usingtherightwords

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Looking at “Native American” Differently


I was struck by something Donald Trump said on Monday. Because Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) appeared with Hillary Clinton, Trump attacked Warren and her listing herself as a Native American minority in Association of American Law Schools (AALS) directories from 1986-95.

“She used the fact that she was Native American to advance her career,” Trump said. “Elizabeth Warren is a total fraud.”

Now, I could write an entire blog based on everything Trump says and fact-check and correct his usage. In this case, Warren said she had self-identified as a minority in the directories to meet others with similar tribal roots. Her brothers defended her, stating that they “grew up listening to our mother and grandmother and other relatives talk about our family’s Cherokee and Delaware heritage.”

Whether you believe Warren or not, or whether you side with Trump or not, it makes no difference to me. The point I want to make is, if you break down the words, you’ll see that Warren, millions of others and I are, in fact, native Americans.

Native means “belonging to a particular place by birth.” Warren was born in Oklahoma City (notice Trump doesn’t question her birth as he did with President Obama in 2011). The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution begins, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” This makes Warren an American.

And a native American.

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 available on Amazon for only $14.95.  Order here.

leebarnathan.com

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June 30, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 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!

leebarnathan.com

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

Did Obama Really Say That?


As I listened to the news on the radio last week, the local CBS station promoted that weekend’s “60 Minutes” in which President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Clinton sat down together for an interview. The station played a clip, and I thought I heard the president say,  “I think that Hillary will go down as one of the finest Secretary of States we’ve had.”

Wait a minute, I thought, did I really hear that correctly?

The day the segment aired, I heard the same promo. Again, the president said,  “I think that Hillary will go down as one of the finest Secretary of States we’ve had.”

The next day, I found the clip online, and once again the president said,  “I think that Hillary will go down as one of the finest Secretary of States we’ve had.”

Wikipedia also has made this mistake. I can understand that, but Obama? I couldn’t believe it, and still don’t. Here we have an incredibly bright, thoughtful and articulate man making a common mistake: Secretary of States.

The correct term is Secretaries of State.

It appeared that Obama forgot that you pluralize the subject. Just like with passers-by.

Clearly, the president thought of “Secretary of State” as one complete entity. But there are so many other secretaries in his cabinet (Defense, Interior, Treasury, Agriculture, Energy, Justice, Commerce, Labor, Transportation, Education, etc.). Also, of  is a preposition or adverb, and those parts of speech are not sentence subjects.

Obviously, there needs to be an additional cabinet position: Secretary of Using the Right Words.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

January 28, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let’s Get to the “Roots” of the Problem


I love Netflix (despite the incredibly high price increase from last year) because I can go back and watch movies, television shows or miniseries that I missed the first time around. I’m currently watching the last disc of  “Roots,” which I didn’t watch when it premiered in 1977 because I was too young.

Anyone who has watched “Roots” knows the various names (today we’d call them epithets) white people called the slaves and what the slaves called each other. By today’s standards, the words are incendiary, insulting, rude and racist. Unfortunately, that’s the way it was.

It’s not that way today. Now, we have the terms African-American and black. Which do you use? Whatever the person prefers. But be careful. Technically speaking, only people who can trace their ancestry directly to Africa can be called African-American. President Obama is a prime example. He was born in Hawaii to a Kenyan father and an American mother.

I once knew a white woman who could make the same designation. She was born in South Africa and became an American citizen later. I remember her telling me the looks she got when she (correctly) listed herself as African-American on job applications and then met hiring officers for interviews.

If ancestry can’t be determined, and if you can’t reach the person to find  his or her preference, use black because that is the skin color.

Happy Black History Month! Happy Lincoln’s Birthday (a day late)! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

February 13, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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