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Set Up the Setup!

Because I don’t subscribe to pay TV channels, I am always behind on the HBO and Showtime shows. I have to wait for them to become available on Netflix. For example, I’m on the 10th episode of Season 4 of “Homeland” — just days before Season 5 premieres.

I bring this up because in a Season 4 episode, it is revealed that Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) have been working together all along. It was a setup.

This perfectly segues into my reminder that so many English words are different parts of speech when spelled differently. Setup is a noun; set up a verb (the definitions of each are too numerous to mention here. Check a dictionary and you’ll see what I mean).

OK? Got it? Good. Just don’t tell me what happens in Season 5.

Until next time! Use the right words!


October 2, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Opening the Emailbag

I received this email from a high-school classmate of mine, Mark D.:

The use of the word “that.” If you listen to the news or sports radio/ESPN,
you’ll hear it often:that storm, that fire, that accident, that ferry,
that knee injury, etc. You must have heard this a thousand times. Is this
correct? To me it just doesn’t sound right, but you hear it everywhere!

I responded this way:

The usage is correct. My guess the reason it doesn’t sound right to
you is that (ahem) you would prefer to use the article adjective “the.”
OK. There are more than 30 definitions of “that,” as a pronoun, adjective
and conjunction. Here is the first listed definition of “that” as an
adjective: “being the person, thing or idea mentioned, specified or

Mark was very nice to let me reprint this, and he was very nice to tell me he’s learning from this blog.

Thanks, Mark.

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Either or,” “Neither nor:” Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

It’s time to play that game show nobody’s talking about: What Goes Together!

Our contestant is Ida from Internetville. She’s a typical Web surfer/blogger who doesn’t know how to write but thinks she does.

Welcome, Ida. Now, let’s play. Your question: What goes together: either, neither, or, nor?

Um, I’m so nervous. I’ve never been on TV before. I want to say hi to–

Never mind that! Answer the question.

Uh, either … or and neither … nor?


(Shriek!) Oh my God, I didn’t think I’d get that one right!

Neither did we. But by doing so, you move on to the bonus question: Which verb do you use when using either … or and neither … nor?


Which verb do you use when using either … or and neither … nor?

What do you mean, what verb? Of course, you use a verb! Whatever verb is needed.


Oh, I’m sorry. You’re time is up. The correct answer is: whichever subject is closer to the verb.

“Neither they nor he is going.” “Either she or them are going.”

Darn! Do I get anything for getting the first one right?


What kind of a game show is this?

The kind where you’re made to look like a fool because you mangle the language every time you post something online. And you don’t have to say “what kind of a game show” when it’s “what kind of game show.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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