usingtherightwords

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The “Leading Brand” Stigma


For as long as I can remember, I have seen commercials in which one product demonstrates its superiority over “the leading brand.”

Why the “leading brand” is rarely, if ever, identified has always bewildered me, although sometimes I can tell by clues left in the commercial. I remember a laundry soap commercial in which Wisk (the brand the advertiser wants you to buy) is supposedly better than Tide (the “leading brand”), and I could tell it was Tide by the outermost yellow and orange rings on the box that weren’t covered.

Recently, I started thinking about the word leading. In this case, it means “coming or ranking first.” But using the above example, isn’t Tide no longer the “leading brand” because Wisk is supposedly better? Isn’t Wisk now the “leading brand,” and why isn’t it labeled as such in the commercial?

Is it so wrong to be the “leading brand?” It seems that advertisers want you to believe it’s a curse to be the “leading brand,” that it’s some sort of bad, undesirable thing worthy of being shunned, ignored or cast out.

I think it should be flattering that your brand is such that it’s being compared to some other brand. Stop with the stigma and embrace your “leading brand” status! “Leading brands” of the world, unite!

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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March 4, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

He’s “Incredulous” About the “Incredible” Act


Every so often, I hear somebody say, “That’s incredible,” and they’re not referring to the 1980-84 ABC-TV show that starred John Davidson, Cathy Lee Crosby and Fran Tarkenton (and had an exclamation point in its title: ‘That’s Incredible!’). No, when I hear people say something is incredible, they’re probably incredulous and don’t realize it.

To review: something incredible is “too extraordinary and improbable to be believed.” In other words, unbelievable; and if you don’t believe something, you’re probably skeptical. Incredulous (just two dictionary entries after incredible) means “unwilling to admit or accept what is offered as true.” In other words, skeptical.

Admittedly, I hear (and use) skeptical much more often than incredulous.  Incredible, no?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Even Netflix Isn’t Immune to Caption Confusion


Despite the high price, I pay for Netflix’s streaming and DVD services. I recently finished watching “House of Cards,” and while Kevin Spacey always gives a good performance (he deserved his Emmy nomination), the caption writer(s) did not.

In the fifth episode, a character says that something “peaks my interest.” I naturally thought that was wrong, that what the caption should have read was “piques my interest.”

So I looked up the words.

My dictionary’s definition of the verb peak read in part, “to reach a maximum (as of capacity, value or activity).” This makes it sound like the caption writer(s) got it right.

But the definition continued: “often used with out.”

Peak out? I’ve never heard the word used that way.

Pique, meanwhile, means “to excite or arouse by a provocation, challenge or rebuff.” That sounded right to me, so I was ready to conclude Netflix got it wrong.

But that was the secondary definition. The primary one read: “to arouse anger or resentment; irritate.” That certainly did not fit in with the scene’s mood.

What I learned here was the usage’s context determines what word would be correct. I still think Netflix got it wrong, but I’m not definitive anymore.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

August 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netflix: A Case of Caption Writing Gone Wrong


In the using-the-real-words system, the people are represented by various important rules…

I usually don’t deal with grammar rules, but I saw something on Netflix the other night that shocked me.

I watch movies and TV shows with the captions on because 1) I can watch at a lower volume so as to not awaken anyone; and 2) I’m lazy.

So while viewing an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit,” I saw a name written in lower case.

Huh? WTF?

People, people, people! How can you miss this one? It’s one of the most basic rules of English. When using the right words, CAPITALIZE NAMES!!!

I really need to find a job writing captions.

Until next time! Use the right words (and capitalize them)!

leebarnathan.com

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is That Your “Definitive” Answer? Are You “Definite”?


I rarely watched “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” But the catchphrase Regis Philbin uttered reached just about anyone with a pulse: Is that your final answer?

I rarely missed “Match Game 73/74/75/76/77/78/79 (pick a year)” and I regularly heard Gene Rayburn refer to an answer as “the definitive” one.

Who knew these two game show hosts uttered synonymous words all those years apart, even after Rayburn had died?

OK, I’m exaggerating a bit, but bear with me. People sometimes misuse definitive when they mean definite, and vice versa. According to thesaurus.com, definite means “precise and unmistakable” and “clear and sharply delineated.” Definitive  means “final and conclusive,” and  “complete and ultimate.”

So, a “Millionaire” contestant could be definite that he/she gave the definitive answer to the question. Thesaurus.com adds that a definitive example is a perfect example, so the definitive answer would be a perfect answer because it was correct, and a contestant could definitely be sure of that.

On “Match Game,” that definitive answer was perfect only if all six celebrities matched. Leave it to Brett Somers to miss the point.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

 

November 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

You Need New Caption Writers


Dear “Let’s Make a Deal” producers Mike Funk and Dan Richards, CBS, those whose promotional consideration were paid for by the following, and anyone else who hires the closed captioning writers:

You guys need to hire new closed caption writers. As I watched “Let’s Make a Deal,” Wayne Brady and Jonathan Mangum improvised a song to a particular music style. The contestant had five blind choices from which to choose and chose choice three. Then a second contestant had a chance to choose from the four remaining choices. Wayne said to the contestant, “You can have one, two, four or five.”

Except the caption read “… one to four, five.”

Who writes this stuff? Do I really have to explain the difference from to, two and too?

(sigh) OK. Two is a number, too means “also,” “besides” and “excessively,” and to is for just about everything else (my dictionary has 26 definitions).

By the way, I am available to write captions if you decide to take me up on it (to here being part of an infinitive, or definition 20 in my dictionary). Just contact me at my web site.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

September 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Can’t Be Related to Both of Them


My wife’s grandmother died on Friday one month shy of her 105th birthday. Like with any death, family comes into town for the funeral. This got me thinking about relationships.

My wife’s brother is in town. He is my brother-in-law. What about his wife? What is her relation to me?

Most people I ask would say that she is my sister-in-law. But she’s not. She’s my brother-in-law’s wife. She has no relationship to me.

Think about it. If she’s my sister-in-law, that would make her my brother-in-law’s sister. But they’re married people, and married people aren’t siblings, at least not normally.

Biologically speaking, if her genes and my genes were to mix, there wouldn’t be any incest-related defects. We’re separated far enough in the gene pool.

You simply can’t be related to both halves of a married couple in this example. In fact, I assert that you never can be related to both halves of a married couple.

In-law is defined as “a relationship by marriage.” But that’s too incomplete.

My wife is related to her brother, but his wife isn’t her sister-in-law. She’s her brother’s wife. Just like I said before, if they were sisters-in-law, that would make her brother and his wife siblings, and it isn’t true.

So, call your sibling’s spouse whatever you’d like. Just remember that they’re really not in-laws.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 16, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Is Your Television Really in an Entertainment Center?


Here’s one from the “It’s Right But It Could Be More Right” file:

I was watching “Let’s Make a Deal” as I walked on a treadmill this morning when I saw a woman win an entertainment center. It consisted of a big-screen TV, a DVR and “surround sound.” It did NOT include a piece of furniture in which televisions, stereos, DVRs, books, pictures, videos and CDs are kept.

This got me thinking about the entertainment center in my house: It has a big square to hold the television (our 17-year-old non-high-definition set still works fine) plus some shelves to hold the stereo/CD player, old cassette tapes (have I mentioned I’m a technology dinosaur in many ways?) and DVDs. Is that thing really a center?

I checked my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary. Center had 10 definitions as a noun and five as a verb. One definition said, “a point, area, person, or thing that is most important or pivotal in relation to an induced activity, interest or condition.”

OK,  center is correct here.

Then I looked up console. The fifth of six definitions read, “a cabinet (as for a radio or television set) designed to rest directly on the floor.”

This sounds more correct.

In the end, I think cabinet might even be better, although I don’t believe anyone will start calling it “an entertainment cabinet,” even though that’s what it is: “an upright case housing a radio or television receiver.”

Until next time! Use the (most) right words!

leebarnathan.com

February 17, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What Sad Mood Overcomes You Today?


Today I saw a television ad in which a person held up a sign that said “I feel alone.”

That got me thinking: Is alone a feeling or a state of being? Wouldn’t the correct word by lonely?

I got out my trusty Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary and found a series of words that are synonyms, yet each conveys something different.

Alone does, in fact, mean “separated from others.” It stresses that objective fact and pays little mind to emotion.

Lonely, meanwhile, implies a longing for companionship.

Other sort-of synonyms include solitary, which often indicates isolation: He loves his solitary life. It also suggests sadness and a sense of loss: He was left solitary by his wife’s death.

Lonesome increases the suggestion of sadness: An only child often lives a lonesome life.

Forlorn stresses dejection, woe and listlessness when separated from someone dear: The forlorn lost child could not be consoled until he reunited with his mother.

Finally, desolate implies inconsolable grief at loss: People often feel most desolate at a funeral.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

January 11, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

I’ll take “Confusing Words that Start with A,” Alex


This is NOT Jeopardy! But this is a place to learn about using the right words (duh! It’s the name of the blog!)

Here are 10 a-letter words that throw people off their game, make them pause and check a dictionary to see if they’ve spelled them correctly.

able-bodied — it’s an adjective

aboveboard — it means “in a straightforward manner.” Above board means you are positioned higher than a piece of wood.

absent-minded –– it’s an adjective that often describes professors played by Fred MacMurray, Robin Williams  (film versions) and Harry Anderson (TV version)

accommodate — double-c and double-m

acknowledgment — I never forget this one because when I participated in a spelling bee in sixth grade, the word given me was “acknowledged.” I heard “acknowledge” and spelled that word correctly, only to be disqualified and finish seventh.

ad-lib — it’s hyphenated whether you use it as a noun, verb or adjective

admissible — not admissable

aka — “also known as” takes no punctuation

a la carte — it’s three words in all uses

amok — not amuck

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

October 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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