” I can fly out of this place on the backs of books. I’ve gone to the end of the world on the wings of words. When I read, no one is after me. When I read, I am the one chasing, chasing after [the Numinous]. Please, I beg you… join the chase.”
from the film, “the Professor and the Madman” (2019) A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary, by Simon Winchester. Surprisingly, a very good film, even though it would seem like it might not be, what with the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. 🙂
When a friend asks politely, “Do you mind if I use your powder room?” or “Do you mind if I snitch one of those apples off your table? I’m famished!” What is the proper response? Or, at least, one of them?
If you DON’T MIND, then the answer is NOT “Yes.” The answer is “No,” or, “No, I don’t mind.”
“Would you mind hanging that picture on the wall?”
If you don’t mind, the answer is “No.”
DO you mind? “No, I don’t mind.”
Will you hang it? Different question. “Yes, I will.” Or “No. I don’t have time now.”
“Do you mind if I move this chair?” If no, “Nope!” You don’t mind.
So many people are asked questions such as, “Do you mind if I use your pencil?” And the owner of the pencil doesn’t mind. They are okay with giving up their pencil, and they say “Yes.” That is wrong. The answer should be “No”, or “No. I don’t mind.” Seems basic, and yet, people answer questions like that one incorrectly often.
So many people answer “do you mind” questions wrongly, as if the questioner is asking if they can or might use the powder room or eat the apple or use the pencil. But, instead, the questioner is asking IF YOU MIND. Yes, you answer. Really?
Yes, I mind? Who minds when their friend asks if it’s okay if that friend uses the powder room? What? Do you want your friend to have an accident like an old dog might, right on your rug?
And, who would mind giving a hungry friend an apple? My goodness, ask if said friend wants a sandwich and cup of coffee to go with that apple! Or a cup of hot soup, or a nice piece of fish, or whatever!
But, when the questioner asks “Do you mind if….” And the person who is being asked does NOT mind, he or she should say something along the lines of: “No, I don’t mind.”
It’s annoying to hear “do you mind” questions answered with a “yes.” Unless the person being asked minds giving their hungry friend an apple, and I have to wonder about that person.
TRIGGER WARNING: I began this blog in 2010, when the marketing department of the publishing house where they published my first book (The Filigree Slippers) told me to start a blog. So, I started writing about all the triumphs and vagaries of the writing life, publishing, and anything words. I wrote another novel (Cold As Winter Woods), under the name J.F. Akin, and I am finished with my third novel, waiting for it to be published through SkyDogs Publishing. But the culture went through an atomic bomb in 2019 and “two weeks to flatten the curve” became two and a half years. So many horrible events have transpired, and I kept writing here about “writing” and writing novels through it all while being angry about it all. But, though the subject of “writing” will continue to be a given here, I feel that I would like to say something to Americans, as well as to my brothers and sisters throughout the entire World. This may encourage an d may offend others. People have written, shouted, and acted out through violence, persecuting and rioting as well as showing love with their protesting and opinions—and I am going to express how I feel also at this time. If everyone else can, I can too. You may respond to me, but if you are hateful and use violent words to try to intimidate and berate me (as some do now in a BIG way with people they see as their opponents), I will not allow anyone to hear you through this blog. If you have well-thought-out opinions, free of ad hominem attacks of me and others (you can criticize, but don’t get personally nasty) I will answer you and let others read what you have to say. My decision. You don’t have to agree with me, but you will be courteous because this is my blog and you are a guest here. If you want to ride on my train, you better behave, or get the hell off.
Brad Pitt is an actor I like, and is physically breathtaking. So when Google offered me an article on him “coming out” as gay, I says to meself says I: “It’s Brad Pitt. Why not?”
In this Google article though, I realized it was not about the life of a handsome, possibly-gay man, it was, more, a hit piece on Brad Pitt as well as all men. Let me explain.
The writer of the article says Brad is toxic because he firmly corrected his son on an airplane, feeling the boy was being intractable. Parents still love those children to whom they give a good talking-to, and they love their children when they have to spank them (though the article writer never said Brad spanked said child, but, I’m just saying’…). Children/teens are young so they love us and hate us for correcting them—but they will get over it. It is stressful for many adults to fly through the air in a several-tons metal cylinder that might fall from the sky, without out-of-control kids making more stress. And sometimes we parents misjudge our kids, but often we don’t. So Brad spoke powerfully to his son. Thanks Dad! Oh, and the writer of that article also indicated that Brad snapped at his wife, Angelina, as well, on that flight. Oh my, I have snapped at my husband; my husband has snapped at me, too. And not even on a flight with an annoying kid!
I dated a young man when I was a teen, before I married my present wonderful husband. The previous young man groomed me first then beat the hell out of me regularly for 18 months. I was so afraid of him, and he told me if I tried to leave him, he would find me and kill me, my parents, and siblings. Now, THAT is toxic! But, these days, all a man has to do is have the “wrong” opinion about anything and speak his mind (you know, like the Woke crowd does all the time).
I wish the guy I dated only spoke his mind! I didn’t need that fat lip, those black eyes, and those bruises when he got angry and bit me. I didn’t need to be pushed from his a moving car as he drove 80 mph because he was angry. I escaped that fatal car ride, but barely. He was the embodiment of the word “toxic.
What have we come to in this country where, because I have ovaries, I can almost murder someone (especially a man), and not be toxic? But my husband can give his well-considered opinion, and he is “toxic”? A British woman was raped and went to police–which we tell women to do if they are raped– encouragement because they don’t tell police because of fear that their humiliation will be exposed in a public trial. But this poor woman was raped by a transgender. This transgender said he was a woman because he “identified” as a woman and wore a skirt and a wig and high heels; the police would not help the woman victim because, although this transgender “woman” had a penis and put that penis into the victim’s vagina against her will (rape)—the police said a MAN did not rape this woman because the penis-owner identified as a WOMAN, and WOMEN CANNOT RAPE WOMEN!! Someone ought to tell this “woman’s” penis! I am not attacking all transgender people here—only the few rapists among them!
Changing the meaning of the words “woman” or “pandemic” or “rape” or “recession” does not change their actual definitions, contrary to the beliefs of Karine Jean-Pierre. As an English Major I know that how the word “pandemic” was used the last three years is not what that word originally means, nor, am I a woman because I “identify” as one (you can be a natural born male and as a adult wear a skirt, that doesn’t make you a woman—however, this is a free-ish country, so call yourself what you want, but don’t try to force me to believe it, too), I sure know what a “recession” is, I know what “rape” is, and I know what a REAL toxic male is because I’ve seen one in action.
BLACK LIVES DO MATTER, (NOT THE GROUP, BUT THE SENTIMENT)
Black lives matter? Yes, to many black and white people I know (remember Martin Luther King rallies?A mixture of concerned whites stood shoulder to shoulder with really oppressed blacks under the advisement of a fantastic black man), but to the blacks and whites who burned down a corner market after stealing the chips and sodas in the name of George Floyd, not so much. A lady on TV wept and said that she shopped for MOST of her food at that market because she had no car and could not go to another store. She was a black woman. If “all black lives matter”, why didn’t hers? Are those black and white “activists” color blind? Yes, and that is only one of their problems.
If Brad Pitt is gay, he is gay. All of us are who we are, and that is so often lovely and pleasant. It does not matter if one is gay or lesbian or bisexual or heterosexual, or trans (the latter whom I do not believe belong in women’s sports nor women’s bathrooms, but if one of them is not angrily politicized, I believe he is a wonderful person, the same as different people I have met). The critical and ignorant among us do not believe this, but there are many more gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, and trans men and women who love and respect others. Be like them, why don’t you?
Can Brad act? Is he beautiful? Yes and yes. But Cancel Culture makes it hard for me to believe their rhetoric: that Brad is toxic. They think everyone but themselves are toxic! Prove it to me with more than a father correcting a son on a plane or anywhere else. Whether you like him or you don’t. Correcting a child who is immature and unaware of the people around him or her is normal and appropriate for his or her parents. If Brad, or any other man is toxic, give me reasons, and his having a penis is not a reason, any more than a woman having a vagina makes her saintly: we’ve all met women who were definitely shrews.
You’re free to ARGUE any point here with me (and arguing is very different from fighting, the latter which “activists” do frequently). If you have ever been beaten and almost killed as I was several times by a REAL toxic male, defend that poisonous creep if you have the “courage” to do so in front of me…and the stupidity. If you think it’s okay to burn down a market in a neighborhood where a black woman shops with her black friends and you scream “Black lives matter!” while doing it, you can disagree with me, but make an appointment with a psychiatrist first because you need help.
If one day you find yourself depressed, this is you at the time. Observe the depression because you cannot fix it. It’s a “defeat” for you. It is a futility, as far as it is concerned. But you should observe it, and don’t try to “fix” it because…
you might as well sweep dust down the stairs
with a handful of bamboo shadows.
Alan Watts, was born January 6, 1915, and died November 16, 1973. He was an English writer and speaker. He is known for interpreting and popularizing Japanese, Chinese, and Indian traditions of Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu philosophies for a western audience.
One of my friends answered the phone one day and her son was on the line, saying he had just seen a murder! Naturally, clarification was in order. Where did this occur? Was the murderer someone the son knew? Was the victim known to him? What? Where? Who?
My friend’s son then told his mother that he had just seen a murder of crows!
It’s nice to experience a clever turn of phrase when one answers the phone, or when one is listening to a speaker or reading a book. And, in the case of a book, when the writer gets hold of character, dialogue, and scene, it’s a glorious conglomeration, it’s a wonderful thing. The author Donald Westlake is one such writer, and I have been amazed with his gift when reading every one of his Dortmunder novels. But we have to be careful to just relax and stay away from “flowery” when writing. Not that Westlake is flowery—his writing, in fact, is as close to perfect as it comes, and his novels are funny and sound like his characters definitely belong there. In the Dortmunder series, his characters are thieves and their language shows this. I laugh at their conversations, and it can be difficult to get a reader to laugh at one’s story. Westlake seems to do this effortlessly.
I’m reading Jean Shepherd right now, you know, the author of IN GOD WE TRUST: ALL OTHERS PAY CASH? The Christmas Story film was based on a part of that novel. Exceptional writing, and, again, satisfying in its humor.
But we were discussing flowery language, which neither of the aforementioned authors uses unless it works for a character. So, for a newer writer, is it better to say “green” or “viridescent”? It depends on what you’re writing about and where you’re writing—your setting. And don’t forget your character. In your novel, your character is a college professor or a non-traditionally educated garbageman and a consummate reader. Viridescent in the first case is naturally a word which a professor might use to mean “green.” Especially if she is an English professor. And viridescent is the word the garbageman uses because he is a constant reader and knows the word. He may just use the word because it’s different, or because he wants people to know he is educated enough as a reader to know it, or maybe he’s studying how an art dealer might word such a phrase. It is important to him because he wishes to purloin a genuine Vermeer from a museum and wants to impress the curator so she won’t suspect him ahead of time. Hey! Don’t judge him, he’d have to haul a lot of garbage to get as much money as he can get (on the black market) with an original Vermeer! But you, who is not trying to impress or purloin, you might not want to write viridescent on your FaceBook wall, typing that you purchased a “viridescent shirt”. No, you are writing casually. Your setting! You might want to stick with green, lime green, kelly green, jade green, bright green, aqua on your FaceBook wall…you get the point. But when writing your poem or your novel, you might want to use the word “viridescent”. It will depend on a number of facets.
“He watched in utter fascination as her platinum hair fanned out over the shoulders of her viridescent satin gown, her delicate feet prancing to the rhythm of the orchestra.” It’s a magical moment for both of them, so a magical word like viridescent is completely in order, especially if you mentioned her green gown earlier in your novel. That way most of your readers won’t be interrupted from the world you have created in order to go look up the word viridescent.
And, if you use a thesaurus, remember that there are all sort of words written under the heading for which you’re searching. For instance, if you want synonyms for “disturb”, you cannot choose any old word from a thesaurus to replace “disturb”. If your lovers don’t wish to be “disturbed”, you cannot replace that word with “rearrange”, or “muddle”. These are lovers and they don’t want to be “troubled” with day to day issues that can wait till later. If your burgler “disturbs” a table of nicknacks while breaking into a house through a window, he has “disorganized” those items or he has “made a mess” of them, he has not “muddled” them. And if your character is “disturbed” does that mean that she is mentally ill? Or maybe she is annoyed. Maybe she is confused by someone’s irrational behavior. So take care to use the right word for your characters’ situations.
In my editing work, I see aspiring writers use more elaborate language, when simpler language would be better. They write “consume an orange” when “eat an orange” might be just fine. Professional authors who have been around the block with critiques of their work don’t do this very much, if at all. So, I thought I would mention this for your own benefit (not for your perquisite, not for your utility, but for your edification, for your profit, for your gain).
Okay, here’s a pet peeve of mine: using the phrase “going forward”. When someone states that he or she is changing a policy “going forward”, or he or she is going to be paying a lot more attention to that detail “going forward”, I can’t help but mentally snap my red pencil in two.
People pick up a redundant, useless, or nonsensical phrase from newspapers, television, wherever. Then they start using it. Then their social circle picks it up. Then the people in the next circle use it, and on it spreads like a sexually transmitted disease. You heard “going forward” or “moving forward” first a few years ago, and now it’s caught on so much that Mr. Biden’s press secretary uses it with almost the same frequency as she uses the phrase “circle back.” But, before you think I’m picking on her only, know that I am aware that EVERYONE seems to use it.
“Yes,” you say to your dinner guest as she passes into anaphylactic shock, “I’ll remember, going forward, that you can’t eat scallops.” See? The phrase can be found within every facet of American life.
“Going forward”. In what other direction than forward can we make our needed changes? Do we make changes going backward? Do we remember things so we can somehow alter the past? No, that can’t be done, so we remember past unpleasant experiences, errors, or mistakes so that we can avoid them in the future. We cannot change the past. Everything we do must be done in the next second, going forward.
Now, we can go backward in the metaphysical sense, yes?? You are in an abusive relationship. Your eyes open to your self-worth. You leave. You distance yourself from that toxic energy. You start to get your life together. Things are getting better…then you say yes to his or her invitation to a party, and BOOM!, you’re right back where you were. You’ve gone BACKWARD in an emotional way, in a metaphysical way. You’ve allowed past programming to intrude, and what you’ve learned about yourself has been forgotten. You have moved BACKWARD emotionally. But you can’t do anything about it except NOW. In the next second. Going forward. So why do you feel you have to clarify to the rest of us that you are going to make changes going forward?
It’s like those people who are talking to you about something their deceased father told them, and they say, “When my father was alive, he said…” WHEN ELSE could he have said anything at all except when he was alive? Indicating that your late father said something does not require the clarifying addition: “when he was alive.”
Saying “going forward” is the same. It is unnecessary. And, it drives me to distraction, so I hope you’ll remember that, going forward.
A person that wishes to know if he or she should use the word “that” or “who” should know that “who” is for people and “that” should be used for anything else. Therefore , the proper way to begin this paragraph is: “A person who…”
Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?
I guess some ethologists might call a chimp, gorilla, or bonobo “who”, and I can see one might go either way on that one depending on how close to being persons one believes primates to be. And, of course, because we persons are not “mineral” or “vegetable” in the popular classification, we must be “animal” and, therefore, primate. I say this because most people do not resemble reptiles, birds, or fish—people resemble the great apes, the primates. Or, the great apes resemble people. How you say it depends on your level of ego, I guess. But, this is another thought for another day.
TO RETURN TO THE ORIGINAL POINT, GREAT APES ASIDE
A dog that runs away might need a better leash.
A table that wobbles is annoying, especially when it causes cups of hot coffee to slosh each time one stands up from it.
A plumber who charges too much won’t get a lot of work.
A nurse is a person who cares for others who are sick.
Using the word “that” in the place of the word “who” might be incorrect, but it isn’t a matter that would lose you a position at the bank or as a barista, most likely. However, if you are an editor and you miss correcting “that” when your author means “who”, then you haven’t completely done your job.
We all do it though. We’ve all missed it. Most likely because we hear the word “that” used so often wrongly in speech or we’ve seen it written so often wrongly in text that we tend to hear it or skim over it as if it’s correct.
I have a good friend who finds the use use of “that” when discussing people most irritating. It is something I too have noticed in some television show dialogue, and when the Talking Heads on the News (who make an obscene amount of money every day to get it right) say it without blinking a makeup-gunked eye. I’ve seen it written in the newspaper and in some books as well (the latter not used cleverly by the author in a character’s dialogue, but by the author while writing narrative—or, perhaps unintentional on the author’s part and missed by the editor at the publishing house). People write it in texts and emails, too, and say it to their friends, but these people aren’t necessarily being paid to speak properly. The fact that they’re furthering the massacre of the English language aside–I guess we should cut them some slack. I’m sure I’ve slipped in a text or email too. It’s the place we all relax our grammatical standards.
But next time you begin to tell a friend about “the gardener that shrieked at me to use the walkway, not the lawn,” remember that you are using the wrong word here. Not the end of the World, no, but an annoyance to logophiles everywhere.
A platypus doing what, apparently, the platypus does.
When a speaker states: “A large amount of people do not like the new regulation,” this speaker is incorrect, and he or she (no, not they) sound unschooled.
We do not use the word amount when we discuss countable items—like, for instance, people. We say, instead: “A large number of people do not like the new regulation.” This is also true for “the number of pencils in a box”, “the number of shoes one has tried on”, (or, “on which one has tried”, but that’s clunky as well as prissy), “the number of lamps at the shop”, “the number of dogs going pee-pee in my backyard”, or “the number of platypuses doing…whatever it is platypuses do”.
If you have a bag of rice, there are many pieces or grains of rice, yes, but you don’t count each grain to see how many to spoon onto the dinner plate of a two-year old child. Instead, you spoon a small amount of rice onto a young child’s plate. If someone else is spooning out the rice, you might say, “Please give her only a small amount of rice.” Amount. Grains of rice, yes, can be counted, but rice is sold in bulk. We say, “Honey can you buy a bag of rice at the store?” Not, “Honey, can you buy 21,773 grains of rice at the store?” We say “a bag of rice”, and those bags are spoken of in “numbers of bags,” but the rice itself is called: “an amount of rice”.
It is common to hear well-paid national television news people say things like, “The amount of people say they are voting for…” and, “The amount of tests that were given…” Nope, it’s “the number people” and “the number of tests…” They’ve been schooled in grammar and have sat through English classes since they were in their nappies, and are paid the salaries of movie stars, yet…
How about the word they? People are quick to say they now in an effort not to label anyone’s sexuality, or because they’ve heard the word they used improperly and don’t know any better—despite having also been taught for years in school that they indicates plural, and he or she indicates singular. I’m certainly not trying to hurt, offend, or label anyone, but there has to be another word that’s more grammatical.
But that’s another pet peeve of mine for another day.
“I suppose there must be idiots who dream of signing deals with publishers while fully intending to drink martinis in cool bars or ride around on skateboards. But the actual writers I know are experts in neurotic self-torture. Every page of writing is the result of a thousand tiny decisions and desperate acts of will.”
― Helen Garner (notable works: Monkey Grip, The First Stone, Joe Cinque’s Consolation, This House of Grief)