The bad thing about homonyms

rogersgeorge on August 31st, 2012

No spell checker catches them. Here’s a line from someone who ought to know better, Robert X. Cringley, the famous columnist for InfoWorld.

If the companies that win the rights to these domains want to horde them all for themselves and not let anyone else use them, they can do that.

Cringley’s Notes from the Field for 29 June on infoworld.com

Hmm. Hoard or horde, which is it?   (Y’know, if someone would tell me how to do a nice job of getting two pictures side by side in WordPress, I’d sure appreciate it.)

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Getting time right

rogersgeorge on August 28th, 2012

At first I was inclined to name this post “Being precise about time,” but that was misleading. I don’t plan to talk about nano- and attoseconds. I want to talk about using the correct words when you write about time.

Perhaps, at work, you reply to a request with something like

I’ll get back to you on that real fast.

Better for you to say that you’ll get back to the person real soon. (Yes, purists, it should be really soon, not real soon).

Soon is the measure of how long it takes to reach a goal, the time between now and when the event you’re thinking about happens.  Presumably not far into the future.

Fast refers to the speed at which you do something. If you get back to someone fast, you are, perhaps, in danger of colliding with someone in the hallway. You can say that a fast typist can finish typing a document sooner than a slow typist can if they start at the same time.

I once knew a mechanic who worked on cars used in drag racing (Craig Stiebeling, are you out there?). I learned from him that quick and fast have specialized meanings for drag racers:

Quick refers to  how long it takes to get from the start to the finish line, and fast is your rate of speed when you cross the finish line.

Then there’s urgency—a measure of how much pressure you’re under to work quickly to finish your task soon.

A word of advice for servants

rogersgeorge on August 26th, 2012

This doesn’t have to do with writing, exactly, and it doesn’t have to do with grammar, but it does have to do with language, and, well, meaning. Or implication.

Situation one: No doubt you  have sometimes been a servant of some sort—waiter in a restaurant, retail store clerk, employee. Maybe even a person behind the counter at the DMV. All these folks are servants.  We don’t think of being in these positions as being a servant, but really that’s what they are. Sometimes you place yourself temporarily in a position of servitude, such as when you hold the door for someone.

Generic servant. You should see some of the images Google came up with.

Situation two: Occasionally you might do someone a favor when you’re not in a position of servitude, and you’re inconveniencing yourself a little (or a lot) such as when you hand someone a quarter for the parking meter.

Situation three: Sometimes you give someone a gift. Holiday presents, of course, but smaller times, too, such as when you bring some extra napkins to the table in the lunch room to share with your companions, and one of them grabs a napkin, acknowledging it with a “thank you.”

In all these situations, when someone thanks you, how should you respond?

Situation three: “You’re welcome.” Use this when you’re holding the door, by the way—you don’t have time to say anything longer.

Situation two: “No problem.” This is a common response in a lot of situations, but the implication is that you didn’t mind the inconvenience.

Situation one: Use either “My pleasure” or “Glad to be of service.” Do not say “No problem.” When you are serving someone, your goal is to make the experience pleasant for them. That’s how restaurants get repeat customers. Tell them you are happy to serve, don’t say that you can stand being inconvenienced. People like to be told that what they are doing is pleasing.

When it comes down to it, you can pretty much always say “my pleasure” and you will make life more enjoyable for the other person. Isn’t that a nice thing to do?

Now somebody comment on this post and thank me for sharing the insight. Then I can say that I am pleased to be of service.