Saturday, May 27, 2006

Partial Glossary of Terms

Friday, May 26, 2006


I'm cool with the umlauts and all, but please let's use a hyphen. Über is not a prefix, it's a foreign word. I admit that über somehow fell into the prefix crowd, maybe because everybody thought it was cool. Hey, it's German! But, come on, it's nowhere in the league of un or anti. I see it more like pseudo, which, while totally gay on its own, does serve a useful purpose. Über is simply pretentious. Sure, it's fun to have around, but it's got to go home when the party's over. And, kids, the cops just arrived.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Gendy asks:

I have a grammar/style question: When do you use "i.e." versus "e.g." versus "viz"? I'm betting that only Craig knows the answer to this question, and that Derek will pretend to know, but won't really know.

The Other Style Council responds:

My pretend-to-know answer is that i.e. means "that is" and e.g. means "for example." The distinction is that i.e. is used to offer a single synonym or definition, whereas e.g. is followed by a list.

Viz is the pompous version of both, and it stands for "videlicit." Kooky audio pronunciations here:

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Am I A Word Guy Because of Monty Python?

By gorn, I think I am.

If you can get through this "Flying Circus" sketch and laugh and then look at all words through the woody/tinny prism, then we should go get a drink sometime -- unless you're Derek, because that last post really freaked me out.

I watched this sketch with my equally nerdy family when I was a shorty, and I've been considering words as either "woody" or "tinny" since. We'd go round and round about which category certain words belonged in. Sometimes these conversations would get quite violent, leading social services to put my sister and me in foster care for a short time. But our foster family got sick of me pushing my glasses up my nose constantly, so we were reunited with our real parents.

After reading the sketch and fully absorbing the woody-tinny dynamic, tell us where you'd put the following words:

  • Category
  • Yogurt
  • Desk
  • Speakers
  • Radical

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

What difference does it make?

The serial comma. Sometimes in vogue, sometimes not. The last decade or more has been a particularly uncomfortable time for enthusiasts of the serial comma. I can't explain why our grammatical mores have turned in such an ugly direction, but I do know I've always loved, cherished, and adored the serial comma for its unique ability to separate individual components of the English language.

FYI: The serial comma is the second comma in a sequence of three words or phrases, preceded by a preposition.

For example, "I had sex with James, Craig, and Mitch" perfectly communicates that I had sex with each of them either individually or collectively, whatever your libido desires to imagine.

But if I wrote that "I had sex with James, Craig and Mitch" (note there's no comma after Craig), you might reasonably assume that Craig and Mitch and I participated in a liaison of which James was not a part, and I can assure you that was not the case. The only solution to this ambiguity, as I see it, is the serial comma.

P.S. Sex with James, Craig, and Mitch is fantastic.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Reader Question! Reader Question! Reader Question!

Dear Other Style Council,

Is is correct you're not supposed to use an "a" before "“myriad,"” as in, "a myriad of..."

Yours truly,
Clueless in Cleveland

Dear Clueless,

That's correct. And, further, you don't need the "of" after "myriad."

INCORRECT: A certain Midwestern Welshman entertains a myriad of ladies.

CORRECT: A certain Midwestern Welshman entertains myriad ladies.

All best,

The Other Style Council

Everything You Never Wanted To Know About Quotation Marks

There are many ways to go wrong with quotation marks. They are often used ironically:

She ran around with a bunch of “intellectuals.”

The quotation marks around “intellectuals” indicate that the writer believes that these are in fact so-called intellectuals, not real intellectuals at all.

Advertisers unfortunately tend to use quotation marks merely for emphasis:


The influence of the more common ironic usage tends to make the reader question whether these tomatoes are really fresh.

In American usage, single quotation marks are used normally only for quoted words and phrases within quotations.

British usage has traditionally been to reverse this relationship, with single quotation marks being standard and double ones being used only for quotations within quotations.

Titles of books and other long works that might be printed as books are usually italicized (except, for some reason, in newspapers); but the titles of short poems, stories, essays, and other works that would be more commonly printed within larger works (anthologies, collections, periodicals, etc.) are enclosed in quotation marks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Attnetoin E-mial Fowraders: Go to Hlel

We've all gotten the e-mail forward that reads in part like this:

Accodring to a raseerch at Cbmaridge Unviersity, it dseon't matetr in waht oredr the letters in a wrod are. The olny impoatrnt tnihg is taht the fsrit and lsat lteter be in the rgiht plcae.

Well, you know how the oil companies are actually keeping secret the super technology that will allow us to run our cars on free oxygen? They're doing it for a reason: To stay in business.

It's in this spirit that, as a copy editor, I ask you, beg you: STOP CIRCULATING THE DAMN WORD-SCRAMBLE E-MAIL. Listen, folks, our job is to fix screwed-up words. If the world suddenly stops caring about screwed-up words, copy editors are toast. Most folks already don't care about grammar and spelling as it is, but if everybody finds out that some super-genius Cambridge researcher says they should care even less about proper written English, then it'll just be a matter of time before Derek, James and I are selling hot dogs in Pershing Square. And James is a vegetarian for Chrissakes!

So, I beseech you, stop with the word-scramble e-mails. I don't endanger your livelihood, so please don't endanger mine.

On the other hand, I do have leads on some hot investment deals involving Nigerian royalty ...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Vim and vigor

Beyond the fact that "vim" just sounds great as a word, and I include it in my Top 10 list of all-time best-sounding words (along with "multiplicative"), I nominate vim for The Other Style Council's unofficial list of Words We Love To Hate, for its particularly roundabout definition as "vigor." That's right, kids. Vim means vigor.

And I quote American Heritage: Vim. Ebullient vitality and energy. See synonyms at vigor.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Word of the Day, October 1, 1996

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Name That Font

Can any of you font-inistas out there name the font used in our logo to spell out "The Other Style Council"?

Monday, May 01, 2006

"VA" vs. "Va."

Emperor Ming writes:

The abbreviation for Virginia is VA, right? So, why does the University of Virginia use U.Va.?

The Other Style Council replies:

Because rich parents can buy an education, but not necessarily a good education.

Actually, "VA" is the postal abbreviation. Use it when you mail a letter, not when writing a news story. "Va." is the Associated Press abbreviation. Our style at L.A. Weekly, however, is to spell out states so there's no confusion. For example, we don't want anybody thinking Virginia Beach is actually located on the grounds of the Veterans Administration.