Posted by: episystechpubs | June 2, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Kodak Moment

Hello everyone,

I remember saying “Calgon, take me away!” one day in the office and having the person I was talking to stare at me like I was speaking another language. Then I realized, this peer of mine was too young to remember the Calgon commercials. Outside of feeling old, I also wondered what other advertisements or phrases I might utter that the younger folks might not relate to.

When I received this email the other day about the idiom “a Kodak moment,” I thought that it might be one of those things. Here’s a definition of the idiom from The Grammarist:

A Kodak moment is a moment in time that is so precious because of its sentimental value or its beauty, one wishes to preserve it on film. For instance, a baby’s first steps may be considered a Kodak moment. A couple’s first dance at a wedding may be considered a Kodak moment. However, the view of the sweeping vista of the Grand Canyon may also be considered a Kodak moment, or the budding of a beautiful flower.

The expression Kodak moment came from a popular advertising campaign for the American Kodak cameras in the latter half of the twentieth century, produced by Eastman Kodak. Kodak cameras such as the Brownie and Instamatic cameras were reasonably priced and easy to use, so even the most inexperienced or busy people could operate them. Digital photography and phone cameras led to the demise of the once ubiquitous home Kodak camera, and the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

Today, Kodak focuses on business imaging. Note that the word Kodak is capitalized in the idiom Kodak moment, because it is a proper name.

I distinctly remember the last time I heard the phrase “This is a Kodak moment!” I was at the San Diego Zoo®, where they actually had little signs around the zoo in places they thought you might want to snap a picture (or grab your cell phone and click). A crowd was gathered around the Komodo dragon exhibit. Our dear dragon was outside, which was unusual, but that wasn’t what the moment was about. People were yelling, kids were being shuffled away, and folks like me gathered closer to take photos as the dragon moved around the cage—wearing part of his lunch (a dead dear) on top of his head. It was feeding time, and the dragon was wandering about with this awkward deer toupee. When a man shouted, “This is a definite Kodak moment!” I cracked up. So much for it being a precious moment…like a baby’s first step.

I wonder what, in twenty years, the equivalent of this phrase will be, and whether it will make today’s 30-year-olds feel like grandparents.

There he is, your Komodo dragon.”

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 28, 2020

Editor’s Corner: How a Word Gets in the Dictionary

Last week, I shared some word lists: a list of new words, a list of old words with new meanings, and a list of fading words. The list of new words may have got you wondering how words get included in the dictionary. Who decides? How do they decide on some words and not others?

This information, along with the lists I shared last time, comes an article called “How does a Word Become a Word?” The article points out that the first English dictionary, called The Elementaire (1582), contained about eight thousand words. In 2020, we English speakers use more than one million words; and interestingly, fewer than half of those are listed in a dictionary. But how do words get into a dictionary?

Well, some lucky (and I’m sure fascinating!) people are paid to spend their days researching English usage and then updating dictionaries based on what they find. There are numerous dictionaries—our dictionary of choice is Merriam-Webster, but there are many others. For a new word to be included in a dictionary, it must meet two specific criteria: it must “be used across a wide area by many people who agree on its meaning,” and it must have “staying power.”

Dictionary writers and editors watch word usage, and if a word meets the two criteria, they consult with colleagues to be as sure as they can that it has permanence, and if they determine that it does, they add it to the dictionary.

Not only are they always adding words, they are also evaluating existing words and removing those that have faded from use. What a job, eh? I’d like, just for a day, to have the power to remove words I don’t like from the English language. Bye bye phlegm. Bye bye impactful.

If you’re interested and you have a strong stomach, you can find quite a few lists online of English words that people hate. Phlegm is on most of the lists as are many other words that have to do with bodily fluids.

But some bodily fluids are music to our ears:

Blood, Sweat & Tears, circa 1969

BTS, released their song “Blood, Sweat, & Tears” in 2016

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 26, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Pounds and Ounces

Dear Editrix,

I was wondering last night (I do my best thinking in the middle of the night!) why the abbreviations for pounds is lbs. and ounces is oz. Maybe you can shed some light on this?

Sincerely,

KS

Dear KS,

What a great question! I found an article on this topic in Mental Floss that provides an explanation for both of those abbreviations. I hope this sheds that needed light on your nighttime thoughts!

Lb is an abbreviation of the Latin word libra. The primary meaning of libra was balance or scales (as in the astrological sign), but it also stood for the ancient Roman unit of measure libra pondo, meaning “a pound by weight.” We got the word “pound” in English from the pondo part of the libra pondo but our abbreviation comes from the libra. The libra is also why the symbol for the British pound is £—an L with a line through it. The Italian lira also used that symbol (with two lines through it), the word “lira” itself being a shortened version of libra.

“Ounce” is related to the Latin uncia, the name for both the Roman ounce and inch units of measurement. The word came into English from Anglo-Norman French, where it was unce or ounce, but the abbreviation was borrowed from Medieval Italian, where the word was onza. These days the Italian word is oncia, and the area once covered by the Roman Empire has long since switched to the metric system.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 21, 2020

Editor’s Corner: New, Old, and Fading Words

Happy Thursday, friends!

A couple of weeks ago, I shared some words that have evolved to have different meanings than the ones they started with. Today, by popular demand, I have something similar for you.

GrammarBook.com provided three interesting lists of English words:

  • New words
  • Old words that have added a new meaning
  • Words that are fading in usage

I don’t think there are any real surprises here. But it’s exciting to be aware of changes like these as they are happening. It makes me feel like I’m helping to shape the English language by being conscious of the words I do and don’t use.

New Word (part of speech, approx. first use)

Meaning

bucket list (n., 2005–10) a list of things a person wants to achieve or experience, as before reaching a certain age or dying
unfriend (v., 2005–10) to remove a person from one’s list of friends or contacts on social media
hashtag (n., 2005–10) a word or phrase preceded by a hash mark (#), used within a social-media message to identify a keyword or topic of interest and prompt a search for it
selfie (n., 2000–05) a photograph taken with a mobile device by a person who is also in the photograph, especially for posting on social media
blogger (n., 1995–2000) one who writes about topics, experiences, observations, or opinions, etc., on the Internet
Old Word (part of speech, approx. first use)

Added Meaning

mouse (n., before 900) a hand-held device moved about on a flat surface to direct the cursor on a computer screen
browse (v., 1400–50) to search for and read content on the Internet
cookie (n., 1695–1705) a message or a segment of data containing information about a user, sent by a web server to a browser and sent back to the server each time the browser requests a web page
stream (v., 13th century) to transfer digital data in a continuous stream, esp. for immediate processing or playback
tweet (n.,1768) a post made on the Twitter online message service
Fading Word (part of speech, approx. first use)

Meaning

gal (n., 1785–95) young woman
slacks (n., 1815–25) trousers for casual wear
groovy (adj., 1937) hip, trendy; marvelous, excellent
court (v., 1125–75) to seek the affections of someone to establish a committed relationship
go steady (v., 1900) to date someone exclusively
jalopy (n., 1928) beat-up used vehicle

Next week, I’ll share some information about how words get included in the dictionary. Enjoy your day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 19, 2020

Editor’s Corner: To-day, to-morrow, to hyphens

Dear Editrix,

Being a silent movie fan, I see a lot of “to-day” and “to-morrow.” I thought that maybe this changed in the 1930s, but the other night I was watching a documentary and the 1950s film clips showed a “to-day.” When was the hyphen finally dropped?

Signed, High-Fan.

Dear High-Fan,

You and the author of this article (DC Blog Spot) have made several of the same observations as far as the time line of the hyphenation of these terms. His observations are in literature, and he explains the trends as follows:

The origins of the practice lie in etymology: the three words were originally (in Old and Middle English) a preposition (to) followed by a separate word (dæg, niht, morwen). As a sense of their use as single notions developed, so the two elements were brought together in writing, but with considerable variation in usage, seen from the earliest records (tonight, to night, to-night).

The view that they should be written as separate words was reinforced when Johnson listed them under to as to day, to morrow, and to night (with no hyphen). Nineteenth-century dictionaries opted for the hyphen in all three words….

The OED shows hyphenated examples throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th. Latest examples are of to-day (1912), to-night (1908), and to-morrow (1927, with a possible further example as late as 1959). I have personal experience of all three words continuing to be hyphenated as late as the 1970s, as for some years now I’ve been editing the poetry of John Bradburne, who died in 1979, and in all his writing he consistently hyphenates. But he is a poet very much aware of the past, and regularly uses archaisms.

The article continues to say the by the 1990s, most popular dictionaries removed the hyphenated option as an acceptable spelling. Today’s Merriam-Webster does not list any of the three hyphenated versions as correct.

As an editor, I have to say that hyphens are already tricky, so I appreciate the latest move to get rid of them from the words.

Enjoy your day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 14, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Necromancy

Hello fellow word lovers! I could not resist this collection of words from Daily Writing Tips. The article is called “Necromancy and Words for Divining the Future.” No, I’m not a witch or Tarot card reader, but I do find these things interesting. The article is a bit on the long side, but I think you’ll find it interesting. I cut a few things out, including the last word, but I’ll give you a hint: it has to do with following an animal around and “reading” the future by what the critter leaves behind, and it isn’t usually a fortune cookie. J

In times of uncertainty, people wish for some magical means of foretelling the future.

Considering that uncertainty is one of life’s certainties, it’s not surprising that human beings have come up with numerous ways to “look into the seeds of time/And say which grain will grow and which will not.”

The English vocabulary is rich in words that name different ways of divining the future. Most of them end with the suffix –mancy. The suffix derives from mantis (mάντης), a Greek noun for a prophet, diviner, or fortune-teller.

English compounds with –mancy include some that have been around since ancient Greek was still spoken….

necromancy
In current usage, necromancy has a general sense of sorcery, witchcraft, or black magic, but its literal meaning is formed from the Greek word for a corpse, nekros.

A medieval spelling of the word as nigromancie resulted in a misconception that the word was related to Latin niger, “black.” For that reason, necromancy was often defined as the “black arts.” The spelling was “restored” to necromancy in the sixteenth century. Practitioners of the art believed that the dead knew where treasure was buried and attempted to summon ghosts to reveal the information. They also robbed graves for body parts to use in divining rituals.

Here are some—but by no means all— English words that name different types of divination.

astromancy
divination by the stars.
Astromancy is another word for astrology.

bibliomancy
foretelling the future by placing a finger on the page of a randomly opened book and finding meaning in the words so found.
Any book can be used (biblios=book), but the Bible is commonly used for the purpose.

cartomancy
divination with playing cards.
Playing cards are thought to have originated in China during the Tang dynasty (618—906 CE), whence they spread to Egypt and Europe. Decks with four suits existed in southern Europe in 1365. Tarot cards began as playing cards in the mid-fifteenth century. Later, in the eighteenth century, they became popular for divination and special decks were developed for the purpose.

chiromancy
divination by studying the lines in the hands.
Chiro is Greek for hand. Chiromancy is another word for palmistry.

hieromancy
divination from the observation of objects used in sacrifice or other religious rites.
Hiero– is from the Greek word for holy.

oneiromancy
divination by interpretation of dreams.
Oneiro– is from a Greek word for dream.

pyromancy
divination by fire or by signs derived from fire

ornithomancy
divination by observing the behavior of birds.
Ornitho is from a Greek word for bird. Augury is another term for reading meaning in the behavior of birds.

rhabdomancy
divination by means of a rod or wand, specifically discovering ores, springs in the earth by means of a divining rod. Rhabdo is from the Greek word for rod. The practice of rhabdomancy remains very much alive. People who use rods, usually made of copper, are called dowsers. What they do is also called witching. The American Society of Dowsers, founded 1961, has a web page and hundreds of members who presumably make a good living plying their craft.

fancypantsymancy
divination by dress clothes. [KC – Sorry. I couldn’t resist.]

Unfortunate Fortune Cookies

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 12, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Happy Limerick Day!

Happy limerick day!

One of you fair readers sent me an article on limericks, from the Saturday Evening Post. It’s been some time since I talked about limericks, so I’ll share a little from the article with you and a few more things I found.

Limericks: A How-To Guide

There are four guidelines that you should follow to write a good limerick. Although they do allow some leeway for the creative mind, the farther you stray from these guidelines, the less limerick-like your finished poem will be.

First, its length: A limerick is always five lines long. There’s very little wiggle room here.

Second, its rhyme scheme: A limerick always has an AABBA rhyme scheme, meaning that the first, second, and fifth lines end in a shared rhyme, as do the third and fourth…

Here’s an example. Since The Saturday Evening Post is a family magazine, please refrain from mentally conjuring (or, more importantly, commenting on) the more vulgar version of this classic limerick:

There once was a man from Nantucket
Who kept all his cash in a bucket.
But his daughter, named Nan,
Ran away with a man
And as for the bucket, Nantucket.

You can clearly see the rhyme scheme in this example, but let’s talk about rhythm and meter, the third guideline. Although the number of syllables contained in each line varies from one limerick to another, a good guideline is to have 7-10 syllables in lines 1, 2, and 5, and 5-7 syllables in lines 3 and 4…

The final and loosest rule of limerick writing is its silly subject matter. Humor and wordplay almost always work their way into a good limerick….

Here is something I found on Pinterest that sums up that lesson nicely:

And as for a few samples…well, so many of them are naughty! I found a few tamer ones scattered on the internet, but I’m not directing you to any particular pages because even these were clustered with some that would make a sailor blush.

I sell the best Brandy and Sherry
To make all my customers merry,
But at times their finances
Run short as it chances,
And then I feel very sad, very.

The bottle of scent Willie sent
Was quite displeasing to Millicent.
Her thanks were so cold
That they quarreled, I’m told,
‘Bout that silly scent Willie sent Millicent.”

There was a young lady named Harris,
Whom nothing could ever embarrass,
Till the bath salts one day
In the tub where she lay
Turned out to be plaster of Paris

There once was a runner named Dwight
Who could speed even faster than light.
He set out one day
In a relative way
And returned on the previous night.

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
Into space that is quite economical.
But the good ones I’ve seen
So seldom are clean
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 7, 2020

Editor’s Corner: A Different Kind of Flight

Wouldn’t you like to fly in my beautiful balloon? How about leaving on a jet plane? Well, today I’m here to talk about flights—but not the air voyage kind.

I was walking around my neighborhood, which has more than a few places to imbibe spirits, and I saw a sign about a “flight” of South Park beers. I’d wondered about this use of the word “flight” since the first time I heard it at a Boston brewery. Just recently, I received this article from Grammarphobia, with the answer.

The word “flight” has been used for centuries as a collective term for an airborne group of things—birds, insects, angels, arrows, even clouds.

In this usage, which began appearing in the mid-1200s, “flight” means “a collection or flock of beings or things flying in or passing through the air together,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

But “flight” as a restaurant term for a sampling of foods or drinks is much more recent, dating from the late 1970s. The OED defines this sense as “a selection of small portions of a particular type of food or drink, esp. wine, intended to be tasted together for the purpose of comparison.”

The dictionary’s earliest example, which we’ve expanded, is about a wine tasting: “There were four flights of wines, as they say in the trade, four spätleses, four ausleses, four beerenausleses and four trocks [trockenbeerenausleses]” (New York Times, March 29, 1978. The terms describe late-harvest wines of varying sugar content). [KC – My guess is maybe people felt like
they were flying after four glasses of wine.]

The OED also has this example in which the “flight” is a selection of edibles: “They turned the dinner into a smoked salmon tasting…. Each flight of the tasting was garnished differently” (Washington Post, Dec. 14, 1983).

We’ll end with a flight of alcoholic examples from the OED.

“An inviting line-up of the famous single malt whiskeys available in tasting flights” (Sydney Morning Herald, June 17, 1997).

“The tasting bar offers three to six flights of wine in several categories: classic, prestige, all white, and all red” (Wine Lover’s Guide to Wine Country, by Lori Lyn Narlock and Nancy Garfinkel, 2005). [KC – I guess they forgot the Thunderbird and Manischewitz categories. “Our corner store offers fresh flights of wine, including blackberry and cherry.”]

Cheers!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 5, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Wayside or Waist Side

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Dear Editrix,

I was reading a social media post by a #hustle kind of person who was talking about staying productive during the quarantine. He asked, “What passions fall by the waist side while you are busy working your full-time job?” I had always heard it as fall by the wayside. Perhaps he was being cheeky, waist side—eating our lost passions. I googled it and found fall by the waist side, waste side, and wayside. What is correct and why the confusion?

Sincerely,

I’ve fallen (by the wayside) and I can’t get up

Dear Fallen,

Oh boy. Well, you’ve certainly given him a good excuse—that maybe he was being humorous and clever with waist side. But as many people and dictionaries and websites will tell you, the phrase by the wayside is the correct one. Here’s a brief article from one of our favorite folks, Grammar Girl.

Have you ever missed a deadline or failed a test?

You may have planned to prepare, but then something happened, and those plans fell by the wayside.

What is the wayside, anyway? And does it hurt if you fall by it?

Let’s find out. We’ll start with the word way.

A way is a road or a path. As in highway, byway, or the phrase going my way? You’ve probably said that before.

The wayside, therefore, is the land on either side of the way. What we might call the roadside.

The term wayside can first be found in the Middle English poem Morte Arthure. This poem was written in the 1400s by an unknown author. It tells part of the legend of King Arthur. It’s sometimes called the Alliterative Morte Arthure, because it uses so much alliteration—many words that start with the same sound.

At one point in the story, Arthur’s knights are traveling through France when they find themselves ambushed. They’re attacked, the poet writes, by “fifty thousandez of folke of ferse men of armez” who appear on the “waye sydes” of a “bechen wode.”

In other words, fifty thousand armed men sneak through a beech wood forest, appear on the side of the road, and attack.

These days, we often hear wayside used in the phrase to fall by the wayside.

That means that to forget about something or neglect it.

For example, you might say your grass died because your watering fell by the wayside. Or that your plans to save money fell by the wayside when you saw that sweet pair of Jordans.

I hope that helps, Fallen. Most of the things I saw about “the waist side” were just blogs about people making that error in speech. While they do sound similar, the waist side is incorrect.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 30, 2020

Editor’s Corner: Word Evolution

Good morning, everyone! In the past I’ve written about how words evolve, and I’ve shared a few words with you that have changed in meaning over the years—sometimes in surprising ways. Words are introduced with a particular meaning, but what really matters is how people use the words. I’m intrigued by how words sometimes morph and mutate. I hope you are too because I’m about to share some with you.

One of my favorite resources, GrammarBook.com, recently offered the following list of words that have evolved in meaning. They list each word along with the century it was first used, and they show the original meaning and the current meaning. Are you ready for some surprises? Don’t be nice, be dapper and read on! 😊

Word Early Meaning Current Meaning
awful (13th) worthy of awe (awe-full) extremely bad
backlog (17th) largest log in the hearth large number of jobs to be done
bully (16th) sweetheart intimidating, quarrelsome person
clue (9th) ball of yarn bit of evidence for a solution
dapper (15th) brave stylish, neat, trim
egregious (16th) distinguished, eminent flagrantly bad
fathom (9th) to encircle with one’s arms to understand after much thought
flirt (16th) to flick something away, act briskly to act amorously without seriousness
girl (13th) young person (either gender) young female
guy (19th) frightful figure man, boy, fellow
naughty (14th) having nothing (naught) disobedient, improper
nice (13th) foolish, simple, ignorant kind, pleasing, agreeable
matrix (14th) female breeding animal pattern of lines and spaces
prestigious (16th) involving trickery or illusion honored

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Ext: 765432

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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