usingtherightwords

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Sorry, Ryan; Stick to Improv


I love improv comedy. I love “Whose Line is it Anyway?” It’s a show that became part of the courting of the woman who became my wife (she liked it, too). We’ve seen it taped twice — each time two and a half hours of laughing our asses off (figuratively speaking, of course), and I even got one of my suggestions put into the show (see Season 4: “George Washington and the Ventriloquist:” that’s me suggesting George Washington).

I can’t put into words how happy and grateful I am that, after ABC cancelled the show, the CW brought it back — and brought back Ryan Stiles, Colin Mochrie and Wayne Brady (I would have liked Drew Carey back, but Aisha Tyler is fine). But I get tired to seeing the same games played repeatedly, one of which is “Weird Newscasters,” in which one performer is “normal” and the other three performers act out strange behaviors as co-anchor, sportscaster and weather forecaster.

I also get tired of seeing the same performers playing the same roles, but in a recent episode, Stiles announced that the word “news” comes from “north, east, west and south.”

Of course, upon hearing that, I immediately stopped the episode and looked it up.

News is not an acronym. According to my dictionary, it traces back to the 15th century. The online etymology dictionary says it’s from the 14th century plural of new, meaning “new things.” Wikipedia says it developed in the 14th century as a special use of the plural form of new. In Middle English, the equivalent word was newes, like the French nouvelles and the German neues. Similar developments are found in the Slavic languages—the Czech and Slovak noviny (from nový, “new”), the cognate Polish nowiny and Russian novosti—and in the Celtic languages: the Welsh newyddion (from newydd) and the Cornish nowodhow (from nowydh).

So, here’s the news flash: Ryan was wrong.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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August 26, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dating: Not as Easy as ABC (News)


Beware groups of words that, while possibly correct, could mislead the reader.

This happened to me yesterday in the gym. As I watched the news scroll on “Good Morning America,” I read, “stay up to date with ABC News.”

My first thoughts: When did ABC get into the dating business? and How long do I have to be up to date?

Then I caught myself and realized that ABC News was inviting me to stay up-to-date.

To avoid all confusion, it would have been better had the writer(s) simply used “stay updated with ABC News.”

Thank goodness I’m married.

Until next time! Use the right words!
leebarnathan.com

March 18, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He’s “Incredulous” About the “Incredible” Act


Every so often, I hear somebody say, “That’s incredible,” and they’re not referring to the 1980-84 ABC-TV show that starred John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby and Fran Tarkenton (and had an exclamation point in its title: ‘That’s Incredible!’). No, when I hear people say something is incredible, they’re probably incredulous and don’t realize it.

To review: something incredible is “too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.” In other words, unbelievable; and if you don’t believe something, you’re probably skeptical. Incredulous (just two dictionary entries after incredible) means “unwilling to admit or accept what is offered as true.” In other words, skeptical.

Admittedly, I hear (and use) skeptical much more often than incredulous.  Incredible, no?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Know Your Prepositions!


I love Schoolhouse Rock. Growing up, I watched Saturday morning cartoons, and I knew that between the shows on ABC, I would see a bus driving some children to a little schoolhouse. Then the youngsters would get out and walk on the snowy path to the house. Then my brother and I would guess what we would see: Multiplication, Grammar, America or Science Rock.

Thanks to Multiplication Rock, I knew my “times tables” (multiples of 2 through 12) inside and out, and I could quickly recall the answer to any multiplication problem on the tables. This helped me dominate my fifth-grade class contest. I beat everybody in my class of about 35 by shouting the answer before my opponent.

Thanks to America Rock, my wife would hear people start singing the preamble to the Constitution in class.

And thanks to Grammar Rock, I knew my parts of speech: A noun is a person, place or thing; adjectives describe, verbs are action words, pronouns are shorter than nouns, conjunctions join words, etc.

But there was no song about prepositions. Not until 1993, when Bob Dorough, who wrote 20 of the three-minute songs, penned “Busy Prepositions.”

By definition, a preposition is a word (and a part of speech) that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. The “Schoolhouse Rock” song about prepositions says “nine or 10 of them do most all of the work” and then lists 11: of, on, to, with, in, from, by, far, at, over, across.

But wait a second. Far? Far is an adverb , so I could go to Lolly and get it there. Far also is an adjective, so I could find it hiking with my turtle friend. I would not find far with the other prepositions.

Some comments I have received since I first posted this tells me it is very likely that Dorough wrote and Jack Sheldon sang for, which is a preposition, but the video clearly shows the word far. Another listen to the song confirms this.

Bob Dorough is still alive. I wonder if he knows. Somebody find him and ask him!

In the meantime …

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

   

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