Posted by: episystechpubs | June 22, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Affect, Effect, and Aflac

Affect and effect are always high on the list of topics we’re asked to revisit. I received this little tidbit that I thought I’d add to our many explanations through the years (go to Editor’s Corner and search affect for more). This is from The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation newsletter:

· Rule: Use the verb effect when you mean “bring about” or “brought about,” “cause” or “caused.”

Example: He effected a commotion in the crowd.
Meaning: He caused a commotion in the crowd.
Example: She effected a change in procedure.
Meaning: She brought about a change in procedure.

· Rule: Use the noun effect when you mean “result.”
Example: What effect did that speech have?

· Rule: Use the verb affect when you mean “to influence” rather than “to cause.”
Example: How do the budget cuts affect your staffing?

· Rule: Affect is also used as a noun to mean “emotional expression.”
Example: She showed little affect when told she had won the lottery.

Of course, these should not be confused with Aflac® the insurance company…

Or Affleck, of the Ben variety…

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 21, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Incorrect Phrases

Good morning, friends.

I’ve been keeping a list of phrases that about half the English-speaking world seems to get wrong. I know there are a lot more than I’ve listed here, but these are the ones I see and hear most often. Because the mistakes are so prevalent, I thought I’d share them with you so that you can avoid them.

Correct term Incorrect term Correct example Reason
I couldn’t care less I could care less I couldn’t care less if you eat the last piece of pizza. It doesn’t make sense to say you “could care less.” That means you actually care to start with.
Light bulb went on Light bulb went off Oh, I see what you mean! The light bulb just went on. When you have an idea, the light bulb turns on. If it turns off while you’re thinking, you have a problem.
Flesh out Flush out You need to flesh out your argument. To “flesh out” means to expand. Let’s not think too much about what “flush out” means.
Regardless Irregardless I will swim in the Pacific Ocean today, regardless of the frigid temperature. You don’t need the prefix “ir” and the suffix “less.” They both serve to negate.
Should have

(could have,

would have)

Should of

(could of, would of)

I should have told you I was going to stop by. This mistake is made as a back formation of “should’ve.” It sounds like “should of” but is actually a contraction of “should have.”
Fewer than Less than Your tweet must be fewer than 140 characters. People often use “less than” when they should use “fewer than.” Use “fewer” for things you can count (like 140 characters) and “less” for things you cannot count (like love).

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 20, 2018

Editor’s Corner: New Era of Colors

Good morning, folks! I hope this finds you happy and “in the pink.” Today is the third and final part of the article on colors from Grammar Girl. (I skipped a few parts at the end, but you can read further on her website. The article is called “Fascinating Words for Colors (and the Battle of Magenta).”

Pink

Pink is especially interesting. According to the OED, “pink” originally referred to “a greenish-yellow lake pigment made by combining a vegetable coloring matter with a white base such as a metallic oxide.” It seems like that first “pink” was more of a description of the process than the color, since the OED notes there were colors such as green pink, brown pink, rose pink, and pink yellow. The origin of the word is unknown, but in the 1600s, the word “pink” also started being used to mean the light red color we think of today. The origin of the greenish-yellow pink and the light red pink are both listed as unknown, and it’s unclear to me whether etymologists think they are related, but I think not.

This second pink—the one we think of today—probably comes from the color of the flower Dianthus, but the flower probably got its name from the spiky, scalloped shape of its petals because if you’ve ever used pinking shears, you know that “pink” has another meaning: to cut a scalloped or zigzag edge on fabric. Earlier, it also meant to punch holes or slits into fabric. So the “cut fabric” meaning of pink came first, the flower Dianthus was called a pink because of the shape of its petals, and then we got the color pink from the color of the Dianthus flowers.

But English also had a different word to describe the color pink before we started using “pink.” In the 1500s and into following centuries you could use the word “incarnate,” which comes from the Latin word for “flesh.” It doesn’t look like it was used alone the way we use colors alone today, as in “That flower is pink.” Still, you could describe something as “an incarnate color,” meaning a pink or fleshy color, or say you picked “incarnate clovers,” meaning pink clovers.

Colors from Nature

Colors continued to come from nature through the 1700s. For example, ultramarine, a blue color, comes from Latin that means “beyond the sea,” probably because the color originally came from a blue pigment from the mineral lapis lazuli which came from Asia.

The late 1700s gave us “maroon,” from the French word for the color of a chestnut, and “puce,” from the French word for flea or the color of a flea (yes, the insect).

Colors After Chemical Dyes

Advances in chemistry in the mid-1800s that allowed manufacturers to make synthetic dyes led to an explosion of new colors, and the fashion industry in particular embraced the ability to add novelty to its products and drove the adoption of many new color words. According to a book called “Bright Modernity: Color, Commerce, and Consumer Culture”:

“Women’s magazines disseminated the names of new colors and sometimes their origins. Acquiring this knowledge was part of keeping up with fashion for the middle-class female consumer.”

Many of these new color words came from French. Some of the colors this new era gave us include the following:

· Mauve: The French word for the color of the mallow plant’s flower

Mallow flower

· Ecru: From the French word for “raw or unbleached” because it is the color of unbleached linen

· Beige: From the French word to describe the color of undyed, unbleached wool

· Burgundy: Referring to the color of wine through the Burgundy region in France

· Turquoise: From the Old French word for “Turkish” because the turquoise-colored stone was originally imported from the Turkish region

The mid-1800s also gave us “aquamarine,” which comes from Latin and means “sea-water,” and “khaki,” which comes from the Urdu word for “dusty.”

Tangerine, the fruit, got its name in the mid-1800s because that particular type of orange was imported from Tangier, and it started being used as a color word in 1899.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 19, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Grue?

Today I have more about the colors of the rainbow, and then some, from an article by Grammar Girl.

Red

…One thing that surprised me most was that the next color almost all languages name is red—one theory is that it’s because it is the color of blood.

Although black, white, and red all likely go back to the prehistoric language Proto-Indo-European (PIE), Etymology Online states that red is “the only color for which a definite common PIE root word has been found.

Red shows up in a lot of place names where it referred to the color of natural elements such as rocks and soil. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary lists Radcliffe, Radclive, Redmile, Redford, and Rattery, all from 1086, and slightly later Radly and Redhill. The same root for “red” also likely gave us the word for the color “rust.”

In those early days though, “red” was probably the name for the color rust, as well as purple, pink, and orange.

In fact, we call people redheads instead of orangeheads because at the time we started calling them anything, the word “orange” hadn’t entered the language as a color word, and the word “red” included the orangey color of red hair.

Interestingly, the Irish writer Stan Carey told me that the Irish word for red hair is different from the general Irish word for red. [KC – Too bad she didn’t tell us what the word is!]

Grue

After red, most languages add a word for either yellow or a spectrum that includes both green and blue that language experts sometimes call “grue.” Since blue and green are so prevalent in nature, I would have expected one of them to be the third word more languages would add, but I was wrong!

You can think of these as the five base colors that most languages have: black, white, red, yellow, and green/blue. And English today is described as having 11 main color words: those five base colors (black, white, red, yellow, and green/blue) plus brown, orange, pink, purple and gray, but some languages have more or different words. For example, Russian, Greek, and Turkish have separate words for light blue and dark blue.

Gray, Brown, and Orange

Gray and brown are both very old words that go back to Old English, and orange came from the color of the fruit after oranges were introduced to Europe, around the mid-1500s.

Purple

Purple was originally a shade of crimson “obtained from mollusk dye” and associated with people of importance such as emperors, kings, cardinals, and so on. It came to describe many colors in the spectrum between red and violet. The color we think of as purple today was first called purple in the 1400s.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 17, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Ebony and Ivory

Over the years, we’ve talked about colors fairly often. We’ve delved into words for colors, like fuchsia and puce; we’ve talked about how colors are supposed to correspond to certain moods like feeling blue or being green with envy; and other times we’ve discussed different idioms about colors, such as blue flu or red herring.

So, you might think that’s enough about colors. Not so! There’s nothing that gets my gears turning like seeing a 200 gel-pen pack on special at Costco. And now, Grammar Girl has published an article about language and colors I don’t want you to miss. It’s a long article, so let’s break it up into a few relaxing days.

Colors are such fundamental, tangible things that it’s hard to imagine not having names for them, but the number of words for colors varies widely by language and for many, many years, English got by without a lot of the color names we take for granted today.

In nearly all languages, the first colors to get names are black and white.

Black

“Black” comes from very old words that meant “to burn” or “burned.” But the same old words also gave us “blake,” which is a now obscure word that meant pale, pallid, and ashen. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary says that it is often difficult to tell which of these two colors is meant in Old English texts when the context doesn’t make it clear. And to make it even more complicated, at some point, “black” could also be used to describe something bright, shining, or glittering, perhaps related to the idea that something that is burning is all those things. So it took “black” a while to be limited to what we think of as black today.

White

“White” is a little more straightforward. In Old English, it meant “bright and radiant, or clear and fair.” It could be describing something we think of as white such as snow, milk, or an old person’s hair, but it could also describe something transparent, or something light yellow, pale gray, or silver. Etymology Online says “White” is also one of the oldest surnames in English, originally referring to people with fair hair or a fair complexion.

There are still languages today that have just two words for colors that are essentially white for all light or warm colors and black for all dark or cool colors.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 15, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Kangaroo Court

Dear Editrix,

I’ve been wondering about the term “kangaroo court.” Can you tell me where this term originated and why we use it?

Thanks,

Signed,

Curious About Kangaroos

Dear Curious About Kangaroos,

Your answer is just a hop, skip, and a bop away (be careful, male kangaroos do love to box).

First, a definition from Merriam-Webster, along with some examples:

kangaroo court (noun)

1: a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted

a: one held by vagabonds or by prisoners in a jail or prison camp

<kangaroo courts … are vicious organizations controlled by the most perverted and brutal prisoners — J. V. B. Bennett>

<non-Communist prisoners sentenced to death by Red kangaroo courtsArmy-Navy-Air Force Journal>

b: one involving comic procedures and ludicrous penalties designed for the amusement of the participants and spectators

<kangaroo courts —to which anyone not in Western garb can be hauled and fined — Helen Gould>

2: a court or a similar body (as a legislative investigating committee) characterized by irresponsible, unauthorized, or irregular status or procedures

And here is where it’s from. According to Wikipedia:

The term kangaroo court is often erroneously believed to have its origin from Australia’s courts while it was a penal colony. However, the first published instance of the term is from an American source in the year 1853. Some sources suggest that it may have been popularized during the California Gold Rush of 1849, along with mustang court, as a description of the hastily carried-out proceedings used to deal with the issue of claim jumping miners. Ostensibly the term comes from the notion of justice proceeding "by leaps," like a kangaroo—in other words, "jumping over" (intentionally ignoring) evidence that would be in favour of the defendant. Another possibility is that the phrase could refer to the pouch of a kangaroo, meaning the court is in someone’s pocket. The phrase is popular in the UK, US, Australia, and New Zealand and is still in common use.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 14, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Worn-Out Words and Phrases

The website GrammarBook.com is a great source for information about grammar and punctuation. I recently read an article on the site about worn-out words and phrases. Although we’ve covered many of these before, I want to share them with you today so that you can be sure to avoid them in your writing. Bear in mind that many of these are common in speech, and that’s fine because speech is more informal, but our goal is to write succinctly.

I’ve copied the list here. How many of these tired phrases do you sometimes use in your writing?

Original Problem Beyond Overuse Alternatives in Careful Writing
on a daily/weekly basis (prep. phrase) wordy daily, weekly
going/moving forward
(adv. phrase)
inaccurate idiom meaning in continuance in the future, from here, from now on
most importantly
(adv. phrase)
incorrect usage as adverb most important (adj), above all
I feel like (verb clause) subjective insertion before a statement
(e.g., I feel like the book is too long)
(strike as unnecessary)
bad optics
(noun phrase)
“buzz” phrase pertaining to the public’s view of something through the media bad perception, bad impression
ubiquitous (adj) big-word-itis (a clinical condition) all over, all around, everywhere
proactive (adj) often redundant modification of an action in progress (e.g. proactively seeking) (strike as unnecessary)
just (adv) intrusive insertion of thought
(e.g., Why don’t we just go tomorrow?)
(strike as unnecessary)
right? (interrogative) highly catch-phrase in nature (meaning: Isn’t that true/correct? Isn’t that so?) (strike as unnecessary)

The article didn’t mention jargon, but the editors beseech you to avoid it. While it may be familiar to you, it can cause confusion for many of the people who read your writing.

And on that topic, the following Dilbert comic strip (by Scott Adams) recently ran in the local paper:

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 14, 2018

Undeliverable Mail

I didn’t notice that was one of the failures. That is odd. I only have to type in “W” and “Word Press ()” auto populates.

From: Kara Church
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2018 7:17 AM
To: Donna Bradley Burcher <DBurcher@jackhenry.com>
Subject: RE: Undeliverable Mail

Yes. Definitely. But I don’t know why the WordPress address would fail. That’s not good. Your article isn’t out on the website, either. I’ll forward your article and see if that works.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773

Symitar Documentation Services

From: Donna Bradley Burcher
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2018 5:22 AM
To: Kara Church <KChurch>
Subject: Undeliverable Mail

Good morning!

These undeliverables came back to me after I sent the EC this morning. Should I be sending them to you? 😊

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Documentation Services

NOTICE: This electronic mail message and any files transmitted with it are intended
exclusively for the individual or entity to which it is addressed. The message,
together with any attachment, may contain confidential and/or privileged information.
Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please
immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 13, 2018

Editor’s Corner: A Horse of a Different Color

Hello, my friends! As I promised you yesterday, today I am here to offer you a horse of a different color!

Today’s post is from The Phrase Finder. Enjoy! (And a big thank you to Dan Green for guiding me along the right trail.)

A HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR

"A topic or a plan that represents a change from what one thought was being talked about or considered. Shakespeare offered the companion saying in “Twelfth Night,” where Maria is offered a comment on her plans against Malvolio and responds: “My purpose is, indeed, a horse of that colour.” In 1798 the Philadelphia “Aurora” had a line on President John Adams, to whom the paper referred sarcastically as King John I: “Whether any of them may be induced to enter into the pay of King John I is ‘a horse of another color.’ One suspects that the image originated in racing where one might have bet on a horse of a certain color only to find that a horse of another color is winning." From "The Dictionary of Clichés" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

The movie Wizard of Oz literally had a horse of a different color:

"When Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Lion arrive at the Emerald City, they are met by a carriage pulled by a most unusual horse. On the way to the Wizard’s secret chambers, it changes color before everyone’s eyes. How did they change the color of the horse in the "horse of a different color" scene?

At first, the film’s creative team thought the horse could be painted to create the multi-hued illusion, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said no. The trick was to find a substance that would not only pass the ASPCA test but would photograph clearly. Food coloring was tried, even liquid candy, both without success. The colors were too tame, and much too tasty. Finally, a paste of Jell-O powder was found acceptable. The horse continued to lick but, with frequent touch-ups, the problem was solved."

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | June 12, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Horsing Around Again

A horse is a horse, of course of course, and apparently there are a lot of hippophiles out there! A lover of hippos? No, in Greek, hippo means horse, not hippopotamus. In fact, the word hippopotamus is Greek, too, and it means river horse.

A few weeks ago, I sent out a post about ponies. Several of you sent me some additional idioms involving horses—in fact, you sent enough of them for two more days of neigh-sayings. Here is part two.

The following idioms and definitions are from The Free Dictionary:

  • Get back on the horse (that bucked you)

    To return to or resume an activity that one has previously failed at, had difficulty with, or which has previously caused one harm. [KC – I can’t say I’ve ever heard the second part. Probably because if a horse bucked me off, I wouldn’t stick around to have it happen again!]

  • pony up (something)

    To pay the amount of money that is owed or due for something. (Usually used to reference something that is excessively or unreasonably expensive.)

  • horsefeathers

n. (used with a sing. verb)

Nonsense; foolishness.

interj.

Used to express disagreement or exasperation.

Interested in charley horses, changing horses in midstream, and dark horses? There are a ton of other idioms here: https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/horse. Tomorrow, a horse of a different color!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Older Posts »

Categories