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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's been some time

So lately, I've been having fun with the distinction between action and non-action verbs, and by fun, I mean attempting to communicate the distinction in a maddening attempt to improve the minds of America's pride, future, and emerging workforce. Why am I teaching those concepts? Let's not go into that. For the uninitiated, action verbs describe the action of a subject, "He moves with anger." Non-action verbs describe the subject itself or simply state that the subject is extant: "He is angry" or "He is around Republicans." First, I emphasize the distinction between non-action and action sentences, and then I have my students attempt to write some  action-verb sentences and non-action verb sentences  Some of my students came up with the following gems for  non-action sentences:
                                                    1 I taste salty.
                                           2 I taste good.
 After the first kid came up with his example, I felt a little embarrassed. After the older, taciturn gentleman came up with the second example, more or less riffing off the first example, I didn't know what to say. These are awkward expressions of sensuality in the classroom.

  I honestly couldn't think of anything to write in this blog until I started writing, but there is another distinction you might enjoy learning about: the difference between sometime
 and some time.  You may already know this, but like that one kid in your elementary school class, I just need some attention. Sometime refers to  an unspecified, perhaps unknown period of time. For example, you could write of the blog "Sometime last year this idiot started writing these pointless rants" or "he'll have to write something worthwhile sometime." Now, some time,  two words, means a lengthy period of time. For example, "It's been quite some time since he wrote anything that hasn't put me to sleep faster than a Quaalude." 

                with just a dash of humor,
                 Ray Ray Montoya

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Angry Pot Beats The Kettle

There is nothing more safe or impersonal to discuss than the weather. Security guards with gravelly Brooklyn accents discuss it; pudgy, round-faced Lieutenant Governors who eat Puppy Chow discuss it. Don't take my word for it; just listen to my unverifiable anecdote. I remember working in the lobby of a governmental building as a receptionist of sorts. The Lieutenant Governor walked in and there was a titter among the employees and appointees of the executive branch. Two lobbyists waiting to be escorted to a meeting heard the Lieutenant Governor make some idle conversation about the weather, and decided to engage him in further conversation about it, "Oh is it a really nice, stiff breeze or just a gentle wind?" He stopped walking for a moment, looked down, contemplating, "It's a pleasant breeze, but not too strong." Yeah, I know, scintillating inside baseball being served up here.


The other topic of conversation that seems equally as pointless (at times anyway) is illness.  No matter if you have a flu, cold, sinus infection, or any other bugs or attacks on your immune system, someone will always say, "oh yeah, it's going around." Of course, some form of rhino-virus or flu is going around. "It," whatever "it" is, has been going around since The Landlord told Adam and Eve to get out. Even so, whether one person has it at the office, or they all have it at the office, someone will insist it's "going around." And if you get a cold during the summer? "Oh, those summer colds are the worst." No, they aren't. They're just frustrating. Wow, this is a rant after Andy Rooney's own heart.


What else does grandpa need to get off his withered chest? The use of the word "foodie." Food connoisseurs, gourmets, whatevers,  have taken to calling themselves "foodies."  I suppose it's a symptom of the insane English tendency to abbreviate just about everything. Tonight to tonite. But really, foodies? Do we really have to reduce and infantalize language that much?  The pot may be about to meet the kettle, but when I hear someone use that word, I think of some inarticulate 12 year old girls talking over the phone about restauraunt employees or fat people. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mostly Useful

 My layman's understanding of muscle memory is that once your muscles learn certain activities, you can do things like walk, ride a bike, and shoot hoops, naturally, reflexively, as if on auto-pilot. I also use that as an excuse  when I get people's names wrong- "Julie, my tongue muscles are to blame for calling you 'Julia'. Really, I know your name." I think something similar applies to memory. When I consciously decide how to spell words I often misspell them, whereas if I just write and don't reflect, I'll usually spell correctly. Case in point: I had to clarify the difference between "effect" and "affect" some students and suddenly I realized I wasn't entirely certain. In short, "effect" is a noun referring to things like consequences or results and affect is the activity of  influencing. If this seems like a no-brainer to you, then you're right. I would leave a Return of The Living Dead zombie hungry with my ignorance on some days. For a more comprehensive (and interesting treatment of this, look hither:http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/affect-versus-effect.aspx

 Unrelated, and equally as irrelevant,  adverb and adjective confusion can produce some interesting sentences. I explain the difference between adjectives and adverbs so much during the week that I absolutely refuse to do so now. Look them up if you don't know! That's an order! What I will say is that adverbs quite often end with the suffix "ly." He ate hungrily, she walked slowly, Buster snored loudly, etc. This confuses some people learning English because although many adverbs end with an "ly," not all do. An Arabic friend once related that she was uncertain why an acquaintance of hers felt miffed after she called to tell him that he was "mostly welcome to come to my birthday party."