usingtherightwords

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The Answer Isn’t Always “Money”


While watching “Pardon the Interruption” the other day, host Tony Kornheiser quoted former NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer as having told him, “The answer to all your questions is money.”

So, being the smart-ass I am, I decided to come up with several questions in which I knew the answer was not “money.” For example, why is the sky blue? (A: air molecules scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light) and why is the grass green? (A: chlorophyll).

But in researching Ohlmeyer’s quote, I found out he more than likely said, “If the question is about sports,  the answer is money.”

So, here are 10 sports questions in which the answer isn’t “money.”

  1. What are the dimensions of an Olympic-sized swimming pool? (A: 50 meters long by 25 meters wide)
  2. How tall is a hurdle? (A: five heights, ranging from 27 inches to 42 inches)
  3. Who holds the record for most career home runs? (A: Barry Bonds, 762, although some would say Sadaharu Oh with 868)
  4. How high is a volleyball net? (A: 7 feet, 4⅛  inches for women/girls, 7-11⅝  for men/boys)
  5. How many yards is a football team penalized for being offside? (A: five yards)
  6. What is a split in bowling? (A: two or more non-adjacent pins are left standing after the first roll of a frame)
  7. What is an eagle in golf? (A: two strokes under par on a hole)
  8. How much must a boxer weigh to be considered a heavyweight? (A: at least 201 pounds)
  9. What does a red card mean in soccer? (A: a player is sent off and the team must play with one fewer players)
  10. Why is the marathon distance 26 miles, 385 yards? (A: According to The International Amateur Athletic Federation website, the distance was set at 26 miles at the 1908 Olympic Games in London, and increased another 385 yards when the starting line was pulled back so it could be seen by the children in the Royal Nursery at Windsor Castle and still finish in front of Queen Alexandra at the White City Stadium in west London.)

So there.

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

September 15, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cause and Effect, and Football


Here’s another example of how you mean something, but a day later, you realize it means something else.

And it comes from me.

My high school reunion was last weekend (it’s been 30 years since I graduated). Beside the main dinner on Saturday, there was a bar crawl, golf tournament and football game in the days leading to it. Being the sports guy I am (and because my volleyball game I was supposed to officiate got canceled), I attended the football game.

The day before, I wrote on Facebook: “Looking forward to seeing many of you at tomorrow’s football game. Go Bulldogs! They’re currently 0-2 unfortunately, but that changes tomorrow!”

Originally, I optimistically meant that the team will get its first victory, but later I realized that, duh, of course that changes tomorrow. It’ll either win or lose (no tie because of overtime).

The team lost 35-0, falling to 0-3.

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

September 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Euphemism For George Carlin


The late, great George Carlin once did a routine about euphemisms (see it here) in which he railed against soft language that hides reality. He gave several examples: “shell shock” became “post traumatic stress disorder,” “the dump” became “the landfill,” “information” became “directory assistance,” and my favorite: “Thanks to our fear of death in this country, I won’t have to die; I’ll pass away.”

I recently came across one that I think Carlin would have loved. You know when a television episode airs for the second time and every time thereafter? When I was a kid, it was called a repeat.

Now, it’s called an encore presentation.

Here’s what’s wrong with that. First, as per Carlin, it’s more syllables: two for repeat, six for encore presentation.

Second is the word encore. It means “a demand for repetition or reappearance made by an audience” and “a reappearance or additional performance in response to such a demand.”

Traditionally, that’s when the audience screams with delight at a concert or something similar, and the musician (or performer) comes out and does something extra.

I was in the gym exercising, and the TV overhead (that I could not control) showed an encore presentation of “The View.” I don’t think anybody was asking for this episode of “The View,” especially considering it wasn’t even one with Whoopi Goldberg in it.

As Carlin would say, “Bullshit. It’s a repeat, and it’s OK.”

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

September 1, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All About “While”


I’m back from vacation. I whiled away my time in Las Vegas. Came home ahead $200 without gambling.

Now that I’m back, it’s back to work, and immediately I see the word while misused. This is especially true when it’s used this way: “Eddie will entertain youngsters with comedy and magic gags Sept. 13, while balloons and a unicycle are part of Alex’s juggling act on Sept. 20.” (This is from a magazine I edit; I caught the mistake, as you can see.)

While means “at the same time as.” So, in the above example, it’s impossible to use while correctly because things are happening on different days.

While I appreciate the schedule, I don’t like the word being misused.

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

August 16, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

More Gym Stupidity, Years Later


Many years ago, I wrote about how a certain YMCA would rather mangle the language than hire someone (me) to fix those mistakes. Read it here.

Well, here we go again.  My current gym, Powerhouse Fitness, was sold to Crunch Fitness, and we got a note proudly proclaiming, “There will be no changes to your membership or fee’s.”

Yes, fee’s. Not fees.

The note also said, “We will be investing over a million dollars innovations and new equipment.” It’s more correct to say more than a million dollars.

I asked a girl at the front desk what the sale meant. She told me the mimimm-wage employees (including her) are still being paid minimum wage, but the trainers are gone because Crunch offered them too little money to continue. (My membership doesn’t expire until next August, so I’m taking a wait-and-see approach).

But, hey, she got a nice T-shirt to wear!

Ugh.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

August 4, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pardon the Interruption, but I Wish I Had Thought of That


On Tuesday, I wrote about how Pablo S. Torre, Harvard graduate, used the non-standard word irregardless on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption” and how I think someone with a degree from one of the top schools in the country should know better.

On that same episode, host Tony Kornheiser made a point I wish I had made.

Kornheiser was discussing how Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes made a no-look pass in practice. Kornheiser said, “We come to the term no-look pass from basketball. It’s not really a no-look pass. It’s a look-away pass. You know where the guys are.”

I recently gave a speech in which I pointed out that some words aren’t describing what they claim to. Two examples: Life insurance. It’s only paid upon death, so it should be called death insurance. And when a baseball hits the foul pole, it’s a home run, so it should be called a fair pole.

To hear Kornheiser, who like me attended a state school (in his case, SUNY Binghamton) make this point makes me wish I had thought of it.

He continued, “In football, if it’s truly a no-look pass, the first time it is returned for six points, it will come out of the playbook.”

Amen.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

July 21, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Would You Trust This Writing?


I get a great deal of spam email every day. Some of it is simply one line that reads, “Here is the information you requested” or words to that effect, followed by some name and an attachment. Since I don’t know these people and never requested anything, I simply delete. (If you get this email. DO NOT open the attachment. It’s probably a virus).

Then there’s spam like what’s below. What I want to know is, if you’re really trying to scam somebody, shouldn’t you at least get everything spelled and punctuated correctly? It would look much more professional, and it might just fool some people.

I’m diplomatic agent Mr.William Jack i have been trying to reach you on your email about couple of days now, just to inform you about my successful arrival in South San Francisco international airport California, with your consignment box worth $12.3millions. Which i have been instructed by d.h.l courier Delivery Company to be delivered to your home address. The airport authority demanded for all the legal back up papers to prove to them that the atm visa card ready delivery, i have presented the papers I handed to them and they are very much pleased with the papers I presented but the only thing that is still keeping me here is the airport custom yellow tag and international clearance permit certificate. Which is not placed on the package, one of the airport authority has advice that we get the custom yellow tag and international delivery permit certificate which cost $105. Contact me back on sms: +17752384004 / view email (diplomaticagent1994@gmail.com) regard diplomatic. Mr. William Jack

I counted 25 mistakes before I gave up.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

July 14, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Correctly Guess the Child She’s Carrying Every Time!


A pregnant woman brings out some strange qualities in people. They want to touch the belly or give unsolicited advice or offer to help with something the woman is perfectly capable of doing.

Another thing people like to do: guess what she’s carrying.

You’ve heard the myths: If you’re carrying low, it’s a boy; if you’re carrying high, it’s a girl. If the baby’s heart beats faster than 140 beats per minute, it’s a girl. If you hang your wedding ring through a strand of the father’s hair and hold it over your belly, it’s a girl if the ring spins; it’s a boy if it sways. If you mix Drano with some urine, a green color means a boy.

And so on.

Forget all of those. I have the 100-percent, guaranteed-to-be-right, never-fail prediction.

When you see a pregnant woman, you point at her and say, “Let me guess? Human, right?”

You’ll be right every time. She might even laugh because it’s not the usual answer she gets.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

July 12, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking at “Native American” Differently


I was struck by something Donald Trump said on Monday. Because Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared with Hillary Clinton, Trump attacked Warren and her listing herself as a Native American minority in Association of American Law Schools (AALS) directories from 1986-95.

“She used the fact that she was Native American to advance her career,” Trump said. “Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud.”

Now, I could write an entire blog based on everything Trump says and fact-check and correct his usage. In this case, Warren said she had self-identified as a minority in the directories to meet others with similar tribal roots. Her brothers defended her, stating that they “grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our family’s Cherokee and Delaware heritage.”

Whether you believe Warren or not, or whether you side with Trump or not, it makes no difference to me. The point I want to make is, if you break down the words, you’ll see that Warren, millions of others and I are, in fact, native Americans.

Native means “belonging to a particular place by birth.” Warren was born in Oklahoma City (notice Trump doesn’t question her birth as he did with President Obama in 2011). The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution begins, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This makes Warren an American.

And a native American.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

June 30, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

No Day of Rest in Finding Errors


Almost wherever I go, I find writing examples that make me laugh. This past weekend, I found them in synagogue.

Each week, the temple prints up a list of upcoming activities. Four times in the coming two weeks is this news: “Summer Drop in Hebrew.”

I can nonetheless see the truth behind this: Summer vacations will take Hebrew-speaking people away from here. I guess the temple knows who’s going and when, so it can report on these four drops in Hebrew.

Oh, you mean Summer Drop-in Hebrew? When people can come by and practice their Hebrew with Hebrew-speaking people? Then why didn’t you write that?

The next day, Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, I attended a Bar Mitzvah. After the service, we gathered in the social hall, where one of the first things we saw (and this is common) was a photo of the boy with plenty of white space to write messages.

The sign said, “Please Sign With Warm Wishes.”

I didn’t know how to do that. I would have preferred signing with a pen.

Until next time! Use the right words!

It’s here! My début book, “If You Experience Death, Please Call: And Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language” is available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

June 28, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment