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Bemoaning the Dying of the Adverb

At a networking meeting this morning, a fellow networker told me about how she sees  adverbs, the -ly suffix in particular, disappearing from everyday language. The example she gave: A newsreader says that something is real hard when he/she means really hard.

She has a point. I remember the “Schoolhouse Rock”  song, “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here.” It didn’t explain a part of speech as well as the songs about nouns, pronouns and verbs, but it did a good job of showing how -ly makes a word an adverb.

Then another networker came up to me and said he never forgot a gift he received when he was 13: a wallet marked  “genuine artificial leather.”

I laughed. Since genuine means “actually having the reputed or apparent qualities or character,”  I suppose that something artificial is genuine. But in reality, the correct word is genuinely, an adverb. Artificial is the adjective; genuinely modifies an adjective, as “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” dutifully explains.

I miss “Schoolhouse Rock.” I also wonder if people know what a suffix is.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Like, Let’s Talk About “Like”

People have used the word like in several different ways for hundreds of years. My dictionary lists nine entries for like: as a noun, verb. adjective, adverb, preposition, conjunction and interjection.

I want to address like as an interjection. It’s the ninth listing and means “used chiefly in informal speech as a meaningless expletive or intensifier or to lessen the emphasis of a preceding or following word or phrase.”

It is this usage I object to so much. To me, it’s another way of saying, um or uh. It makes one sound less intelligent.

I remember when I was in college, the funniest thing I ever heard someone say was one sorority girl to another, “Well, do you, like, like him?”

If you go back to the original 1969 cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?” you’ll hear Shaggy use like this way in probably every episode.

What I find interesting is that this usage dates back to 1778, which tells me it’s not going away.

I prefer that people simply say nothing instead of uttering like, uh or um. It takes discipline but can be done. And you’ll sound so much more intelligent.

Until next time! Use the right words!


September 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Know Your Prepositions!

I love Schoolhouse Rock. Growing up, I watched Saturday morning cartoons, and I knew that between the shows on ABC, I would see a bus driving some children to a little schoolhouse. Then the youngsters would get out and walk on the snowy path to the house. Then my brother and I would guess what we would see: Multiplication, Grammar, America or Science Rock.

Thanks to Multiplication Rock, I knew my “times tables” (multiples of 2 through 12) inside and out, and I could quickly recall the answer to any multiplication problem on the tables. This helped me dominate my fifth-grade class contest. I beat everybody in my class of about 35 by shouting the answer before my opponent.

Thanks to America Rock, my wife would hear people start singing the preamble to the Constitution in class.

And thanks to Grammar Rock, I knew my parts of speech: A noun is a person, place or thing; adjectives describe, verbs are action words, pronouns are shorter than nouns, conjunctions join words, etc.

But there was no song about prepositions. Not until 1993, when Bob Dorough, who wrote 20 of the three-minute songs, penned “Busy Prepositions.”

By definition, a preposition is a word (and a part of speech) that shows the relationship between a noun or pronoun and other words in a sentence. The “Schoolhouse Rock” song about prepositions says “nine or 10 of them do most all of the work” and then lists 11: of, on, to, with, in, from, by, far, at, over, across.

But wait a second. Far? Far is an adverb , so I could go to Lolly and get it there. Far also is an adjective, so I could find it hiking with my turtle friend. I would not find far with the other prepositions.

Some comments I have received since I first posted this tells me it is very likely that Dorough wrote and Jack Sheldon sang for, which is a preposition, but the video clearly shows the word far. Another listen to the song confirms this.

Bob Dorough is still alive. I wonder if he knows. Somebody find him and ask him!

In the meantime …

Until next time! Use the right words!

March 21, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Two if by Verb; One if by Noun or Adjective

Listen, my children and you shall hear,

of many words that far and near

get misused because people don’t know

the proper usage, that they blow.

Take trade in, my friend, and trade-off, too,

take over and speed up, on those you can chew.

How many times have you seen with no doubt

these words used wrongly, you find out?

Well, here is a clue for all of you:

It’s two words for verb, I tell you this blurb.

“So when is it one?” you dutifully ask,

and I respond because it’s my task,

“One is an adjective, one is a noun.

Hyphenate if needed, you silly old clown!”

So please take you note of what I have said,

and use the words right before you are dead.

Until next time! Use the right words!




November 27, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Unnecessary Use of “Up”

I got an email today from someone discussing the word up. It said that up has more definitions than any other two-letter word and that it is listed as five different parts of speech. My dictionary has 27 definitions of up as an adverb, 23 as an adjective (plus three more definitions of up to), five as a preposition, four as a noun and eight as a verb.

The email goes on to list 20 different uses for the word. What really struck me was how many times one could remove the up and still make sense, proving up to be unnecessary.

Examples: write up a report, call up our friends, brighten up a room, polish up the silver, warm up the food, clean up the kitchen, open up a store and close it up at night.

Regarding rain, the sky doesn’t have to clear up after a storm, the rain doesn’t soak up the earth, and things don’t dry up when it stops raining.

There’s no need to lock up the house, fix up the car, build up a list, or take up a lot of your time.

OK? My time’s up.

Until next time! Use the right words!


August 2, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Myriad Reasons Why “Myriad” is Misused

OK, I don’t have 10,000 reasons to explain why myriad is misused so much. I have only one: People don’t seem to remember that the word is an adjective.

An adjective, you’ll obviously recall, describes a noun. Myriad’s definition: “of an indefinitely great number.” Thus, myriad reasons NOT myriad of reasons. You wouldn’t use of with other adjectives: a large of dog, a smart of person, etc.

It’s true that if you use myriad as a noun, where the definition is “an indefinitely great number,” myriad of reasons would be correct. But it’s also wordier.

Bonus points to those of you who understood why I used “10,000” reasons.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 8 Comments

Eliminate a Space, Change the Part of Speech

Our wonderful language has dozens of words that, if one eliminates a space, one changes the part of speech, thereby changing the word and, to a lesser extent, its definition.

Here are nine examples:

Build up/buildup — the first is a verb meaning to increase, sometimes gradually; the second is a noun meaning the act of increasing, sometimes gradually

Make up/makeup — the first is a verb meaning to pretend to be true or to fit together; the second is a noun meaning the way things are put together (and that includes the beauty products women use to put together their face)

Take down/takedown — the first is a verb meaning to lower without removing; the second is a noun meaning the act of lowering without removing

Take off/takeoff — the first is a verb meaning to remove, depart or release; the second is a noun meaning an imitation or the act of removing, departing or releasing

Take out/takeout — the first is a verb meaning to date, deduct, separate, withdraw or withhold; the second is a noun meaning the act of dating, deducting, separating, withdrawing or withholding (there also is the adjective take-out which refers to the food not being eaten at the restaurant but instead brought somewhere else, usually home)

Take over/takeover — the first is a verb meaning to assume control; the second can be a noun meaning the act of assuming control

Try out/tryout — the first is a verb meaning to attempt; the second is a noun meaning the attempt itself

Wind up/windup — the first is a verb meaning to conclude or finish up; the second can be a noun meaning the act of concluding (or for you sports fans, the pitcher’s motion before releasing the ball) or an adjective meaning having a spring wound up by hand for operation

Work out/workout — the first is a verb meaning to resolve or to exercise; the second is a noun meaning the exercise regimen

Until next time! Use the right words!

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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