Guaranteed to improve your English

I Have no Friends in Paris or Thailand

I received the following email. I have no idea what this person is talking about, since I never received any past email, and why am I being thanked for something I didn’t do? How does this convince some sucker to get scammed?

Hello friend, 

Did you receive my last email which i sent to you from Thailand? Anyway, the message was to inform you that I have successfully moved the funds to Paris, France. I am using this opportunity to thank you for your great effort, time and concern you showed to help me out, even though we did not succeed following one reason or the other best known to you. It was with the help of a French business tycoon who was capable of assisting me in this great venture via a diplomatic means. 

For your effort, sincerity, and trustworthiness, you showed at the beginning of the transaction, I have decided to compensate you and show my gratitude with the sum of $750,000. I have authorized my new lawyer who is now also my legal adviser in Bangkok, Thailand to issue you an International certified bank cashiers check which I signed in your favor before leaving Thailand for Paris. I will like you to contact the lawyer for the collection procedure of this international certified bank check, and below is the contact information's of the lawyer:. 

Barr(Mr): Richard Morgan 
Bangkok Thailand 

At the moment, I'm very busy here because of the investment projects which I and my new partner are having at hand in Paris France. Finally, remember that I have forwarded instruction to the Lawyer on your behalf to send the bank Check to you as soon as you contact him without delay. 
Please I will like you to accept this token with good faith as this is from the bottom of my heart. I wish you a strong and successful new year. 

Thanks and God bless you and your family. 

Mrs. Rose George 

Capitalization makes it clear that this is not written by someone whose first language is English. I also wonder if the names are real. Probably not.

Until next time! Use the right words!


May 25, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Whale; This Isn’t Moby Dick

The Jewish Day of Atonement was yesterday, and part of the tradition is to read the Book of Jonah. It’s not very long, only four chapters. For those who haven’t read it, the story goes like this: God called on Jonah to warn the people of Nineveh to atone for their sins or be destroyed. Jonah didn’t want to do it so he fled on a boat, but God made the waters rough, and all the sailors prayed to their gods to make it stop. Jonah knew he was the reason, so he told the men to throw him overboard, at which point the waters calmed.

Now, here is where it gets wrong. When I was a kid, I was taught that when Jonah went overboard, it was a whale that swallowed Jonah. But I checked bible, which shows 21 translations, and not one used the word “whale.” All used either “big fish” or “great fish.” I’ve read the Torah , and it also says “great fish.”

So, where did the whale come from? My best guess is from the Koran (Qur’an), in which Jonah is called Yunus or Dhul-Nun, meaning, “the one of the whale.” Yet Jonah appears in just one passage of the entire Muslim holy book: Chapter 10, verse 98: “Then has there not been a [single] city that believed so its faith benefited it except the people of Jonah? When they believed, We removed from them the punishment of disgrace in worldly life and gave them enjoyment for a time.”

Anyway, to continue the story, God caused the fish to vomit Jonah, so he carried God’s message to the Ninevites, and they atoned and were spared, which angered Jonah, so much so that he wanted to die. Instead, he sat outside the city, and God caused a leafy plant (also called a gourd) to provide Jonah with shade, and he was happy. But then God provided a worm that killed the plant, leaving Jonah in the sun. It got so hot that, again, Jonah wanted to die.

But God said, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?”

“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!”

Then God said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

The story ends right there. No resolution, and no whale.

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.

September 24, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Pledge of Allegiance an Invocation?

I attended a discussion in which the speaker strongly advocated for the total separation of church and state, going so far as to want to ban all prayer on any public property such as schools. This caused the woman sitting next to me to whisper to me, “Is the Pledge of Allegiance an invocation?”

She wondered because someone asked about the Pledge and the speaker reminded the audience that the original Pledge did not have the words “under God” included, that it took an act of Congress in response to “Godless Communism” to add “under God” in 1954.

(Actually, the Pledge has undergone four revisions since Francis Bellamy wrote the original in 1892: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”)

But I didn’t know the answer to her question because I didn’t know the meaning of invocation. So, I looked it up. The first of five definitions read, “the act or process of petitioning for help or support.” I don’t remember the word ever being used this way, outside of asking for something in a prayer.

The second definition: “a prayer of entreaty (as at the beginning of service or worship).” Entreaty means “an act of asking urgently.”

The Pledge is not an invocation, and neither is my favorite parody of it, courtesy of Matt Groening in Life In Hell:

I plead alignment to the flakes of the untitled snakes of a merry cow and to the Republicans for which they scam one nachos, underpants, invisible, with licorice and jugs of wine for owls.

Until next time! Use the right words!

January 13, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Input” or “Imput?” My Ears Deceived Me

The answer to the above question should be obvious: Only one of them is a real word.

But when I was younger, I genuinely couldn’t tell if the person said input or imput. Regardless, I knew the word meant “advice, comment, opinion.”

Over time, I came to know another definition: “something that is put in.”

Then I learned about prefixes. In- means “in.” Im- is a variant of in-. I still didn’t know the correct word.

I’m not sure when I figured it out, but eventually I realized the correct word is input. But I still hear people say imput, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

The closest word is impute, which means “to lay the responsibility or blame falsely or unjustly.”

Those of you who say imput when you mean input, the responsibility of saying it correctly is yours. The responsibility of hearing it is mine.

Until next time! Use the right words!


April 15, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Are You “Atheist” or “Agnostic”?

I recently heard the word “agnostic” on a radio talk show, which made me remember discussions I had in school over the difference between agnostic and atheist.

I remember us agreeing that agnostic meant a person believed in a God but wasn’t sure about the details. An atheist, meanwhile, believed there was no God.

Just to make sure, I checked the dictionary.

Agnostic means “one who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.” Atheist means “one who denies the existence of God.”

So, I got one word right.

Now, to answer the title question, I’m guessing that most people are neither. Most probably identify as theists or believers.

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

A Lot is Not Necessarily “a Lot”

I’m such a word snob. I admit it. I bemoan the various informalities the English language offers. I prefer to speak formally and correctly.

That is why I abhor a lot. I know it’s in the dictionary and means “to a considerable degree or extent.” I prefer to use better words such as many, numerous and several. I prefer to use lot when describing a portion of land that has fixed boundaries and is designated on a plot or survey.

However, I also accept the method of deciding something (draw lots) or the Biblical character whose wife turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back at God destroying Sodom and Gomorrah after being told not to (Lot).

When people say A lot of people came to my party, I nod and smile — and cringe internally. I feel similarly when someone uses the plural lots as in I got lots and lots of presents. What, did several people buy you tracts of vacant land?

Speaking of cringing, everybody should know that there is no such word as alot or allot. Yet I see them too often. The writer usually means allot, meaning “to assign or distribute.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

March 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Not Your Birthday

My father recently turned 80, so on this milestone day, I thought it would be a good idea to spoil the party.

It wasn’t his birthday.

This is one of those words that we all use without thinking about it. We all sing “Happy Birthday” to the person celebrating.

But what we’re really celebrating is the anniversary of the birth.

Apologies to the Disney movie “Alice in Wonderland:” We all have one birthday, but we have more than 364 unbirthdays (unless we die after one year).

Look in the dictionary. Birthday‘s primary definition is “the day of a person’s birth.” Yes, it’s true that the next definition is “an anniversary of a birth,” but isn’t that what I just said above?

We should be singing “Happy Anniversary.” The only time we should be singing “Happy Birthday” is on the day we were born, which is impossible (we can, however sing it to our newborn babies, and I did).

Furthermore, doesn’t it make sense to not count the year until after the time you were born? Before that time, you weren’t born yet, so how can you start counting?

Think about it.

Until next time! Use the right words!





January 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Honesty? Integrity? Really?

I recently applied for a job at a company that prided itself for following four guiding principles: honesty, integrity, quality and price. Quality and price I cannot speak to because I don’t know enough about the products the company sells, but it appeared to me they were of high quality and priced right.

I didn’t get the job. Worse, after being led to believe I had the job, the president and his V.P. of  Sales and Marketing told me they would call me back and never did. Their receptionist even said they would return my calls.

Which brings me back to honesty and integrity. How they treated me was dishonest and lacking in integrity.

Before anyone thinks I am spouting bitterness, check the definitions of honesty and integrity.

Honesty means “fairness and straightforwardness of conduct.” Integrity means “honesty.” A note in my dictionary says honesty “implies a refusal to lie, steal or deceive in any way.”

I find it unfortunate that most people have no guts to tell somebody he/she did not get the job, that the applicant finds out by the company’s silence.

It reminds me of my journalism training: “If your mother says she loves you, don’t take her word for it. Verify it.”

Until next time! Use the right words! (This company didn’t!)


January 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Want to be “Omnipotent,” “Omniscient” or “Omnipresent”?

Many people fantasize that they are all-knowing, all-powerful and everywhere at once.

They want to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. In that order.

Here’s a chance to expand your vocabulary with three SAT words. How do you know which?

Start with the prefix omni-, meaning “all.” Then pick your root.

Scient is from the Latin scienter meaning “knowingly.” Potent means “powerful.” Present means “here.” “All here” means every place one could call here. Another word for that is “everywhere.”

If you don’t want to use these big-boy words, and you don’t like all-knowing, all-powerful and all-everywhere, you can use the word you really mean: godlike.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 8, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Is a Pencil a Writing “Utensil” or “Instrument”?

Yesterday, I went out to dinner with my family. My daughter wanted to play Mad Libs while we waited for our food. I asked her, “Do you have a writing utensil?” She said she did.

Then my wife asked me, “Isn’t it a writing instrument?”

I had to pause. I knew a pencil was an instrument with which to write. Yet I had always said “writing utensil.”

I knew a fork, knife and spoon were eating utensils as well as instruments with which to eat. But I’ve never heard anyone call a fork an instrument. A guitar is a musical instrument, but I have never heard someone call it a utensil.

So I looked up utensil in my dictionary. The definition: “an implement, instrument, or vessel used in a household and esp. a kitchen.” (italics added)

Then I looked up utensil in my thesaurus. One of the synonyms: instrument.

So, take your pick. A pencil is both. A guitar is not.

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

%d bloggers like this: