One of the most common mistakes I found as a sub-editor was around the confusion of the use of the words flaunt and flout. The result was often hilarious.
It seems it is an age-old problem common to the news reporting discipline and these partners in language crime have an interesting history. You may want to say the wanton woman flouted her breasts as she walked along the busy street.
Fans filled up the spaces of the buzzing bookshop last night at the launch of Happy Birthday Raashi, a poetry anthology by Raashida Khan, the author’s first published work.
Khan’s journey as a writer for the past 20 years has been a start-stop affair. She first tried her craft in short stories in the back office
Today I celebrate Dr.Seuss for all the entertainment he provided in my childhood.
I loved his books and would sleep with them under my pillow so that the stories would fill my dreams and occupy my earliest waking hours.
Today I invite you to look at a piece of work I did some years ago.
In the spirit of disruption an after and before. Have you noticed how disruptors are the new cool? Anything or anyone who disrupts the normal way of doing things gets the kudos, the fan base and the stand-up-and-take-a-look response that is expected. Now let’s dispense with tradition and turn it upside down.
So this is how it’s going to go.
Rats! If you’ve ever had the problem of rats in your home, you may identify with strongly negative feelings about the small annoying creatures.
Thanks to my compulsive TV watching habits, I learnt that the collective noun for rats is mischief – a mischief of rats.
Collective nouns for animals, such as a congress of baboons are very interesting and often surprising – too many to mention here.
Thinking back to last year when the rats came to eat the dog food that was carelessly left around the home, their trails of mischief were abundant. From the holes in the packaging of the sturdy dog food bags, to little poo droppings all over the place, it was plain to see we had a rat problem.
We could hear them running in the roof, and saw a couple run across the lounge floor, but at such a speed, we could not catch them. We would shriek, “there goes a rat” but be frozen to inaction as the rat scuttled to safety under the cupboard. And who wants to touch a rat with bare hands and no trapping device? (not that I would use one of those).
It wasn’t long before the rats were breeding faster than rabbits. We had to call the exterminator to get rid of the multiple mischiefs.
Rats are associated with dirt, disease and disgust, so when you refer to someone as a rat, you imply that they are not trustworthy.
To rat on someone means to give the game away, in other words, to tell the boss that your colleague is not at work because he is applying for another job, and not at the doctor with a near fatal tumor.
Rats in the language give expression to displeasure or distaste but their close cousin the mouse, has a much friendlier reputation. They are considered cute and considerate – as quiet as a mouse – and many a character has been animated to be a larger than life rodent. Perhaps we have Mickey Mouse to thank for that.
Any famous rats of Walt Disney fame? None that I know of, but thousands upon thousands used in medical experiments for the health of human kind.
This week a client asked me, “Is it okay to write CEO?”
I was a bit taken aback because CEO is one of those ‘words’ that is better known by its shortened version than its elongated other – Chief Executive Officer.
Copy required for newspapers must maximise efficiency as space is premium and no editor will accommodate three words, when three letters will serve the same purpose adequately.
Some organisations and concepts have preferred usage in their abbreviated form than their full name or title such as Opec or Unesco, LED, HTML and radar.
You know exactly what they mean and how they apply, right? So why worry yourself by delving into the long form.
What is interesting however is how abbreviations are classed. There are two main types: initialisms and acronyms.
Acronyms are shortenings of phrases that use, usually the first letter of each of the words, to make up a new word.
- NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation)
- AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)
OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)
- ASAP (as soon as possible)
- Radar (radio detecting and ranging)
Scuba (self-contained underwater breathing apparatus)
In many style guides, it is recommended to write these contractions in word style, meaning to start with a capital letter and use lower case characters for the remaining. Others prefer to use all capital letters, while some have preferences on a case by case basis.
Initialisms are abbreviations that take the initials of the word and each letter is pronounced separately such as FBI, DVD, BTW, IBM.
If a word is used in its shortened form such as Dr, Mrs, Prof, Wifi, biopic and takes neither the characteristics of an acronym nor an initialism, it is simply an abbreviation.
BTW (By the way) not all grammar sites and dictionaries agree; this is my view.
And if you are not confused enough, there’s also a word form called a backronym. Another time perhaps?
No damn synchronicity: Synonyms and antonyms
I was recently at an Editing for Inclusivity workshop which aimed to address racial, gender and all other kinds of stereotyping that fills our communication to an embarrassing extent.
This applies in both written and verbal exchanges, only easier to forget and forgive when stated verbally.
In an effort to make workshop attendants better editors, in one exercise, we scrutinised a blog ‘The pot calling the kettle black’
In the racially charged environment, such that South Africa presents, it was considered extremely bad taste. The essence of the blog, was the current president accusing the former president of something he failed to address, the author stating that the current president had done no better.
Suffice to say, use of the word ‘black’ stirred racial angst and the blog drew more than its fair share of flak. Some even said all idioms referencing colour should be dropped from the English language.
I would not like to see that happen. But what I can suggest is that writers avoid the use of insensitive idioms that could offend certain groups, and opt for others that mean the same thing. The English language has a vast array of idioms and finding an alternative cannot be that difficult.
She (the blogger) could have gone with “Take the log out of your eye before you look to take the speck out of mine.”
This has seen many incarnations with the ‘log’ being substituted with beam, etc
Here are some:
- English Standard Version
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
- Berean Study Bible
You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
- Berean Literal Bible
Hypocrite! First cast out the beam from your eye, and then you will see clearly to cast out the splinter from the eye of your brother.
- King James Bible
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
This idiom means that people are quick to see faults in others that they fail to see in themselves.
Isn’t this a human failing many of us are guilty of? And yet the blogger was trying to say the president is a hypocrite for failing to see the error of his own ways, while quick to point out the failings of the former man at the helm.
When all else fails, drop the idiom and use the phrase as you intend it to be understood. Better safe than sorry.
Why is the world your oyster?
Have you noticed how your language changes to fit trends that begin to invade your life?
Twitterati is a word in use since the advent of Twitter, Google is a frequently practised verb since the search engine came to dominate our lives.
And since men have shown a fondness for women’s wear and women have demonstrated their liking for some things once thought to be the domain of men, this too has given rise to new words.
Do you remember when grunge first came into the language? That was in 1987 when Mark Arm of Green River and Mudhoney first uses the word. It was originally used to describe a dirty sounding rock music genre “raucous guitar sound and lazy vocal delivery”, and later came to mean dirt, grime. It also described a sloppy style of dress, representative of band members’ attitude towards clothing and appearance.
The list below is the top 10 gender/appropriate list that is most in use today
1. Bromance (n): A close but non-sexual relationship between two men.
2. Grrrl (n): A young woman regarded as independent and strong or aggressive, especially in her attitude to men or in her sexuality (A blend of “Grrrr” and “Girl.”)
3. Guyliner (n): Eyeliner that is worn by men.
4. Jeggings (n): Tight-fitting stretch trousers for women, styled to resemble a pair of denim jeans.
5. Mankini (n): A brief one-piece bathing garment for men, with a T-back.
6. Mini-Me (n): A person closely resembling a smaller or younger version of another.
7. Muffin Top (n): A roll of fat visible above the top of a pair of women’s tight-fitting low-waisted trousers.
8. Screenager (n): A person in their teens or twenties who has an aptitude for computers and the Internet.
9. Muggle (n): A person who is not conversant with a particular activity or skill.
10. Noob (n): A person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity, especially computing or the use of the Internet.
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