A Word About “Time”

rogersgeorge on February 4th, 2017

Unlike most things, time flows in only one direction. Physicists say that all the equations of quantum dynamics, and many other things, work both forward and backwards. Think of the commutative rule in high school math: 3×4=4×3 and 2y=x is the same as x=2y. But time goes only forward. Keep this in mind when you write about time. Here’s an example of the National Oceanography Centre doing it backwards.

How has the ocean changes since the Miocene?

The ANTSSS group photo

On Wednesday NOC scientists set out on a 60-day expedition to the Eastern Ross sea, Antarctica, to investigate how ocean circulation and environmental conditions have changed from the present to the Middle Miocene.

Okay, first, the typo in the headline. Should be “changed.” Have I ever mentioned that you should proofread???  Harrumpf.

Now look at that from-to construction in the text (emphasis mine). “From” is where you start, “to” is where you’re going. They have it backwards! Sounds like an exciting adventure, though!

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Shameless Plug for Someone Else

rogersgeorge on February 2nd, 2017

I happen to think the five-day-a-week online newsletter A Word A Day is pretty interesting. I recommend you subscribe. At the beginning of every week, Anu Garg (and his team) post a little essay describing the theme for the week’s words. Here’s what he posted recently:

To dehumidify is the opposite of humidify, but to devote is not the opposite of vote. To take is the antonym of to give, but caretaker and caregiver are synonyms. We add -er and -est to a word to make its comparative and superlative, but temper and tempest are not the comparative and superlative of temp.

English language learners around the world: you have my sympathy. I believe the language was designed as a secret handshake. Wouldn’t want everyone to learn the code so easily!

This week I have picked five random words from the code book of this language. Five* down, 999,995 more to go. Don’t let this discourage you. Google is working on the Enigma machine to break the code.

*Or 5000, if you have been with us since the beginning in 1994

Go to http://wordsmith.org/awad/subscribe.html to subscribe. You’ll be glad you did.

A List of Misused Words

rogersgeorge on January 4th, 2017

I’m still in vacation mode, so here’s a link to a list of solecisms posted by Steven Pinker, who teaches at Harvard. Pinker’s a good guy, but I confess I’ve never run into some of these goofs; perhaps I don’t hang around with Harvard types enough.


Good Writing

rogersgeorge on January 2nd, 2017

So it looks like I took New Year’s Day off! Maybe I’ll switch to even-numbered-day posts this year.

To my mathematician friends, 2017 is a prime, by the way.

I ran into a quote from Isaac Asimov, whose birthday is today, January 2.

A poor idea well written is more likely to be accepted than a good idea poorly written. -Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (2 Jan 1920-1992)

To which I respond,

Just think what you get when you have a good idea and it’s well written.

That’s what this site is about, though the ideas themselves are your responsibility.

I hope The Writing Rag is a good example to follow.

Kudos to The Washington Post

rogersgeorge on December 25th, 2016

An editorial datelined Dec 19 in The Washington Post had this headline:

Should the electoral college stop a Trump presidency? Depends whom you ask.

Good for them—they got “whom” right! I don’t particularly care what the article says (in fact I didn’t read it), but they got their English right! woo hoo!

Okay, while I’m praising people, here’s one about a kid who still believes in Santa Claus. He got both your and you’re right. Third cell:

I suppose he could say he’s as good as The Washington Post.