is alleged irascibility germane to the issue? da! nyet!

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FROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (Au­gust 8, 2013, page A3) is a piece from The Wash­ington Post ad­dressing Pres­i­dent Oba­ma’s “snub­bing” of Russian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin over the granting of asylum to Ed­ward Snowden, Mr. Putin is de­scribed as “shrewd but fa­mously iras­cible … with a deep sus­pi­cion of U.S. READ MORE

improper-but-no-longer-incorrect word usage alert!

IMPROPER-BUT-NO-LONGER-INCORRECT word usage alert: ac­cording to Merriam-Webster On­line, the word dec­imal as an ad­jec­tive means (in order) “num­bered or pro­ceeding by tens; or based on the number 10; es­pe­cially ex­pressed in or uti­lizing a dec­imal system es­pe­cially with a dec­imal point; or sub­di­vided into 10th or 100th units.” READ MORE

alternate vs alternative is no longer a moot point

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ALTERNATE YOUR LEFT LEG FORWARD after your right. It’s called walking. And that’s what al­ter­nate means: every other. If you have been buying com­pact discs over the past few decades—especially reis­sues of older albums—you have prob­ably been over-exposed to the term ‘al­ter­nate take.’ If you read sci­ence fic­tion or fan­tasy, you have prob­ably like­wise no­ticed an in­crease in the number of ‘al­ter­nate re­ality’ sto­ries. READ MORE

tough year ahead for mcdonalds just ain’t so

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THIS IS NOT WHAT I INTEND my “Strunk­and­whiten It!” cat­e­gory to be about, but it does qualify as a misuse of the language—although in this case, it may be in­ten­tional cam­ou­flage. I am often sur­prised by the way large, HUGELY suc­cessful cor­po­ra­tions are treated and de­scribed in the fi­nan­cial sec­tions of news­pa­pers. READ MORE

boy shoots and kills self and then surrenders!

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“Boy, 4, ac­ci­den­tally shot self; sus­pect sur­ren­ders”

WHAT THE HUH?!? The head­line above is from to­day’s Seattle Times (July 23, 2013). It ap­pears in the upper right corner in a banner across the top of the front page. This terse line (six words and a number) tells us—what? That a boy shot and killed him­self and then turned him­self over to the po­lice”

Let’s try again: The first five words tell us that a 4-year old boy shot him­self, but ac­ci­den­tally. READ MORE

palestinian prisoners restart talks with palestinian representatives

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FROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (July 21, 2003) comes a piece ti­tled “Is­rael OKs freeing some pris­oners to restart talks” (page A4). Got that: Pales­tinian pris­oners restart talks with Pales­tinian rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Now, prepo­si­tional phrases (like “to restart talks”) work best when they are placed as close as pos­sible to the word that they are mod­i­fying.  READ MORE

for want of a hyphen (“I want hyphen”)

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FROM TODAY’S SEATTLE TIMES (July 19, 2013) and a piece ti­tled “Gun-rights group sues city over emails al­legedly with­held” (page B1): an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Wash­ington Cease­Fire is de­scribed as “an anti-gun vi­o­lence group.” Tech­ni­cally, this is cor­rect: the hy­phen is nec­es­sary to link “anti” with “gun.” READ MORE

what’s a “buck lunch”? (or, whats a buck lunch)

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I TOOK BERNI to her morning coffee at a nearby Star­bucks she wakes up five days a week with that place’s caf­feine and a book be­fore going to work. On the way back home, I drove past a local chain restau­rant. Their sign ad­ver­tised the fol­lowing:


Now, if Eng­lish is your na­tive lan­guage, your brain reg­is­ters ex­actly what the sign-maker in­tended: that they are of­fering a lunch spe­cial for five dol­lars. READ MORE

a stickler for rules (at least for grammar)


I STARTED WRITING when I was in grade school. Re­cently, a class­mate of my broth­er’s found a copy of a “news­paper” that Chester Street El­e­men­tary School pub­lished in 1964. In it was a one para­graph ar­ticle by my brother fol­lowed by a three para­graph “ar­ticle” by me. It summed up oh so briefly the Philadel­phia Phillies’ phe­nom­enal rookie, Richie Allen. READ MORE