usingtherightwords

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An Unexpected Addition to the Museum of Failure Exhibition


This past weekend, I went to an exhibit at the A+D Museum in Los Angeles about failure, specifically about ideas, products and services that failed for one reason or another (it’s from the Museum of Failure in Helsingborg, Sweden).

The exhibit was simple: A product, idea or service, such as the Betamax, the Edsel, the Apple Newton, Blockbuster, New Coke, Bic for Her and the Skipper doll that grew breasts by moving her arm, was displayed along with some text.

Most of the time, the text was humorous, but I found one instance in which somebody made what they thought was a correction.

 

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When I saw this, I laughed (and had my wife snap a picture). Lay is the action word; lie refers to a state of reclining along a horizontal plane.

It’s tricky, and I can understand why many people might think lie would be correct because it’s understood that the writer is suggesting you go lie down on something, but in this case, lay is correct. Had the text read, You might want to lie down on a couch/bed/ground/horizontal plane, that would have been correct, too, but just writing lay down is like saying, “lay yourself down,” which is an action, which takes the action word lay.

That’s no lie. Remember this, and there will be no failure.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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January 30, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Always” Beware the Absolute “Never”


ESPN has a show called “Numbers Never Lie,” which reminds me to warn against absolutes such as always and never.

One of the many definitions of absolute is “having no restriction, exception or qualification.” Using absolutes often can get one into trouble.

The two I hear most commonly used are always and never. Always is defined as “at all times.” Conversely, never means “at no time.”

A child often says, “I’ve always wanted this” and “You never do this for me.” Of course, neither sentence is true — nor can it be because humans are finite beings with only a finite time on this earth.

Therefore, nothing we do or say can ever be absolute. We need a qualifier: “As far as I know, this has never happened” or “You’ve never given me what I wanted, except when you did.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Variety” (or is it “Varieties) is the Apple of My Eye


I love LinkedIn. Not only can you find jobs, you can find blog posts if you look carefully enough.

In one of my groups, a person asked which is correct: “Two hundred varieties of apple trees” or “Two hundred varieties of apple tree?”

As of this writing, 269 comments have been posted. Not that I’ve read all of them, but the majority seem to think tree is correct. Those that teach foreign languages think it’s trees because that’s the way it is in the foreign language.

My research tells me the correct usage can be found in the Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary. It defines variety as “a number or collection of different things or people,” and gives as examples “The talks covered a wide/great variety of topics,” “The company sells a variety of gardening products,” “They broke up for a variety of reasons,”  “The conference attracts a wide variety of people,” and “He has a variety of health problems.”

All include plural objects (italics added).

However, some say that if the speaker refers to the object as a single class or genus, then saying “varieties of apple tree” would be correct. I’m not the grammar expert, so I don’t know if that’s true. What I do know is I have used the singular object for years, and I might just be wrong.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

There’s No App For The Truth


The following is all true:

Want to check snow conditions? There’s an app for that™.

Want to count calories? There’s an app for that™.

Want to find your car in that huge parking structure? There’s an app for that™.

Want to decipher confusing lyrics? There’s an app for that™.

Want to help Icelanders avoid accidental incest? There’s an app for that™.

Want to get pregnant or avoid getting pregnant? There’s an app for that™.

Want to upgrade your basketball tickets? There’s an app for that™.

Want to hijack a plane? There’s an app for that™.

Want to know that app is short for application? I don’t think there’s an app for that™.

(Note: Apple  trademarked the phrase “There’s an app for that™” in 2010.)

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He Decided to “Alter” the “Altar”


Lazy writers often mistake these two words — and then compound their laziness by not reading back through what they wrote. Instead, they use a spell checker on their computer, and it doesn’t catch the mistake because they correctly spelled the word, and the spell checker program isn’t sophisticated enough to make it right.

To alter, of course, is to change. I wish this blog would alter the course of history.

An altar, of course, is a table-like platform used in religious services.

Animal sacrifice, anyone?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

October 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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