How many times do I read an article or blog post or email or whatever, and I see the word "however" punctuated incorrectly? Enough to finally do a post about it, after years of tolerating the mistake! And yes, I just created a fragment on purpose...it was a deliberate style decision.
But back to the important topic at hand: many people, educated and not, do not understand the role of "however" in a sentence. I know people who are sticklers about language, and they use "however" in such a way because they're quickly texting and want to loosen the rules. That's acceptable, and I've probably done that myself. I'm not talking about those people who know the rules enough to break them; I'm talking about people who don't even know the rule, and think it's acceptable to not use a semicolon or to start a new sentence. In fact, that previous sentence is an example of what I'm talking about: I was joining two independent clauses, thus needed a semicolon, not a comma, which is what a lot of people use even when "however" isn't in the picture.
People usually throw independent clauses together with a comma like it's no big deal (btw--an independent clause has a subject, verb, object, complement...basically, it's a complete sentence, not a fragment, not a dependent clause that serves an introductory purpose, etc.).
So back to "however"...here's an example of how people usually treat it:
I want to go to the store, however I have to work.
That is a comma splice! The comma is separating two independent clauses. It should be:
I want to go to the store; however, I have to work.
I want to go to the store. However, I have to work.
Someone just told me that they hate it when people start sentences with "however." However, that's correct, unless it's a fragment. And that sentence I just typed is correct. This is not correct:
Someone just told me that they don't like sentences that start with "however," however it's fine to do that even though it's not stylistically preferable.
So when is it okay to use "however" with a comma? When it's a side comment...example: (I just created another fragment for emphasis, on purpose, in case you wanted to point it out.)
She wanted to organize a trip for 50 people. What she was planning, however, was not feasible.
Commas around "however"?! That's correct, because it's an aside, a break, instead of starting the sentence with "however" or continuing the previous sentence with "but." For instance, I could write the previous two sentences like this:
She wanted to organize a trip for 50 people, but what she was planning was not feasible.
Those are two independent clauses being separated by a conjunction (with a comma before that, because independent clauses require it).
I can understand why students may not know these rules, but professional writers or people who call themselves "experts" and are writing articles or newsletters to promote themselves really should know better. If they don't know, they should have someone check what they're submitting to stem the flow of bad punctuation.Author : Margaret Larkin
I always assume large, multinational corporations have a lot of money, but apparently McDonald's doesn't seem to be able to afford a proofreader for something as simple as a temporary sign. I was walking by the torn-down Rock 'N' Roll McDonald's
and saw this sign: do you see the mistake?
Answer: "its only a short time away," which should be "it's [as in "it is"] only a short time away." It's incredible that people from a company where the CEO has a compensation package of over $15 million
can't afford to peel off less than $100 to hire someone to proofread their signage. Yes, I make mistakes at work, and even here (about which comments have been made), but I'm usually writing well over three sentences, which is all this sign has. It probably would've taken 15 minutes to check this sign before it went to the printer, yet they didn't bother to do such work.
So I guess McD's still needs some help, even though their profits went up. I wonder if I'm the only one who noticed this.Author : Margaret Larkin
As I've said before, I'm studying Swedish
. My Swedish is honestly awful because I haven't followed my own advice which I usually give my ESL students and which I myself followed when I was studying Japanese: memorize a sample sentence for the grammar point you are learning. And there are other reasons, too, such as not watching many videos, not putting a lot of time into it, etc.
But that's not what this post is about, even though I could write many words about why my Swedish is so horrible. This is to announce to the world that I managed to translate a simple Swedish article because our teacher gave us such an assignment for homework (and another aside: Colloquial Swedish
, which we're using in class, is not an appropriate book for total beginners like me who have no clue what's going on. It progresses too quickly and there aren't enough chances to practice grammar, etc. I really think I have to take the class again. But what's great about the book is that they offer free audio
The teacher told us about Ikea's super-rich and alleged cheapskate founder, who died a couple months ago. At that time, she told us to read an article
about him at the excellent site 8 Sidor
. Basically, that wonderful site has simplified news stories that you can read and also listen to. I love it! (NHK has a similar one
for Japanese news, btw.)
So we read it, and instead of translating some clunky sentences and offering a stilted translation (which we had to do for class to create a close approximation of the original), I decided to attempt to make it smoother. So here's the result...I know he died back in January, but I'm posting it now because I've overcome my hesitation to share it with the world and I now had time to look it over.
From 8 Sidor's Ikeas grundare är död
Ikea's Founder is Dead
News has spread throughout the world that the famous business owner, Ingvar Kamprad, has died. He was 91.
His company, Ikea, is known for inexpensive furniture that we buy in flat packages. Then we put it together in our home.
Today Ikea has more than 300 stores in 43 countries. 150,000 people work there.
Ingvar Kamprad was known for caring a lot about costs, including having factories in countries with low wages.
Ikea made Kamprad one of the richest people in the world. He liked to show that he lived a simple life, despite all his money. But to avoid paying taxes in Sweden, he lived in Switzerland for many years.
Over the years, Ingvar Kamprad got a lot of flak, including because he liked Nazism when he was young. He had said that he regretted it.
During the last few years, Ingvar Kamprad lived in Älmhult in Småland. That was where he started Ikea years ago in 1943.Author : Margaret Larkin
This is interesting timing because, as I said in my last post
, I wanted to discuss the issue of what seems like a collective noun, "a number of," and whether it should be "is" or "are." And this week, someone was writing something at work, and he asked me if he should say "a number of is or are." After we had a brief conversation about it, I told him it should be "a number is," but now I realized I was wrong (but maybe it was right for the context? I don't remember what the sentence was; it made sense at the time).
I encounter "number of" many times in my work (usually "the number of") and saw "a number of" recently in something I had to copy edit. I hesitated when I saw that because it's very tempting to use "is" due to focusing on the first part of the sentence, which is "a number." But the Oxford Living Dictionary
says it's supposed to be are: "A number of people are waiting for the bus." But that makes sense to me, too, because "people" is close to "are" and it sounds right.
But it's not enough for something to just "sound right" when writing or editing, because it's more formal than speaking, and we can usually break the rules in spoken English.
According to Editage
, "Do not be misled by the indefinite article a in that expression: the expression is always used to indicate more than one of something and therefore takes a plural noun and a plural verb."
They also discuss "the number of," and now that I'm thinking of it, I see it way more often, which pretty much everyone says should be singular, such as "the number of plants in each pot was 25." In that case I've been right, and I'm glad my instincts were correct.
After much thought and online searching, I think I found the best explanation for this phrase at ESL Library
: "a number of means many...it is serving the same role in the sentence as a quantifier such as 'many,' 'a lot of,' 'lots of,' 'hundreds of,' etc."
So from now on, I won't think twice about making "a number of" plural! I feel like I've read the equivalent of a booklet on that topic!Author : Margaret Larkin
I've been proofreading and copy editing and just analyzing English for years, but sometimes I get stuck on collective nouns. For instance, I recently saw "A variety of methods was used." That seems correct because the focus on the sentence is "a variety." Just in case, though, I did a search online, and the conflicting information is worrisome. Many articles and books
have "was used," so it seems legitimate. But when I did a search
for "were used," there are many articles using that as well. So what's the correct usage?
Well, if I were to use "variety" related to the articles and books I found, I would say "a variety of articles and books show" instead of "a variety of articles and books shows" because I want to emphasize the plurality of "articles and books" instead of "variety," which is singular. I guess that falls in to the "proximity agreement"
concept, because I'm "relying on the noun that is closest to the verb to determine whether the verb is singular or plural."
I ended up keeping "A variety of methods was used" because I felt that the emphasis was on "variety." But if it said "A variety of methods were used," I probably would've kept that as well, because it "sounds right" and a lot of people online seem to agree. Many sources
say that if it's preceded by "the," then "variety of" would be singular. But if it's "a," then it's not.
So am I wrong? I don't think so, because I still think the emphasis is on "variety," plus "of..." is a preposition, and it seems like prepositions create subsets of the main subject. But according to language nerds discussing this stuff online, I'm wrong because it's "a." And what doesn't help is that the Oxford learner dictionary
seems to contradict itself; they say (ha ha, I'm breaking the grammar rule here; I should say "it says") "There is a wide variety of..." but later on they say "A plural verb is needed after a/an (large, wide, etc.) variety of...A variety of reasons were given."
I like Grammar Girl's
explanation; it seems more forgiving: "Some people get tripped up when a prepositional phrase comes after a collective noun that is the subject of a sentence. For example, if you're talking about 'a large group of students,' 'group' is the collective noun and the subject of the sentence; however, it's easy to get distracted by the prepositional phrase 'of students' because it sounds plural. The thing to remember is that the verb takes its cue from the subject of the sentence--'a large group'--and not from the prepositional phrase that modifies the subject. In cases like this, just ignore the prepositional phrase 'of students' and take your cue from the real subject: 'a large group'.?
So according to GG, I'm correct. Plus American English (which I'm a native speaker of [of which I'm a native speaker]) uses the singular, while Brits use plural. And just to make sure, I asked a writing group that I sometimes meet with what they think, and all of them agree with what I did.
Thus I think I made the right decision, though I'm still struggling with "a number of," which I'll discuss in another post.Author : Margaret LarkinI've told people offline, but I feel like I should proclaim this publicly since I've declared my love for languages here for over a decade (though I went off topic at times and didn't post much for a while), and I'm committed at this point.
What got me interested in Swedish and Sweden was watching Annika Bengtzon and thinking, "Wow, they're so restrained and cool and sophisticated," and I was impressed with the understated style of acting that we really don't see in the U.S. because so many actors are dramatic or exaggerated.
Then I watched the Swedish version of Wallander, which had a similar style, delivered with humility (which is also not typical of U.S. shows--the lead actors are usually brazen and arrogant, and it's all about them).
I was curious about the actors, but couldn't find much information in English. Example: The Guardian has Krister Henriksson's "only British press interview" about why he left Wallander, and there weren't a lot of English articles online about Malin Crépin, the wonderful, stylish actress who plays Annika Bengtzon. And when it came to actor Leif Andrée, who played her intense, stressed-out editor, forget it: a super-brief Wikipedia page, and the rest in Swedish, which of course I didn't understand at all.
So to find out more about this seemingly stable, refined, developed country, I decided to try to learn the language well enough to read about it (and read about those actors I like). I first tried Duolingo, which people have complimented but which didn't seem very helpful. I usually used the app on my phone, and got through a number of lessons. It would congratulate me on ridiculous achievements, telling me that I was x-percent "fluent." Such fakery wasn't encouraging because I know what fluent means, and it was like they were trying to "motivate" me into using their app more, like superficial cheerleaders on the sidelines.
Another problem I had with Duolingo was that a number of their sample sentences were nonsensical, like "the cow likes the dog's toy" or "the cat doesn't want to dance tonight." Ok, those aren't exactly accurate examples, but the sample sentences were often phrases that we wouldn't need to know in real life, and pretty much no one would use unless they were making goofy poetry. So why were they giving them to us? Why not have sentences that said, "Where is the post office?" and other sentences that we'd actually need (though many people have said Swedish people's English is so good, you don't need Swedish over there).
Also, at least on the phone app, there were no grammatical explanations. So I'd try to do the exercises by intuition, but I really didn't learn much about the language structure. It just seemed like I was going through the motions to get through the exercises, like consuming empty calories that are briefly satisfying but don't lead anywhere.
Even though I wasn't thrilled with the app, I guess I learned enough to understand the headline of a Swedish article about the suicide of Johanna Sällström, who played Wallander's daughter (because I was doing a search about why they changed actresses, and it was hard to get sufficient info in English): Krister Henriksson: "Jag älskade Johanna djupt"
. I made progress! But then I went back to the ridiculous drills at Duolingo, and decided to move on.
After the split (though I don't want to drop Duolingo forever), I read stuff online, got a grammar book, watched online videos, etc. But I still wasn't satisfied, so I looked for a class, and lo and behold, there was one starting within a couple of weeks at the Swedish American Museum.
I am the only person in the class who has nothing to do with Sweden or Swedish people. Other people have Swedish heritage, work for a Swedish company, or are married to Swedes. When it came to my turn to tell the class why I was studying it, I said, "I watched Swedish mysteries and want to know more." They laughed. But I still have that reason, in addition to wanting to go there at some point (though I apparently won't need Swedish anyway).
One student in the class has really good pronunciation and comprehension, and it's because he studies consistently, listens to/watches Swedish news...and uses Duolingo. He said it's really helped him. So maybe I don't "get it"?
An unintended consequence of studying Swedish consistently is the rush in my head of English and German, which have collided into each other and are getting in the way of my Swedish acquisition. There are many similarities with both languages, which seems attractive, but the killer is the pronunciation. Very difficult and not phonetically written.
Because English and German have been swirling in my head when I try to produce sentences in class or try to comprehend words, I've been pulled in the German direction, to the point that I cracked open a German reading strategy book that I used years ago in one of the worst language classes I've ever taken (the teacher basically never spoke German and didn't want to teach it either, just talked about politics and her own personal gripes that I couldn't care less about). So now I'm trying to read bits of Japanese, French, and Spanish (all which I used to translate), learn Swedish as a total beginner, and reconnect with German, because...I don't know. I guess the Swedish activated a desire to recover knowledge of the German I once had, and to reconnect with a language that is way more difficult than Swedish, but is much easier to pronounce. Now I just need to partition my brain so that I'm not going through German to get to Swedish, though I keep saying in class "that's like German" when she explains a grammar point, which could seem pretentious.Author : Margaret Larkin
Twitter: @accuelliotAuthor : Margaret Larkin Elliot Abrams, Chief Forecaster and meteorologist at AccuWeather, sent me this essay about the month of October. Thus this is a guest post, since it was written by him:
October colors scream for attention as summer's emerald draperies are splashed with auburn, set ablaze with firethorn, streaked with burnished copper, then saturated in chocolate just before Halloween.
If March is the chameleon month, October is its cousin. One day is bright and crisp, brimming with fresh vitality; the next is under a dreary roof of slate framed by steel wool curtains...a lint-filter sky.
Nature takes its full palette of pastels, earth tones and half shades and thrown them together in a tapestry simultaneously chaotic and yet invitingly familiar. Autumn is our annual sunset, the rich colors and interweaving of light providing our last look at the year, with the winter night temporarily postponed but imminently inevitable.
October's loud colors are matched by its noisy winds. The brittle leaves crackle in the breeze, a sure giveaway it's autumn on those increasingly rare warm south wind nights. The leaves lodge in the lawns, shove into shrubs and burrow into the bushes; the nachos style crunchiness amplifies the sound of footsteps.
Brash noise and sullen solitude. Bold bright colors and dim dreariness. Tossed trees with spiced scenery. How they match life's many moods and tastes. For here in one month is captured the diversity of the entire annual cycle of earthly life. Yet for all of its richness and variety, few of its scenes and sounds will last out the year.
But, when winter's scouts retreat north for reinforcements, an eerie still is left behind. The quiet is punctuated by the quick tick of a bouncing acorn. The scene of vivid crispness is hidden by a haze that smears the colors. The waning sun is too feeble to stir the grimy soup; fog lingers through damp mornings. Later, the haze tints muted sunbeams on bittersweet warm afternoons. You can just barely feel the hint of bygone summer, but the lengthening shadows and eager evening dusk say warm times are headed for history.
As the sun wearies of its heated climb through summer skies, the woodlands are tossed into an autumn salad bar. The leaner diet of light and the fingers of frost lace the chervil and sage greens of summer with oregano, pumpkin spice and cinnamon. The ocean of summer green now has islands of amber and auburn amidst currents of crimson, the mixing colors changing each day.
Fall days can bring wondrous variety:
We can have windy days. In the nooks and crannies around buildings on a dry day you see dust, paper scraps and leaf fragments whipped into whirlpools, the tiny pieces sucked in and thrown out as the vortex vanishes.
Out in the countryside, cumulus cloud shadows race along the ground, racing along the ridges and vaulting the valleys. The trees, still in leaf. have their twigs twisted and their branches bent. In the fields and weedlots, unseen waves rustle the tassels and taller grass blades, the surface rippling like waves on a lake.
Other days represent just the opposite: foggy calm mornings and hazy quiet mellow afternoons. Tiny spider mites weave threads and fragile strands that drift in the slightest puff of wind. The leaves detach from their summer homes to form a carpet of brown crinkle on the forest floor. Acorns snap to ground. You can still feel a hint of summer in the afternoon air; the long shadows of late afternoon and the early dusk make us sense somehow the summer party is over.
Only later do we find ourselves skewered on the rotisseri of reality, sucked in by the shop-vac of autumn's summer remnants, raked over by nature's leaf blower, the rototiller of northerly winds. The annual chilly eraser transforms the artful tapestry of October to the gray canvas of late fall and winter.
by Elliot Abrams
I am a fan of Pullman, which is on the far South Side of Chicago. Everyone should go there, as I've said before
I also said that I would take the factory tour
, and I did. There will only be a few more tours before they close it for restoration. First of all, the tour guide (who's lived there for almost 50 years) did a great job explaining not only elements of the building and the company, but the area's history and the more subtle issues that have arisen, such as the possibility of Section-8 housing, which means dollars for the developer (and alderman?) but headaches for the residents. Right now the neighborhood has a great, relaxing vibe that makes it a jewel within the city limits, and the people who live there want to keep it that way.
What I saw of the factory will not be the same next year, not just because of the restoration but because I reckon they're going to do a lot of publicity to get visitors down there. The place deserves it, but in the meantime, if you want to see the pre-hyped version, go there now.
|Entrance to the factory site on 111th street.|
I was also lucky to see huge remnants of Acme Steel
, which will eventually be moved to a more permanent historic preservation site (I forgot what they said--I'll update if I find out).
|Pullman building in back, Acme realia in front.|
|Rebuilt administration building in background.|
Though these Acme items might stay.
Author : Margaret Larkin
Unfortunately and tragically, a literally insane homeless man who was off his meds set fire to the Pullman factory because he said voices told him to
. So the current tower and building are essentially reconstructed, and will continue down that path. So it's not really a restoration but a creation that visitors will see in the future.
|Rebuilt after the evil arson.|
Here's a melted bell that the insane arsonist left behind.
But some original brick and a tiny part of the original factory remain.
I'm guessing future visitors post-rehab won't be able to wonder in such a space anymore.
As I was walking along a former carriage path that used to wind its way beside a lake...
I thought, "I'm coming back."
While the factory is being revitalized, I could just hang out at the Pullman cafe.
A while ago, I was on the Metra train going to and from University Park, and I passed by the Pullman
stop. It looked historical and interesting, not like the West Pullman shootings we often hear about in the news. Ever since then, I was curious about the area, and I finally got a chance to go there recently. What I discovered was a quaint neighborhood of restored row houses (retaining the requisite Pullman colors)...
and friendly people who said "hello." I don't think I've been anywhere in the city where people voluntarily greet strangers, and it shows how much pride they have in their neighborhood. It's more a location than a major tourist attraction, though I plan on going on the factory tour before they close it down for restoration (they're going to move the visitors center to the factory's tower, which is also being restored). I have a hunch that when they make major changes, there will be a lot more visitors. The day I went, there were only a few of us, and we were from the city. So I think I've seen the area pre-rush because it's become part of the national park system, and I reckon they're going to do a lot of publicity to get more people down there. I was lucky to see it "unspoiled" and pretty much empty, which allowed me to enjoy it a lot more (instead of having to compete with crowds to get a glimpse of the historic houses and surrounding nature).
There's an art installation at the Market Hall
, whose remains are sort of sad but hopeful.
There are also grander homes thrown in, such as this place, similar (or the same?) to where I think the former police chief lives...
and this house, which is one of the larger ones in the hood.
Towards the center of the area is the worn (but undergoing restoration) Hotel Florence
, where the Rich and Important stayed way back in the day.
But nothing is happening at the Annex (where workers and some visitors stayed); it sits unused northeast of the hotel.
Author : Margaret LarkinI was proofreading something (because, according to my elevator speech that I should have, "I solve language problems"), and saw that the writer used "can not" instead of "cannot." I wanted to see what language pros say about it, because it seems to me that "can not" is acceptable, which Oxford and Grammar Girl (who's made a total success out of language nerdiness) say as well.
There is so much to appreciate there. It's not fireworks and spectacle, but it's really incredible to see such a historical area be preserved and celebrated. It's easy to get there, too: just west of the expressway or on the Metra Electric line
. Hopefully the upcoming hype won't affect its charm.
Writer's Relief goes so far as to say "cannot" should be used, and I find a comment by Gideon Roos interesting: "It follows the grammar tendency set up with do not and should not etc."
Commenter James Gentry mentions a post by Languagehat (whose quote I kept in my blog's "masthead" even though he removed me from his blogroll) about it, in which he says, "The only context in which can not, two words, occurs is as an emphatic alternative: 'You can do it, or you can not do it'.?
I seem to remember "back in the day" (whenever that was, and if it really should be considered that, which is worth another blog post) that the conventional construction was "can not." I think "cannot" slipped into acceptance to the point where it's a given.
Even though I'm inclined to use "can not" and probably have, to Languagehat's and other people's dismay, the final word on the subject seems to be from the Associated Press, which issues language proclamations and rules all the time. When I did a search for "cannot" several articles came up. But when I did a search for "can not"...nada.
So I'll go with the AP, since that's closest to my language world's order. And again, I'm proofing and editing and writing stuff all the time, so I should know better. And don't worry--I ended up correcting that "can not" to be "cannot," so all is well.Author : Margaret Larkin
As a lot of people already know, especially people who've lived in Japan, Japanese English can be odd. It's almost like they're using weird phrases as in inside joke, to see if people can tell that the words are dorky or don't make sense for the context. At this point, if Japanese companies want to have sensical English (or English that makes sense), they could easily find a lot of native speakers to help out with such a task. But maybe they're just having fun (like my use of the non-word "sensical"). Or maybe they're making an earnest effort to communicate an idea that would make sense in Japanese. Anyway, there are a lot of examples, and entire websites are devoted to such oddities, such as Engrish.com
So here's something I found in Mitsuwa
, which has an excellent selection of Japanese drinks. They're not cheap, but they're good and entertaining. Like the tagline of ?????
. I only bought it because it had a plum at the bottom *and* weird English, thus was worth the higher price. Basically, I've never seen anything like it in the US, and I like novelties.
The label says "Hanippu C" (transliteration of the name), and below the picture of the fruit it says "plum and apple." But then the weird English appears:
Please enjoy this "tastiness."
So let's deconstruct this for a moment. It's not totally weird English because it makes sense, sort of. American companies wouldn't use the word "tastiness" to describe a drink, but rather "flavor," and they'd use animated adjectives to modify "flavor" to entice the consumer to purchase the delicious drink. Or they'd just simply say the drink is "tasty."
But this Japanese company, ??? (Plum), not only uses "tastiness," but puts quotation marks around it. Why? Are they implying that the suggestion is "tastiness" but the reality is different? Are they using the quotation marks to admit to falling short of flavor expectations? Is it a textual version of a wink and a nod?
Also what's not typical English is the request "Please enjoy..." as if they're trying to be polite yet firm. It would be harsher, of course, to simply say "Enjoy this tastiness," especially in apologetic, self-effacing Japanese culture. Realistically, products don't usually have any kind of request, but boldly proclaim how great they are and how they'll make you feel, which should convince you to buy them. But in this case, the sentence is literal but awkward, because of the combination of words, ending with the quotes. Overall, it comes off as stilted and sarcastic, which was most likely not the company's intention.
Below the English sentence it says "Please enjoy the blended flavor of plum and honey." On the bottom it says "contains honey" on the left and "refreshing drinking water" on the right, though I'm wondering why they say "water" when it tastes like juice. Next to that it says "less than 10% fruit juice." Okay, so it's not technically juice, but it hardly tastes like mere flavored water.
Thus the mysteries are numerous, but it doesn't deter me from purchasing other weirdly-worded products, whose "tastiness" I'm willing to explore. So I might have something else to post on such a topic in the future.Author : Margaret LarkinThe typical/average person would probably put me in the "nerdy/weird" category because I'm interested in ideas, language, thinking, reading, writing, observing, and basically doing things that aren't on a predictable track. But I was very surprised when a computer science student who's way smarter than I was at that age, or any age, asked me what a "differential equation" is. He said he had some downtime, and figured since I work on the same floor as extremely smart professors and grad students in an engineering department that I, too, understand science. I admitted my ignorance and he had no problem with that, but it made me curious just what it is.
What I found was an excellent site created by probably one of the smartest people in our generation, who hasn't merely jumped on the computer or data bandwagon, but was one of the early birds to that whole dominating phenomenon (or reality, since they're running the world at this point).
The creator of the site is Erik Neumann, who "was fortunate to get involved in the Macintosh software industry early on." He then describes an impressive resume of working in all kinds of computer stuff (my purposely non-technical word). Then, he "relearned calculus by doing all the problems in [his] old college text book and took further math classes at the University of Washington." He created the "website as a way to practice what [he] was learning," and he continues "to work on physics simulations, with several new ones in development."
HUH? I'm still trying to figure out how to do basic things, like caulking a bathtub or avoiding bread. Meanwhile, Erik is creating *physics simulations* for the fun of it. Actually, you should check them out on the homepage...when you click on them they move/animate (for people like me, who just like sparkles and baubles). Or if you want the "explanations," you can look at the scientific/technical information. There's so much to describe, I took some screenshots because it's so incredible that this guy has done all this, in addition to his super-cerebral career/work, in addition to whatever else is going on in his life.
|Billiards animation screenshot|
|Billiards explanation and other nerdy info|
I'm so simple-minded that it didn't occur to me to try to create a gif to represent his creations, and I'm so tired from reading science that I don't even want to try at this point.
Anyway, way to go, Erik, and remember us commoners on the prairie out here.Author : Margaret LarkinI'm late to the party, but I just found out what "meta" means. I was at a writing group, and the other people kept saying "That's so meta," or described something as "meta." I had to ask them what they meant because I only knew "meta" as a prefix or adjective, or within the context of computer stuff, such as "metadata" or "meta tag," or "metaphysics," etc.
They said, almost in chorus, that meta is "self-referential." I had to ask them again because it sounded so abstract, and was surprised that people would use such a concept in casual conversation. "It means 'self-referential'," they repeated with annoyance, as if it's no big deal that such a word exists, or they couldn't believe I didn't know the word.
I'm still trying to wrap my mind around the concept because people throw the word around without being precise or perhaps correct (like when a business "disrupts" an industry but not really, strictly speaking, which I'll discuss in a future post).
In a "meta" discussion on Reddit, someone quoted an article with a prediction that's come true 30 years later, which I also found quoted in a decade-plus-old column in the New York Times:
In an article in The New Republic of Sept. 5, 1988, titled "Meta Musings," David Justice, then editor for pronunciation and etymology at Merriam-Webster, was quoted as saying, "Meta is currently the fashionable prefix." The writer, Noam Cohen, added: "He predicts that, like retro -- whose use solely as a prefix is so, well, retro -- meta could become independent from other words, as in, 'Wow, this sentence is so meta.' If so, you heard it from me first."
I used to often watch old Hollywood movies on TV, and I noticed that a number of them took place in Hollywood. The most obvious is Singin' in the Rain
. So now that I've learned what "meta" means, I know I have one word to describe them, a better shorthand than saying, "So many old Hollywood movies were stories about Hollywood and the movie business." Now I can just say those movies are "meta."
My prediction is that the word will no longer just mean "self-referential" but become something else that initially relates to the original meaning (or what purists now see as "evolved" because the word has already changed), or eventually mean something more diluted, such as what's become of "awesome," or something totally unrelated, like what's happened to "nice
."Author : Margaret Larkin
Author : Margaret LarkinOn the way to trying to figure out if "mother tongue/language" in Italian was "madrelingua" or "lingua madre," I found a post at the Scioglilingua forum/blog (which hasn't been updated for a while probably because linguist Giorgio De Rienza passed away) that said "Lo scorso 21 febbraio è stata celebrata in tutto il mondo la giornata internazionale della madrelingua." [Last February 21 international mother language day was celebrated throughout the world.]
As I referenced in my last post, I found a linguistic blog, or what the the Corriere della Sera newspaper calls "forum," about the Italian language. I discovered it while I was trying to find out what the difference between "madrelingua" and "lingua madre" was. Here's my attempt at translating the explanation:
Madrelingua or lingua madre?
Last February 21, International Mother Language Day was celebrated throughout the world. It was established by Unesco in 1999 to commemorate a revolt that occurred in 1952 in Bangladesh, where many Bangladeshi students were killed in the capital, Dhaka, while protesting for their right to speak their native language, Bengali.
Many newspapers confused madrelingua and lingua madre, using them as if they were synonyms, though they have two completely different meanings. Madrelingua is "a language that is learned first (Devoto Oli), "a language learned or spoken from parents or ancestors" (Treccani), "language of the native country, learned from birth" (Garzanti); not to be confused with lingua madre "parent of a language family" (Devoto-Oli), "what others are derived from, considered related to them" (Treccani), "a language that developed from another language" (Garzanti). Now here's a question: what is the madrelingua of those journalists?
All the best [many ways to translate this word]
I had no idea such a day existed. The United Nations is the source of the day, and Wikipedia offers a thorough explanation:
The date corresponds to the day in 1952 when students from the University of Dhaka, Jagannath College and Dhaka Medical College, demonstrating for the recognition of Bengali as one of the two national languages of East Pakistan, were brutally shot dead by police (then under Pakistan government) near the Dhaka High Court in the capital of present-day Bangladesh. Luckily, the Corriere della Sera newspaper hasn't deleted the blog/forum (I see it as a blog, but they categorize it as "forum"), so I'm going to go back to attempt to translate the post that explains the difference between those two words.
Author : Margaret Larkin
When people think about Milwaukee, they probably don't think of it as a pleasant vacation destination. The last time I was there was to see Rush at Summerfest
, and before that, I think I went there on a day trip when I was a kid. I had no idea what a great place it is, and it really feels like a nice getaway from Chicago, which is a lot more crowded, dirty, and full of hassles that Milwaukee doesn't seem to have.
The customer service also seems superior to Chicago. I don't know if that's because people are nicer up there, if they're better trained, or what, but wherever I went, people were friendly and pleasant. I'm not saying Chicago is full of rude people, but customer service didn't seem like an effort for the people I encountered in Milwaukee.
There are many reasons why Milwaukee seems like a fantastic city. First of all, the lakefront is clean and beautiful, and it seems like the city (or state) put a lot of money into developing it. Chicago's lakefront is also great, but Milwaukee's lakefront offers a natural experience within a manageable urban environment. It's like a scaled-down version of Chicago's Lake Michigan, but with more space and opportunities to walk around in freedom.
The downtown architecture was another surprising feature. I didn't know that they preserved their older architecture. Before going there, I thought the downtown area would have rundown buildings and seem like it was de-developing. But the city seems to want to maintain its history, and luckily, I was there for Historic Milwaukee's
first walking tour of the season.
|The Plankinton was a hotel in the 1900s. |
Images of the Milwaukee Art Museum
are all over because of the famous "wings," which can also be seen from the Third Ward area (which is near Summerfest). In addition to the eclectic art collections, there's a really nice cafe and various areas to look at the lake from inside.
And luckily, we saw them installing public art along the street that stretches west from the museum (because the lake is east, just like in Chicago). This is the first piece that they unveiled.
We didn't have time to go to the Third Ward, which has become a dynamic area converted from old warehouses; that's for the next trip (because I'll definitely be going back), in addition to brewery tours and other historical areas. But we did go to the Pabst Mansion
, which was incredibly luxurious, and ate delicious food around the city. They really know how to do meat, cheese, and baked goods up there.
Basically, if you're assuming Milwaukee is a throw-away place that can be easily overlooked, reconsider that assumption, because it really has a lot to offer. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think others who haven't made that trip will be too.Author : Margaret Larkin
Or adjunct faculty? A lot of people are caught up in titles. One title that gets thrown around the business world is "adjunct professor." A while ago, I did some work for a very talented person who has great advice about things (I want to be vague to not risk offending anyone). They were really an expert in their field. At one point, I had to help write a bio, and part of it said "adjunct professor" at a major university. I questioned someone else to see if that was truly the title, and since they didn't want to offend the expert, they didn't ask. So we went with that, since that's what they labeled themselves (excuse my misuse of pronouns, but I don't want to define the person as male or female).
Fine, if they wanted to call themselves that, it's their business, and their life to live. I'm more into accuracy than sounding impressive (though I have told people that I've written news for a top CBS Radio station, and they were impressed, which made me feel briefly important). I didn't really think about the "adjunct" label until I was looking at another successful businessperson's LinkedIn profile, where they called themselves an "adjunct professor." I did a search online including the person's name, "adjunct professor" title, and school. And guess what? I couldn't find it. I couldn't even find a syllabus or class listing, even though they're considered as prominent in the digital "space" (I use that term because it's a buzzword and I want to be pretentious). And at the school's website, they call such people overall "adjunct faculty" and label some individuals "adjunct instructor." No "professor" in that list!
I did some brief additional research on the term, which took like 5 minutes, and that's only because I texted a real academic who's a true professor at a prestigious university and is busy (I'm not naming them either because they didn't know that I was asking them for this blog post), and they didn't respond within seconds. Otherwise, without the wait time, the pure "research" time took possibly 30 seconds. I asked the person, who kindly took a few minutes out of their day at an academic conference at another prestigious university, what they thought of the "adjunct professor" label. They said (texted) that it's a real title, and to my follow-up question about people using the title who aren't academics but just teach at a university, Real Professor (RP) said they "don't attach much to the difference."
I was surprised, but then again, the RP isn't snobby and doesn't seem to feel like they're superior to anyone, whether they're educated or not. Even though they've achieved the impossible by securing a tenure-track position (purposeful fragment). It's like becoming a successful actor!
I would've done more "research" on this topic because I work in a robust department at a major research university, where professors, adjuncts, and students have impressive degrees or are participating in serious, world-changing projects. But the semester is over, so I didn't see any professors to ask. Even a super-smart, accomplished, PhD-plus ?? is out of town participating in some important worldwide conference or something as an internationally recognized expert, so I couldn't ask them either. Also, I didn't want to email them (I'm using the weird pronoun again) with such an insignificant question. To me, it's important, but people like that have way bigger fish to fry.
So is it wrong or inaccurate to use "professor" after adjunct? People in academia don't throw that label around (in my opinion), as evidenced by this adjunct's sad essay
about the harsh lifestyle. They call themselves (no name or gender was given, thus weird pronoun again) "instructor" and use the word "adjuncts." That's what people at schools or in academia tend to do. But businesspeople tend to want to dress it up to impress clients or whatever.
There's also an interesting discussion about such terms at Metafilter
, where I never post but often lurk to not feel alone in my queries.Author : Margaret Larkin
One of my jobs is reading lots of scientific papers, and I often have to look online to clarify spelling or accurate meanings of words (because I'm not a scientist), or to simply verify correct style.
A couple of words that often pop up (and their variants) are "upregulate" and "downregulate." Researchers often use a hyphen, and even Blogger is pointing out the errors, creating red squiggly lines below the words.
But according to Andrea Devlin
, a professional science editor who was also schooled in science and seems super-serious and proficient in scientific writing, the hyphen should not be used
: "Many scientists use up regulate or up-regulate; however, the correct form is upregulate. The same applies to downregulate, overexpress and underexpress, all of which should be written as a single word without a hyphen / dash or space."
I just saw those words today, with a hyphen, and I quickly corrected them. In the past, I'd have to look online to figure out the correct spelling. I think I'm pretty automatic at this point, but I still have to tackle other word-oriented issues.Author : Margaret Larkin
Dear world: you are still introverted, and I still have to learn to live in it.
A few years ago, I posted my feelings of struggle of being an extrovert in an introverted world
, and since then, I still have a very hard time finding articles about extroverts who are suffering in such a reality. There are many articles, books, videos, etc. about introverts. What about people like me? It's still hard, and I've even come out of the closet as an extrovert, because I'd been pretending too long and felt like I'd explode.
Basically, I'm pretty much back where I started. When I started this blog, I was translating various languages, writing, and editing. Since I'm married to an introvert and met a lot of other people who are introverted (yes, they are out there, and I force them to admit it because I can spot the signs), I tried very hard to be the same way. I kept trying to convince myself that my isolating work situation could be tolerated, and I'd be able to survive. But I kept feeling crazy and frustrated. Yet I continued doing that kind of work for years and really thought there was something wrong with me because I felt blank and cut off.
Then I started teaching again (I'd quit for 5 years due to a horrendous experience), and I felt normal. I felt good. Not only did I have wonderful students (adult ESL), but my coworkers were friendly and loved to talk, too. It was like my gray, isolationist written word-oriented world got a major dose of color, and I was able to plug in to some active current that remains obscured in the introverted world.
But I continued to be in denial about my need to talk and express myself, and my enjoyment of interacting with outgoing people. The problem is that I love translating, writing, editing, and reading, but I am not the silent, anti-social type. I'm not energized by spending hours in front of a computer. I need to get up and find an interesting person to blab with before returning to the silent world of ideas. It's been a struggle, but I've accepted my limitations and am now telling people what I need. I even told a few people at a very introverted job I have (i.e., people around me are introverted and the work is silently solitary), and one of them took pity on me and occasionally has spirited conversations with me. Such charity is very important to people like me who must act a certain way to survive and thrive.
And research supports what I'm saying. Pretty much the only article I found online about the suffering of extroverts in an introverted world was The Cost of Faking Your Personality at Work
, which quoted an academic who said "it seems like extroverts suffer when they pretend to be introverts at work, and more so than introverts who pretend to be extroverts. When naturally talkative and social people had to be quiet and solitary for long periods of time at their desks, they reported less job satisfaction and more stress than the extroverts whose jobs allowed them to act like themselves."
Thank you Sanna Balsari-Palsule, who discovered that, and thank you Melissa Dahl, who wrote the article! You are providing a service to us non-introverted nerds/geeks who do not fit with their introverted cohorts! There are other people like me who love to think, write, etc., but need a situation like late 19th-century Paris when artists would get together in cafes and hang out and laugh and talk and argue and drink and have a rowdy time!
Because of the introverted structure of society, such people are behind their computers (like me right now), posting to social media on their handhelds or whatever, avoiding human interaction, because technology has created walls that are only scalable via the digital divide!
I would like to mention a fellow extrovert who has admitted to the world that she, too, struggles with mandatory introverted work: I found Katie Lubarsky's blog post
after an extensive search. She says "Basically, I prefer being around people. I like working in groups, interacting with others, and sharing thoughts and ideas. It energizes me, inspires me, and keeps me focused." She's a student (or was one when she wrote the post) who is "an extrovert who is trying to write a thesis. Which, by its very nature, is an activity that tends to isolate one from other humans. It?s a solitary pursuit- just me, myself, and my computer, day in and day out." She also says "I find my suppressed extroversion manifesting in all sorts of counterproductive ways" and admits "Even writing this blog, which I promise you is not exactly what I should be spending my time on right now, is an attempt to communicate with the outside world."
Bingo! That was why I started this blog. I love language and didn't have people to talk about it with and didn't have coworkers to chat with (a major drawback of doing solitary freelance work), so I reached out to the world to express myself and have at least a vague feeling that people were "listening" (based on the thousands of hits I used to get from all over the world). What I discovered was that I love blogging to the point that I ended up blogging for other people, including ghost-writing, and even started a secret blog (which I shut down and have relocated to another host to create yet another secret blog).
What sparked this most recent post about the subject (about which I'll probably post again) was that today I was "playing" tennis (quotes for actually just hitting a ball badly) with an extrovert (who had an extroverted career) and an introvert (who probably suffered in a semi-extroverted career). We extroverts kept talking and stopped hitting the ball, which annoyed the introvert. I honestly couldn't tell if the introvert was disgusted by the true personality I was revealing, or if he was just throwing some mild comments out there, but it made me feel self-conscious, causing me to reconsider my behavior. Perhaps that should be a case in which I suppress my true personality to survive yet another introverted situation. Thus this blog post. Because I love expressing myself, I had to write something, since the tennis excursion was the only extroverted opportunity I've literally had all day.
I'm not saying I'm going to quit my introverted work (more hours are spent silently writing and editing than teaching), but I will continue to find outlets to express myself to counteract the IPS (Introverted Power Structure). What will inevitably happen, as occurred today, will be that I will encounter people who are either introverts drained by people like me, or people high up on the hierarchy of personality
who find it disgusting that I'm rising above my station to actually talk...because people who are low on the hierarchy don't have the right to talk unless spoken to (and even then, words have to be limited).
Hopefully, other extroverts will share their feelings online (unless they're too busy talking to live humans), so that the introverts who are constantly complaining will understand the power they have, and the rules they've set.Author : Margaret Larkin
I was at a very unconventional party recently (which happens every year), and I was talking to someone who's been going there for a while. She's now become part of the creation, providing visual effects to the increasingly elaborate production. We briefly talked above the dominating eclectic mix of DJ-d music, and I said that it's a place where people can relax and be goofy and have fun. She called it a "temporary autonomous zone."
I looked online to see if anyone else has used such an expression, and found it most prominently featured as a book.
But I'm pretty sure she wasn't aware of that. What she meant was that the party and other such events are spaces where people can be themselves and express themselves as they want.
It's pretty plain that as we get older and have more responsibilities, or even want to stay well-employed, we don't encounter any autonomous zones outside of our own living spaces. Also, people's definitions of such a space differ. For instance, my idea of being free is just totally being myself, no matter where I am. Other people want a certain public place to participate in such freedom with others (such as Burning Man, where the concept has been expressed via Zone Trips
that were created by the Cacophony Society). Maybe that's how she came up with the phrase, since she's been to Burning Man and its satellite events.
I suspect that the TAZ concept will become more mainstream because I've noticed that mainstream culture tends to take on concepts and phrases that originate on the periphery of society and in alternative subcultures. There are so many examples of such linguistic evolution that I'm sure someone wrote a book on it.
I did a quick search and already found a major media outlet
use the term recently (though it's so overloaded it crashed my computer while I was writing this).
After rebooting my computer and trying to tame the source, I've decided to quote the section here because the LA Weekly site is still loading all its plug-ins and whatnot, and if I try to scroll through the article it slows down the whole loading experience (and eventually freezes), which you might encounter as well; in other words, I want you to avoid the annoying reading experience that I'm still having while writing this post. "What began as a combination art installation and chill-out area has grown into a sort of festival within the festival ? a temporary autonomous zone..."
Wow, what a frustrating way to confirm the use of the phrase. Thus sidenote: websites should quit overloading their content with lots of auxiliary/spy-type junk!Author : Margaret Larkin
I was proofreading something, and I had to figure out if "life-long" was incorrect, so I did a quick search online to see what others had to say.
I found a very good writing/editing blog
by professional editor Rob Bignell connected to his business. He seems to be the real deal, though I've never met him nor anyone who's used his services.
Anyway, he offers a good explanation of the correct spelling and issues surrounding it: it should be one word, "lifelong," and he explains that "Confusion over the spelling arises because compound words, when used as an adjective, usually require a hyphen."
So if you're wondering, use "lifelong" and make anything with "long" at the end of it one word as well.Author : Margaret Larkin
I saw this self-congratulatory article about the corporate merger between CBS and another company: Spinning Off Radio Is A Great Transaction For CBS
, gleefully concluding that "the combined company is expected to generate meaningful cost synergies."
Suspecting it was corporate-speak for something more plain (or more sinister), I looked up what "cost synergy" means. Investopedia
doesn't pull any punches: "The savings in operating costs usually come in the form of laying off employees. Often this term is used in press releases to add a politically correct spin to bad news."
So if you see such a phrase, it might mean you're losing your job, or your coworkers will.Author : Margaret Larkin
I had an excellent time hanging out and helping out a bit with Stephanie Graham's So This One Guy...
video story project. Now I know why her project looks so professional: she films at DePaul University's lot at Cinespace, which also houses Hollywood-level shows
When I arrived in the studio space, they had just recorded a segment and were taking a break.
Then I had my first-ever experience of being a stand-in while they adjusted the lighting and camera. That's super-pro cinematographer Pete Biagi, who's worked on major films and commercials.
At one point, Stephanie and the crew checked the setup in the monitor.
sharing her story (I was the stand-in for that scene too).
I don't know why this area (pretty much North Lawndale
) is considered the West Side, because if you look at a map
, it seems south as well. Why isn't it called the Southwest Side, or at least Near Southwest Side? Well, from my perspective, it's west but also south, so I'm categorizing it accordingly, and saying, once again, that the South Side (and West Side) are under-appreciated. Just one of the many gems that people can discover if they choose to look beyond the grim headlines in those areas.Author : Margaret Larkin
A few years ago, I did a post about the Hierarchy of Personality
, which described the structure that I observed in radio (though people said it exists in other industries). Basically, the idea is that a select few are allowed to express their true personalities and act how they want because they are at the top, while the rest of the scullery staff have to acquiesce and be quiet, lest they get in trouble for daring to try to rise above their station.
Now I've found someone who's a winner in the hierarchy: Mindy Kaling, who has her own show and was previously a writer and actress on The Office
I decided to read her book Why Not Me?
because her first book, Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me?
, was self-deprecating and funny. The second book is basically about how great her life is, how successful she is, how much money she has, how she's reaped the rewards of her hard work big-time (and oh, by the way, her mother died [brief mention] and she wants to be married). It doesn't have the same tone as her first book; instead, she sounds like she's celebrating herself while offering insights about the entertainment business along the way. But both books are well-written, so I can see why they're best-sellers.
What sort of struck me in her first book when she got The Office
gig, and what really struck me here, was that she is at the top of the Hierarchy of Personality because she can express her intelligence, chattiness, and enthusiasm to people around her, in a variety of work and non-work contexts, and people like her
for it. Usually in the Hierarchy, people can't be like her, unless the environment has given them permission. And if someone assumes they can break the rules, then they will be yelled at harshly (with swear words thrown in), ignored, or gossiped about while plans are made to send the person packing.
Her luck started early in her amazing career: when she was in LA having a kind of interview (or exploratory meeting; I don't know technically what you'd call it), she was sitting in an office of a powerful TV guy (the son of an even more powerful TV executive), who was in charge of The Office
. He said, ?I gave her a lot of room to shine and open up.? So right away her high position was being established. And it continued, because she said that they often argued in the writers room, and the worst thing that happened was she that was told to leave. She wasn't fired, she wasn't belittled, and she wasn't criticized for her personality traits. She was able to return to the room and resume her work; no punishment beyond that.
She describes her attitude during those early Hollywood years, and she says "...if I had a writer on my staff now who behaved like I did, I would throw them out...Though I deserved it probably dozens of times, Paul [the showrunner] never actually fired me.? So once again, her position in the Hierarchy was safe because her behavior didn't get her in trouble, and her career continued to flourish (and her social life, since she often talks about her many friends who she gets to work with or rub shoulders with at industry events).
I have to wonder: how does she feel when her staff dare to show their exuberant personality, or express strong disagreement about her show? Does her staff feel like they're in the lower rungs of the Hierarchy, thus have to suppress who they are and want to be?
She describes herself as "very chatty" with "a very anxious, argumentative personality.? People who are lower on the Hierarchy probably would admit that to their confidantes, but wouldn't feel they could admit it in a public forum, or in an official blog (which is why we of the lower caste have secret ones). Plus, being argumentative is reserved for the privileged, because you'd be called a derogatory name if you dared to disagree, especially vociferously, if you were not one of the chosen.
Interacting with her is probably pleasant, because she says that she's "a pretty fun person to talk to. I find almost everyone fascinating and I love to ask questions.? But only her employees know the truth, and I doubt they'd speak about the true experience beyond their closest confidantes. I wonder what they think when she talks about what she wants (one perk of being in her position), because she says "The single best thing about working in a writers? room is that you can disrupt the entire process to discuss and investigate your latest crush.?
Author : Margaret Larkin
What if The Help
were to disrupt a work session to talk about their latest crush? What if a loved one was dying, and they wanted to break out of their role to talk about more personal matters? I've seen that opportunity being enjoyed by the free, but the more tied-down have had to either keep it out of the workplace that has a hierarchical structure or only talk to those they trust (some places generate lots of allies, but the more toxic ones barely have a couple).
In case I ever cross paths with the blessed Hollywood powerhouse, I want to honestly say that I have nothing against Mindy Kaling; I'm just describing a situation that has confirmed what I theorized when I was working more in the radio biz. Some people have abused their position and have been heavy-handed in their domination, and I doubt she's one of those types of people. What she's achieved, beyond her amazing career, seems to be a rare accomplishment: the ability to be who she is and actually prosper and thrive with it. The unlucky ones are shut down and shut out, or are hindered in their attempt to progress towards their dream.
I was chatting with a British-born American (i.e., he came to the US for school, got married, and decided to stay), and he said he was running in the upcoming Chicago Marathon. Then he said "Crumbs." I had never heard that expression before, and I thought it might have been a typo until I looked it up. It's a legitimate British expression that, according to the Cambridge English dictionary
(which is a prestigious source since it's the epitome of British education), means "an expression of surprise or worry."
According to The Express
, which seems to be on a different trajectory than Cambridge (I've formed that conclusion based on the Wikipedia description
), "[Crumbs] is one of many [expressions] which originates from using the first few letters of a swear word and substituting a more socially acceptable ending. So Christ becomes crumbs or Christopher Columbus."
I reiterate: I've never heard this expression before, even though I've watched lots of British shows on PBS, and certainly have never heard an American say it. Maybe I should start using it. But then again, people will think I'm spotting some bread or cake crumbs on the floor :pAuthor : Margaret Larkin