usingtherightwords

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What American Airlines Taught Me


Originally, I was going to write about a commercial I saw for American Airlines. Instead, I’m writing about how that commercial taught me a word I never knew existed (but probably should have.

The commercial in question dealt with American’s new “Premium Economy” seats, which is an oxymoron, but that’s not my point today.

One of the features is increased legroom. When I saw the commercial, I rewound my DVR to ensure I saw that right. Sure enough, there it was again: legroom.

I scoffed. It’s leg room. Two words. I decided this would be my next post’s subject. I even had a headline idea: “What is American Airlines Trying to Teach Us?” I also had a joke ready: Airlines are so cheap with space that they’re even eliminating space between words.

Then I checked the dictionary. It’s one word.

I still don’t know how I never realized this word existed. It goes back to 1926, so it’s not new.

So, good for you, American Airlines. Now, about those expensive seats…

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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December 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Some Problems with Texting


A networker sent me this text that he received:

“I guess you missed the e-mail I sent you that I did get the Sat. Wedding gig so I was not going to be available Sat. Or Sunday. My second boss went out of town for a week and Im doing tons of work for them at there house this week. Maybe Wed. At 3:30 Malibu Library works the Topanga is to far for now cause of all the work I doing for the writers.”

The writer is American, and English is the primary spoken language, but you’d never know it from all the mistakes. Some of the problems are because of auto-correct (the capitalization of wedding, or and at, for example), but this is an example of why one must do a better job of self-editing.

Im instead of I’mThere instead of their? To instead of too? Not to mention the missing punctuation marks after 3:30 and works, and the it/them disagreement (boss is singular, but the writer uses the plural them). These are easy-to-fix mistakes.

Last week, I spoke at a networking meeting about who one must (should?) pay a professional for communications. One reason I gave was how one’s credibility is at stake with very piece of communication one sends out.

While I’m not suggesting I should be paid to edit one’s personal texts, this is nonetheless a great example a credibility gap.

Thanks to Richard C. for the text.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

October 3, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Words Get in the Way of Networking


When it comes to networking, I find it funny that a person who needs to use the right words to sell himself or herself often says things that make me wonder. Following are actual words I heard networkers utter.

funny hanky panky — I don’t usually find anything funny about hanky panky, unless it’s like something from the “American Pie” movies.

cleaning maids — Is there any other kind? (NOTE: I know a maid is “a young unmarried woman,” but that is a shortening of the original word, maiden.)

protect against free radicals — as opposed to paid radicals?

We’re holding a Shakespearean meeting: on the Ides of March — First of all, the Ides of March (March 15) predates Shakespeare’s play. S0 does Julius Caesar’s assassination — by about 1,600 years .

I got married to my wife — No, you got married to a woman who then became your wife.

It costs just $8,000 a month, $100,000 a year — No, it costs $96,000 a year.

I have a prosthetic shoulder, which some of you know about and some of you don’t — That about covers it.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

February 28, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Doth it Scam? Let Me Count the Ways


Dear Email Spammer/Scammer:

If you want to gain my trust/attention/money, you’re going to have to do better than this. The mistakes are so numerous as to strain belief (these are like “alternative facts,” which I’m sure you don’t understand). Still, I will point out a few in the hopes that maybe you’ll see how ridiculous you are.

  1. It’s not addressed to anyone, unless someone you know is called “Dear.”
  2. The name is spelled two different ways.
  3. It’s missing numerous commas, at least one period, and twice there isn’t space between words when there should be.
  4. “resident London?”
  5. The cancer is unnecessarily capitalized.
  6. If you’re really an American citizen, why do you write about making donations in my country? My country is your country.
  7. Nobody I know writes “crave your indulgence.”
  8. Emphasize not “emphasis.”
  9. “Sincerity” is unnecessarily capitalized.
  10. “Inasmuch” is one word, not three.
  11. “reaching out you?”
  12. “Charity” is unnecessarily capitalized.
  13. “someone” is one word, not two.
  14. No one I know says “luxury of time.” They just say “time.”
  15. You obviously haven’t heard the term “burying the lead.” This is where you put the most important part down in your letter. In your case, you buried the lead about as far down as possible because $7.5 million (note how I wrote that) and how you want assistance in giving it away is the point of this email.

Dear ,

I am Wilson Ben an American citizen but resident London where I am currently
hospitalized for treatment of Esophageal cancer and therefore, in need of your
assistance. I intend to make donations to the poor and less privileged in your
country as a matter of urgency and utmost importance to me and hereby crave your
indulgence to read this letter with with all seriousness and the desired attention
that it requires

I wish to emphasis that this proposed project is based on absolute trust, integrity
and Sincerity of purpose in order to have a consensus of like minds.

In as much as I would not completely rule out the possibility of doubts in your
heart in respect of this letter as a result of the activities of internet fraudsters
which has made genuine and legitimate businesses a bit cumbersome,I will
nevertheless, implore you to consider this piece as about my only way of reaching
out you with a view to making you a potential partner.

At the moment, I do not have much hope as I have lost my voice already and think it
is prudent that I begin to make arrangement for the management of my estate as I
have no children to survive me or inherit my estate. It is my plan to give out my
estate to Charity and I am looking for some one to assist me do this hence this
mail.It is hoped that you partner with me on this. I would appreciate a response as
I do not have the luxury of time. The amount involved is USD 7.5 Million dollars.

Best Regards,

Willson Ben

Conclusion: English is not your first language, and unless you’re trying to scam people whose English is like yours, you don’t have much of a chance to meet your objectives.

Move along.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

February 7, 2017 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

Pass The “Mustard” in the “Muster” Station


I never went on a cruise as a child. Too expensive, my parents always said. So, I found it ironic that my first cruise, 11 years ago, was in honor of my mother and stepfather’s 25th wedding anniversary.

Not long after we boarded, there was the cruise equivalent of a fire drill: Everyone had to go to their cabin, put on their life vest and report to a predetermined meeting area called the muster station.

Since the captain was not American, it sounded to me like mustard station. This was weird because at the time of the drill, I had just eaten, and I knew I wasn’t hungry enough to eat another hot dog with mustard. Besides, why were we wearing our life preservers to eat a hot dog? And would everybody there want mustard? What if they wanted ketchup or mayo? I didn’t hear anything about a ketchup or mayo station.

I’m kidding, of course. The inspiration for this was last night at a networking meeting when a travel agent talked about cruising to Alaska. That got me thinking.

So, I looked up muster in the dictionary. It’s a verb that means, “to cause to gather.” As a noun, it means “an act of assembling.” There was no adjective definition, but I understand that a muster station is a gathering place.

Where there isn’t any mustard.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

September 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Can’t Be “Ignorant” and “Stupid” at the Same Time


While driving my daughter to school today, she asked me what it means to be ignorant. I told her that it means to be unaware, uninformed and unknowing.

This conversation gave me the idea to describe the differences between ignorant and stupid.

If you think they’re synonyms, you’re either ignorant or stupid, depending on if you have been told that they’re not synonyms. This is a critical element, for someone truly ignorant has never been told such a thing or couldn’t possibly know. If someone has been told they’re synonyms and chooses not to believe it, they’re stupid.

If a person doesn’t know it’s against the law to drive faster than the posted speed limit, he/she is ignorant of the law (and we know that ignorance is not a defense). But if that person knows the law and chooses to drive faster, that’s stupidity.

Put another way, as Benjamin Franklin did: “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

August 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

To “Close” or To “Shut,” That is the Question


I belong to several Linkedin.com groups. Recently, a person posted the following:

“I don’t know if this is regional thing or perhaps it is just me, but I hear television announcers telling us that a certain company has ‘shut, with the loss of x number of jobs.’ I always thought that you ‘shut a door or a window’ and a ‘company would close down.’ “

Plenty of people offered comments (60 as of this writing). But proper word choice interests me, so here is what I found:

Close has four entries in my dictionary. The listing that matters here is the first entry, of which there are 18 definitions. Several deal with conclusion or bringing to an end; one says “often used with down.”

Shut has two entries, the first of which has eight definitions. Three of these use close as part of the definition. Two others deal with conclusion, cessation or suspension. Both of these have the note, “often used with down.”

I, too, don’t know if it’s a regional thing of perhaps just him, but either word works in his example. A company can close, with the loss of x numbered jobs, as well as shut (often used with down.) You also can close or shut a door or window.

The LinkedIn discussion went off on several tangents, first the different between British and American English regarding “different to” (British) and “different from/than” (American) and then the difference between “gone missing:” and “went missing.”

But somewhere among the various diatribes bemoaning the end of civilization as we know it came from Alison Mahnken: ” ‘Close’ and ‘shut’ (often with ‘down’) are equally acceptable, per esteemed M.-Webster (and definitive resource in American writing/journalism).”

And that’s the open and close of it. Or is it open and shut?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Whose” Line Is It Anyway? “Who’s” Asking?


Too often, we fail to see the exception for the rule (as opposed to the forest for the trees). Today’s example: who’s/whose.

As we know, very often in English a word with an apostrophe-s  after it denotes possessive: Obama’s cabinet, a worker’s pay, a cynic’s lack of belief, etc. A notable exception is it’s, which is a contraction of it is. The possessive form is its — no apostrophe.

It’s the same with who’s: it means who is. The possessive is whose.

Fortunately, a British improvisation show that Drew Carey later brought to American audiences helped everyone understand the difference and made a star out of Wayne Brady.

Having seen the show taped twice (including this one) and having seen Ryan Stiles perform improv live while the show was just in Britain, I’m partial to him.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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