you don’t tell ANYONE about that good news. (I break that rule a little – I have a handful of people that I can’t help but tell the good news to, whether it comes to fruition or not. NO, I’m not going to tell you who those people are. THEY ARE MY PEOPLE. Enough said.) My dad is the most secretive person in the world. He doesn’t tell anyone ANYTHING. I’m (well, obviously) not that bad, but anything big-newsy (the theater-review thing, my book, etc.) I don’t want to chicken-count until it’s official-official. What if it got yanked away? I’d feel like a huge jerk, then everyone would be asking about it and I’d have to explain it fell through. Better to not number those chickens until you KNOW they’re your chickens. (The things we learn from our parents are funny, aren’t they? I’ve learned a lot of weird ways-and-means from Dad. I’m an excellent secret-keeper. That’s Dad’s doing. I also refuse to give compliments to people who are fishing for them, I’m extremely weird about money, and I have a strange affinity for John Wayne westerns. Thank you, Dad!)

This kind of chicken always makes me laugh when I see it at the fair. It has Don King hair.

Also, for me, it’s a superstitious thing. I’m weird about a few things. This is one of them. I think if I mention a potential good thing, the world will teach me a lesson by not giving it to me. I know. I KNOW. I’m like a old Italian widow or something.

SIDE NOTE: In researching this, I found that this is a very old saying from the 1800s. Impressive, no? It’s from a poem about a milkmaid and her pail and she was VERY chicken-county and it brought her to ALL THE RUIN. Don’t be the chicken-counter. It’s bad news.

Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Meaning: better to deal with what you know than what you don’t, because what you don’t could be worse.

I’m not sure how Crowley on “Supernatural” is a good way to illustrate this statement since he’s more a demon than a devil…but I do admire him a lot, so we’ll go with it.

Now, I’m torn on this. Of course I think sometimes you need to take risks. Nothing is gained without risk. But here is a story. A while ago, I was working for a company that I enjoyed a great deal. (This was a long time ago. I want to say…um…7 years or so ago? A long time before I was Lucy’s Football.) And we got a new CEO. And he was – well, he was a goof. He wasn’t EVIL. He was just kind of a toolbag. He concentrated on the wrong things. Like, one day he was all, “Amy! I need plants for my office. Go to Lowe’s!” and he sent me to Lowe’s and I had to call him on my cell a billion times and describe the plants to him so he could have just the right plants for his office because we didn’t have cameraphones then. Well, I suppose SOMEONE had a cameraphone then, just not me. So he wasn’t EVIL, just SILLY. But a lot of the people at work really couldn’t stand him. And yes, he was a bit pesky, like a mosquito, but he wasn’t EVIL. You could distract him with shiny things, and he was never mean. And sometimes he even laughed. And my coworkers were all, “UGH! We need to get rid of this guy.” And I was like “No. It’s like that old saying; better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. If he leaves, who knows who we’ll get in his place?” AND! True to form, pesky CEO got fired (I don’t remember why…I think he just wasn’t very popular) and a new CEO came in. He was a DICK, you guys. All business; very mean; very yelly. And a couple months later, he brokered a deal to sell the company and we all lost our jobs and the company closed.

Eeeee-vil.

So the devil we knew (pesky CEO, who was not a devil at all, just kind of a mindless dork, I didn’t mind him at all) was MUCH better than the devil we didn’t (who I am CONVINCED had horns hidden under his perfectly-hairsprayed CEO hair-helmet.)

This saying, however, can keep you stuck in a job (I mean…we don’t know anyone who was in THAT situation for the past 6.5 years, do we? let’s think) for much longer than she should be because she is scared that there is nothing better out there for her and that her evil soul-sucking job (the devil she knows) is better than the unknown (unemployment = the devil she doesn’t.) I’m still in limbo about this situation, so I’ll let you all know what the outcome of that is. I’ll judge the devils once I know which one of them is less devilly.

What goes around, comes around Meaning: karma’s a bitch, dude.

Ouroboros! One of my favorite things ever!

This doesn’t always work. But a lot of times, it does. I try to keep it in mind as much as I can when going about my daily life. I can’t always – sometimes you are just in a REALLY REALLY BAD MOOD and you can’t help but be a little more of a bitch than you mean to be. (I don’t always react well under pressure. I’m a lot less “let the PRESSURE turn you into DIAMONDS” than I am “THIS PRESSURE IS MAKING ME LASH OUT LIKE A SEA-HARPY.”) But for the most part, if you put out good, you get good back. No, seriously. Try it sometime.

I’m not innocent enough to think “good things happen to good people ALWAYS AND FOREVER” but my weird nebulous non-religious religious feelings have a strong do-unto-others vibe, and I can just tell you, from my day-to-day observations, that the more good vibes you put out, the more good vibes you get back. The more positive you are, the more positivity you get in return. You are also more prepared to deal with the negative if you have a head full of positive. This is not always easy, but it’s the truth. True things are not always easy, jellybeans.

There’s no such thing as a free lunch Meaning: nothing in this life is free, babe.

Oh, this lunch is free. If you like a little death as a side-dish.

I don’t think this refers to free samples at the Costco, like of cheese or whatever. (Although in order to get those, sometimes you have to listen to someone trying to sell you more cheese, and I hate that. JUST GIMME MA CHEESE.) I think this is more, everything comes with a price. If you think someone’s helping you for free – well, they might be, no money might be attached, but other things might be. You need to be aware. ALSO, and this is tangentially attached – here is something I think needs to be addressed. NO ONE IS OWED ANYTHING IN THIS LIFE. You are owed what you earn. If you live in a country, you are technically owed what the laws of the land provide you – life, liberty, blah blah blah – but don’t expect it. You work your ass off and you get what you work for. If you’re in a tough spot, and your country has social programs to help you out – you paid into that when you were working, technically. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get food stamps or welfare. Don’t be silly. I’m just saying, people who think they’re OWED things – people who are greedy when there are free shows or when they’re given something for free and they complain the free thing isn’t BIG enough – make me INSANE. NOTHING IS FREE. You are owed NOTHING. You work, you make money, you buy yourself what you can afford. End of story. (This is why I very seldom go to free events. I don’t like the attitude of people at free events. They are very entitled and very rude and nothing is good enough. IT IS FREE WHY ARE YOU COMPLAINING.)

You can’t judge a book by its cover Meaning: What you see isn’t always what you get.

I judge this book. I like this. (Also, “It was a pleasure to burn,” just THINKING the phrase, gives me a thrill. EVERY DAMN TIME.)

This is true for books, and people, and cats, and movies, and television shows, and cars, and lots of things. I don’t underestimate things that don’t look like much to begin with. The stillest waters run the deepest. I’ve learned this over and over and over. What’s inside is often not what’s outside. And those of us who realize that are really the lucky ones, because we get the best stuff and aren’t dependent on the shiny.

I’m going to go over here now and NOT count these chickens that MAY OR MAY NOT BE HAPPENING. I spend my life in a constant state of non-chicken-counting, most sincerely. Happy day, all. Shush, you chickens, I don’t even know how many of you there are.

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Protected: It’s a holiday! I hope you all took the day off and are celebrating appropriately! (School Version)

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It’s a holiday! I hope you all took the day off and are celebrating appropriately!

Well! Thanks to Jim, without whom this day would have gone COMPLETELY UNNOTICED, we are able to celebrate a VERY AUSPICIOUS DAY TODAY. This is why we HAVE a Minister of Fly-nance! To point out things like this that might have otherwise slipped by without even a mention! THANK YOU JIM!

Today is NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY!

A whole entire DAY dedicated to PUNCTUATION! Well, we here at Lucy’s Football are very pro-punctuation. We like it very much. We like ALL TYPES of punctuation here. What we do NOT like is when it is used incorrectly. So, in order to celebrate punctuation in all of its glory, we’re going to have a punctuation discussion today.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t NEED to learn about punctuation, Amy. I already KNOW how to use punctuation correctly. I am VERY GOOD AT IT.” Well, maybe you are. In which case, WE SALUTE YOU! But there are those among you who are NOT as good at punctuation. People who are confused about how best to use a semicolon; what exactly an ellipsis is; the difference between parentheses and brackets. Today, we are going to discuss ALL OF THESE THINGS. I know! It’s going to be awesome. It’s like a carnival! A CARNIVAL OF PUNCTUATION!

Also, I’m sincerely hoping that someday, some poor lost kid in school who’s all “I am CONFUSED about COMMAS” will find this post and it will help them and they’ll be all secure in their knowledge of punctuation and will do very will in their English class, and also someday when I read their inevitable blog I won’t want to claw my eyes out with salad tongs.

Let’s start with something simple: the period. There’s one at the end of this sentence. And this one. Not this one, though!

The period is used to end a sentence (unless that sentence is a question or a command or VERY EXCITED ZOMG!) and also used after initials (“There’s an airport in New York City named after J.F.K.”) and abbreviations (“I live on Smith Rd.”) (SIDE NOTE: that is a lie, I do not. Don’t come stalk me, you’ll just get lost.)

A little-known fact about periods! If you are writing a sentence within parentheses (for example, that last sentence in the paragraph above,) or a sentence within quotes, you put the period at the end of the sentence INSIDE OF THE CLOSING PARENTHESIS or INSIDE THE CLOSING QUOTATION MARKS. I cannot stress this enough. It makes me crazy when there’s a period all hanging out on its own outside of a parenthesis or quotation marks. If you need a reminder: a period is part of a sentence. You wouldn’t write this, would you? (Shh, don’t tell anyone my) secret. Or this? “One time, I totally wiped out on” the sidewalk. Because part of the SENTENCE is outside of the PARENTHESES/QUOTATIONS! So don’t leave the period out in the cold, ok? That makes the poor period sad, and makes it feel like it was picked last for gym class. Don’t do that to the period.

Now, let’s move on to something a little harder for people to wrap their minds around: the comma. DO NOT BE SCARED! Were you scared of the period? No you were not. The comma is just a period with a teeny tail! Like Dumbcat! And you’re not scared of Dumbcat, now are you? No you are NOT. You LOVE him. As you should.

Commas can be tricky. A quick rule of thumb: a comma is a pause. If you say your sentence aloud, and you’d pause at one point in the sentence, that’s where you’d put the comma. Or commas. That’s it, simplified. There are a lot of other rules. Here are a few:

  • use commas to separate elements in a series: “I bought red, blue, glitter, and black nailpolish.” (We’ll discuss the Oxford comma in a minute. Don’t think I’ve forgotten it. I am – SPOILER ALERT – extremely pro-Oxford comma.)
  • use a comma to connect two independent clauses (“I went to the store, but I forgot my wallet.”) You can leave this comma out – the sentence still works – but it’s prettier with the comma. And say it out loud – you pause between the “store” and the “but,” right? That’s your comma.
  • use a comma to set off things at the beginning of a sentence that make the sentence fancier, but you don’t really need them. (i.e. “However, he thought he should eat 14 more pounds of meatballs.”)
  • if something could be set apart by parentheses, but you for whatever reason decide you don’t want to use parentheses, you damn well better use commas. I totally did it in the sentence above. I sneaky-fucked you. See, here’s how I wanted to write that sentence: “if something could be set apart by parentheses (but you for whatever reason decide you don’t want to use parentheses) you damn well better use commas.” Neat, right?
  • use commas to set off quotes. “Ding Dong Joe will be released after 6-8 months; indecent exposure is no laughing matter,” said the police chief.
  • easy ones: between a city and a state (Hollywood, California) and a date and a year (November 11, 2011); to designate thousands in numbers (3,412,991.)

I know. It seems hard. It’s a little tough. Keep in mind, most people OVERuse commas, rather than UNDERuse them. They think they need them when they don’t.

OK, now let’s discuss this Oxford comma thing.

In the sentence “I bought chocolate, bread, peanut butter, and avocados at the store,” the comma after “butter” is called an Oxford (or serial) comma. A lot of people want it done away with. Because a lot of people have way too much free time.

If you do away with the serial comma, things like this happen:

See? It’s confusing. It makes it look like J.F.K. and Stalin ARE the strippers. Keep the Oxford comma. It’s not hurting anyone.

Here is a song I love called “Oxford Comma.” Even though it has the lyric “Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?” and *I* do, Vampire Weekend! I DO! Enjoy!

There can also be issues with using too many normal commas. Like this:

THINK OF THE SEALS! THE BABY SEALS!!!

If you want more comma-knowledge, the internet can help you. Or The Elements of Style. I know, it looks all fusty and old-persony, but it’s really quite good and helpful.

Man, this is long and long. I really get jazzed about punctuation. It makes me happy. I know. Pretend it’s charming, or something, why don’t you?

OK, let’s move on to Amy’s favorite piece of punctuation: THE SEMICOLON.

I love it so much I have a semicolon typewriter-key necklace. I wear it when I want to feel like kicking ass.

If you look SUPER-CLOSE, I’m wearing it in my author photo on my book. I wanted it immortalized, I love it so.

The Oatmeal has a very helpful “how to use semicolons” link. It is better than anything I could ever write, ever. So, click on that, please. It uses the phrase SUPERCOMMA and that made me laugh so hard I almost peed a little.

A semicolon, in brief, joins two related shorter sentences into one sentence, and looks as cool as shit doing it. Here, you think I can’t give you an example? Don’t even challenge me, Charlie McDoubtface.

“I decided I didn’t give a shit about much of anything; that made it much easier to just go ahead and become a hobo who ate cat food.”

See, both parts of that sentence are sentences all on their own. But you can JOIN them with a SEMICOLON and they are a BETTER sentence.

You can also use them in a list: “I want to go to Finland to see Andreas; to Germany to see Ken; and to England to see Elaine.” SUPERCOMMA! It just sets them apart a little better than a comma would. It looks nicer.

Listen, if you can master the semicolon, your writing looks polished and you look like a superstar. I also cannot confirm or deny that there are some women out there that find it a total turn-on and, if wooed by a man with the proper use of a semicolon, might well take him home at the end of the night. CANNOT CONFIRM OR DENY. OK, fine. I’m just SAYING that if the right guy were to use a semicolon in a missive to me, I’d be pretty damn apt to wear my good panties on our next date, ok? PLUS AN ACTUAL HONEST-TO-GOODNESS MATCHING BRA. Just saying. For the record.

OK. Let’s talk brackets vs. parentheses.

Parenthesis set things apart. Side notes, like I use here. Asides in your sentences. Things like that. You can also use dashes or commas (as mentioned above) to set your text apart. Here’s a quick rule of thumb – all are right, but they read a little differently. Here, I’ll show you.

I went to the museum (the one over by the observatory) with Jenny last month.

I went to the museum, the one over by the observatory, with Jenny last month.

I went to the museum – the one over by the observatory – with Jenny last month.

See – same info, means the same thing. In this case, I’d go with parentheses or dashes. The commas look weird to me. Parentheses kind of de-emphasize the info; dashes seem to make it stand out a little; commas look like you’re not trying hard enough and can’t choose between parentheses and dashes. That’s Amy’s thought-process, anyway.

Brackets – which look like [this] – are used to clarify something in a quote, OR to show you’re smarter than the person you’re quoting. For example:

“I sure do like pork and beens [sic],” said the serial killer.

[sic] means there was a spelling error in the quote, – it’s short for the Latin, sic erat scriptum, “thus it was written,” and that you’re not to blame, and you KNOW they effed up. I own this t-shirt, because I am a grammar nerd:

Once I wore it, and someone said, “your shirt spells ‘sick’ wrong.” I’m not even kidding.

OK, possessives. Apostrophes. I know. They’re scary! SCARY LIKE A BOOGEYMAN. Here, The Oatmeal will save you. This is awesome and I kind of want the poster almost as much as I want the semicolon poster.

There are two things that make grammar nerds insane: improper possessives and improper quotation marks. Here’s the quick and dirty, jellybeans:

  • If it belongs to someone/something, you need an apostrophe. “That is Jason’s hat.” “Those are the cat’s toys.”
  • If the people/things it belongs to is plural, you do it thusly: “Those are the Johnson’s lawnmowers.” “Those are my cats’ litterboxes.” Also, to muddle you more, if the word ends with an s, you put the apostrophe at the END. Like with cats – it’s already a plural. You have multiple cats (you damn cat lady.) So to show that the cats own those litterboxes, to show their possession of them, you need that apostrophe. If you put it after the “t” in cat, you are saying you have one cat with a lot of litterboxes, and it looks like he has a pooing problem.
  • The word “it” confuses people. You either use its or it’s. It’s is used when it’s a contraction for IT IS. “It’s really quite simple.” Its is used to show possession: “I don’t understand its premise – so it’s a movie about the game Battleship? That seems ill-advised.”
  • You do not need to use an apostrophe all random-like. “I love the 90’s” is wrong. Because what belongs to the 90s? Nothing. It’s “I love the 90s.” Rule of thumb: ask yourself, does something belong to the word I’m randomly inserting (heh, inserting) an apostrophe in? If not, you probably are using it wrong.
  • SIDE NOTE: there’s a bar near me that has “half price martini’s” on their sign and every time I drive past it I yell, to the top of my lungs, “HALF PRICE MARTINI IS WHAT???” because in order for that apostrophe to need to be there, there’s a word missing at the end of that phrase. “half price martini’s awesome” would sound terrible but at least be technically grammatically correct.
  • Once you learn the ins and outs of apostrophes and possessives, you can go all around the town mocking signs that are doing them wrong. It makes you feel like a conquering grammatical hero.

    Keep dog’s WHAT out? Dog’s noses? Dog’s food? Dog’s houses? THERE IS A WORD MISSING HERE.

OK, now, quotes. You quote direct quotes from people, or if you’re saying something sarcastically, like “they” say I should probably get back out there and date again, but I think “they” should take a flying leap. Otherwise, you don’t need the quotes. There’s a whole website dedicated to unnecessary quotation marks. It is hilarious and the best. BFF pointed it out to me because he knows I love grammar errors. There’s a sign in the breakroom at work that’s all:

We are here to serve “our customers” and not “the callers” and “the callers” are not our “customers”…

And it’s a whole page long and it has random quotes all over it and the quotes are unneeded and it makes me laugh EVERY TIME I SEE IT. If you use quotes inappropriately, it looks like you’re being sarcastic about the things in quotes. Or that the thing in quotes isn’t true. And I don’t think that’s what you intended. Or, maybe it is? I DON’T KNOW YOUR LIFE.

Are they? Are they “live?” Because this makes me think you’re being sarcastic, and I don’t want your seafood.

OK, I promise we’re winding down. NO REALLY I PROMISE.

Dashes. We covered ’em a little above. They can set something apart – something like this – or they can be used singly. I suppose you want an example. FINE. An example of using a dash singly would be this – just one dash, no more, no less. Heh. Impressive, no?

If you use a dash, use just one, and put a space on either side of it. Because this-using them like this-looks stupid, and like “this-using” and “this-looks” are hyphenated words. And if you use two you look greedy — don’t use two! Now, I’m trying to show you how stupid that looks but WordPress is making my two dashes into one long dash to make it prettier for me. Thanks for NOTHING, WordPress. (The only time I use two dashes on purpose is if I’m signing a memo. You’re not going to be able to see this correctly, but pretend you do. –Amy.)

Hyphenated words are a little trickier. Some you just know – like teeter-totter, or back-to-back. People tend to leave hyphens out. I have a weird hyphen-sensor. I can tell when one is needed about 99% of the time. There are a lot of rules for hyphens, but they are as dull as dirt and I can’t find a way to make them fun, so here, if you care, you can click here and have this site tell you all about them. Mostly, here’s a quick trick – if you think a word MIGHT need a hyphen, Google it. See how it’s written on a majority of the search results. Does it have a hyphen? Go with the hyphen. No? Then leave it out. Listen, I didn’t say grammar was an exact science, and even those of us who are good at it have tricks and shortcuts.

An original piece of artwork via Jim! HYPHENS ARE IMPORTANT! (Thank you, Jim!)

Ellipses. WHAT IS THIS DARK SORCERY AMY?!?! An ellipsis is the three periods you put when you’re trailing off…or when you don’t know what to say next…or for comedic effect. DO NOT USE MORE THAN THREE PERIODS. That changes an ellipsis to a dumbass mess of periods and you look like an asshole. Microsoft Word will even FILL IN YOUR ELLIPSIS FOR YOU! And correct you if you use too many periods! It’s three. No spaces between them, no spaces before or after them. Used correctly, it’s fine. Used incorrectly, it looks like you fell asleep and mashed your face onto the keyboard.

This also means it’s not the end, by the way. If you ever see this. It trails off…like this…so it’s not really the end. Isn’t the English language the best? Yes, it totally is.

Let’s see. What else. Exclamation points. Snooty people will tell you not to ever! Use! Them! But listen, they make me laugh and I use them whenever the hell I want because they are fun and show my exuberance for all things life-related. Question marks…well, they show you’re asking a question. Oh, and then there’s the INTERROBANG. That’s this: ?! and it’s used to show you’re taken aback. “Mom said I’m adopted?!” Heh. Also, is interrobang the best word ever? Yes.

INTERROBANG! That’s not a euphemism. by the way. It’s a really real thing.

I’m too tired to properly explain colons. Click here. It’s helpful, if not a weirdly-formatted site. Also, if you say the word “colon” without giggling like a child, your heart is dead in your chest. DEAD I TELL YOU. The colon is used like a sadder semicolon, I guess. (“Jimmy only liked one girl: Helen. And Helen wished he would die in a fire.”) Or if you’re telling time. OH COLON. I am just messing with you. I love you, too, colon. Heh. Colon.

Now…ADVANCED PUNCTUATION YOU CAN’T FIND ON YOUR KEYBOARD.

This is a snark mark. It is used to denote SARCASM. Are you not completely entranced and in love right now? Who doesn’t want a punctuation mark to denote sarcasm? It’s tough to do that online, you know? Or sometimes people think you’re being sarcastic and send you messages all “oh, shit, I think I offended you, sorry” and then you have to go back and look through everything you emailed/tweeted/commented/blogged and see what could have been misconstrued as “I was upset” when you’re not even FEELING upset because you were being SARCASTIC and it didn’t read well online. It’s not always easy to be a sarcastic bitch online.

OK. This is longer than like a month of posts. I LOVE YOU, PUNCTUATION! Thank you for making things easier for us to understand things, and for making things like this NOT happen:

Happy National Punctuation Day! Don’t forget: knowing how to properly punctuate a sentence makes you AWESOME LIKE A SPARKLY VAMPIRE! (Ugh, I can’t even pull that off. Sorry. Cool like ME. You can be cool like ME. That HAS to be better than a sparkly effing vampire, right?)


My friend the dictionary is a very reliable friend.

Here we are, Tuesday! Lots going on this week. We have a show opening next week, so I have lots of rehearsal this week and next week in preparation for that (it’s a quick show, so rehearsals aren’t too long or painful – we’re actually having a lot of fun, no worries) and I’m doing this and that and the other and reading a lot of books and hanging out with Dumbcat and I have some shopping to do for GIFT PRIZE MAILING and whoo! I’m like a busy bee. Bzz, bzz, bzz.

Summer seems to be here, too. It’s all hot and sticky and humid-y and my hair’s all sticking up like a looney already. I know summer supposedly doesn’t happen until late June but that’s lies. In my world it starts at the beginning of June, when things start to get icky. I’d take two springs instead of a summer any day.

So today, let’s talk about one of my favorite things in the world: typos.

Well, no. They’re not my FAVORITE things in the world. But when they’re egregiously awful, I get a total and complete kick out of them. So today, so you can have some enjoyment out of other people’s misfortune, let’s look at some of the worst typos I found on the world wide interwebs today. PLEASE TO USE A DICTIONARY. Thanks.

Huh. Quite a legacy, Mr. Johnson. QUITE a legacy.

It’s graduation time! Hey, students of the University of Texas, Austin, CONGRATULATIONS!

Oh, wait, here, did you get a program?

Oh, ok, good, glad you…wait…um…WHERE did I graduate from? WOW. If I’d have known, I would have probably taken a different route to getting my diploma.

(Seriously, this made me giggle, because, as mentioned, sense of humor of a 5-year-old-boy. PUBIC! When I was a kid we used to erase the “L” in “public” on the Public Library flyers and then laugh and laugh. If this was my graduation flyer odds are good I’d have laughed like a moron all through the ceremony.)

Well! So I’ve been spelling it wrong all these years? I feel idiotic.

So for some reason I’m not quite sure of, Mitt Romney put out an iPhone app? I don’t know, either. Apparently you can photograph yourself with Mitt in a variety of Mitt-related situations. Well, if I wanted to photograph myself being BORING, I’d just take a picture of myself blogging on my couch right now OH BURN. Wait, who got burned, me or Mitt? Both. I think both.

So anyway, in his iPhone app, there was a typo. I mean, these things happen. But this is…well, kind of egregious:

Oh. OH. Amercia! Amercia! God shed his grace on THEEEEEEEE!

I know, I know, THESE THINGS HAPPEN. Dude’s people spelled the name of the country he wants to run wrong. I don’t think that bodes well.

Also, since the app was that you could take your photo with any of the templates, people started doing things like this:

and…

and…

GO GO MERKA!!!

There’s better timing than when you’re running against a very intelligent incumbent for president to do something idiotic like this.

I wasn’t aware that the Romney camp was having such major spelling issues, but then yesterday I read this article over on Sprocket Ink and apparently, someone over in Romneyville really doesn’t understand how spell check works. This is a total worry. I don’t want to be living in Amercia come November, you guys. I like MERKA just the way it is. Well, mostly. MOSTLY I do.

It’s ok. Sh’cool.

So a few months ago in New York City, they painted a school crossing. So that kids wouldn’t get hit by cars. That’s good. We like not-dead kiddos. Also, New York City schoolchildren make me smile. Always. They always seem to have it all together, always.

So once the workmen were done and doing…well…whatever it is workmen do when they’re done, some loudmouth complainer was all, “Um, guys? Maybe…we might want to…repaint this?”

Heh. Shcool. It sounds like a slurry version of school. Or slang for “it’s cool.” “No, no, Bobby, no worries. Sh’cool. I can ditch math class to smoke weed behind the bleachers today. Bring your hackeysack, yo.”

Well, JFK had ’em, I guess there’s precedent

Apparently this happened on MSNBC lately. Aw. Poor Norah O’Donnell. I’m sure she was trying to keep her side-job on the downlow.

I guess she should just be grateful they got her skin color correct.

(Also, this chick totally stole my mom’s hairstyle.)

My dad SAYS weird shit goes down in California. Apparently so.

Listen, we would NEVER put up with stuff like this in New York. We have more DECORUM here. More CLASS.

Probably it was the fire that did it. Some people get SO EXCITED about fire. No joke. I see that on Law & Order and those types of shows ALL THE TIME. People who get all excited about fire. Apparently they all live in California. Who knew?

Aw, NO toad is a through toad, that would just leave you with a damaged toad.

Hee! Love. No, I would imagine it’s not a through toad. You should probably go around the toad.

And…because there’s nothing better than getting something PERMANENTLY WRITTEN ON YOUR BODY SPELLED WRONG

And also anyone who sees this tattoo. They will also juge you.

This made me laugh so hard I snorted. I feel like this person lost a bet. What’s worse, the awesome typo (say the word “poporn” fast, it sounds great in your mouth) or the fact that he has this thing tattooed on him? I mean, I assume it’s a him. I can’t imagine a female did this to herself.

ZOMG this is the PERFECT tattoo for me! Perfect perfect. I LOVE THEATER. Oh, wait, it’s heinously ugly bordering on frightening and also TRADGEY.

Hee! “tradgey.” What a tradgey.

Yes! DOWN WITH THE MAN! SUBVERT THE SYSTSEM! Wait, what? How many “s”s are in that, anyway? Like, 47,000? 

Also, REALLY? You thought this was a good thing to get tattooed on yourself somewhere? Oh, that’s just embarrassing. I can’t imagine that you’re going to want this in like three weeks, let alone ten years. “systsem.” Heh.

Oh, no. Oh, no no no. Also, this is her TRAMP STAMP. Like, this is going to be there FOREVER now. Wait, what if this is really her nickname? Not sweet pea but sweet pee? I don’t want to know. I DON’T WANT TO KNOW I SAID.

I’m SO jalous. I can’t even contain my jalousy. I think I might fly into a jalous rage, actually.

The tattoo artist signed this. Like he or she was PROUD OF THEIR WORK. Heh.

I have a typo story. Once, when I was young, my dad and I were coming back from a trip. And we drove past a person’s house. And they had one of those cutesy-cute “I named my HOUSE!” signs outside. It said the person’s name (which I won’t say – let’s call her Martha) and then Place. Martha’s Place. And like, butterflies or whatever.

My dad was all, “Huh. Martha’s Palace. That’s stuck-up of her, that place is like a trailer or something.” 

I said, “What? No, place, not palace.”

HE TURNED THE CAR AROUND TO PROVE IT SAID PALACE.

Then when it didn’t, he was all, “She came out and CHANGED HER SIGN while we were driving back here” and still says “This is like Martha’s Palace” to describe things that he’s misunderstood or gotten wrong.

There, there’s a story from my CHILDHOOD. Nice, right?

Happy Tuesday! Use your spellcheck!


The Lighting of a Fire

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” –William Butler Yeats

As you are all undoubtedly aware, I love English. And words. And language. And grammar. And all things related to such. Not just English, either. I love other languages equally as much. Yesterday, Andreas taught me the word Jötunn, which means a Scandinavian troll. HOW AWESOME IS THAT. The most awesome, is how. (Per Andreas, it is “the origin of the word giant – jätte in Swedish.” You all only WISH you had a friend as awesome as Andreas who knows about not ONLY science but ALSO geekily kickass foreign words with umlauts! Oh, how mouth-watering, a well-placed umlaut! I SWOON FOR YOU, UMLAUTS!)

I’m reading a book right now, which we will soon be discussing over at Insatiable Booksluts (OH! HEY! By the way, are you reading/following/obsessing over Insatiable Booksluts? Because you should be. It’s awesome, and me writing for them is only a teeny portion of that awesomeness. It’s all things that are amazing in the world of books and publishing and related things on a well-written, intelligent, humorous blog. So go, go go. Follow. Read. You’ll love it. I promise. I mean, I’d promise you your money back? But no money is expended, so that’d be an empty promise. Also, I have no money to give. THIS WELL IS DRY) so I don’t want to spoil that or anything, but anyway, this book has some of the most gorgeous phrasing I’ve come across since I read Swamplandia! last year. It’s got some sentences that I read, then I re-read, aloud, to myself, two or three times, just to hear them in the air, and to taste them in my mouth, it’s that well-written. I’m that much of a fan of the beauty of language, and the power of language. I want to be MOVED by words. I want to weep when reading, or become enraged, or laugh out loud. I don’t want it to be a passive experience; I want to be engulfed, I want to burn with the words on the page. I want to be swept away, I want to drown.

I was lucky enough to have parents who believed very strongly in books and reading, and instilled that love in me from an early age. My mother read to me until I was old enough to take that duty on myself (much to both her glee and chagrin, that happened earlier than expected – glee because who wouldn’t be proud of a child reading to herself at three? But chagrin because that three-year-old was all, “DO IT MYSELF!” and she became irrelevant in the world of book-reading.) I’ve talked about this here before. My father, not a big reader, read to me when she was unavailable, and taught me the value of making books fun, of using voices and gestures and facial expressions when reading to make the experience richer and more fulfilling for a child. So really, my dad was my first well-narrated audiobook, I suppose. I remember reading to my younger brother, making him laugh until my mother would beg me to stop because he was getting red in the face with giggles and having trouble catching his breath.

All of this to say, I’ve always been a reader. Once I learned how to laboriously print my name, then the intricacies and beautiful loops and whorls of cursive, I became a writer as well. Maybe not the kind of writer who gets published (or, at least often), but there haven’t been many times in my life that I haven’t been writing SOMETHING. Short stories. Unfinished (and, horrible) novels. Poetry. Diaries upon tortured diaries. Long letters to friends in far-flung locales. Plays. Emails that take up pages and pages. And, obviously, more recently, blogs and tweets and (non-emo, thank you very much) Facebook statuses. And I’ve never been happier. Do I think my words are moving people to tears? Not often, probably. But they seem to be making people laugh, most days. And that makes me (to quote The Bloggess) FURIOUSLY HAPPY.

So yesterday, All Over Albany (one of my favorite local blogs, and my favorite local news/happenings blog) posted this. And because it was from them, and because it had the word “poetry” in the title, and because it was grammatically incorrect (but in quotes, so obviously not All Over Albany’s grammatical inaccuracy), I of COURSE had to click through to the article and read what was happening.

Oh, ouch. OUCH MY BRAIN. On so many ouchy levels.

So for those of you who are not aware of how the New York State educational system is set up, I’ll give you a quick crash-course. As a junior-high/high school student, you can follow a Regents track, and I believe there’s also a BOCES/VOTECH track, where you attend BOCES and vocational technology classes off-campus (my mother works in a building where these students attend classes so I believe this is still occurring as it did when I was a student.) (When I was in school, there was a non-Regents option. This has been phased out.) (There are a lot of parenthetical asides in this paragraph. Hee.) Regents are exams given at the end of the year (or, in some cases, I think after a semester – I feel like our government Regents was only a semester-long course? I may be misremembering this, though, and now that I think of it, did we even HAVE a government Regents? It says there’s one now, but I don’t remember if there was one then. Man, but it’s been a long time since I’ve been a student!) in a variety of subjects – 3 separate math exams (Algebra, Geometry, and Trigonometry), 4 separate science exams (Earth Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics), 2 separate Social Studies exams (global history/geography and US history/government) and an English exam. If you are a New York State student who passes the exams, you graduate with a Regents diploma (or, maybe since they changed it, it’s just a “diploma,” since everyone takes the exams now? Not sure about that, honestly.) If you graduate with high enough grades on them, you can get a Regents diploma with honors. (I’m not going to braaaag, or anything, but…yeah, that’s what I got. SHUT UP YOU KNEW I WAS A SUPERSTAR.)

If you want to know more (you probably don’t, it’s not all that interesting, I don’t think, to anyone but a New Yorker, or maybe people who get off on testing) here’s the Wikipedia page. It seems fairly accurate.

The exams weren’t easy, but I’m one of those annoying bitches who tests well (no, seriously, there really are people like this, we seem to have a sixth sense for what’s being asked for in test questions. I know. It’s annoying to others. Sorry), so I breezed them all but Algebra, Chem, Physics and Earth Science, which were my worst four subjects in school. Well, and Phys Ed, but you (THANK YOU ALL THE HEAVENS ABOVE) didn’t have to take a Phys Ed Regents exam. You can also re-take the exams as many times as you want to get your grade up, so I re-took three of those tests, and aced them the second time around. I did NOT retake Physics, because I had graduated high school at that point, already had my diploma, and wanted to hang out with my skeevy emo lead-singer-in-a-band skaterat boyfriend more than I wanted to study for an exam that had no bearing on my life, since I’d been accepted early into the college of my choice. Yep. Never looked back. Hated Physics. HAAAAATED IT.

Now, in that article from the New York Times I referenced like a million years  ago above, which I know you’re not clicking because a., you like me to recap shit for you, and I’m happy to do so, and b., you hate clicking on things, it’s like a phobia with you people, it talks about how the standards for the English Regents in New York State have fallen. OH HOW THEY HAVE FALLEN.

Teachers (again, I remember this from AGO, so correct me if I’m wrong) can make a little (WAY LITTLE, don’t even get me started on how much teachers get paid, don’t even) extra money if they sign up to score Regents exams. They’re given a sample scoring booklet. There’s a short-answer section on the English Regents (supposed to be a paragraph long) where the score is zero or one. According to the article, the following comes from a paragraph that would score a one, therefore the FULL POINT LEVEL, for one of these sections:

These two Charater have very different mind Sets because they are creative in away that no one would imagen just put clay together and using leaves to create Art.

Now, you do have to hand-write the exams, so yes, kids today are used to spell-check, I get that, even me, Queen of Spelling Bees (oh, I SO have to tell you all about my reign as the Queen of Upstate New York Spelling Bees someday), relies on spell-check a little more than I should, and even then, spells things wrong now and again, I AM NOT INFALLIBLE I AM NOT THE POPE. But reading this makes me think of the mythic “automatic 200 points” you were supposed to get if you put your name on top of the S.A.T. I mean, I guess, since the kid wrote SOMETHING, and it’s not GIBBERISH, and your choices in scoring are ALL THE POINTS or NO POINTS, you’d give him all, rather than none? But oh, my. Random capitalization! “imagen” and “charater” and “in away!” Run-on sentences!

(Please bear in mind that when you take this test, you are at the end of your junior year in high school. So you are between sixteen and seventeen years old. Not 12, as this sample might imply.)

According to the article, since the change where there is no longer a non-Regents track option, and all students must pass the Regents to graduate, the Regents board had one of three options: leave the tests difficult, leave the scoring as-is, and risk failing a lot of students; “dumb-down” the tests; or “dumb-down” the scoring. They seem to have gone for the third option. Scoring seems to be a very “just show up, Sally and Brian, and we’ll do our best by you” situation. And this is so, so sad to me. And it is failing our students. No, not “failing” them in a “you fail, repeat senior year” way; failing them in a “here, go forth unto the world without knowing how to write, spell, or think critically” way.

This one was my favorite. This was, according to the scoring booklet, supposed to get full marks on the long-form essay – four points. The assignment was to analyze Goethe’s quote “No two persons regard the world in exactly the same way.”

In life, “no two people regard the world in exactly the same way,” as J. W. von Goethe says. Everyone sees and reacts to things in different ways. Even though they may see the world in similar ways, no two people’s views will ever be exactly the same. This statement is true since everyone sees things through different viewpoints. 

ZOMG you guys. TOTAL FUTURE POLITICIAN. Every one of the sentences IS SAYING THE SAME THING. Just re-worded. Actually, I might be tempted to give this kid full marks for bullshittery. His grammar and spelling are perfect, though, I have to say. But the content in this? There is none. He (or it could be a she, don’t mean to be sexist) didn’t fulfill the assignment. I have no idea what the kid thinks of this quote. Because the kid just rephrased the quote FOUR TIMES. Brilliant way to get around doing any thinking, though. Gold stars for that.

And then there’s this, from the article: “Sad to say, during the Bloomberg administration, little if any progress has been made, if test results are to be believed. In 2003, 52.5 percent of fourth graders were proficient in English, compared with 51 percent in 2011. In 2003, 32.6 percent of eighth graders were proficient, compared with 35 percent today.”

Yes, I know test results are to be taken with a grain of salt. I know. And I know test results often don’t represent how much a child actually knows, and that some people test poorly, and on and on and on. But 35% of our eighth graders are proficient in English? THIRTY-FIVE PERCENT?

Here’s the thing. They don’t get any JOY out of language. They see English as I see Physics – a joyless soul-suck. And even I got some joy out of Physics – seeing how and why things worked the way they did was kind of cool, even though I couldn’t totally wrap my mind around it.

What’s the fix? Shit, I don’t know. I’m not an educational reformer. I just know that something’s terribly broken.

I have some ideas. They’re not fixes. Just ideas.

We need to bring the joy of language back to our students. We need to make it fun and cool again. We need to show them the worlds that books can open up for them and the magic in those worlds and the escape hatches contained therein. We need to show them the utter awe of having the exact right word available when needed. We need to teach critical thinking and debate skills. We need to show them the humor innate in any language, because you know what makes kids want to learn? HAVING FUN WITH IT. We need to drill the rules of grammar into their heads like we drill the multiplication tables in there, because they’re equally important. We need to cultivate a nation of children who will grow into a nation of adults who are proficient in the language they speak and write. Is this so hard? Is this so difficult to achieve? Obviously, it is. Why?

English teachers were some of my favorites, over the years. Because they, for the most part, absolutely dig what they do. They understood how a beautiful poem could burst in your mouth like a ripe fruit. They understood how a good short story took hold of you and shook you until you were limp when you closed the book. They loved when the students got something, really GOT something, when their little sponge-like minds soaked up knowledge and put it all together and were able to connect the dots.

What’s the fix? I don’t know. I couldn’t begin to tell you. But I’m despairing a little today. As someone who loves language as much as I do, who sees it as a constant companion and guide and friend? I’m despairing for the youth of America. They’re bereft, and this is a sad state of affairs. We’re failing them. There has to be a fix for this.


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