Thursday, January 31, 2008

What's The Deal With Dis-orientated?

This is a re-run of an entry I made in my main journal.  I thought it would fit well here:

Feeling Dis-orientated

I recently re-read (actually listened to the audio book of...) Death in Holy Orders by P.D. James and was reminded of a word that bugs the heck out of me -- disorientated.  I don't know why, but it just doesn't sound right.  The first time I saw it in print I thought it was a misprint.  But I looked it up and it is actually a word.  It means, of course, to "cause to be lost or disoriented", and the literal meaning is to "turn away from the East or (figuratively) from the right or the truth", thus the "orient" portion of the word, as in "oriental".  (Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.)

I have no problem with the word disoriented, but disorientated makes my mouth feel funny!  And if reading the word was bad, listening to it being read on the audio book was even worse.  Made my head spin every time I heard it.  And I think P.D. James uses it at least a half dozen times in that book.

Oh well.  I'll get over it.  Isn't it funny how some words just bug you or make your tongue feel funny when you try to say them?  I do love P.D. James, though, and Death in Holy Orders is probably my favorite Adam Dalgliesh story.  Love those "who-done-its."


P.S. I just checked my OED of English Etymology, 1966 and found this interesting note about the word "orient": " so as to face the east ...; determine the bearings of; ...ascertain one's bearings ...So, by extension with -ATE, orientate; prob. after orientaTION; situation so as to face east (of a church, east and west), bearing or lie of a thing, determination of bearings...." 
But the word "disorientate" doesn't appear in this book.
P.P.S.  Tag, Guido, you're it.

Giving A Title Its Due

Well, I'm determined I'm going to get an entry in here before the day is officially over!

I've been playing around with several ideas for entries, but then Amanda left a comment in the previous entry that I feel I just MUST address.  Let's see what we can find out, shall we?

Amanda asked how to "properly give a book title its due recognition",  and she wondered "how to properly do speech in writing."  She wondered if she could put the actual quote on another line to emphasize it.  Let's deal with the second question first. 

I don't see why you can't put a quote on a separate line to emphasize it, but I wouldn't (like the example you used in your comment) put She said, on one line, and then the quote on another line.  I'd just go ahead and put the words She said and the quote on the same line, or I'd just let the quote stand alone without using the words She said.  I couldn't find anything that addressed this particular question, but I did find this nifty video about using quotation marks: Nifty Video About Using Quotation Marks.  The only thing I'll add is that when you're writing in your journal or in any personal writing I don't see why you can't style your writing any way you want.  If you're looking to get published, you'll have an editor (or team of editors) rearranging anything that needs to be rearranged, anyway.

Now, as for the first question dealing with properly giving a book title its due recognition:  Unless things have changed since my proofreading days, the preferred method is to underline the title of a book or magazine.   ONE CAN ALSO WRITE THE TITLE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.  I have also seen cases where a book or magazine title is typed in italics, but I was not taught to do so.  (I must offer a bit of a disclaimer here.  I was a proofreader for a newspaper, and sometimes journalism has its own rules and regulations when it comes to these things.)  I believe that it is more acceptable to underline titles.  However, two exceptions to this are the Bible and the Koran.  I don't think it's acceptable to underline these names, or to write them in all caps, nor would I italicize them.  Often when I'm writing online I will use all caps for the title of a book, simply because underlining may make it look like a hyperlink, but otherwise I prefer underlining.  Never underline and italicize a title at the same time.  It just isn't done.

I found one source that mentioned that The New Yorker uses quotation marks around everything whether it's a novel, a TV show, or a short story.  I think the main thing is to be consistent within your writing.  Decide which you are going to do, and then stick with it.

If I find anything more definitive about this, I'll post it at a later time, and if there is anyone out there who knows what the current rules are, please leave a comment or email me.


What's in a name

Although I was the last to post on this blog, I thought it would be a shame to let this journal slip into oblivion, so I'm picking up the baton. What's in a name in my neck of the woods. An exercise in etymology.

Here in the Scottish islands, names are not predominantly of English origin. It is a mish-mash of Norse, Gaelic and English. The name of the Isle of Lewis, where I currently reside, is a corruption of the Gaelic Leòdhas. This in turn is a corruption of the Norse male name Leod. Completing the circle, I think the closest name in English would be Ludovic. Bearing in mind that in Gaelic, the word for "son" is "Mac", it won't come as a huge surprise that the name MacLeod occurs in abundance round here.

Names of hills are usually of Norse derivation. The suffix "val" means "hill", so you get loads of mountains whose names end in -val. Three of the hills I have climbed, or tried to climb in some instances, were called Teileasbhal (699 m), Roineabhal (218 m),  and Stulabhal (550 m). Oh, in Gaelic the "bh" is pronounced as a soft "v".

Beaches and bays also carry Norse names. The name of my hometown, Stornoway, has a Gaelic name of Steòrnabhagh. The suffix -bagh (or bhagh where lenited) means bay. In the case of Stornoway, it means anchorage.

The Vikings had farms, and the name of many a village in Lewis bears witness to that, with a suffix of -shader or -bost. The tiny hamlet of Grimshader lies 5 miles south of Stornoway, along a beautiful inlet. The village of Leurbost a few miles south of that again.

Norway occupied these parts until 1296, when it lost the battle of Largs. The Vikings have long gone, as has their culture. Only in their names do they live on.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


English is a strange language, whether it's British or American English. I once possessed a list of all the quirks in English, like:

Why is it one mouse, two mice
Why is it one louse, two lice
Why is it one house, but not two hice?

The point was raised by Yasmin and a few other (British) bloggers about the differences between American and British spellings. In the USA, you tend to reduce the 'ou' in (e.g.) colour to 'o' as in color. Another disparity is turning the 's' in organisation to 'z' (organization). To be honest, this is something that I tend to ignore. I note it, but don't take issue with it.

I DO Stand Corrected!

In her comment to the "bath-ing" entry (and a subsequent email) Yasmin said that, being British, she does use the word "bath" as a verb.  Curious I pulled out my Oxford American and look what I found:

The word "bath" can be a noun or a verb in Great Britain.  Here's what Oxford says: "v. Brit. wash (esp. a person) in a bath.  2. intr. take a bath.

So in Britain "bath" can be a verb, both transitive and intransitive.  However, according to my Oxford, in Britain the word "bathe" is used when referring to a swim, and this goes along with what Yasmin told me, as well.

I will, in all fairness, email my sister, Maxine, and tell her that she wasn't totally incorrect to use "bath" as a verb; she was just using it on the wrong continent!  She will get a kick out of that, believe me.  (Of course, it would still bug me to hear someone say "I need to bath the kids."  It just sounds wrong to my ears.)

Thank you Yasmin for your input!  Aren't we all learning so much?

Note: take a bath is also slang for suffering a large financial loss.

P.S.  I just noticed last night that this journal made the Friday Blogplugs list in Magic Smoke.  (Guido's doing, perhaps?)

Just A Few That Get Misconstrued


(just a few that get misconstrued)


 limet =limit
 tagers =taggers
 there =their
 instructions =instructions
 mailto= mail to

     I am not sure whether this falls under typos-pet peeves or what.
Yes,Virginia-I make typos-I can't type-I hunt and peck,but I go back all the time  and check for mistakes.
I'll be typing away and I get an alert and I am still typing and  look up and half of what I wrote is not even there.
I try to remember what I had  written so I can do it all over again.
Thank goodness we can go back and edit.
I just wish to goodness we could go back and correct our comments.
Just as my comment is saving  ,I will notice a  typo.
Now, do I add another comment and explain my typo-sometimes I do.
I just don't like the fact  that someone may think I can't spell or speak correctly.
Which,as I've said ,I don't always write or speak correctly.I like using slang to get my point across at times.
But when a word is used incorrectly it will bug me to no end.
When I read the newspaper I do it with pen in hand .When I come to a misspelled word I must correct it before I continue reading.
My husband says to correct it in my mind and read on.
No can do my friend.

The long and short of it

Two years ago, Western Isles Council (in Scotland, for those unfamiliar with my location) ordained that anyone who allowed their dog to foul pavements and other public places would be liable for a £40 ($80) on-the-spot fine.

The debate on local radio centered on whether a beach constitutes a public place. Cue the local accent. Vowels tend to get shortened in this part of the world. This means that locals pronounce "beach" as a synonym for a female dog, so you can imagine the raised eyebrows when the announcer mentioned that it was not clear whether dogs would be allowed on beaches.

"Bath"-ing the Babies!!

You may find this hard to believe, but I don't go around correcting people all the time.  I can think of one time that I did actually correct two of my sisters, though.  It was done out of exasperation and after I had totally reached the end of my rope.

My two eldest sisters and their kids were staying with us for a long weekend.  By "us" I mean my parents and me; I was about fourteen at the time.  Each evening I would hear one or the other of them mention "bath-ing" the kids.  "You can bath Bill and then I'll bath Sheila."  "I'll bath Evonne and put her to bed, and we'll let Bill and Sheila play outside a few more minutes.", & etc! 

On the last night they were there I couldn't take it any longer.  I looked up from the book I was reading as Maxine walked past on her way to "bath" one of the kids.  "You know," I said, respectfully, "it isn't 'bath', it's 'bathe'.  Bathe is the verb."

Maxine raised her eyebrows at my fourteen-year-old presumption and asked, "Oh really?"

I said, "Yes, and it's been driving me nuts, everytime you guys say 'bath'!"

From the height of her 28- or 29-year-old superiority, she sneered, "Well, if it was 'bathe' it would have an . . . Oh!"  There was a pause and she looked a little chagrined.  "It does have an 'e' on the end, doesn't it?"

Maxine teaches first grade, by the way. lol


Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Prestigious Pet Peeve

When I was around twelve years old I was reading something aloud when my sister, Barbara, corrected my pronunciation of the word "prestigious."  I had pronounced the "i" in the middle as a long "e", and she told me that it should be pronounced as a short "i".  From then on I pronounced it "correctly", and for many, many years it would actually hurt my ears when I heard someone say "pres-TEE-jus", especially if it was a news anchor.  (Well, actually, it still does!)

Yes, in the root word, "prestige", the "i" is pronounced as a long-e, but then most people pronounce that word wrong, too.  It should be "pres-TEEZH", not "pres-TEEDG", which is how I hear most people pronounce it.  That second syllable should be pronounced softly, not with a hard "dg" sound. 

Well, anyway, I finally looked up "prestigious" one day, and although the short-i pronunciation -- "pres-TIH-jus" was listed in the dictionary as the first pronunciation, meaning it was the more acceptable, the long-e pronunciation was also acceptable.

In recent years I have consulted various dictionaries, and sometimes one pronunciation is listed first, while at other times the other pronunciation is listed first.  I'm sure that whatever dictionary Barbara had read -- and I do mean "read", because she used to sit around and literally "read" a dictionary -- must have only shown the short-i pronunciation as correct, because she was always very sure about such things.

The damage was done, though, as far as I was concerned.  I prefer the short-i pronunciation and wince when I hear it pronounced otherwise.

The word comes from the Latin praestigiosus, from praestigiae, and I believe that the first "i" in both those words is a short-i. 

Does anyone else even care about how the word is pronounced? (lol)  Is there another word that makes you wince when you hear it mispronounced (or not pronounced the way you like to hear it?)?  I used to work with a girl who hated to hear someone say error as "air-or".  She said it was like chalk scraping on a blackboard, and she preferred it to be pronounced "air-er", whereas I can't even think it as "air-er"!  {shudder!}

Friday, January 4, 2008

A catastrophe with an apostrophe

Without going too much into the origin of the good ole apostrophe, it is an essential part of the English language, and I get annoyed by people misusing it. Apostrophes denote that letters have been omitted, and the word containing an apostrophe is either a contraction of two words, or a shortened one.

The most abused contraction is It is. Which of course gets turned into It's, if used properly.

Cue the possessive its. Example: The cat licked its fur.

Now for the confusion: It's clear that the cat has licked its fur. Some people will jumble up the apostrophes and write
Its clear that the cat has licked it's fur. Cue some pretty sulphurous remarks from this writer.

Then and Than

 How do I know when to use "Then" and when to use "Than"?                     

This is a question that another journaler asked.  First I'll give a simple way to remember -- Then tells When. 

Now for more in-depth information about "then" and "than":

THEN can be an adverb, an adjective, or a noun. 

As an adverb it is used to specify the time in question.  (For example, I was then too busy.)  Or it can mean next, or after, or also.  (For example, Then {next} he told me to come in; Then {also} there are the children to consider.)  Also as an adverb it can mean "after all", "in that case", "if what you say is true", "if you must have it so" (for example when you give up arguing with your children and you say, "all right, then!").

As an adjective "then" is used to describe "that" or "who" was this-or-that at the time in question.  For example, "the then President".

As a noun "then" means "that time".  For example -- then and there, as in immediately and on the spot.

THAN is always, ONLY a conjunction, like "and", "but", "or", "nor".  So you are going to use "than" to show comparison or contrast.  It will introduce the second part of a comparison, such as "I am younger than he is."  That would be a comparison.  Or it can introduce the second part of a sentence that makes a statement of difference, such as "I will season with anything other than garlic."  That would be a contrast.

So Then tells When, and Than has an "a" like comparison and contrast.  I hope this helps.

I'm going to finish up a few things, and then I'm going to go to bed.  I'd rather go to bed now than oversleep in the morning!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Thank You!

  What a nice response we got!  I appreciate everyone's comments and the enthusiasm for this journal.  I really think it's going to be enjoyable.

I want to give Guido a big "thank you" for his previous post.  As I said in my own comment, I knew he would add a touch of class that might otherwise be lacking!

I recently updated the resume for a friend of ours.  I used the info from his old resume, plus the changes that he'd noted, then I used a little bit of license to spruce it up a bit.  He was very impressed and just kept thanking me.  I was actually rather nervous about doing something like that for someone else, but it also felt kind of good to dust the cobwebs off my old brain and do something like that -- since I don't work outside the home now I haven't had to use certain skills, and communicating in a business setting is one of those skills.

Well, he not only got the job, but three different people involved in the interview process told him that his was the best resume they'd ever seen.  That made me feel good.  Anyway, I don't want my brain cells to be covered in cobwebs when it comes to the proper way to communicate, orally or with the written word, and I suppose that is one reason why I wanted to do this journal. 

I also want to share my love for language!  We're off to a great start, and I look forward to more posts from Guido and from anyone else who would be interested.  Thanks again!

   Tag by Donna

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Lori invited me to write in this journal, and she knows she's done that at her own peril.

I speak four languages, including (apart from English) German and French. Leaving those to one side, I have a smattering of Scots Gaelic and Italian. I'll just put in a post about one of my pet hates: the misconception in the UK that French is "easy".

Many young people in the UK take up French at school, thinking it is so similar to English. It is not. Let me explain.

All major European languages stem from a source language, called Indo-German. It has several branches: Romanic, Germanic, Slavonic, Celtic and a rest-group, containing odd ones out like Hungarian, Finnish, Rhaeto-Romanisch [Switzerland] and Basque. These are all alike in being unintelligible to readers from any of the other groups.

Having introduced the concept of branches of languages, I can now set about destroying the myth that French and English are alike. They are not. They have quite a few words in common, or appear to have. I'll close the post with a devastating put-down about that perceived similarity.

English has actually more in common with German. Both languages stem from the Germanic group, and have a common denominator in that strangely morphed language called Frisian, spoken in northern Holland. Frisian is a mixture of Danish, Dutch, German and English. Although English spelling is full of idiosyncracies, it also has things in common with Scandinavian languages, such as Icelandic. The infamous "th" is shared with the Icelandic letters "þ" (as in thing) and "ð" (as in there).

English and German people have more in common than either side is likely to be willing to admit. They are both, for a start, strongly regimented. A class system, to this day, still exists in the UK, even if no longer overtly discernible. In Germany, your social standing is denoted using any letters before or after your name.

So, what do English and French have in common? A few words? Oh really?
Let's have a look at one example.


If you are unfortunate enough to have an allergy to a food preservative, you have to be careful. So, you are across the Channel and you want to ask the shopkeeper whether the things are contained in your jar of beans. You ask him: "Est-ce qu'il y a des conservatifs dans ces haricots-verts?". You don't ask him "Est-ce qu'il y a des preservatifs dans ces haricots-verts?" because you'd be asking him if there are condoms in those beans.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A Limerick To Get Us Started

English is my cup of tea,

For I like proper grammar, you see;

But my friends, with their "ain't"s,

And "got no"s, and "cain't"s,

Ain't got no respect for me!

© Lori F. Dowell, 1984


Yes, my friends, the time has come.  I am opening a new journal -- because you can never have too many journals to write in, right?  And none of us can ever have too many journals to read,  right?

This journal has come about because of my love of language, of words, of grammar, of correct sentence structure, of witty phrases -- and because during Eler Beth's recent language arts lessons I've discovered that there are many things grammatical which I had forgotten!

Now DO NOT BE ALARMED!!!  This isn't going to be an English 101 class masquerading as an AOL Journal.  It is going to be fun if I have anything at all to say about it -- and since it's my journal, I do!

I firmly believe that if one is writing in a journal or any piece of personal correspondence general rules of grammar don't have to apply.  In other words, poetic license extends to prose in those instances.  When I read journals, I love knowing that I'm usually reading the way the writer talks or thinks.  It makes it personal and interesting.  In my journal I often begin my sentences with "and" or "but", and I end them with prepositions, too (but believe me it hurts when I do that!).  Donna (Mosie) recently titled an entry "Some Things I Forget To Be Thankful For" and then said that she realized if she'd wanted to be grammatically correct she'd have said "some things for which I forget to be thankful", then she asked "but who talks like that?"  Well, I am ashamed to say that I do -- usually.   Please remember that I have mild OCD, and that is one of the things about which I am compulsive.  So don't think too badly of me, okay?

I've wanted to do this journal for a long time, and I finally decided that I'd start it on January 1.  I want to discuss words -- beautiful, lovely, inspiring words!  I want to discuss lovely phrases, especially archaic phrases that one doesn't hear much nowadays; perhaps words or phrases you may have heard your parents or grandparents using, but don't hear often now.  I want to discuss styles of writing.  I also want to open the journal up for questions and answers.  Do you wonder when it is correct to use "then" and when you should use "than", for example?  Email a question or leave it in the comment thread, and someone will supply the answer.

As I re-teach myself things like when to use an "appositive noun" and the difference between "main" and "subordinate" clauses, etc., I will share that here.  Believe me!  Somewhere there is someone who will like to know!

So please bookmark this journal and come back to visit.  If anyone would like to contribute an entry, just let me know, and I'll make it possible.  Even if the "words" part or the "grammar" part doesn't interest you, come back anyway, because I plan to keep the entries light and fun, even funny at times.  At the very least, read long enough to give me your opinion of it, because I really want to know what others think.

Thanks for reading this far.  Oh, and the limerick at the top of the entry??  During my Senior year of high school our English teacher asked us to write a limerick.  I have written many different types of poems and works of prose, but I had never been able to write limericks to my own satisfaction.  My sister Barbara can rattle one off in fine style, but I never could.  This is my one and only limerick, and I was rather proud of it, if I do say so myself.  It will be the theme for this journal.  I think it starts it out on the right track, don't you?