usingtherightwords

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Spamity-Spam! Wonderful Spam!


Like so many people, I get more than my fair share of email spam. Because of the way my email is set up, I have to go into each piece to unsubscribe. This does’t seem to lessen the amount of spam I get, so I keep unsubscribing.

But every once in awhile, I find something that truly deserves the name spam.

In two separate emails, one touting a way to cut your energy bills to $1.50 a day like it’s done in the Philippines and Korea (if you believe it) and one explaining why President Obama won’t finish his second term (anybody getting these, too?), I found this sentence:

This is spreading like wild fire all over the internet. Make sure you watch the
presentation until it’s over, because the end will blow your mind!

I don’t know about you, but I think fire is always wild. Even when you think fire is under control (and there are such things as “controlled burns” to try and stop fire from spreading), it can get out of control very fast.

Besides, the word is misspelled. I think the only thing spreading like wildfire are these emails.

Also, how does someone blow your mind? Does he or she blow into your ear (I think there’s a blonde joke in here somewhere)? Does he or she make you put dynamite, exploding cigar or bomb in your mouth that then detonates (I think there’s a Bugs Bunny cartoon in here somewhere)?

Besides, the phrase is a cliché, and clichés make your writing less academic, less intelligent and less interesting if you need to fall back on trite words or phrases.

Kind of like the people who send these emails — the same people who don’t know Internet is capitalized.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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June 23, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not Something You’ve “Always” Wanted


My daughter has braces, and she told me that her orthodontist recommended that she get an electric toothbrush that moves circular. Then she said she agreed with the orthodontist because the electric toothbrush was something “I’ve always wanted.”

That got me thinking, and I flashed back to my youth when I received my first 10-speed bike, a reward for learning how to swim (it came late to me). I remember saying, “It’s what I always wanted.”

Then I flashed back to the present and thought about the word always. Can we always want something?

I checked the dictionary. Always means “at all times, invariably, forever, perpetually.” Last time I checked, neither my daughter nor I have lived forever, and there certainly were times she didn’t know electric toothbrushes existed and I didn’t know bikes existed. So we don’t always want these things.

The better word is long, as in “I have long wanted an electric toothbrush.” Consistently works, too, although I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’ve consistently wanted _____.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

December 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fallout From Misusing “Fallout”


For years I have heard the term “fallout shelter” to describe the room in which we escape to in the event of nuclear armageddon. It’s even a song lyric (“The birds flew off with a fallout shelter” — Don McLean, “American Pie”).

Yet fallout is not an adjective.

The word is a noun referring to the radioactive particles that settle on us and the land following a nuclear explosion, but it also could refer to debris settling from any non-nuclear explosion or fire. It also is a noun that means “by-product” or “effect.”

I also found a dictionary that defines fallout as a verb meaning “to quarrel or disagree,” “to happen or occur” and “to leave a parade or disciplinary formation,” although I always thought that was fall out.

When we use it as an adjective to refer to a type of shelter, we’re misusing the word. I can’t find any dictionary that defines fallout as anything other than a noun. A British dictionary came closest, listing it as the noun “fallout shelter.”

We should instead say “bomb shelter” or just “shelter.” In fact, when I typed “fallout as an adjective” into my search engine, the engine kicked out “bomb as an adjective” as well.

Somebody gimme shelter from the fallout of misusing fallout.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

September 18, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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