Guaranteed to improve your English

(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!


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 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!

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!

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)


SwedenSverige (pronounced SVER-ye)

Until next time! Use the right words!

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