usingtherightwords

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Outdated Facts Means Outdated Words


Although Hanukkah began on Tuesday, my family got together on Sunday for our annual family Hanukkah gathering. In addition to the usual money I get, I received “The Bathroom Trivia Book: Nuggets of Knowledge for America’s Favorite Reading Room.” This interested me, and then I saw that this book was published in 1986.

That got me REALLY interested. I figured that there were some facts presented therein that are no longer true (so, therefore, the wrong words were being used).

Sure enough, I found some. First comes the book “facts,” then today’s, culled from numerous online sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state websites and some general knowledge I know.

  1. Women get married, on average, at age 21; men at age 23. Today, it’s 27 and 29.
  2. The only person whose birthday is a legal holiday everywhere in the U.S. is George Washington. Today, Martin Luther King joins him.
  3. Marilyn Monroe was the inspiration behind Tinker Bell in Disney’s “Peter Pan.” Nope, it was actress Margaret Kerry.
  4. The most common surname in the word is Chang (Zhang). Now, it’s Li (or Lee).
  5. Herbert Hoover lived the longest after leaving the presidency: 31 years.  Today, Jimmy Carter is at almost 37 years and counting.
  6. Park Street is the most popular street name. Today, it’s fifth (Second is first), but it’s still the most popular that isn’t a number.
  7. The three closest countries to the U.S. are Canada, Mexico and the Soviet Union. Of course, the USSR doesn’t exist anymore. Russia is now the third.
  8. And I end on a sad note. The World Trade Center has 43,600 windows. Today, it doesn’t exist.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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

(this headline intentionally written all lower case)


I received the following email:

this is mark fish i come back here in the state and i ask of your fund $4.8 and the home land security told me that is still in there office and i need to inform you if you still need in just emaill me your new address now for the urgent delivery
thank mark fish
call me or text (404­448­2­27­3

Although the name is Mark Fish (I’ll capitalize it correctly, thank you), the email address is from an A. Rodriguez, and it ends “.mx,” making it from Mexico. Maybe it was also written by somebody who speaks Spanish as a first language — the person certainly doesn’t speak English as a first language.

I counted 21 errors.

Also, please, nobody call or text that number.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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

Richard Lederer: Another of My Heroes


In my newspaper days, the Columbia Journalism Review would publish actual headlines that were unintentionally funny. Many were compiled for a book, Correct Me If I’m Wrong: Press Bloopers As Seen in the Newseum. It’s available on amazon.com. A favorite: “Marijuana Issue Sent to Joint Committee.”

Now, I have discovered Richard Lederer, who has written a series of books that cover all sorts of bad writing. In his 1987 book Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language, Lederer lists more headlines that if read one way are correct but if read another way aren’t.

Here are 12 of my favorites (and my attempts at humor to illustrate the incorrect reading):

British Left Waffles on Falkland Islands (but they took the pancakes)

Lung Cancer in Women Mushrooms (men mushrooms, however, not affected)

Eye Drops Off Shelf (must have been a glass eye)

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids (that will teach those kids to be idle!)

Squad Helps Dog Bite Victim (obviously revenge for “man bites dog”)

Lawyers Give Poor Free Legal Advice (you get what you pay for)

Man Eating Piranha Mistakenly Sold as Pet Fish (proving that you can have a pet human)

Miners Refuse to Work After Death (they spent their entires lives working, after all)

Lawmen from Mexico Barbecue Guests (but no one remembered the KC Masterpiece)

Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant (because rehabilitation didn’t work)

Stolen Painting Found By Tree (and tree demands reward)

Hitler, Nazi Papers Found in Attic (and you thought he died in his bunker)

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

September 23, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is There Any Other Kind of “Churro?”


I recently went to my neighborhood Del Taco. After ordering, my eyes scanned the menu and saw “Cinnamon Churros.”

I said to myself, “Is there any other kind?”

So, I looked it up. In this country, the answer is no. All churros are rolled in cinnamon sugar, which range in proportion from 3:1 sugar to cinnamon all the way to 12:1. (They’re also sometimes called a “Spanish doughnut,” although I’ve never heard that term.)

However, around the world is a different story. In the south of Spain, it’s called calientes or calentitos de rueda (literally, “warm wheel,” so called because of the shape) and are made with a thinner dough without then typical ridges. Also, there’s no sugar because it’s considered unsuitable.

In Cuba, churros are often filled with fruit. In Brazil, they’re often filled with chocolate. Chocolate or vanilla is the choice of filling in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Chile. In Uruguay, it’s melted cheese. And in Colombia and Venezuela, churros are glazed with caramelized condensed milk, which we know as dulce de leche.

So, there are many other kinds of churros. But I don’t believe that anyone is going to Del Taco to find them, so I conclude that cinnamon churros is redundant.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 18, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When in Rome, Pronounce as the Romans Do


A funny aspect of language is its inability — or downright refusal — to pronounce a country’s name the way the natives of that country pronounce it. I have never understood why we can’t pronounce Spanish-speaking countries such as Argentina (Ar-hen-TI-na), Spain (Es-PAN-ya) and Mexico (MEH-hee-co). It isn’t like English doesn’t have all of those sounds. I find it rather arrogant.

Here are 10 other countries whose residents don’t pronounce the names like in English:

Denmark Danmark

Germany Deutschland (pronounced DOYCH-Land)

Greece — Hellas

India Bharat (the H is silent)

IsraelYisrael ( pronounced YIS-rah-el)

Japan Nippon

The NetherlandsNederland

NorwayNorge (pronounced NOR-ye)

PolandPolska

SwedenSverige (pronounced SVER-ye)

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments