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How to Spell Fish and Potato

Easter was Sunday, so I thought now would be a great time for a spelling lesson, courtesy of the Internet.

How do you spell fish? Ghoti.

Gh pronounced “f” as in enough, O pronounced as “i” in women, Ti pronounced “sh” in nation or motion.

Next, spell potato. Ghoughphtheightteeau.

Gh pronounced “p” as in hiccough, ough pronounced “o” as in dough, phth pronounced “t” as in phthisis, eigh pronounced “a” as in neighbor, tte pronounced “t” as in gazette and  eau pronounced “o” as in plateau.

Ain’t English grand?

Until next time! Use the right words!


April 3, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Scam from ‘Nam (by way of a German?)

I recently finished watching Ken Burns’ monumental documentary on the Vietnam War. That actually has little to do with this post, except that the following email I received reminded me of it.


I know you will be surprised to read my email. Apart from being surprised, you may be skeptical to reply me based on what is happening on the internet, one has to be very careful as a lot of scammers are out there to defraud innocent citizens and this has made it very difficult for people to believe anything that comes through the internet.

My name is Staff Sergeant Michael S. Douglass. I am a member of the US ARMY From Baghdad, Iraq now am in Afghanistan. because of the current ISIS problems. I discovered two trunk boxes containing American dollars.

Am looking for a trust worthy individual who will assist me to receive the funds in his country before 1 will come over and join the person. To prove my sincerity,  you are not sending me any money because most of these scams are all about sending money.

Information below is necessary,

  1. Full Name…
  2. Address….
  3. Occupation…
  4. Age……….
  5. Your Telephone Number.

As soon as i received this information, i will send more details to you.

Best Regards,

Staff Sergeant Michael S. Douglass


The reason I am reminded of “The Vietnam War” is because the email address that sent this scam email is “” is a German hosting company, and “.vn” refers to Vietnam.

There is no way an Army staff sergeant based in Afghanistan is using a German hosting company and a Vietnam country code. While it’s possible there really is a “Staff Sergeant Michael S. Douglass,” I couldn’t find one. I also doubt any real army person would write it out in full. I usually see it listed as “Staff Sgt.” Plus, there is an actor named Michael Douglas, so the scammers might be playing on that.

It’s obvious from the numerous mistakes that there is no way the person (or people) who wrote this speaks English as a first language. Do not respond to this!

Until next time! Use the right words!

December 12, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Does G-H-O-T-I Spell?

A friend of mine posed this question to me last week. He probably didn’t make it up; it’s probably on the Internet somewhere. But it demonstrates how strange English can be.

To answer the question, one must ask these three questions:

What sound does the gh make in enough? 

What sound does the o make in women?

What sound does the ti make in nation?

The answers: F, I and SH.


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.

April 7, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Internet Strikes Again

My mechanic told me a funny story last week. He said he had heard about someone who had sent an email informing them that a parent one had died. The email ended with “LOL.”

The recipient, taken aback, responded, “What’s so funny about my mom dying?”

The sender said, “I thought LOL meant lots of love.

I thought this was hysterical. Here was another example of how this generation (which I’ve nicknamed “Generation Text”) gets in trouble by taking too many shortcuts.

I told my daughter about it later. She responded by showing me many of the memes online already devoted to that joke.


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.

February 9, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

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

“Up” Yours

It’s easy to understand up, meaning “in or into a higher position, especially away from the center of the earth” or “the opposite of down,” but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake up?

At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up, why are the officers up for election, and why is it up to the
secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends. We use light to brighten up a room, we polish up the silver, we warm up the leftovers and clean up
the kitchen. We lock up the house, and some guys fix up the old car.

At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.

A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up. We chop the tree down, then chop it up. We open up a store in the morning, but we close it up at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed up about up. To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of up, look up the word up in the dictionary. In my dictionary, it takes up almost one quarter of the page and adds up to about 28 definitions as an adverb, 22 definitions as an adjective, five as a preposition, four as a noun and five as a verb.

If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a great deal of your time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with 100 or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing up. When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things up. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry up.

I could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up for now. My time is up, so it is time to shut up.

Thanks to Warren S. for emailing this up to me. My guess is he found it while looking things up on the Internet.

Until next time! Use the right words!

December 22, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not Surprisingly, I Found This on the Internet

Stay on the Internet long enough and you’ll end up re-posting things. Sometimes, however, it bears repeating.


1. Always avoid alliteration.

2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

3. Avoid clichés like the plague (my personal favorite).

4. Comparisons are as bad as clichés.

5. Be more or less specific.

6. Writes should never generalize (and they should check spelling).

Seven: Be consistent!

8. Don’t be redundant; don’t use any more words than you already find yourself needing to; it’s highly superfluous.

9. Who needs rhetorical questions?

10. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

Thanks to Martin C. for bringing this to my attention (and to whomever first wrote it).

Until next time! Use the right words!


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

Is It “Libel” or “Slander?” It’s “Defamation”

Last week, my condo association owners meeting got really weird. Board members started yelling at each other, police arrested a board member for violating a restraining order against another board member, other board members openly attacked former board members … it was surreal.

At one point, an owner accused the board of dereliction of duty — specifically, failing to abide by the code of ethics set forth in the CC&Rs. She accused the board of publishing her complaint and libeling her in an email that outed her as the one complaining.

That got me thinking, is an email libel or slander?

In pre-Internet days, it was clear: Slander occurred when the false communication was spoken and heard. Libel occurred when the false communication was written and seen. The laws governing libel and slander, which are collectively known as defamation, are identical.

From what I can gather online, defamation in an email is libel. However, since I am not an attorney, I suggest anyone who believes they have suffered defamation should check their state law.

Until next time! Use the right words!

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

Cannibalism in Breakfast Cereal

Recently, I saw a TV commercial in which one piece of cereal licked, then ate another piece of cereal.

It’s supposed to be funny and send the message that the cereal is that good. What I saw, however, was cannibalism.

At least that’s what I thought I saw. I wasn’t sure if non-humans could be cannibals. There are famous episodes throughout history (Donner Party, Jeffrey Dahmer, Uruguayan college rugby team, etc.) as well as famous fictional characters (Hannibal Lecter comes to mind), but they’re all human-on-human. I’ve never seen a nature show in which the animal ate its own kind.

So I checked the dictionary and the Internet. I found cannibal originated with the earliest Spanish settlers witnessing the natives eating or chewing human flesh after a war. This was a perfectly normal ritual to the natives, but to the Spanish, it was sacrilegious, and it was one reason they called the  natives “savages.”

The dictionary defines cannibal as “one that eats the flesh of its own kind.” So breakfast cereal is fair game.

Online, I’ve found no accounts that say humans taste like cinnamon toast. It seems we taste like either pork or veal. This could explain why I’ve heard firefighters hate bacon: It smells like burnt flesh.

Until next time! Use the right words!



January 2, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Every day” It Seems Somebody Misuses “Everyday”

Mangling every day and everyday is common on the vast, vacuous expanse known as the Internet. As I’ve said before, the reasons for the misuse probably are because people don’t know what the words mean.

Every day is an adverb referring to a time frame: Every day I write the book.

Everyday is an adjective meaning “typical”: She wears everyday shoes.

Simple enough, right? Don’t be surprised if the next time you see these words online, someone will have written “everyday” when “every day” is correct.

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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