Kinda & Sorta: The Indecisive Twins

 

by Jean Foster Akin

From the mouth of a parenting expert being interviewed on a national television program: “Babies are sort of helpless, so new parents need to be vigilant in anticipating and supplying their children’s needs.”

Really? Babies are sort of helpless? Gee whiz, Captain Obvious, tell us more.

On a dog-related program, from the mouth of a television personality who makes more money in one show than you make in half a year: “You have to kind of brush the dog in order to keep up with her shedding in the summer.”

Kind of brush the dog? What does that even look like? It isn’t the actual brushing of the dog, apparently, so what could it possibly be?

Talking Heads of the media are full of this, and it’s hard to take: many of them supposedly went to college for journalism/communication, they’re getting paid to speak well, and, quite frankly, they should know better.

WHEN YOU DON’T KNOW SOMETHING FOR SURE

There are plenty of places you can  use “kind of” and “sort of” and make sense at the same time. Say you want to express a lack of certainty: “We chose a blue for the bedroom that was kind of a mixture of blue, purple, and green. It’d hard to explain, but it’s very soothing.”

Or, perhaps you’re trying to describe an unusual flavor: “It’s tastes sort of like broccoli, but with green bean and spinach flavors too.”

EXPRESSING HESITANCY

The words kind of/sort of can also be used to express hesitancy. “Darling, I love you, but I kinda think we need to take a break from each other.”

You’re going to experience the other person’s tears or shouting, and it won’t be pleasant for either of you, so you hesitate a little before dropping the bomb, and you try to soften the blow with kind of/sort of. It won’t work, by the way, because any fool knows that what you’re really trying to say is: “I’ve grown tired of you, dear. I find you annoying and your incessant chatter mind-numbing.  I want you to go away now so I can pursue that hottie over by the bar.”

Mother says (while running for the Band Aids): “Tommy, you’re a smart kid, but trying to ride your bike down the staircase was kind of dumb.” Notice here that Mother doesn’t  want to call Tommy dumb, but she wants Tommy to see that he has done a dumb thing. Notice, too, how kind of/sort of in this case adds a soupcon of UNDERSTATEMENT (it’s actually extremely dumb to ride a bicycle down a flight of stairs, so soupcon is an understatement too).

UNDERSTATEMENT

When you want to be funny, using the words kind of/sort of can add that humorous understatement many of us enjoy.

Growing up in the city, my siblings and I enjoyed watching a fellow by the name of Tom Jones. That was not his real name; that was the name we gave him. Tom Jones was known all over the city for standing on busy street corners in tie-dyed t-shirts and bell-bottoms that looked like they’d been made on his Grandma Jones’s sewing machine, using her old kitchen curtains. On special occasions he wore a turquoise zoot suit that he must have gotten at Good Will, and bright green platform shoes.  He’d hold an invisible microphone (I think it was also magic) and crooned loudly and off-key to passing vehicles and pedestrians. He really put his all into it, and we loved the guy–from a distance, of course.

One day, my brother and I were heading to a coffee shop uptown when we were forced to move over on the sidewalk. You see, Tom was adding some Saturday Night Fever moves to his performance that looked a tad dangerous to passers-by. When we got out of earshot, my brother looked at me in a deadpan way and said, “You know? I think that gentleman is kinda crazy.”

Understatement at its best, and the perfect job for kind of/sort of.

Advertisements
Posted in pet peeves, The Mechanics of Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Do I Use “Less” or “Fewer”?

by Jean Foster Akin

He spent LESS time writing this week as opposed to last week.

There were FEWER cats at the shelter this year than in previous years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a difference between the words FEWER and LESS that makes interchanging them improper. It makes interchanging them a mistake. It isn’t the worst mistake a person can make, but let’s see if we can fix that mistake, regardless, so that it is one less mistake we make. Okay? Okay. Here we go:

FEWER

The word FEWER relates to the NUMBER of INDIVIDUAL ITEMS OR THE NUMBER OF  PEOPLE we happen to be counting. For instance, the number of pencils in a box, the number of toothpicks in a cup, the number of colored glass balls on a Christmas tree, the number of people at a party. The word FEWER relates to COUNTABLE things.

USING THE WORD:

CORRECT: “Unfortunately, there were fewer people helping out at the Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless than at last year’s event.” You can count people individually, so the proper word to use in this sentence is FEWER. 

WRONG: “There are less people here than there were last year.”

CORRECT: “Have you noticed that Alpo is putting fewer dog biscuits in their boxes now, but charging consumers the same amount?” You can count the dog biscuits individually, therefore, use the word FEWER.

WRONG: “There are less dog bones in this box than the last time we bought dog biscuits.”

CORRECT: “Because of the fear of dangerous additives in the flu shot, fewer people are getting them.”  We can count the number of flu shots administered, and therefore the number of people taking them. We can count people and flu shots INDIVIDUALLY, therefore, we use the word FEWER in this sentence.

WRONG: “There are less flu shots being administered this year.”

LESS

The word “less” relates to SINGULAR MASS ITEMS, such as all-purpose flour, or sand, or grain, or rice, or salt water in the Atlantic ocean. Even the air around us is a singular mass item.

USING THE WORD

CORRECT: “Oh look at this! Last year I paid two dollars for a 16 ounce bag of rice, and this year I’m paying the same amount of money for 14 ounces! Those sneaky rice sellers are putting less rice in their bags!”

WRONG: “Those sneaky rice sellers are putting fewer rice in their bags.”

Of course, you probably saw the problem with that last sentence, didn’t you? But, you CAN say, “Manufacturers are putting FEWER rice grains in their bags this year,” because grains of rice CAN be counted individually, though why would you want to?

You can also use the word FEWER if you say, “Those sneaky rice sellers are putting FEWER ounces of rice in their bags.” This is because we can weigh and COUNT THE OUNCES in a bag of rice.

IN CONCLUSION

The word FEWER is used in sentences connected to INDIVIDUAL ITEMS and COUNTABLE THINGS: people, animals, marbles in a sack, shoes in your closet, etc.  

The word LESS is used in sentences connected to SINGULAR MASS ITEMS: air, dust, water, advice, sunshine, publicity, etc.

 

Happy Holidays from Writing New Worlds!

Posted in The Mechanics of Writing | Leave a comment

AUTHOR QUOTE: Finding Your Voice

If your passions are strong and you’re a fighter, the question of voice is a superficial one. You are eager to speak; you only need the podium. That is, you need the writing technique. But don’t worry about voice. If you make sure that you say what you mean, you’ll have a strong voice. However, “saying what you mean” means being graceful and clear, which takes a lot of labor. Being yourself when you write means to edit, go back, sharpen, to say precisely what you want to say.

Josip Novakovich, an excerpt from his book Fiction Writer’s Workshop.

 

 

posted by Jean Foster Akin, italics mine.

Posted in Encouragement, Letting Go, The Mechanics of Writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Easy Trick to Using “I” or “Me” When Writing or Speaking

“Who? ME??”

by Jean Foster Akin

Do you ever wonder whether to use the pronoun “I” or “me” while writing or speaking sentences such as “Me and Bill,” or “Gloria and I”?  Today I have a simple trick for you so that you don’t have to wonder if it’s  “I” or “Me” again. I mean, this trick is SIMPLE!

We can just forget about worrying over using “I” or “me” if those pronouns represent ONE person in a sentence. Am I right? Most of us won’t get confused and say: “Me went to the store,” or “Should I take the dog on a walk with I?”

It’s when we have to speak or write about one or more people accompanying the “I” or the “me” in the sentence that we run into trouble. But it is so easy to stay out of trouble if you use the simple trick I’m proposing.

THE SIMPLE “I/ME” TRICK EXPLAINED

Is it “Anna and me were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown,”  or “Anna and I were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown”?

To find out, all you need do is REMOVE “Anna” temporarily from the sentence and see if your selection of “I” or “me” works on its own. “Me was kicked out of the circus…” or “I was kicked out of the circus…”? Looks like the correct sentence is “Anna and I were kicked out of the circus after Anna slapped a clown.” THAT’S IT!  THAT’S ALL THERE IS TO THIS TRICK! You can’t get much simpler than that!

SOME EVERYDAY EXAMPLES

Which of the following sentences are CORRECT?

1). “Verna and me played several rounds of Mahjong last Tuesday.”

ANSWER: Using “me” in this particular sentence is INCORRECT. By removing Verna from the original sentence, you see that it reads “Me played several rounds of Mahjong last Tuesday.” There’s nothing right about that. So, “Verna and I played…” is correct. If you want to use the pronoun “me” you must rearrange the sentence a bit, like so: “Verna played several rounds of Mahjong with me last Tuesday.”

2). Anna and I robbed the liquor store on Saturday night.

ANSWER: Using “I” in the sentence is CORRECT. By removing Anna from the original sentence, you see that it reads: “I robbed the liquor store on Saturday night.” Using “I” was the right thing to do. Robbing the liquor store? Not so much. Maybe you need to stay away from this Anna person; she sounds like a bad influence.

(3). Me, Donna, and Jennifer walked the poodles.

ANSWER: Using “me” in this sentence is INCORRECT. By removing Donna and Jennifer from the original sentence, you will see that it reads: “Me walked the poodles.” So, say instead, “Donna, Jennifer, and I walked the poodles.” If you want to use the pronoun “me” you must say: “Donna and Jennifer walked the poodles with me.”

4). My husband and me want to go on a cruise.

ANSWER: Using “me” in this sentence is INCORRECT. By removing “My husband” from the sentence, you will see that it reads: “Me want to go on a cruise.” So say instead, “My husband and I want to go on a cruise.” Or, again, you can say, “My husband wants to go on a cruise with me.”

The “I/ME” trick is so simple, you never have to make a mistake with “I” or “me” again!

You’re welcome!

Any questions? Ask ’em in the comment section below.

 

 

 

Posted in The Mechanics of Writing | Tagged | 4 Comments

#1 Fuel for Writing Great Stories

French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac is said to have drunk 50 cups of coffee a day. He stated:

“As soon as coffee is in your stomach, there is a general commotion. Ideas begin to move…similes arise, the paper is covered. Coffee is your ally and writing ceases to be a struggle.”

 

For a wonderful tongue-in-cheek article on the man and his brew, click here:

https://www.newyorker.com/humor/daily-shouts/what-i-assume-honore-de-balzac-thought-after-drinking-each-of-his-fifty-daily-cups-of-coffee

 

quote posted by Jean Foster Akin

Photo by Jean Foster Akin:  Trees in Reflection

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

These People Walk Among Us, Too

Continue reading

Posted in Skin and Breath and Hair | Tagged , | 4 Comments

“Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!”

by Jean Foster Akin

It lifted my heart to see the wonder expressed by my fellow hominids over the Great American Eclipse on August 21, 2017. Of course, there were way too many panicky bipeds who threw up frantic warnings on YouTube of the Coming of the End, quoting scriptures and devising intricate numerological theories, all zinging with the negative energy of primordial anxiety as they hid in their modern day “caves,”  warning the rest of us that this eclipse was a sign of the END. It was the same with our early ancestors at the dawn of time when they saw lightning or heard thunder and believed that their little tribe had ticked off some god or other. But even today, when a person is living in that kind of a bubble, he thinks everyone outside it is the enemy, is ignorant of the truth, or is trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. He will not listen to anyone who tries to speak reason to him.

ZEUS IS ANGRY

It’s nothing new. Clay cuneiform tablets from 2300 and 1800 B.C. found in Mesopotamia document the trepidation of solar eclipses that the people of that  time suffered.* The poet Archilochus (c. 680-645 BC), following the total solar eclipse over the Greek isle of Paros, wrote, “Nothing in the world can surprise me now. For Zeus, the Father of the Olympian, has turned midday into black night by shielding light from the blossoming Sun, and now dark terror hangs over mankind. Anything can happen.”

PAT ROBERTSON’S GOD IS ANGRY

CBN founder Pat Robertson is famous for teaming up with his late pal, Jerry Falwell Sr., to declare that the catastrophe of 9/11 was a direct result of America allowing homosexuals, feminists, and the ACLU to walk freely among us. Robertson, who has made his fortune pretending to hear directly from the Almighty, predicted the world would end in October or November of 1982, then September 2007, and then, when the Earth continued to spin, stated in 2015, “I think things are getting ready to wrap up…the earth is hurtling towards some final conclusion, we all feel that.” At 86 years old, Robertson himself is hurtling towards a final conclusion of his own; maybe that’s what he’s been feeling. Anyway, in 2016, he decided that an asteroid will destroy the Earth and the Sun’s light will be blotted out for three days. He didn’t say when.

GEOLOGY AND PHYSICS HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, APPARENTLY 

Do you recall that scene from the original Ghost Busters film when Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, and Harold Ramis tell the Mayor of New York that the end of the world might be near: “Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes and volcanoes…the dead rising from the grave!” Bill Murray’s character, who believed none of this nonsense, got caught up in the excitement anyway: “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” It was a great scene.

Sadly, there are actually some people today, in the 21st Century, who do not believe that earthquakes are the unhappy result of shifting tectonic plates. These people hear of an earthquake in Papua New Guinea or a tsunami in Indonesia, and they say that the catastrophe occurred due to their god’s righteous anger against the people who live in those lands and who embrace “false religions.” Nice god you have there. I think I’ll pass on you telling me more about him.

You see, in 2017, we know that the number of Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Atheists, Protestants, or Confucians in a culture have no bearing on the number or intensity of tsunamis, earthquakes, or tornados which ravage their communities. No bearing at all. Also, the number of feminists in our world do not predict hurricanes,  typhoons, or the outbreak of  malaria, and we’re pretty sure that feminists had nothing to do with the attack on the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001–my apologies to Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell for contradicting their diety on that one. Principles of geology and cosmology are not informed by our opinions, prejudices, or religious beliefs.

WHERE DO WE HOMO SAPIENS FIT IN

The Virgo Supercluster, just ONE OF 10 MILLION SUPERCLUSTERS in our observable universe, houses a mass concentration of galaxies. One of those galaxies is the Milky Way Galaxy. But there are a “few” more: so far, our astronomers have counted 47,000 galaxies in the Virgo Supercluster alone.

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope capture the most comprehensive picture ever assembled of the observable Universe.

The Milky Way Galaxy is where the Earth’s solar system is located. We Earthlings live on a planet located on one of the four spiral arms of the Milky Way. The Milky Way Galaxy contains at least 200 billion stars, and NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has confirmed that there are 3300 exoplanets orbiting stars other than our own Sun. Thousands more are awaiting confirmation.

This is an amazing Universe. There are people who believe God created it for our enjoyment and delight, and they aren’t the ones stumbling along on city sidewalks, wild-eyed and wearing sandwich boards, warning of the coming of the end. Those are the ones you want to avoid.

Then there are people who do not believe in any god at all, and they’re jazzed by the natural world.

I’m happy to stick with enjoyment and delight, happy to be jazzed by it all.

 

Strickland, Ashley. “Why eclipses have inspired terror and awe.” CNN Health. Sunday, August 20, 2017.

Photo Credits: (Solar Eclipse NASA/Aubrey Gemignani);  Ghostbusters, 1984; Hubble Space Telescope, Ultra Deep Field Project.

Posted in Author Quotes, Skin and Breath and Hair | Leave a comment