Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolution for 2009: Shun these banished words

Have you ever been outed as a big-L LOSER because you just used a catch phrase that was popular, oh, seven minutes ago, but now is as passe as a Sarah Palin joke? The offending words hang in the air like a bad smell. Your cheeks and ears burn, and you wonder whether to pretend nothing's happened or sprint for the nearest exit.

I exaggerate the horror of being out of the loop, of course, but just to be safe from social embarrassment, take note of the following words -- and even an emoticon -- that have been officially banished from cooldom. Shun them, and you may avoid being behind the curve. Or is "behind the curve" one of the banished terms, too?

"Green," "Maverick" make list of "Banished Words" for 2009
Wired - 12/31/08 - by John Scott Lewinski

Back in November, researchers at the University of Oxford fired the first shot against tired language with the release of a well-debated list -- The Top 10 Most Annoying Phrases.

Now, Lake Superior State (in chilly Saulte Ste. Marie, Michigan -- pronounced "Soo Saint") is continuing the allied assault with its 2009 List of Banished Words.

[Read more.]

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mayor Kassab, tear down these billboards!

Visual pollution can be as annoying and upsetting as any other form of pollution. And it can obscure the best features of a metropolis. So two years ago, Sao Paulo, Brazil Mayor Gilberto Kassab ordered that most outdoor advertising be taken down in the city.

Billboards, posters, tacky store signs, street banners, electronic ads, all were taken down. The result? According to the mayor, "The first thing that happened was that people felt a great sense of relief." But obviously, not the producers of all that advertising.

When a city's beauty is concealed behind advertising messages, can you really know the city? Perhaps not. But banning public advertising would seem to most Americans an impediment to First Amendment free speech and the ability to do business. Read the article and decide for yourself what's best for Sao Paulo -- or your city.
Sao Paulo Sells Itself.
Time - December 1, 2008
By Andrew Downie/Sao Paulo

In banning most outdoor advertising, the city reveals its charms and its governability.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thought for Today

"To be nobody but yourself in a world that is trying desperately night and day, to make you like everyone else, is to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting."

e.e. cummings

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"Immense Benefit," the man says...

I thought the Nigerian scammers were flushed out of the system, but apparently a few are still out there making up inventive stories to touch your heart and your bank account. I received this today. Please note the ridiculous language, especially for an "attorney based in Scotland United Kingdom." Named "Kirk Murdoch," yet! Somebody call the scam cops!
Dear Friend,

I wish to approach you with a request that would be of immense benefit to both of us. I am an attorney based in Scotland United Kingdom. I want you and I to make some fortune out of a situation that I am obviously left with no other better option. The issue that I am presenting to you is a case of my client that willed a fortune to his only daughter. It is unfortunate that he and his daughter died on the London Bomb attacks on 7 July 2005. The wife died of heart attack on receiving the sad news a week after. I am now faced with a problem of getting a trusted person who I will make the beneficiary that I would pass the fortune to. And according to the law such fortune is supposed to be bequeathed to the government if there is not any relatives or next-of-kin of the decease that would surface for claim of the fortune.

However, I personally don’t belong to such school of thought that proposes that such fortune be given to the government because this is cheating and is possible that the top government officials for their own selfish interest could divert the fortune. Because of this I am contacting you to seek your acting as the beneficiary of the will. I am my client attorney and I alone knew about his will. Upon indication of your interests, all I will do is to amend the will by fitting in your name as the supposed next-of-kin and back it up with a sworn affidavit, which automatically became valid. This amendment should be between us and must not leak out to anyone. It is absolutely confidential.

I have complete information of his bank account details with an outstanding balance of $48,550,000.00USD ($48.550 Million USD). To make you be sure of this, I can provide you with details of his bank to enable you to log on to his account to confirm this balance. I know that you would be apprehensive and feel that this is a big sum, but it does not matter because this is a legacy being passed on to a next-of-kin and you are the available next-of-kin.

As I am not very sure of getting your consent yet on the issue, I prefer not to divulge my full identity so as not to risk being disbarred. Until I am sure of your consent and full cooperation then I will not be afraid to give you my full identity. In the meanwhile, I would prefer that we maintain correspondence by email and fax. At this point I want to assure you that your true consent, full cooperation and confidentiality are all that are required to enable us to take full advantage of this golden opportunity.

I shall make representation to the legal courts to facilitate the amendment process within three working days. Since this is a transaction of immense benefit to both of us, I would want that we shared all expenses according to our agreed sharing ratio of the fortune. The sharing ratio shall be 60% for me and 40% for you. This shall also be applicable to all expenditures that would be incurred in the course of the transaction because I wouldn’t want either of us to feel cheated. Please note that this is a legal and risk free transaction that does not in anyway hamper the monetary laws of your country. It is an inheritance fund.

If you are interested to work with me, please provide me with your name, address, nationality, age, and date of birth, height, and phone and fax numbers as required for the amendment of the will. On completion of this, I will send you a copy of the amended will which you will fax to the bank with a back up letter written by your good self requesting for the release of the fund to you. I will also write to the bank as the legal representative of my client before his demise, ordering for the transfer of the fund to you, as the beneficiary of his will.

I will appreciate your urgent response in this regard. Thanks for your anticipated cooperation.

Yours faithfully,


Monday, December 1, 2008

Today's Grammar Gripes

You've heard it said many times, many ways -- no, not "Merry Christmas" -- but "English is a living language, always changing with the times."

I vote "NO!" With one disclaimer. I do not believe we should still be speaking The Bard's English. All those "doths" and "dosts" can cramp a person's style. But I do believe that we should try to protect the current form of our language from assault and battery.

One would think newscasters, whether on TV or on the radio, would be paragons of proper English, but regrettably, they are not.

Here's one gripe: One announcer seizes on a quirky pronunciation, and before long, they're all using it. For instance, take "divisive." It means, roughly, "tending to divide." Nobody says "dividd," do they? So why, particularly during the national campaigns, did we hear so much of things being "di-VISS-ive?" Webster's dictionary never heard of this pronunciation.

Here are three more offenses, all heard on the local news:

Snuck - Yuck. Even an NPR reporter was guilty of this Mortimer Snerd word. The past tense of "sneak" is "sneaked."

Busted - As in "Windows were busted out..." Doesn't "broken" sound better, and more accurate? "Busted" means, in popular usage, "caught red-handed," or "taken to the pokey."

Hung - As in "The criminal was hung at dawn." Well, "hung" in the vernacular means he was well-endowed in the manly parts department. So I suppose that criminal was hung at dawn, at noon and at sundown, too. However, if he was executed via hanging, then he was "hanged."

If you have pet English usage gripes, let me know. Otherwise, I imagine I'll hear more on TV or radio ere long. Hang loose(ly).