usingtherightwords

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A Few Words About “Assume”


I keep hearing a cliche that drives me nuts: “When you assume something, you make an ass out of you and me.”

I completely disagree. Look at the definition. To assume means “to take as granted or true.” It has nothing to do with me and has everything to do with you.

So, when you assume, you risk making an ass of you. I don’t even enter the picture.  I refuse to be a party to this.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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March 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can You “Recover” From Autism?


I once heard a speaker talk about her child with autism. She said he was “recovering from autism.”

Huh? How do you recover from an incurable diagnosis? This is sort of like alcohol: Once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic. Same with autism: Once you have it, you always do.

But just to make sure this woman was using the words correctly, I asked my wife, who works with children with special needs, what she thought of “recovering from autism.”

She replied that it could mean that a person was misdiagnosed and never had autism.

I asked the speaker if this was what she meant. She said no, her son’s diagnosis was correct, but if you watched him now, you would never know he has autism.

According to my wife, it’s correct to say that this boy with autism is functioning so highly on the spectrum that one can’t tell he has autism. But he still has autism.

Then I checked the dictionary. Among  recover‘s 11 definitions is this one: “to regain a normal position or condition (as of health).”  It gives an example: “recover from a cold.”

I don’t think the definition works. You can have a cold and then not have it. You can’t not have autism once you have it.

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 $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

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

Do You Have an Itch to Scratch?


Recently, my daughter asked me what was correct: scratch your itch or itch your itch. She said she has heard people say Itch your itch and thought it was wrong.

This surprised me. I don’t remember ever hearing anyone get this wrong. I thought everyone knew that itch means, among other definitions, “an uneasy irritating sensation in the upper surface of the skin, usually (because of) mild sensation of pain receptors;” and scratch means, among its many definitions, “to scrape or rub lightly as to relieve itching.”

OK, I don’t really mean people know these definitions verbatim, but I thought everyone knew the difference and the usage.

I was wrong. Again. But unfortunately, I was again right about the intelligence of this generation.

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 out and available on Amazon. Order now for just $14.95. Contact me on my website to reserve your copy or Order here.

leebarnathan.com

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is it OK to Celebrate a Genocide?


I received an email this weekend from a writer who has a large manuscript about the Armenian Genocide, which happened at the hands of the Ottoman Turks 100 years ago. In the email, the person wrote that the Genocide “is celebrated on its centennial, specially (sic) April 24.”

First, the right word is especially, but that’s not as important as celebrating the Genocide. A Genocide is a most unhappy event, so why would anyone want to celebrate it? Wouldn’t it be better to commemorate it? Commemorate, after all, means “to mark by some ceremony or observance.”

I checked the dictionary. Celebrate means “to perform (as a sacrament or solemn ceremony) publicly and with appropriate rites,” “to honor by solemn ceremonies or by refraining from ordinary business” and “to observe a holiday, perform a religious ceremony, or take part in a festival.”

Other than the part of the third definition relating to a festival, it is acceptable to celebrate such a heinous event.

However …

Commemorate and celebrate list the word keep as a synonym. Keep has 34 definitions, the relevant one here being “to take notice of by appropriate conduct.”

There also is a usage note (italics added) that reads, “Keep stresses the idea of not neglecting or violating.” “Celebrate suggests acknowledging am occasion by festivity.” A genocide is about as far from festive as can be.

The better word is, in fact, commemorate because, as the usage reads, it “suggests that an occasion is marked by observances the remind one of the origin and significance of the day.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 13, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You a “Client” or a “Customer?”


Looking ahead to my week, I noticed that I have a client coming over on Tuesday to work on her 30-second elevator speech.

Then I stopped and wondered if this person is a client or a customer?

I looked up the words. A client is “a person who engages the professional advice or services of another.” A customer is “one that purchases a commodity or service.” Also, my dictionary lists customer as a synonym for client but not the other way around.

The differences in definition are subtle, but in researching the differences, many sources identify one key difference: a client has a more in-depth and personal relationship than a customer. A client might ask for many different types of help or services many times; a customer might want different products or services (such as at a market), but  the relationship between customer and business or businessperson is so much less personal.

As for the person I’m meeting with, since I see this person often, and since this person has hired me in the past, I say this person is a client.

I think I want more clients than customers.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Unusual But Correct


I was having dinner at an upscale downtown Los Angeles restaurant last night when my friend came out of the restroom and said, “There’s a sign in the bathroom I think you’re gonna want to see.”

I never saw it because he told me about it in his next breath: The restaurant requested that one not throw paper towels into the toilet and “thank you for your collaboration.”

The word collaboration struck him as funny. He pointed out, correctly, that a sign would normally use the words consideration or cooperation.

I responded by telling him that if I remembered the definition of collaboration, the sign was correct.

The definition of the root collaborate, which I looked up the next day: “to work jointly with others or together.” The restaurant wanted everyone to avoid throwing paper towels in the toilet. That works.

Now, some might say that the definition means that these collaborators have to work together at the same time; therefore, everybody has stand in the bathroom and not throw paper towels into the toilets.

I understand the implication, but I disagree. Collaboration can span time periods.

Besides, do you really want that many people standing over a toilet at the same time?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

January 7, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Definition of Insanity


I really don’t understand people sometimes.

You know how people tell you that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome?

I checked the dictionary. Insanity means: “a deranged state of the mind usually occurring as a specific disorder (as schizophrenia) and usually excluding such states as mental deficiency, psychoneurosis, and various character disorders.”

I’m just saying…

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

I Think Walmart Got Bamboozled


The other day, as I watched a TV show on Hulu, a Walmart commercial came on trying to sell Walmart’s “straight talk” mobile phone service. In the commercial, the various “customers” challenge the “Walmart employee,” wondering if there are any hidden fees or funny business. Then a guy in the back of the shot rears his head and asks, “Bamboozling?”

The employee asks what is bamboozling, and the actor who said, “funny business” responds, “It’s like, uh, malarkey.”

I looked up bamboozle in the dictionary. It means “to deceive by underhand methods.” It’s a verb. Malarkey is a noun meaning “insincere to foolish talk.”

Not exactly synonymous. I guess no one had a dictionary handy when people conceived, wrote and filmed this commercial.

Sorry, Walmart, but you didn’t bamboozle me with your malarkey.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

June 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Butt Seriously


Today, I heard somebody in yoga class (not in a networking meeting, for a change) say she had to “get off my butt” and do something.

That got me thinking, so I asked her, “How do you get off something that’s attached to you?” She chuckled.

So, I decided to blog about the origin of the phrase “get off your butt.” Instead, I found many listings related to butt.

What I didn’t realize was how many different ways we use the word butt. My dictionary has six listings for the word butt. It could mean “to strike with the head or horns, “a blow or thrust, usually with horns,” “a large cask, especially for wine, beer or butter,” “a backstop (as a mound or bank) for catching missiles,” “buttocks,” “a person’s rear end,” “to abut” and a slang term for “cigarette.”

You might be surprised how many ways we use “butt.” So many are slang, and all have better ways to say it:

butt heads — to come into conflict

butthead — idiot

butt out — don’t interfere

butt of jokes — object of abuse or ridicule

get your butt over here — come here quickly

get off my butt — it could mean “get up and do something” or “get away from me.”

get off your butt — get up and do something

get your butt moving — hurry up

get your butt off — get off of something

kicked butt — did something really well

saved our butts — saved us from something bad or disastrous

worked our butts off — worked hard

freeze your butt off — feel really cold

spun my butt off — spun out, as a vehicle

“here is my journey’s end, here is my butt” — from “Othello,” Act 5, Scene 2. Here, butt means “goal.”

I drank a buttload — I drank a large amount

laughing my butt off — laughing hard

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

May 14, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Mnemomics By Any Other Name … Could be an Acronym


Sometimes, I’m too clever for my own good.

At last night’s networking meeting, a speaker introduced a mnemonic device , but what he used was an acronym. He asked me during the presentation if he was using the word correctly, and I said, “That’s not a mnemonic device, that’s an acronym.” Around the room, I heard people chuckling and saying, “He’s right” and “You’re right.”

Then I checked the dictionary.

Mnemonics (spelled plural but singular in construction) is “a technique of improving the memory.” That’s vague enough to include acronyms, which are “words formed from the initial letter or letters of each of the successive parts or major parts of a compound term.” It lists radar and snafu as examples.

So, I went online and typed into the search engine “Can an acronym be a mnemonic device?” and at http://www.learninginfo.org/acronyms.htm, I found “There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including … acronyms…”

Therefore, Sandy R., you were correct and I was not.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 25, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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