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Eating the Frog

Do you start each day by "eating the frog"? Don't answer too quickly -- maybe you do and don't know it.

"Eat the frog" means to do the most distasteful thing first. Imagine you were lost in the jungle and all you'd found to eat was grass and frog (and you had no fire). You'd eat the frog first to get it out of the way, right?

In the latest episode of the show, we talked about "eating the frog," emoticons in business writing, "kit and caboodle," recommended books, optimists vs. pessimists, "solons," and more.



Constance Charles sent us an email to point out that today's episode of "The Writer's Almanac" features "The Return of the Subjunctive," a poem by Tamara Madison.


We argued about the prospects for the subjunctive in this episode:


It's also come up a few times in our discussion forums, too:


Need a refresher on the subjunctive? "The Copyeditor's Handbook" has a pretty good explanation:


On the Grammarly blog, Sheila van den Heuvel-Collins muses about what appears to be a growing comma shortage:

"I've noticed that a lot of the young writers who have been sending their work to me for editing have been 'forgetting' to use commas to separate the name of the person being addressed from the rest of the sentence. 'Yes, Mom' is consistently becoming 'Yes Mom'."

It's not just in unedited writing, she discovers. Commas are missing from edited, published books, too. Read the rest: http://wywd.us/vYy5VY.

The same topic was discussed in August at "Ask Metafilter," where a writer asked whether it should be "Thanks Joe" or "Thanks, Joe."


Commenter Meghan Conrad has it exactly right in her response: because you're addressing someone, you need the comma, even if omitting the comma doesn't affect whether someone can understand you. "That it can be comprehended, though, doesn't change the fact that it's incorrect and makes you look like either a very lazy or relatively uneducated writer."


Another post on Ask Metafilter, from today, asks a wonderful question that earns great responses: "Do you know any fiction/nonfiction/poetry that has beautiful, aching language?"


There are many excellent works suggested, so it's difficult to choose just one to quote here, but we'll settle on this bit recommended by user "liminalrampaste." It's by Nicholson Baker from "The Mezzanine," and it's about popcorn.

"I felt somewhat like an exploding popcorn myself: a dried bicuspid of American grain dropped into a lucid gold liquid pressed from less fortunate brother kernels, subjected to heat, and suddenly allowed to flourish outward in an instantaneous detonation of weightless reversal; an asteroid of Styrofoam, much larger but seemingly of less mass than before, composed of exfoliations that in bursting beyond their outer carapace were nonetheless guided into paisleys and baobabs and related white Fibonaccia by its disappearing, back-arching browned petals (which later found their way into the space between molars and gums), shapes which seemed quite Brazilian and intemperate for so North American a seed, and which seemed, despite the abrupt assumption of their final state, the convulsive, launching 'pop,' slowly arrived at, like risen dough or cave mushrooms."


We like to follow you, our listeners, from our @wayword Twitter account to see what you're up to and get a feeling for where you are. If you'd like us to follow you, too, just mention us in a tweet or send us a direct message.


Thanks for listening and reading!

Martha and Grant

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