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Fake News, Alternative Facts and a Scam

We’ve been hearing a great deal about “fake news” and “alternative facts” lately. While President Trump and his lackeys have nothing to do with the following email I received, I nonetheless consider this on par. It is fake, it presents alternative facts, and it is a scam.

Happy New Year and Good day to you…I am very sorry to contact you in this manner
because we have not meet before so i might look like a stranger to you but I’m not.
I need your trust and Co-operation on this proposal. I got your email address on
Business Directory on Internet, Let me introduce myself to you. My name is Mike
Smith a Security Vault Manager. I am seeking your urgent assistance and trust to
stand as Next of Kin to my late client who leave behind funds/inheritance of ( Ten
Million, Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars ) in a Trunk Box with Gold Bars
and I want this Trunk Box to be ship to you for Investment purpose. This transaction
is 100.1% Legitimate and Genuine, No risk involved. Kindly get back to me if you are
interested in this proposal. Also send me your direct cell phone number.

Best regards

Mike Smith

I counted 27 grammatical and punctuation mistakes. What did you tally? Leave a comment.

Until next time! Use the right words!


January 31, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Call It What it Is: Propaganda

I don’t usually get political in this space, but when it comes to words, I’ll go there if something happens in the political arena.

Last week, President Trump’s press secretary, Sean Spicer, blasted the assembled media for their “shameful and wrong” reporting that the crowd for Trump’s inauguration wasn’t the largest ever. This was in spite of photographic evidence that showed Barack Obama’s first inauguration was vastly more attended.

During a “Meet the Press” interview two days after the Trump inauguration, adviser Kellyanne Conway, when pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer “utter[ed] a provable falsehood,” Conway said, “Don’t be so overly dramatic about it, Chuck. You’re saying it’s a falsehood, and they’re giving — Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

I say, call it what it is: propaganda, “ideas, facts or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.”

Incidentally, Todd responded by saying “Alternative facts are not facts. They are falsehoods.”

I say, isn’t that partly what propaganda is?

It’s going to be a long four years.

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gallagher: Another Wordsmith

Before I truly appreciated the words and wisdom of George Carlin, I knew of Gallagher.

Most people who know him know that the finale to his act is to smash things with a giant wooden mallet that he called the “Sledge-O-Matic.” The finale always was smashing a watermelon. I remember that, too, from his many Showtime specials in the 1980s. But now, I find the Sledge-O-Matic distasteful, and if I ever go to a Gallagher show, I will certainly sit in the back, away from the “splash zone.”

Instead, I marvel at his word play, such as the following from his 1981 special, “Mad as Hell:”

Why is there so much unemployment when there’s so much work to do?

If you write a check that bounces, … what does the bank do? Charge you more of what they know you don’t have any of.

You look at the pyramids in Egypt. You think, now there stands an example of man’s initiative, hard work and stick-to-it, and it ain’t. It’s a monument to his laziness. It was obviously built by people with diminishing goals.

We buy weights to get in shape; put ’em in the garage, have an electric garage door opener.

Why does it take robbers an hour to clean you out but it takes two weeks for you to move in? Robbers ought to be movers.

Do Indians bother with bald cowboys? (Note: I know the term now is “Native Americans,” but this was 1981.)

What could it cost to put a toilet in a Mercedes? Call it the Outhousen 100. Then the Japanese get wind of it and counter with the Toiletta. Then America comes back the the P-car. He (guy in audience) says a dump truck.

Why can my car take a leak on the freeway but I can’t?

Word that don’t go together: air quality, hamburger steak, military intelligence, House ethics, grand children, marijuana initiative

God made flying squirrels. Why? So they can swoop down and surprise unsuspecting acorns?

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commonly Misused Words

My wife sent me something on Facebook from a Harvard professor named Steven Pinker, who lists commonly misused words. Although the article, from Business Insider, is dated Dec. 17, 2015, it is nonetheless accurate to today.

Here are eight, which include some I’ve misused.

Adverse means “detrimental” and does not mean averse (“having a strong feeling of opposition) or disinclined (“lacking desire or willingness).

Begs the question means “assumes what it should be proving,” not “raises the question.” This is one I would misuse if I used it, but I don’t use it because it’s a cliché and I believe you should avoid clichés like the plague.

Speaking of which, Cliché is a noun, not an adjective. The adjective is clichéd.

Bemused means “bewildered.” It does not mean amused (“pleasurably entertained”)

Hung means “suspended.” It does not mean “suspended from the neck until dead.” That is hang.

Ironic means “uncannily incongruent.” It does not mean inconvenient (“no easily accessible; untimely; not suiting one’s needs”)  or unfortunate (“suffering from bad luck; unfavorable; regrettable; marked by misfortune; sad”). Not is irony coincidence (“something that occurs by chance”).

Nonplussed means “stunned” or “bewildered.” It does not mean bored (“made weary by dullness, tedious repetition, unwelcome attentions,etc.”) or unimpressed (“not affected deeply or strongly in mind or feelings”). This is one I have misused.

Phenomena is a plural noun. The singular is phenomenon. Phenomenons is incorrect.

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 17, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A New Year but Same Old Media

I firmly believe that the media’s job in the coming years is to question everything that the media are told, take nothing for granted and verify everything.

In other words, the media need to do their job. But it’s harder for me to take the media seriously when they get things wrong. Yesterday, I heard two examples.

A local radio sports reporter called the parade that runs down Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena every New Year’s Day (except when Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday) the “Rose Bowl Parade.”

As a native of Pasadena (born and raised), I have always cherished the parade and considered it my own. I have missed two parades since 1974: 1986, when I sold concessions at the Rose Bowl; and 1987, when I was in Palm Springs. This year, I watched from the TV area, and it’s something I think every parade lover should do at least once.

But I digress.

The name has always been Tournament of Roses Parade or Rose Parade for short. How can it be called Rose Bowl Parade when the parade started in 1890 and the first football game (called the Tournament East–West football game) was 1902? Since that 1902 game was so one-sided (Michigan 49, Stanford 0), there were no more football games until 1916.

The other disagreeable uttering came on ABC-TV in its promo of the upcoming interview with Lyle Menendez, who with his brother Erik murdered their parents and are serving life-without-parole sentences.

The exact words: “Before O.J., this was the original trial of the century.”

I knew this to be wrong. I recalled reading that the trial of Bruno Hauptmann (see: Lindberg Baby Kidnapping) as a “trial of the century” way back in 1935.

Wikipedia calls trial of the century “an idiomatic phrase used to describe certain well-known court cases, especially of the 20th century.” It then lists 22 trials (including five in the 21st century) that earned that moniker, from the trial of Leon Czolgosz for the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 to the Bo Xilai trial in 2013.

Famous cases include Sacco and Vanzetti (1924), Leopold and Loeb (1924), Scopes monkey trial (1925), the Nuremberg trials (1945-46), Adolf Eichmann (1961), Charles Manson and his “family” (1970), Claus von Bulow (1982-85) Klaus Barbie (1987), O.J. Simpson (1995) and Yolanda Saldivar, who murdered Selena (1995).

The Menendez trial is not listed. I did a search of “Menendez Brothers Trial + Trial of the Century” and the only match I found was ABC hyping its special.

Come on, media, get with it!

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 5, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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