For the final word on grammar, many writers turn to the Associated Press Stylebook. But if you find that stylebook too stuffy, you’ll love Fake AP Stylebook, the online send-up that features such sage journalistic advice “The plural of apostrophe is ‘apostrophe’s.’” Grant and Martha share some favorite “rules” from that guide. Also this week: Why are offices and apartments named after landscapes and wildlife that are nowhere to be seen? Is it correct to use the phrase a whole nother? And what’s the difference, if any, between a naturalist and a biologist?
This episode first aired January 30, 2010. Listen here:
Download the MP3 here (23.5 MB).
Grant and Martha share some of their favorite tweets from Fake AP Stylebook, the Twitter feed that tweaks journalistic style and tropes, such as “Do not change weight of gorilla in phrase, ‘800-lb gorilla in the room.’ Correct weight is 800 lbs. DO NOT CHANGE GORILLA’S WEIGHT!”
Natural names for unnatural objects. Why do subdivisions and office complexes have names invoking landscapes and animals that don’t exist there? A Fort Wayne, Indiana, listener got to wondering about this after passing the “Bay View Apartments” in her hometown: there's not a bay in sight. Here’s the Billy Collins poem on that topic, “The Golden Years.”
What’s happening linguistically when someone’s using the second-person singular possessive in a list of items? A Charlottesville, Virginia, caller began wondering that recently after hearing a wood-flooring salesperson say, “You got your maple, you got your cherry, you got your oak…”
Quiz Guy John Chaneski has a game featuring “Tom Swifties,” those sentences that include a self-referentially funny adverb, such this one: “‘Ow! You guys really know how to hurt a vampire,’ Tom said _____________.”
A Chicago man says he was caught up short when he caught himself writing the words a whole nother. Is nother really a word? The book Grant recommends on the topic is Everything You Know about English is Wrong, by Bill Brohaugh.
Anyone ever hear the expression “Thinkers uppers, thinkers it”? It means “If you’re going to mention something that should be done, then do it yourself.”
Riddle time! What English word can have four of its five letters removed and still retain its original pronunciation?
A man who takes daily walks in the woods of upstate New York wants a word for the whooshing of the pines high above their heads. The hosts suggest the Latin-based word susurration, although they might also have suggested soughing.
Martha and Grant share listeners’ emails about language changes in the mouths of train conductors and military drill instructors.
What does the O’ in Irish names like O’Malley or O’Riley mean?
What’s the difference, if any, between a naturalist and a biologist? Naturalists do it with their clothes off and biologists do it under a microscope? (Kidding!)
Grant talks about the new slang term, zaprudering, as in “The fanboys get off on zaprudering the invite to the Apple product-release press conference.”
A group of student architects who want their acronym to be CASA have a question. Is it more grammatical to call it the Chicano Architecture Student Association or Chicano Architectural Student Association?
Grant shares some odd high school team mascot names, including the Wooden Shoes and the Battling Bathers.
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For the gentleman who called in looking for a word describing the sound the wind makes through pine trees, you suggested "susurration." The entire time you were leading up to the word, I expected you to give him "soughing." Mostly because he described the sound as a moan or groan, then switched it to a sustained "whoosh."
I've seen 'soughing' a lot to describe that sound, but oddly, I don't think I've ever HEARD it spoken. I was surprised to find it rhymes with "sow" (as in female pig, not plant) and not "stuff."
I have only heard sough pronounced suff, but apparently that's not the whole story: it can be a female pig or to scatter seeds. The latter two pronunciations are not very apt for the sound of wind through needles; nor, to my ear, is murmur, which seems too vocal. I've known and loved susurration since I was a young kid, but I have to agree that esoteric might not be too strong categorization. I live among spruce trees these days, and the wind sounds quite different from the leafier region of my youth, where I believe it fizzed.
Re: CASA, architecture vs. architectural
This reminds me of a battle I fight fairly often: in a stage production, is the person in charge of the singing and playing the musical director or the music director? I maintain that music director is correct, as the fact that the person is in charge of music does not necessarily mean that he or she has talent. If I understand CASA correctly, it is an association of students of Chicano architecture, and the name is not intended to imply that the student is Chicano. The two adjectives Chicano and Architectural could be construed as both modifying Student, whereas Chicano Architecture is somewhat less ambiguously a building style rather than a student's ethnicity. Neither is flawlessly clear, and Grant is right, you have to go with what sounds right to you, or what makes the music(al) director happy.
PS: It occurs to me that I hit a problem when I get to the artistic director: art director is not the same thing. Oh, my.
Regarding CASA, for me the deciding point for the architecture / architectural question is that it is the academic subject of Architecture that it refers to.
You got your Philosophy students. (You also have philosophical students, who may not be Philosophy students.)
You got your Art students. (You also have artistic students, who may not be Art students.)
You got your History students. (You also have historical students, who may not have been History students.)
You got your Biology students. (You also have biological students, who mat not be Biology students.)
You got your Chinese students. (You also have Chinese students, who may not be Chinese students.)
OK, so it might break down a bit with language vs. nationality.
But my point is that if the adjective refers to the academic subject, it should be Architecture, and not architectural. This group is for Architecture students, if I understand correctly.
As for Tom Swifties of the purely(?) English language variety:
"Dese folks got da best place for brew, beer nuts, and brawlin'," bellowed Tom disjointly.
"I'd like to lead us in a prayer for peace," offered Tom amenably.
"Sorry, but I'm sick of these lavish year-end celebrations!" groaned Tom bashfully.
"As I boy, I couldn't even recite the months without stuttering," divulged Tom jejunely.
“Robotic pets, like my Poo-Chi here, are the wave of the future,” predicted Tom dogmatically.
“All my hair is falling out!” she gasped distressingly.
“Oh, yeah, and change this font from italic to upright,” added Tom excursively.
“Charlatan! Dissembler! Mountebank! Rogue!” decried Tom euphoniously.
Re: the naturalist vs. biologist question…
One thing to be aware of is that 'naturalist' and 'naturalism' are already well-entrenched terms in philosophy (my own field), and they do not at all suggest the meaning the contemporary biologists in question want it to have. So I would hope that they think twice before reappropriating the term, in order to avoid cross-disciplinary confusion.
But then again, concern for linguists never stopped biologists from using the word 'morphology'.
"Death panels will decide that these people will die," said Tom fatalistically.
"How about an after-dinner drink?" offered Tom cordially.
"I'm not going to evangelize the rest of the neighborhood," concluded Tom distractedly.
"That stuff will spoil this juniper beverage," allowed Tom marginally.
"We should support this part of the bill," advocated Tom proportionally.
"I'm studying the Confederate officer who surrendered at Appomattox," announced Tom generally.
"You sound just like my dog," snarled Tom roughly.
"I never watch more than one-third of a hockey game," explained Tom periodically.
"I'm not dead," retorted Tom quickly.
"I do feel sorry for myself and my family," leaked Tom porously.
"We have a block of salt on the bar," declared Tom publicly.
"I'm getting a little cross," warned Tom rudely.
Must be bedtime.
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