Tuesday, December 30, 2008


I just read Language Log's posting about Illinois's Governor Blagojevich (sometimes I wish people who don't live in Illinois would leave us alone, but that's another story), and I was very impressed at the linguistic analysis Roger Shuy wrote of the tapes that the prosecutor has against the governor. At first I wondered why Language Log was posting about a political issue, but then they brought up excellent points about how to analyze those tapes.

While I am not fan of Blagojevich, believe me, I am a fan of being considered innocent until one is found guilty. Americans seem to have forgotten that, ever since the OJ Simpson trial. When you read Roger Shuy's post there, you see that there are many linguistic nuances in those tapes. For instance, he writes: "Are feedback markers, like 'uh-huh' and 'okay' treated as agreements rather than as indicators that the speaker is simply uttering noises that tell the speaker to keep talking?"

Blago's lawyer should hire a linguist.


I write limericks and enjoy doing so. I also love reading them. This is one of my favorites:

To his bride said the lynx-eyed detective,
"Could it be that my eyesight's defective?
Has your east tit the least bit
The best of the west tit?
Or is it a trick of perspective?"

My husband introduced me to that one, and many others, after we met. Before that, I hadn't enjoyed limericks and because of that didn't learn anything about them. Would you learn about baseball if you didn't like it? Same thing.

So does it mean someone's not that bright because he or she doesn't know which lines of a limerick rhyme? Or how many lines it has? I think not.

Yet some on Wordcraft (and probably everyone on OEDILF) think so. If you're not into something, does that make you "not that bright?"

BTW, as to the limerick above; here is a copy of it (poorly done!) that I found on the Internet:

To his girl, said the sharp-eyed detective,
"It may be that my eyesight's defective.
Has your east tit the least bit the best of your west tit?
Or is it the fault of perspective?"

Now this guy may really not be that bright because, judging from his Web site, he is into limericks.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Humor Can Be Elusive

In yesterday's post, I referred to someone whom I consider quite humorless at times. At other times, however, I've seen some humor come from his pen, such as in a lighthearted limerick. It raises the question as to what makes something funny to some people and not to others? I think a lot of variables must be involved.

For instance, I have always loved Joel Stein's columns in the LA Times. He makes me laugh hysterically. Today's column made me think though. I started reading it, not knowing whose column it was. It started out with "I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22 percent of Americans believe 'the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,' down from nearly 50 percent in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood."

As a Jew myself, a few little red flags were raised, but I read on.

He went on to enumerate all the Jews in Hollywood. He was right; most were Jewish. He made me smile with, though I was finding this column perilously close to being anti-Semitic with comments like, "The person they were yelling at in that ad was Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg (take a guess). "

He makes his case quite convincing: "The Jews are so dominant, I had to scour the trades to come up with six Gentiles in high positions at entertainment companies. When I called them to talk about their incredible advancement, five refused to talk to me, apparently out of fear of insulting Jews. The sixth, AMC President Charlie Collier, turned out to be Jewish." Now I was getting absolutely nervous about this column so I checked to see who wrote it.

Ahhh...it was Joel Stein! Of course! suddenly I found column hysterical and no longer even close to being anti-Semitic. Joel Stein is Jewish so everything was okay. Had the author been a gentile, I am not so sure how I would have taken it.

Humor is indeed elusive. Who can explain it?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

To Insult

I realize that a sense of humor is individual. However, read this Wordcraft thread and decide whether you think that last post is an insult. I do, but then I am prejudiced. I am also a bit too sensitive for my own good.

So, I looked up the word insult. Of course, I already know what it means, but I find reading definitions of common words to be quite enlightening. Sometimes there are nuances about words that I hadn't known or at least hadn't remembered.

The AHD says that insult means "To treat with gross insensitivity, insolence, or contemptuous rudeness. See synonyms at offend. b. To affront or demean: an absurd speech that insulted the intelligence of the audience."

Well, perhaps that last post didn't go so far as to be contemptuous. Yet, it surely shows "gross insensitivity." When 2 others find something funny, you don't post that you find a "pointless discussion about pointless things boring" or that "I found nothing at all to smile about." What is the point in writing that? Okay, perhaps that's the way the poster felt, but why write it for public consumption? What on earth could be gained, except that he feels a bit "superior" when doing so.

Was he just "grossly insensitive?" Or did he know exactly what he was doing?

There must be a word for how I am feeling right now, but I can't come up with it. I am angry, hurt, and feeling like I want to get back at that old meany!

Thankfully, tomorrow is another day. This too shall pass...

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sitting next to strangers...

I was reading one of my favorite Blogs, where Jim was talking about sitting next to strangers in a movie theatre, talking of linguistics. My first thought was, "I am glad he wasn't sitting next to me!" Quotative go? and Historic present? However, I then thought about my husband. He does the same thing.

No wonder my husband is so smart. Partly it's his genes, but it is also because of his curiosity. I have never seen anyone who found so many details to ask about! God help the person with an accent. Today it was a gentleman from West Africa. But there have been many others. His pretext is, "I am trying to train my ear so that I can identify accents." Yet, I think, quite understandably, he really wants to talk with someone from another country. Many times asking about an accent will lead to an evening of converation. Once, he met someone from Italy at a bookstore and invited him home to dinner.

Today we had one beer at the Bar on Buena, and the poor bartender, I think, was happy to see us leave! Question after question after question about the beers.

Before the bar, we were at the Museum of Science of Industry today, and I wonder how many people he either asked questions of or tried to teach about things. The tour guide on the U-505 Submarine (what an amazing exhibit!) got so many questions from my lovable husband that she wasn't able to answer most of them. But where he really shone was at the baby chick hatchery, explaining things to the kids. And then there was the Holiday Lights exhibit; the Lithuanian Christmas Tree had all white decorations on it, making it quite unusual. Therefore, my ever-sociable husband let everyone in that exhibit area know how wonderful that tree was!

And it goes on. He learns and learns and learns from others, and he shares much information himself. We had friends visit once who kidded that my hubs was their tour guide. Oh how he likes to show off Chicago, teach about its history (no, it wasn't Mrs. O'Leary's cow!), tell about why the front porches are all raised in the city, and take them through some of our beautiful buildings, sharing his stories.

It's not I. But it's a great way to be. I wish I were more like that.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Evidence-Based Practice

While this isn't a word post, nor an epicaricacy post, it is a follow-up from my last post of user generated content, to a point. That presentation obviously affected me, and I began to think that my presentations may be a bit too boring. While I usually get good reviews, I do see a few people nodding off here and there when I present. Perhaps a little quality improvement is in order!

Therefore, in my next presentation on a literature review and evidence-based practice, I am going to start with this video that I think is entertaining and yet informational as to why we must base our practice on evidence. I'll report back after the presentation!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Educators Internet Knowledge

I have been at a conference all week where the subject is nursing education for the future. I have been shocked at some of the presentations. The speakers (experts in informatics or electronic technology) assume that nursing faculty don't know what Blogs are or what Wikis are or what facebook is or what an avatar is or what LinkedIn is, etc. In a sense, the speakers have been making fun of faculty and saying how ahead of us the students are. While I realize that students have grown up with technology, give me a break! I don't think I'm that odd, and here I am posting on my Blog. I don't do much with my limerick Wiki these days (it wasn't a great use of a Wiki), but I use several very successful Wikis at work. I have my own avatar on Wordcraft, a pda which I use extensively, and my husband and I host a forum that has a dictionary in Onelook. I am sure other faculty do the same. How do these "informatics" speakers get away with being so critical of faculty?

Having said that, I did learn about some new electronic techniques in education, and it looks like education in the future will change in nursing. For example, we will be using "user generated" content that is collaboratively designed; here are some examples. The video the speaker showed on the history of medicine was good, though I do wonder how students learn when fact after fact is thrown at them as happened in that video. It also seemed a little sophomoric to me. While I do think there is "death by powerpoint" now, I don't think those collaborative videos are perfect either.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Strunk and White

We've had an interesting discussion on Wordcraft about prescriptivism. The post that started it all was about the use of literally in this sentence, "'I’ve had children just literally tear my heart out,' said Jackson." Then I mentioned my sister's laughing about, "the broadcaster said 'they were literally cherry picking.'" However, goofy pointed out that literally has been used in the figurative sense since 1839. Surely that's the case. Then another poster mentioned his disgust with people who mix up infer and imply. Again, goofy set us straight, saying that since 1533 infer has been used to mean imply. Yet, there are those who think those two words need to be clearly differentiated, such as the Strunk and White and Lynne Truss lovers.

I should talk. Even in the Wordcraft thread I got sucked into to complaining about the "wrong" use of literally. I think it comes down to enjoying being right. Yet when you dig into word origins, you frequently find out that the prescriptivist views are wrong. Unfortunately, those who are the biggest complainers about the use of words are often the laziest to dig into the etymology.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


NRO has used the word epicaricacy in a real sense. Along with it, I learned a new word, cacozelia. I suppose the use of epicaricacy could be considered affected and pedantic. Still, I think having a few really rare words in your vocabulary is a good thing. What are some of yours?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Art Defined

While I can't really post this on Wordcraft because of the angst the question of "what is art?" creates, I shall post it here. I believe that Lewis Hyde has articulated my definition of what art is in this wonderful article. Here is an excerpt that describes art as a gift. How true!

"The ideas resonated deeply with Hyde. For nearly a decade he had been struggling to explain — to his family, to nonartist friends, to himself — why he devoted so much of his time and energy to something as nonremunerative as poetry. The literature on gift exchange — tales, for example, of South Sea tribesman circulating shells and necklaces in a slow-moving, broad circle around the Trobriand Islands — gave him the conceptual tool he needed to understand his predicament, which was, he came to believe, the predicament of all artists living “in an age whose values are market values and whose commerce consists almost exclusively in the purchase and sale of commodities.” For centuries people have been speaking of talent and inspiration as gifts; Hyde’s basic argument was that this language must extend to the products of talent and inspiration too. Unlike a commodity, whose value begins to decline the moment it changes hands, an artwork gains in value from the act of being circulated—published, shown, written about, passed from generation to generation — from being, at its core, an offering."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Dash

I have begun to realize that there are 2 types of Blogs. There are the inspirational ones, which contain creative, original comments. Those are the ones that challenge your intellect, that make you think in new ways, that are exciting and eventually get "discovered." Then there are those like mine. Mostly I crib quotes or discussions or poems from others (always giving credit, I hope!). I'd love to be like the former, but I am not there yet.

Having said that, I am going to continue in my ways with this post. I am at a conference in Myrtle Beach, which wasn't easy to get to, since I came from another one in Reno. My United route? From Reno to Los Angeles to Philadelphia to Charlotte to Myrtle Beach. And can you believe it all worked out beautifully? With the blasted time change, I left on Friday at 7:00 pm and got here at 11:00 am on Saturday! My hotel was the plane. I had not been looking forward to it, but you know what? It rather worked out. No plane was even a minute late, and I was able to sleep from LA to Philadelphia and from Philadelphia to Charlotte. So I am ready for a great banquet at this conference! At any rate, this tear jerker was presented, and it inspired me. In case you haven't read this poem, here it is:

The Dash
copyright 1996 Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak
at the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
from the beginning...to the end.

He noted that first came the date of her birth
and spoke of the following date with tears,
but he said what mattered most of all
was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time
that she spent alive on earth...
and now only those who loved her
know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own;
the cars....the house...the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard...
are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

If we could just slow down enough
to consider what's true and real,
and always try to understand
the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger,
and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives
like we've never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect,
and more often wear a smile...
remembering that this special dash
might only last a little while.

So, when your eulogy is being read
with your life's actions to rehash...
would you be proud of the things they
say about how you spend your dash?

Monday, November 10, 2008

The gender gap

I wrote a limerick for OEDILF...quite fun really. Here it is:

While I sat in the beauty salon,
That bitch took my Louis Vuitton!
That dastard is cunning
But as she is running,
Impeccable taste she will don!

How did I know that men wouldn't get it? One of the workshoppers thought I was talking about a trunk! Now, women, don't you all know about those gorgeous Louis Vuitton handbags? We drool about them, even though most of us can't afford them. However, men don't even know about them. Such is life.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Obama

What a night in Chicago. To be honest, I never remember being this excited over an election. It usually has been about choosing the least of 2 evils. This time is different. I am really thinking that Barack could be more than good; he could be great. I've been impressed by his even temperament, even during stressful times. He never got angry at being called a "terrorist" or a "socialist." He just calmly explained his position and the errors of his opponents' ways. My friend and I used to complain that he needed to be "more passionate" (like we are). He'd never win, we'd say, unless he shows more emotion. Of course, we were used to years of our team losing, so nothing he could do would convince us. But now, when we look back on it all, it was exactly that eveness, that thoughtfulness, that helped him win. Remember when McCain wanted to call off the debate to take care of the economy issue? Obama calmly said, "A president has to deal with more than one thing at once." That and Palin, I think, were the beginnings of McCain's fall.

Bush had run on the assumption that Americans would want a drink with him. Palin, with her "Joe 6-pack" ran with the same assumption. Finally Americans have realized that a president is a leader, not a beer buddy. He or she represents Americans throughout the world. Major economic and defense decisions must be made. Would you want your "beer buddy" making those decisions?

Thank God. Americans have finally come to their senses. I am thinking this must have been similar to how Americans felt when Kennedy was elected.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Prescriptivists at the train station...

So, I am waiting for the train to take to the office, talking with the "usuals" who take the same train with me. We were, of course, talking about the election. I commented that my philosophy is that there really aren't any "undecideds." If people haven't been able to decide after 2 years, there's no hope. I think these "undecideds" are just vying for attention. I made the comment: "I believe everyone knows whom they're going to vote for." An older guy (CPA, of course) said, "Don't you mean "for whom they're going to vote"? Then it started. The whole prescriptivist/descriptivist argument. I challenged him to check the CMS, and he said his style manual says you can't end sentences with prepositions. Then he said it. "I can't stand this despicable lowering of standards we are seeing in the English language.

Despicable? He was seething. Why does language cause that kind of a reaction?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Only 84 days...

Until GWB is out of office. I have a ticker in my office that ticks off, second by second, the amount of time left in Bush's presidency. Right now it's at 84 days; 10 hours; 0 min., .5 seconds.

I cannot believe the election is only one week away. I wonder if Obama will be persuasive in his "closing argument" in Ohio. I hope so, but I am not thinking this is over yet. There are too many racists in this country for that.

My darling daughter sent me this (I don't know the source), and I thought it was an incredibly clever comparison of "blue states" versus "red states:"

"Dear Red States:

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. In case you aren't aware, that includes California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all of the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss. We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue; you get to make the red states pay their fair share. Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families. You get a bunch of single moms. Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro gay-rights, pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines, 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools plus Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the war, the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in
9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards believe you are the people with higher morals then we lefties.

Peace out,
Blue States"


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Literature Map

Z, from epea pteroenta, posted a great Literature Map site. As z suggests, list 3 books that have influenced your life, and then put them into the map. The results are amazing. I found that I should be reading Joyce Carol Oates, Ernest Hemmingway, Toni Morrison, Mark Twain, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, and Socrates...among many. Quite a grouping.

Thanks for that, Z!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

And to continue with limericks on "epicaricacy"...

Sean had suggested that I intersperse these posts with "epicaricacy" limericks every so often. That is such a good idea. Here is my next one:

"Epicaricacy" is a word
(Though Simpson would say, "that's absurd!")
Where you take lots of joy
In one's misery...Oy!
Though it'll only be used by the nerd!

Note: John Simpson is the editor of the OED, and "epicaricacy" isn't, nor has it ever been, included in the OED.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Limerick Judging

Blogs can be a good place to blow off a little steam. So here goes...

We have a limerick game on Wordcraft. It started out simply enough with a few of us having fun writing limericks about places. The place might be Hong Kong or London or Paris. However, as happens in life, I suppose, it has gotten serious. People from OEDILF have joined us. People aren't happy with just one submission, so they've been submitting lots more. The judging has been fair, I suppose, but I surely haven't always agreed with it, on many different fronts. Then there is my intense competitiveness. Not winning has been wearing on me. So, I've decided not to submit limericks anymore. I like my limericks, and I am not going to let others make me feel bad about them.

Speaking of limericks, here is the limerick that will start a chapter I am writing:

In nursing let's bring to fruition
A standardized course to transition
New nurses to practice,
Like docs, cuz the fact is
It's a safety, no-brainer position!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Cuban in London

I enjoy Google Alerts because they keep me updated on all new "epicaricacy" citations in the Internet. This was a nice discussion of the word. I'd love to see A Cuban in London on Wordcraft!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reviewing Abstracts

Recently I have had the privilege of reviewing some abstracts for the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and the British Medical Journal (BMJ). The conference planners of course gave us lots of information about what they wanted us to consider in the reviews. What they didn't give us, though, was how to evaluate international abstracts. I have to say, it was hard to be completely objective with some of them. For example, one abstract from Iran said, "Praise be to God if this abstract gets accepted." Many were very unclear and ungrammatical, but it was most likely because English was obviously their second language. Others were at quite an elementary level, but again those countries (like Albania) are not as medically advanced as the U.S. is.

So, it wasn't easy to be objective, but I believe I succeeded. It was so interesting to see the difference across the world.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another Limerick

For president Sarah L. Palin
Campaigns, though it clearly is failin'.
Joe six pack's not working,
And doubts are sure lurking,
With all the supporters she's hailin'!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Political Disdain of Words

This has been the strangest political campaign. The candidates who have excelled in communication, including both writing and speaking, are being criticized for it. Indeed, a command of the English language has been laughed at. Being able to put together an intelligent, rational sentence and to support your views with facts and figures, and other evidence, is considered elitist. Instead, we're told, you must use "down-home" words and phrases like "Joe Six-Pack" or string together a bunch of words that make no sense at all. The New Yorker says it best with this article.

Just think, in less than a month this campaign will all be over. YES!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nathan Bierma's Columns are Missing

The Chicago Tribune changed their format. Some like it, and some don't. It's thinner, though busy, and more like the Internet. In fact, on the top of the page, an arrow shows you where you are in relation to the other sections. I found that rather innovative. In general, though, it seems less intellectual and more glitzy. I've always loved the separate book section of the Tribune, and now it's just one page in the regular paper. Then one of my favorite columns, Nathan Bierma's "On Language" won't appear anymore. Doesn't that just figure? The comics and food section and fashion are all there. Why take away the intellectual sections. I suppose it's yet another comment on society.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Language of Sarah

There is so much ammunition that I don't know where to begin. Do we really want a VP (or God forbid a President?) who says, "How long have I been at this, like 5 weeks?" She speaks so informally, similar to a 16-year-old, not a 44-year-old. And what about "Joe six-pack" or "I am a hockey mom"? Is she really so stupid to think that being a "mom" qualifies her to be the head of one of the most powerful countries in the world? Puleezzz! She can't even pronounce Shiites, much less know anything about them. And why didn't the media pick that gaffe up? Further, twice she called Senator Biden "O'Biden" and nobody mentioned that. Is the media afraid of her? Are they afraid she'll say the media is against her? What a load of you know what!

I found this link that Proofreader sent me quite funny, and this link within it, about diagramming sentences, is precious. Then there is this diagram of her debate.

Have we Americans really descended this far that this woman is actually a VP candidate. I don't think they'll win, but, still, they could.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Being Right

This is not an epicaricacy post (I note that Mozilla cites epicaricacy as a misspelled word), nor a word post. However, I am wondering, why is it that smart people always want to be right? And worst yet, why is it when smart people are wrong, many don't admit it? They beat around the bush and rationalize or become quiet. However, to merely say, "I'm wrong" is too much. Strange.

Sometimes I feel that we can't have an intellectual conversation on Wordcraft because somebody has to point out somebody's gaffe or some very small, always insignificant, side subject. Perhaps it's the Internet. People don't have to face each other and say, after someone's questioned the meaning of a sentence, "I think it's clear enough." Or maybe intelligent people just have a stronger need for being correct. I tend to think it's the latter. As for me, I am tired of it, though I guess it's the nature of things on the Internet. However, it is irritating.

Speaking of irritating, those of us who live in Chicago are irritated with our Cubs. I wrote this for Wordcraft:

Higgledy Piggledy
Cubs of Chicagoans
Got us excited for
Winning it all.

Now in the play-offs they've
Lost the first two and they
Surely will fall!

Here's another DD about one of my gaffe (which surely was pointed out to me!):

Higgledy Piggledy
Arnie, the Londoner,
Rightly concludes that the
Plaintiff is "he."

Kalleh, however, so
Took it quite literally.
How can that be?!!!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Talk about peevologists: Oh dear!

In Googling around a bit, I found, first of all, that epicaricacy has nearly 9,160 Google hits now. Only 2 years ago it had only 572 Google hits. It also now is in Wiktionary, which hasn't always been the case.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A reader's observation

Interesting.  A reader emailed me and pointed out that I used the same construction that I abhor...right in this conversation.  Here is what I had said:
On the other hand, those who have one point of view (and you can always predict what it will be), those who will argue their views on and on for days on end, those who don't pay any attention to other sides...they are anti-intellectual and probably not worth listening to.
Is this the same?  We have talked about it, and I said my verbiage sounds correct to me.  He said maybe it's a matter of "proximity."  Maybe.  But most likely I have made the very same mistake that I have criticized.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Language Log weighs in

The question about "my mother she is good" was asked on Language Log.  Here is what Liberman  said.   Cat's comment here seemed right on.  It is a very old construction, from Old English, and has been decreasing in use since the 1500s.  Further, according to Language Log, it is now considered either informal or archaic.  Interestingly, they used a comma in their examples, such as "my mother, she is good."  I think that adds a little more legitimacy to the construction, but not that much.  At any rate, the construction is called "left-dislocation."  I don't know if it requires the comma or not, but I am not going to ask.  Enough on this is enough!  

If you'd like to see our discussion about this on Wordcraft, here it is.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"I am NOT wrong!"

Did I sound like a know-it-all in yesterday's entry?  Probably.  

One thing I've noticed as I've become more seasoned (I hate that word "older!") is that those who  listen to the other side, who think about other perspectives, who analyze and synthesize with a variety of evidence...are the thinkers I most respect.  On the other hand, those who have one point of view (and you can always predict what it will be), those who will argue their views on and on for days on end, those who don't pay any attention to other sides...they are anti-intellectual and probably not worth listening to.  Yes, I've been in the latter category sometimes, probably when it comes to language and certainly when it comes to politics.  But I don't like that about myself...or about others.

Therefore, I have taken a step back from my adamant post yesterday and have decided that linguistically and grammatically a comment like "My mother she is good" apparently is considered correct.  I've heard that from the experts (and I really don't want to be considered a prescriptivist or peevologist).  I'd never use that kind of phraseology, and I'd correct my kids if they were to use it.  But fair is fair.  It must be just a stylistic form that I despise.  I am not a linguist or language specialist or English teacher.   If they say I am wrong, so be it.

For the record, though, I don't see how the sentence, "my mother she is good" is an apposition.  Isn't it a given that a "mother" is a she?  In the example given in Wikipedia "my friend" and "Alice" are appositions because Alice describes my friend.  But does "she" describe "mother?"  I don't think so.  

Monday, September 22, 2008

Kalleh, the Peevologist

According to some linguist types on Wordcraft, I am a "peevologist" because I think the following is ungrammatical:

"My mother she is good."

Now come on.  I can understand that one can split infinitives or use "who" in the accusative, or end a sentence with a preposition.  But "my mother she is good" is perfectly acceptable? There was the admission that it could be considered a "usage"  error or an irregular style.  One argument was that it could be considered an apposition, as in "We the people of the United States...", but clearly it isn't.  Now, if it would have been written, "She, my mother, is good," I suppose so.  Then there was talk about it being often used by non-native speakers.  Perhaps, but does that make it grammatical?  Of course then there was the comment that we peevologists don't make a distinction between spelling, punctuation, and grammar.  This clearly isn't a punctuation or spelling error.


There.  I feel better already!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Economists and Alice

I've been reading everything I can get my hands on so that I can understand this economy situation we're having in the U.S.  It is really scary, to say the least.  In several reports, I had to smile (and think of Bob!) as I heard Alan Blinder, an eonomist at Princeton and a former vice chairman of the board of governors at the Federal Reserve, say, "We're deep into Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole."

I've never really thought of these economists as reading much beyond Milton Friedman and the like.  It's great to see that they're well-rounded!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Thanks, Sean!

I've had problems keeping my Blog up because as soon as I think of a word post, I decide to post it on Wordcraft. Sometimes I post my thoughts in both places, but I'd like to have this be my own separate place. Sean gave me the idea that, from time to time, I should post "epicaricacy" limericks. That's a great idea, Sean!

I already posted this favorite of mine that Hic had posted on Wordcraft:

Want a word which we wish were deployed?
We all would be quite overjoyed
Someday to see
Replacing that beast, 'schadenfreude'.

Of course, the schadenfreude and deployed don't totally rhyme, but close enough! I like it.

However, here is one of mine:

Schadenfreude's a word I just hate;
Epicaricacy I await!
It means one is joyed
When another's destroyed.
It's John Simpson who holds the word's fate!

[note: ep-i-CAR-i-ca-SEE]

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tim thinks he found something new...

Too bad Tim Kalamaros doesn't read Wordcraft...or this Blog or WWFTD or Language Log or AWAD or Uncle Jazzbeau’s Gallimaufrey.  He must not be a logophile or a linguaphile.  Were he, he'd then realize that he has posted some really old news today.  He says, "Well I have found a synonym thanks to the internet, which has revived a very old English word for it."  Oh, Tim.  This is very old news.  We've talked about it on Wordcraft since December 14, 2002, and a search shows we've mentioned the word 309 times.  Further, we've brought in experts on the word, including Ammon Shea, co-author of "Depraved and Insulting English."  He's the one who introduced us to it being in Bailey's "Universal Etymological English Dictionary."  While Kalamaros did link to Bailey's, he surely doesn't introduce us to anything new.  

Monday, September 8, 2008


Back to words.  Here are the three non-winning limericks I wrote for the Washington Post Style Invitational.  Having read all the winning limericks, I can see why mine didn't win.  The Empress and I clearly have different standards, and taste, in limericks.  We've been judging limericks recently on Wordcraft in a fun thread that Bob started, so I am more familiar with how to judge winning limericks.  I'd probably not have chosen any of the ones from the WPSI.  Like anything else, it's a matter of opinion, which is something like "what is art"...though I assertively won't go there!

Here are my non-winners:

In the morning my husband will dawdle:
“The newspaper says that this fraud’ll
Put hundreds in jail!”
“Come ON, hon,” I hail!
“Hurry up or I’ll kick your cute caudal!” 

To write one that’s right is a plight,
That dactyl that’s doubled’s not trite!
The irony is,
In the poetry biz,
Your dactyls create the delight!

While I sat in the beauty salon
That jerk took my Louis Vuitton!
That dastard is cunning
But as she is running,
Impeccable taste she will don!

I admit that these were written quickly, and they might benefit from some workshopping.  Still, I like the first and third ones.  I tried to write about DDs with the second, but I don't think it works.  Here is how Wordcrafter's Proofreader edited it, and I like it:

To write one that’s right is a plight,
That dactyl that’s doubled’s not trite!
The irony is,
In the dactyly biz,
It’s higgledy-piggledy-light! 

Sunday, September 7, 2008

An open plea to America's women...

Well, things have evened out a bit.  Both recalcitrant posters have returned, though a little worse for the wear, I suppose.  Forums are not easy, that's for sure.   The rest of my life is better, too.   We humans are resilient.

I am going to continue with a non-word oriented Blog post, though I will get back to regular posting soon.   However, something very important is on my mind.  If I can connect with even one person, I will feel better.

Please, American women, don't vote for Sarah Palin just because she's a woman.   I've seen some CNN interviews where women have said they were going to vote for her because they are hockey moms or soccer moms or women, too.  That is insulting to our gender!

Remember one thing:  John McCain is the oldest person to run for the presidency.  The absolute oldest.  He has a history of cancer.  His vice president is quite likely to have to take office.  Quite likely.  His choice was much more important than Obama's.  

Knowing this, you must look at Sarah Palin's views on the issues.  Do you know her views?  If you are a pro-environmental person or pro-animal person, you'd not want her.  Here is an excellent article.  If those are your views, go for it.  If not, don't.

Did you know that Sarah Palin, who is anti-choice for women, believes that even if a 16 year-old were to be raped and become pregnant, she shouldn't have an abortion.  That is incredible to me. I can understand if individuals make that decision for themselves, but why should people control what others should do?  If that's your view, I can't understand it, but you should vote for McCain.

Did you know that Sarah Polin does not believe that all individuals in love should be able to marry? She does not think that homosexual couples should marry.   As above, if individuals believe that for themselves, that's fine.  But why should an individual control social decisions made about others? If that's your view, again go ahead and support this woman.  

Don't you often hear that Republicans favor less government interference than Democrats? That obviously is no longer true.  

What about the economy?  What has Sarah Palin done for the Alaskan economy?  Well, one thing she has done is to make sure every, single Alaskan receives a large rebate ...up to $13,000 for a family of four.  Why?  Because Alaskans have hit the jackpot because of the rising oil prices. Sarah Palin does not have any idea of the economic plight of the rest of the country.  Here is what one Alaskan academic has to say: "Oliver Scott Goldsmith, head of the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska. 'The state is awash in oil dollars, and the projection is that for the next few years we will have significant surpluses over and above current levels, in the billions of dollars.'"  With that surplus, she has decided to give it away.  If that's what you think should be done with oil surplusses in Alaska, you should support her.  If you think that money should be saved for research on fuel, you shouldn't.

Then of course there's her family.  I know, she thinks that should be off the table for discussions. Did any of you remember the hullaballoo by the conservative media about a very personal issue with Obama; that is, his religion?  Yet that was on the table.  I agree that Sarah's pregnant daughter shouldn't be discussed, though I also believed that Obama's minister or Clinton's affair shouldn't have been discussed.  Conservatives seem to want to eat their cake and have it too.  That's not possible. 

I do believe that Sarah Palin has too much on her plate to adequately serve our country, either as VP or president.  She has a 4-month-old special needs child, a 17-year-old pregnant child who is not yet married, and 3 other children.  She is being investigated by the Alaskan legislature for abuse of her governor powers.  This lady is a busy one.  Could she handle the presidency if suddenly plunged into that role?  What do you think?  My husband doesn't think I'd feel the same way about a man, but I beg to differ.  I did not think John Edwards had any business running for president when his wife was fighting breast cancer.  Sometimes we must make a decision to serve our families above anything else.  If you think Sarah Palin can handle the presidency, be my guest and vote for her.

Lastly, a comment about Sarah Palin and McCain saying the media has an Obama and liberal bias.  First of all, Obama, previously (no longer!), had gotten more than his share of articles, I agree.  However, studies showed that he also received more than his share of negative press. Who wins in that?  Surely McCain.  That drivel about the media is just that...drivel.  And Sarah Palin doesn't think the media or Internet should involve her daughter?  Well who put her in that situation? Was it the public?  The media?  McCain?  No!  It was Sarah Palin herself.  She chose to say yes when asked to run for the Vice President.  Barbara Brotman, from the Chicago Tribune, says it well. 

All I ask is that you consider the issues and not Sarah Palin's gender.  

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not the Best Week...

I know. This is supposed to be a "word" blog. It's no wonder I didn't get rated by the Lexiophiles Blog, here. Of course, Language Log is #13 and Languagehat is #14. Wordcrafter zmj's Blog got a 180 rating out of 250 (he deserves higher, of course). Mine? Zip. Nada. Too much chat...not enough intellectualism. So on to my rant:

Last week was a killer. Wordcraft went ballistic with 2 of our regulars out of there, at least for now. Then I tried to smooth ruffled feathers (with help from my husband), and that really messed things up. People are mad. I finally sent out a note to many of our members asking them to please post a bit more, and they've been wonderful about that. Perhaps we'll be back to normal sometime soon. I hope those 2 recalcitrant posters will start posting again!

The Cubs are sinking, it's hot and humid, and I have too much work and too little time. Plus my dad spent the weekend with us and lorded the losing Cubs over me.

Further, where is the worst place to make a grammatical error...and to be caught? On realbeer.com, of course. Good heavens. Their members aren't exactly Lynne Truss's model students! I thought it sounded wrong, but I wrote that my sisters said that Guinness tastes differently in Ireland. Of course, it's different. Steve caught me on it, calling me Ms. Wordcraft. Geez.

The only people who have had a worst week than I have are the Republicans. By the way, for all those Republican columnists who have complained about the media attention on Obama and not McCain, the tide has changed. So how's that working for you?

P.S. I am a nurse. I do realize that my week wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been. I was just being overly dramatic (it is "overly," right?).

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Reflection on Yesterday's Post

Is English crazy? Sometimes.

However, I have really learned a lot from Wordcraft about our language and about linguistics. Indeed, I am now reading Ferdinand de Saussure, "Course in General Linguistics" for a Linguistics 101 course that we have opened on Wordcraft. Please feel free to join us as I seem to be the only student, though there are a number of excellent teachers!

The book itself has quite an interesting history. In 1906 Saussure began teaching a revolutionary course in linguistics. It was really from this course that structuralism developed and now has been applied to other areas, such as art, architecture, anthropology, economics, folklore, literary criticism, and philosophy. Saussure analyzed language as a formal system that revolved around the social use of verbal signs, rather than the real-time dialects. Saussure's students published the book, from their notes, after his death in 1913 (the book was published in 1916). It has become a seminal piece of literature for the study of linguistics.

While I am not finished with my study of Saussure yet (I've just started; join me!), it has already changed my thinking about language. The object of study for linguistics, according to Saussure, is the spoken language. The written language is merely a way to represent the spoken language. When you think of it that way, you can see why linguist are descriptivists and how that is truly the reality of language. Prescriptivists, while often helpful in fostering understanding, get too bogged down with the old ways of doing things. They surely aren't linguists or experts in language, at least according to Saussure.

How does this relate to yesterday's post? Well, language continually changes, so confusion is inevitable. Zmj, on Wordcraft, recommended that we do a total overhaul of spelling (orthography) every couple of hundred years or so. That sounds like a great idea to me. More on this tomorrow...(unless I get bogged down!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Is English Crazy?

One of my friends, who knows I am a logophile, sent me this:

"Think English is Easy???

Can you read these right the first time?

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.
2) The farm was used to produce produce .
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse ..
4) We must polish the Polish furniture.
5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present .
8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10) I did not object to the object.
11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row .
13) They were too close to the door to close it.
14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language

There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. We take English for granted.

But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

PS. - Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick'

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this .

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.' It's easy to understand UP , meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special .

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP . We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP , look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP..."

Monday, August 18, 2008


Several of us in the aerobics class last Monday complained about the instructor tonight. Unsurprisingly, they've had similar reports before. Our regular instructor promised she'd let us know if that sub will ever be teaching so that we can cancel our class. I had already decided that if that sub were there tonight, I'd not stay.

For those of you who are limerick enthusiasts, today is the last day to enter the Washington Post Style Inivitational contest. Here is a link to it. Good luck! When they've posted the winners, I will post mine here. In the meantime, here is a DD I posted on Wordcraft:

Higgledy Piggledy
Cubs of Chicagoans,
Darlings on Addison,
Losing's their fate.

Fans are impatient cuz
Cubs haven't won it since

Thursday, August 14, 2008


It all started when I shared my last Blog entry with my ever-critical daughter ("Mom, your eyeshadow is too dark!"). She said she liked it, but that the word whippersnapper made me sound "over the hill." I suppose in one sense I am, but we won't go there.

So, I posted about it on Wordcraft, completely expecting to be exonerated on that one. Here is what "dear" zmj had to say:

"The stereotypical utterer of the word whippersnapper is a past-retirement age, crotchety-old man, upset with some below-voting age youngsters, and is said while shaking his fist at them or their retreating backs. Raspy, creaky voice is optional. Of course, anybody can use the word, it just may sound strange or have weird connotations."

Harsh! Others agreed that it is meant to describe only "young" people. One poster, indeed, said that the "youngsters" probably see me as 120 years old. Oh. my.

So after all of that, I finally decided to do what I should have done in the first place...look it up. Here is what the online dictionary.com entry says: ""an unimportant but offensively presumptuous person, esp. a young one." Now that is perfect! And, while it says, "esp. a young one," it surely doesn't make youth a prerequisite.

I do feel exonerated on this one. I believe I used it right! This lady was indeed an unimportant, persumptuous person. I am bad at guessing ages, but I'd say she was in her 30s. So there, Wordcraft!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Oh we think we know so much!

I had a fight with my aerobics teacher last night. Yep. Can't say that's happened before.

She was substituting, though I've had her before and don't remember her mood being that foul. She was crabbing at people for not trying hard enough, for not lifting our legs high enough or for not reaching our arms far enough back or for not using heavy enough weights. She said, "You've all been here for years now, and you must try harder!" We raised our eyebrows to each other, but no one commented. On and on she went, relentlessly.

Then it came. This skinny (though none too cute!) little whippersnapper said, "How do you want to die? On a hospital bed like Bernie Mac or like Issac Hayes, who was standing near a treadmill?" She went on to say how Bernie Mac died because he didn't exercise or eat right or live a healthy life. She was laughing and insinuating that if we didn't do better, we'd die just like Bernie Mac. Now I don't know Bernie's medical history, but I do know he had sarcoidosis, which is a rare autoimmune disease that attacks the lungs, and indeed he died of pneumonia. As a faculty member I conducted research on lung transplant patients, some of whom had sarcoidosis. Further, I cannot stand when people make judgments about people's health status. We all have different genes and issues, and it is not up to others to "judge" what someone could have done to have prevented death. I've seen health care providers walk up to a patient dying of lung cancer and the first thing out of his/her mouth was, "Did you smoke?!" It's too late for those sorts of judgments.

But I digress. Back to my story. I couldn't help but speak up at this point. Remember, I'd been slow boiling through this whole class (most aerobics instructers there are excellent). I said, "Well he had sarcoidosis!" She then argued with me that he really died of his gluttony (she knows his medical history?). I explained that sarcoidosis can be quite serious, and she had the audacity of saying, "I read about 'sarcoidosis' today, and it's mainly found in Blacks who neglect their health." She'd read about it??? Where? On Wikipedia? What balderdash! Here is a brief description for those who aren't in the medical fields. That was it. I pulled out the heavy ammunition. Normally I don't brag about my background, but she deserved it. "I have conducted research on patients with lung transplants," I told her. "Some of them were patients with sarcoidosis, so it really is quite serious! It is an autoimmune disease with an unknown etiology, and it most certainly is not caused from an unhealthy lifestyle!" I have to say, this know-it-all did quiet down after my diatribe.

I don't know what Bernie Mac's (or Isaac Hayes's for that matter) actual cause of death was. But for her to assume it was due to lifestyle is just beyond me. The worst part is, besides teaching aeorobics, she is a home health care aide. I'd not want her caring for any of my patients!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is Spelling More Important than Grammar?

We've had an interesting discussion on Wordcraft, where the linguist gurus seem to think it's far more important to have spelling standards than grammar standards. We've had great discussions for years on how communication is understood even though there are grammar errors. We've laughed at Truss and Strunk & White, and I've made a 180 degree turnaround about my views on grammar (I used to recommend Strunk & White to my college students!). Now, though, I am hearing how important spelling standards are with communication. Yes, they are important in formal communication, I agree. But so are grammar standards. Yet, when one texts or uses hip-hop lyrics is spelling any more important than grammar for understanding the communication?

Perhaps the answer is that creative spelling slows down the communication. For instance, Bob says, "Youer argewmend iz perfickly tru, ahn thee uthah harnd yu cannut deeneye thart thiziz harduh tew reed than these last few words are." Yet misplaced phrases or the wrong use of a comma surely can cloud the clarity of sentences.

Are spelling standards more important than grammar standards? Can you be a prescriptivist with spelling but a descriptivist with grammar? That's what I am seeing.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One by One...

One by one, people are learning about epicaricacy. And, as you can see from my comment on this Live Journal entry, I continue to keep the public educated on the roots of the word. It's not easy, but someone has to do it!

I have been out of commission in the last few weeks (work!) and have neglected my Blog, I am afraid. I am impressed by those who can post intellectual entries every day!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

How Can You Bear to Be a Nurse?

I was recently at a conference where Mary Mallison's classic 1987 piece, from the American Journal of Nursing, was presented. I had forgotten how wonderful it is. This probably won't have a lot of meaning for those who aren't in nursing, but for nurses it is so meaningful.

How Can You Bear to Be a Nurse?

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear the sight of blood?
Wait until you slide a catheter into a tiny vein just before it collapses. The flashback of blood you see will make you sing.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear the sight, the embarrassment, of urine?
Wait until your new postpartum patient can't void, and her uterus is rising. Your persistent maneuvers finally work, making a catheter unnecessary. Urine then looks glorious.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear to touch that alcoholic who hasn't had a bath in weeks?
Wait until you've repeatedly given ice lavages to that alcoholic and his esophageal varices have finally stopped bleeding. When he actually recovers enough to amble onto your unit to visit, dirt and all, you'll be happy enough to hug him.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear to watch someone die?
Wait until you've worked for weeks helping a dying woman repair a decades-old conflict with her children, and at some point along the way you see the guilt fall from their shoulders and peace enter her eyes. Watching such a death can be an exaltation.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear the sight and smell of feces?
Wait until you've been anxious about the diarrhea that nothing has stopped in an AIDS patient. Finally, your strategies work and you see and smell normal stool. You'll welcome that smell.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear to watch children suffer?
Wait until you've rocked and soothed a suffering child into peaceful sleep, and you feel the child's relief washing over you like a blessing. Then you won't need to ask.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear to look at searing trauma, at burned people?
Wait until you see healthy granulation tissue that has been given a chance because your sensitive nose detected an infection before it could take hold. That healing will look beautiful to you.

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear the stream of abusive words heaped on you by psychotic patients?
Wait until you've prodded and pulled a silent, withdrawn catatonic back over the lifeline, and she releases a string of expletives. Could Mozart sound better?

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear the sound of babies crying?
Wait until your combination of vigilance, bulldog advocacy, and gentle handling has given a preemie's lungs the time they needed to develop, and you hear his first lusty cry. You'll laugh out loud!

How can you be a nurse? How can you bear to care for frustrating, confused Alzheimer's patients?
Wait until you've devised a combination of strategies that provide exercise and permit safe wandering and you see a lift, almost a spring, in a patient's shuffling gait. You'll feel the lightness of Baryshnikov in your own step that day.

How can you be a nurse? So many of your patients are so old, so sick, these days. How can you bear the thought that, in the end, your care may make no difference?

Wait until you've used your hands and eyes and voice to dispel terror, to show a helpless person that his life is respected, that he has dignity. Your caring helps him care about himself. His helplessness forces you to think about the brevity of your own life. Then and there, you decide yet again to reject the pallid pastel life. No tepid sail across a protected cove for you. No easy answers. So you keep choosing to be a nurse. You have days of frustration, nights of despair, terrible angers. Your highs and lows are peaks and chasms, not hills and valleys. The defeats come more than often enough to keep you humble: the problems you can't untangle, the
lives that seep away too fast, the meanings that elude your understanding. But you keep working at it, learning from it, knowing the next peak lies ahead. And gradually you realize your palette is filling up with colors. You see more shades of meaning. You laugh more. You realize you are well on your way to creating a work of art, maybe even a masterpiece.
So that's why you've remained a nurse. To your surprise, your greatest work of art is turning out to be your own life.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reading the OED

Ammon Shea has a new book out, entitled, "Reading the OED." Yep. He spent a year reading the entire OED, and he has highlighted some of the "most obscure, hilarious, oddly useful, and exquisitely useless gems he discovers along the way." If you remembered from one of my early submissions here, it was Shea who introduced me to the early citation of "epicaricacy" (Bailey's Dictionary). The other dictionaries defining "epicaricacy" merely listed the definition, and therefore one had to wonder about the legitimacy of the word. It was Ammon Shea who led me to the 1700's Bailey's dictionary that contains the word. I have seen "epicaricacy" in black and white. So Shea is a linguistic hero to me.

A few of the great words in this book follow. Remember, "epicaricacy" won't be among them because it has never been in the OED:

"Pavonize" - To behave as a peacock might - Shea says: "Which either means to flaunt one's appearance in a vain fashion or to peck at the ground in the hopes of finding bits of food and to clean one's hindquarters with one's mouth."

"Xenium" - A gift given to a guest - Shea says this about that word: "It is a very delicate balance to strike, this business of giving a gift to someone you do not want to offend and yet whom you also do not want to encourage to stick around too long. Unless you are one of those unbalanced individuals who actually enjoys having company, I would recommend xenium such as a pair of used socks, something that says 'Here is a gift - please go away.'"

Or how about "Forplaint" - Tired from complaining - Shea says this: "It can indeed be tiring to constantly remind the world at large that it does not quite live up to your exacting standards. We should recognize those among us who are forplaint and thank them for their selflessness in trying to better our world with their ceaseless haranguing and nitpicking."

Oh, for you logophiles, it's a fun book!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Words are beautiful

I am at a conference this week where we are exploring reflection, along with preflection and inflection, in thinking about our communication. It has been so interesting and has focused a lot on language and the beauty of words. Here is a poem that really stimulated our reflection:

The Way It Is

There's a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn't change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can't get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you can do can stop time's unfolding.
You don't ever let go of the thread.

- William Stafford

What does your thread of life look like? Draw it, and record important people who have influenced you along the way.

I am beginning to understand poems that are written in prose format. They don't need rhymes or a particular rhythm to be beautiful. It is how you put those words together. This one is thought-provoking and truly beautiful.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Epicaricacy in the news

I suppose, considering the name of this Blog, I should write about "epicaricacy" every so often. I found this use of it on a very unlikely Web site...Flickr, a Nikon/Digital discussion board. As is usual on a lot of forums, there is some snarkiness there. Here's the comment with "epicaricacy":

"Your verbose and confusing choice of vocabulary does gently massage my tendencies towards epicaricacy, I do like to think of all the peeps ur diverting off to wiki just so they can understand you. Keep up the good work with the big words what people can't say or spell good; solipsists being my personal favorite. Philosophical theory combined with good old soap box ranting, love it!"

One wonders if he even knows what it means. He surely didn't use it correctly, at least from my perspective.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Time to Reflect

The chapter on collaboration is in, and what a lot of work! While I write a lot in my job, and even outside of my job, I never find it easy. A writing course would be helpful, though do I have the time for it?

Especially with scholarly work, I always wait for the most recent report or study that would be "perfect." That of course enables me to procrastinate, without feeling guilty (or too guilty). I am happy with my chapter, though, as it not only reviewed the literature, which is all I would have done in the past, but it also builds upon my experiences, including conference presentations of major initiatives, in the area. This latter part makes it much more engaging than other chapters I've written, and it gives the reader a chance to reflect on real situations or initiatives, using the principles I've presented of course. Oh, and I did start with a limerick (we'll see if the editor keeps it!), and here is what I finally submitted:

Since nursing’s a teamwork vocation
With theory and care its foundation,
Is it too much to ask
In this admirable task
That we focus on collaboration?

I wonder if "arduous" is better than "admirable," but I have time for that. The Brits say "admirable" with 3 syllables, but I suspect many Americans say it in 4. Still, I like the concept of "admirable" more than that of "arduous."

I found this lovely poem in the most recent issue of JAMA that I thought I'd share with all of you. It is good to have a little time! (Richard English would eschew it, claiming it's merely prose.)


To a modest pond filling
with Spring's runoff
we walk together -
same path each year.

Today you use a stick for balance.
Halfway there, too far,
you must stop
your back tired.

The trail home crosses a small
stream, no more than a rivulet,
gentle slope to soft bank
steep for 80 years and one stick.

At your request I take your left hand
helping you through emerald grass
to this quiet water -
my Eünoè your Lethe.

You cross and walk away carefully
- each step itself redeemed.
I turn back to the pond
now filling faster.

Michael Wynn, DO
Salem, Oregon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I am writing a book chapter on interprofessional collaboration. In health care it used to be called interdisciplinary collaboration or multidisciplinary collaboration. However, now we are calling it interprofessional collaboration. The best explanation I can find is that physicians think of interdisciplinary collaboration as collaborating within disciplines, such as internal medicine, obstetrics, pediatrics, and surgery. Therefore, interprofessional collaboration includes nursing and other professions. Okay, I've got that. I assume, however, that as soon as the book is available for purchase, the terminology will again change.

However, I digress... I am writing this for some assistance. Since I am a limerick lover (is there a word for that?), I'd like to start the chapter with a limerick. I strongly suspect my editors will remove it, but it's worth a try. A while ago I held a contest on Wordcraft seeking a limerick, and I liked Richard's (which I have tweaked) the best. Others will be cheerfully accepted!

Now nursing we know's a vocation
With theory and care its foundation,
So in this great task
Is it too much to ask
That we struggle for collaboration?

I don't like "struggle," but couldn't find much else. Otherwise, I like it. I am also going to post it on Wordcraft.

Sunday, June 22, 2008


I've been reading "Great Books," by Denby, and he mentioned "academese," which is a form of communication by academics in a field. In fact, Wiktionary states that it's almost a "dialect." My very favorite example of academese can be found in nursing with Rosmarie Parse's theory of Human Becoming (click "human Becoming" on the left). I worked with Rosmarie, and she is a very nice person. However, her theory always irritated me because of it's language. For example, in that link above, get this: "The first theme, MEANING, is expressed in the first principle of the theory, which states that 'Structuring meaning multidimensionally is cocreating reality through the languaging of valuing and imaging.' This principle means that people coparticipate in creating what is real for them through self-expression in living their values in a chosen way." "Languaging?" "Cocreating reality?" Did you understand what the theory is about? Can't we be more clear? Wouldn't you think that those in academe, with advanced degrees, would prevail at communicating effectively? A certain amount of technical language is to be expected, but Parse, as do others, completely muddles things.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cultural Competency

For the last few decades in nursing we've been writing and talking about the importance of being "culturally competent," but what does that mean? Is it the correct terminology? Can someone be culturally competent or culturally incompetent? That terminology makes it seem all or none.

If we don't use that phrase, what do we use? Is there other terminology in other professions? One suggestion I've heard is to say one is "culturally congruent." However, to me that phrase seems to have the same kind of dichotomy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Through the Eyes of a Nurse

Through the Eyes of a Nurse
~ Gail Hannay, BSN, RN, CCRN

What a joy to behold
What challenges life brings
All to be seen
Through the eyes of a nurse.

The newborn's first cry
A gentle touch, a word of comfort,
A quiet moment, a steady push
A dying heart that won't jumpstart.

We see life from its beginning
We watch others breathe their last
Weaving scientific knowledge
With a special gift of touch.

We choose how deeply to connect
Find a surreal sense of being
Remind ourselves time and again
Of the difference we are making.

Nurses take life's experiences in
Incorporating them into our soul
Always selflessly sharing and giving
Wherever need is found.

There is not greater blessing than this
To see life
To live life
To treasure life
Through the eyes of a nurse.

From time to time, I had said I'd post limericks, poems or double dactyls. This particular poem I found in a publication I received today, and it touched upon something that Wordcrafters were talking about on our chat. A few were saying that they disliked their jobs...that the work part of life is the worst. I realize that work can be challenging and frustrating. I don't always want to rise at 6 a.m. (tomorrow, Sunday, I must rise at 5:30 a.m. to catch a flight!) or work all weekend or meet every deadline. But I love my work. I wonder if that doesn't have something to do with the poem. It is a privilege to be able to positively affect the lives of people. Nurses don't make a lot of money, but surveys show that they are highly respected by the American public.

Friday, June 13, 2008

...and it woke me up!

I am sitting at a conference, after lunch, and the talk is not that inspiring. I am nodding off, and hearing "blah, blah, blah...," wishing for a little caffeine. Then it happend. I heard, "blah, blah, blah, irregardless, blah, blah, blah." That woke me up. I sat stark upright and thought, "ow why does anyone ever use that word? What is the point of it? Regardless completely does the trick."

I remember another time I was having a heated argument with a Republican colleague who likes Bush. She favors the death penalty (which has been suspended in Illinois), and we were having a "spirited" discussion of it. Suddenly she said used the word irregardless. In my passion I said, "That's not even a real word!" What a foolish thing to say because it is a real word and it's even in the OED (albeit, "non-standard").

Why does that word irritate me so? I even wrote a limerick on it for the OEDILF:

Irregardless: An asinine word;
Yet over and over it's heard.
It's silly, inane,
And so foolish — insane!
Its meaning, regardless, is blurred.

Author's Note: Irregardless, while in the dictionaries, is really nonsensical and unnecessary since it means exactly the same as regardless.

When push comes to shove, I suppose I do have major prescriptive tendencies.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

And the war continues...

On Wordcraft z posted this interesting discussion about the prescriptivist/descriptivist war from Language Log, after which goofy posted this, which had this link within it.

Why are people prescriptivists? Why tell people they can't pronounce flaccid to rhyme with placcid? Here is Conrad Roth's reason:

I like hearing a man avoid split infinitives, even though I am fully aware
of the rule's arbitrary 1834 origin. There is a sort of stiff, pedantic
in this avoidance, or in the use of 'with whom', or in the
'flaxid', an elegance that no amount of grammatical or
historical analysis could
possibly diminish. It takes self-command to speak
and write in this manner—a
self-command I respect.

An elegance? Not to me. Perhaps to others.

But why argue about it? Why bring racism into the argument, as Kevin S. did (see Language Log's post)? If we can't have an intellectual discussion about language, respecting each others' opinions, there is no hope for our world!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Why the angst?

Recently we've had some discussions on Wordcraft about use of words (such as "anyways" or "less people" or "too nice of a person"). We are, in general, an educated bunch with higher than average intelligence and good debating abilities. Yet, tempers have flared, feelings have been hurt, and people have gotten angry. There have been comments made that we shouldn't use the words prescriptivist or descriptivist anymore because they are divisive.

I wonder why language discussions create this kind of angst. Is it insecurity about one's writing skills? I am not sure, but one thing I am sure about is that I will continue to use the prescriptivist and descriptivist terms. They are descriptive words, and I see no reason why they should be thrown out.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A DD for Barack

Higgledy Piggledy
Democrat Candidate
B.H. Obama has
Finally won!

Next it's McCain he'll fight,
Veteran of war and a
Get this thing done!

Perhaps in the same year the Cubs will win the World Series after 100 years, and the first African-American president will be elected. Life is looking good!

P.S. Z, from Wordcraft, posted about The Bookworm, and I just love it so I added it to my Blog. I need to find a new quote now, as the Mark Twain one is from Wordcraft.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Mosey along...

Nathan Bierma has written an interesting column today about the etymology of the word mosey. Apparently there is no agreement on where it comes from (Okay, prescriptivists...don't have a cow because I ended the sentence with a preposition!). While Bierma does mention Quinion in his column, he doesn't seem to give Quinion the credit he deserves, in my opinion. Until I read the Quinion article, I didn't realize that Bierma's ideas mostly came from Quinion. I am not sure I'd call it plagiarism, but it's close. I think some writers don't realize that ideas of others need to be cited; these writers realize quotes need to be cited, but often they make the reader think that the research and synthesis is their own, when it's not. Similarly, I've always wondered how etymology.com often gets away with copying the OED. But I digress...

At any rate, there are several possibilities on the evolution of the word mosey, from English dialect to Moses. Both Quinion's and Bierma's (albeit quite similar to Quninion's) analyses are good reads, but in the end they both conclude that we don't know the evolution of this word.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I am just too nice of a person

My Wordcraft friends have roundly criticized me for using the phrase, "I am just too nice of a person." Apparently, it should be "too nice a person." Oh, they tried to sugarcoat their criticism by calling it a "midwestern dialect," perhaps "from German." But the tone was clear that it was a mistake. One person said he couldn't use the phrase as he is a perfectionist. Another said she is an editor and is taught to avoid "redundancies." Her reason for it being a mistake was: "If it's incorrect grammatically it might have something to do with the fact that it should be an adverbial phrase instead of a prepositional phrase."

Yet, the same criticizers admit that it would be: "I am just too much of a perfectionist." What is the difference?

Perhaps it is wrong. The more I look at it and say it, the more awkward (another word used by one of my critics) it sounds. Still. Was it necessary to make a big deal about it publically? It is a word board, so I suppose it was appropriate. Yet, it made me feel stupid. I guess that's what I don't like about prescriptivism.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This should do it!

Well, John Simpson, this should convince you. In your own online Times, this was printed on May 26th:

Adding to Terry’s personal pain was the thought that he had let everybody down. Still, our reaction tells us more about us than it does him. One side too empathetic – no, he does not deserve the England captaincy just as a pick-me-up for missing a penalty – the other too full of glee. We used to mock the Germans for having a word meaning delight in the misfortune of others, Schadenfreude, when one has existed in English all along: epicaricacy. Heaven knows why it has passed into obscurity, because we seem to have cornered the market in it of late. (Emphasis mine)

It's time, OED, to legitimize this word. Heck, when you do that, this Blog will have to sink to oblivion.

I have whined about "epicaricacy" so much on Wordcraft that I have promised myself I wouldn't post about it there anymore. I can't break my promise, but I sure want to with this quote!