Posted by: episystechpubs | October 20, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Garum

What’s that phrase? “When in Spain, do as the Romans do.” Well, that’s not quite it, but anytime I go to a place where there might be Roman or Greek ruins, I have to explore. The Romans were amazing with their aqueducts and sewers and buildings, some of which are still standing. In Barcelona, the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona is actually built on top of the ruins of the Roman city, and on top of that the more Jewish version of Barcelona, and later the Christian city, and so on up to today.

One of the words I kept reading and hearing at the museum was garum, which I wasn’t familiar with. Hold your breath: I’m about to tell you what it is!

Here is some edited information from Wikipedia:

Garum was a fermented fish sauce used as a condiment in the cuisines of ancient Greece, Rome, and Byzantium. Although it enjoyed its greatest popularity in the Roman world, the sauce was earlier used by the Greeks.

Pliny the Elder and Isidore of Seville derive the Latin word garum from the Greek γαρός (garos). Garos may have been a type of fish, or a fish sauce similar to garum. Pliny stated that garum was made from fish intestines, with salt, creating a liquor, the garum, and a sediment named allec or allex.[KC – Yum. Fish liquor!] A concentrated garum evaporated down to a thick paste with salt crystals was called muria; it would have been rich in protein, amino acids, minerals and B vitamins. Garum was used to salt foods, because it added moisture to the foods, whereas table salt extracted moisture from them.

Roman ruins (garum containers) under the Museu d’Historia de Barcelona.

Roman wine-making area, including grape crushing area, duct for juice, and storage vats.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 19, 2017

Editor’s Corner: 12 Idioms You Might Be Getting Wrong

Daily Writing Tips recently sent out a list of 12 idioms that people often get wrong because of homonyms, which are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings (for example, toe and tow). We’ve covered a couple of incorrectly used idioms in other posts, but most of the ones on this list are new and definitely worth looking at.

If you use one of these idioms incorrectly while speaking, no one will know since the words sound the same. But you need to be careful when you use an idiom in your writing. If you use the wrong homonym, it will be obvious to people in the know. So, to keep us all from embarrassing ourselves, here are 12 idioms that people commonly get wrong. Don’t be one of commoners. You’re better than that.

1.
Incorrect: baited breath
Correct: bated breath

This phrase refers to abating, or stopping, breathing, and the related adjective bated is intended.

2.
Incorrect: eek out
Correct: eke out

Eke originally meant “increase”; the verb is now obsolete except in the phrase pertaining to achieving after exerting effort; it has nothing to do with a squeal of surprise one might make when one is startled.

3.
Incorrect: just desserts
Correct: just deserts

This idiom refers not to a sweet dish served after a main course but to what one justly deserves. Deserts is a noun, obsolete except in this usage, which refers to just that.

4.
Incorrect: making due
Correct: making do

The expression pertaining to managing with available resources is “making do.”

5.
Incorrect: marshal law
Correct: martial law

A marshal is a type of law-enforcement official, and to marshal is to order or organize, so this error is understandable, but the phrase refers to martial law, a state in which military forces maintain order under martial, or warlike, conditions.

6.
Incorrect: peak (one’s) interest
Correct: pique (one’s) interest

In the sense of arousing interest, the correct verb is pique.

7.
Incorrect: reign in
Correct: rein in

This phrase refers to managing someone or something as if one were using reins on a horse to control its movement, hence “rein in.”

8.
Incorrect: sewing doubts
Correct: sowing doubts

This phrase refers to planting doubts as if they were seeds—thus, “sowing doubts.”

9.
Incorrect: slight of hand
Correct: sleight of hand

This idiom is sometimes misunderstood to refer to deceptive movement so slight as to be undetectable, but the key word is sleight, meaning “dexterity.”

10.
Incorrect: to the manner born
Correct: to the manor born

It is natural to assume that this phrase alludes to being born in a certain manner—specifically, “in an affluent environment”—but “to the manor
born” pertains to those born in a manor, as opposed to a more humble dwelling.

11.
Incorrect: tow the line
Correct: toe the line

The phrase alluding to placing one’s feet right on a line and not stepping over it is “toe the line.”

12.
Incorrect: wet your appetite
Correct: whet your appetite

This idiom refers to sharpening one’s desire for something, not moistening it. Whet means “sharpen by rubbing against,” as with a whetstone against a knife, and the correct phrase is “whet your appetite.”

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 18, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Trilingual Experience

Today I’d like to share a little language lesson with you that has less to do with English than it does with Spanish. I know many of you are fluent in both, however, so this might interest you. When we were in Spain last week, we were in Barcelona, which is part of Catalonia. There, most people speak at least three languages: Catalonian, Spanish, and English.

The thing I found fascinating was that if I couldn’t figure out the Spanish, I could look at the Catalonian, and often it seemed closer to English and I could figure it out. For example, the Catalonian “atencio” is closer to “attention” than the Spanish “cuidado” is. The Catalonian “terra” is closer to terms we know from Latin than the Spanish word for floor (piso) is.

Then there are these signs for breakdancing that defy all languages. (No, I’m kidding. Here are a few examples of things in Catalonian, Spanish, and English, just to show you the differences in the languages.)

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 17, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Houses and Casas

Hello, all! It seems like forever since we’ve “talked” with each other. In the past few months I’ve worked from my dad’s house in Washington a few weeks, and I went on a brief vacation to New York with my mom, but over the last week and a half, I finally got to go on vacation with my husband. What a luxury! I don’t have a lot of English tips to share with you because we were in Barcelona (Spain), but hopefully, I can teach you some things I learned about, share some photos, and weave in some handy language tips in the process.

Today’s selection is a few items from a much longer list of house idioms, from Daily Writing Tips.

The integral nature and the ubiquity of houses in our culture has given rise to a number of idiomatic expressions that include the word house. This post lists such terms.

1. A house of cards: a precarious situation, from the notion of an activity in which one or more people try to build a structure out of vertically placed playing cards without causing it to collapse

2. Basket house: A music venue in which performers earn only money collected in a basket or other receptacle as donations

3. Boardinghouse reach: An especially long reach across a table, alluding to the relaxed table manners of a boardinghouse, a lodging in which meals are provided

4. Brick house: A sexually attractive woman, from the notion that she, on the analogy of a sturdy structure made of brick, is well built

5. Get along like a house on fire: Become friends immediately upon meeting

6. Hash house: An inexpensive restaurant

7. House of many doors: Slang for prison

8. Shotgun house: Slang for a long, narrow house built with rooms in a straight line, from the notion that a shotgun shell could be fired through the front door and out the back door

And as far as the vacation connection, one of the most amazing things we saw was Casa Batlló (the Batlló House), designed by Antoni Gaudí. What a thoughtful, creative architect!

Casa Batlló

Living Room at Casa Batlló

Light Well Through Glass at Casa Batlló

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | October 13, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Commonly Mispronounced Words

I don’t know about you, but I see plenty of written words that I never, or rarely, hear spoken; so I’m not 100 percent sure how to pronounce them. Then there are words that I hear pronounced differently by various people, and I’m not sure what the correct pronunciation is. If I’m not sure how to pronounce a word, I try not to use it until I’ve done my research.

Lucky for me, Dictionary.com does the research for me! Today, I give you a list of commonly mispronounced words along with the correct pronunciation and a little background. I have shortened the explanations. To read the entire article, click here.

· Nuclear
A handful of very famous and well-educated people have demonstrated difficulty producing this word. Rather than saying [noo-klee-er], some speaker say [noo-kyuh-ler], which is sometimes spelled out as nucular.

· Ask
Many people transpose the s and the k, saying [aks] rather than [ask]. Today this pronunciation is considered by many to be a mistake; however, this pronunciation has been present in English for centuries.

· Mischievous
The term mischievous is easier to say than many people think. Its correct pronunciation is [mis-chuh-vuhs] not [mis-chee-vee-uhs].

· Utmost
Many people use the term upmost with a p when they mean to say utmost with a t. This drives grammar sticklers insane, tough it’s not necessarily incorrect. To read more click here.

· GIF
The pronunciation of GIF is a polarizing topic. Steve Wilhite, the creator of this file format, insists that you pronounce it [jif], with a soft g, however [gif] with a hard g is also acceptable according to Dictionary.com.

· Hyperbole
If you only ever come across the literary term hyperbole in reading, it’s hard to know how it’s pronounced. This word is pronounced [hahy-pur-buh-lee].

· Niche
British English speakers prefer the pronunciation [neesh] while American English speakers prefer [nich].

· Cache
This term has retained the French pronunciation [kash]. Because some languages accent the terminal e, it’s easy for confused English speakers to mispronounce the term as [kash-shey].

· Sherbet
Many English speakers add an extra r into this tasty French loanword. The correct pronunciation is [shur-bet].

· Meme
This word is pronounced [meem]. English speakers mispronounce this as [mee-mee] or as the French word mêmé, pronounced [mem].

· Arctic
In pronouncing arctic many people leave out the first c opting for [ahr-tic] instead of [ahrk-tik].

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 12, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Capitalization Quiz

Capitalization Quiz

If you are one of our loyal readers who likes quizzes, it’s your lucky day! This quiz (from DailyWritingTips.com) will test your capitalization skills. The rules that apply to these quiz questions are common capitalization rules that we adhere to at JHA.

So, when you’re ready, correct the capitalization in the following five sentences, and then scroll down to see the correct answers and explanations.

The only prize for getting them all right is your own self-satisfaction. You can’t put a price on that!

1. Next sunday will be our fifth Anniversary.

2. My best school subjects are History, french, math, and Physics.

3. Sallie bought new curtains for her French windows.

4. When we visit Rome, we hope to obtain an audience with the pope.

5. London and paris were already centers of culture in the middle ages.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: Next sunday will be our fifth Anniversary.
Correct : Next Sunday will be our fifth anniversary.

In English, days of the week are capitalized. Common nouns, like “anniversary” are not.

[dbb – Capitalizing
common nouns is a common error. Common nouns are nouns used to name general items rather than specific ones. Whereas,
proper nouns are used to name specific things. For example, “the credit union” is a common noun but “First City Credit Union” is a proper noun.]

2.
Original: My best school subjects are History, french, math, and Physics.
Correct : My best school subjects are history, French, math, and physics.

Languages are capitalized, but other school subjects are not.

3.
Original: Sallie bought new curtains for her French windows.
Correct : Sallie bought new curtains for her french windows.

Although capitalized in other contexts, “french” is not capitalized here because “french windows” refers to a certain type of window. The same usage would apply to “russian dressing” and “danish pastry.”

4.
Original: When we visit Rome, we hope to obtain an audience with the pope.
Correct : When we visit Rome, we hope to obtain an audience with the Pope.

The word “pope” is capitalized here because it refers to a person who bears the title.

5.
Original: London and paris were already centers of culture in the middle ages.
Correct : London and Paris were already centers of culture in the Middle Ages.

Names of cities are capitalized, as are distinctive historical periods.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 11, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Words with Negative Prefixes

Adding a negative prefix (un-, dis-, im-, de-, in-, non-) to the beginning of a word usually changes the word’s meaning to the opposite (for example, happy and unhappy, like and dislike, etc.).

I recently ran across a list of words that have negative prefixes; but oddly, no opposing word exists. I found the information interesting, so I’m sharing it with you. I’ll give you the words and the etymology that explains how the words came to be (courtesy of Dictionary.com). All you have to do is move your eyes from left to right and enjoy.

· indelible
When something is indelible, it leaves a mark that cannot be erased or removed. The word refers not only to physical marks, as in “indelible ink,” but to unforgettable memories or experiences. But was anything ever just delible? Not since the 1800s when delible meant “capable of being removed.” By the 20th century, the lonely delible was effectively nonexistent, but its memory lives on…indelibly.

· Impeccable
“The queen has the most impeccable manners.” Though in this example impeccable means faultless, flawless, and appropriately refers to the dexterous manipulation of the royal butter knife, the word once meant “not liable to sin.” This is probably because peccable meant “liable to sin.” Both words are derived from the Latin peccare meaning “to sin,” and though some things might still be sinful, they’ve rarely been peccable since 1900.

· Disgruntled
“I woke up in such a good mood, I was absolutely gruntled!” This may be a lovely sentiment, but no one in the history of English has ever been gruntled, though many have been disgruntled in various ways. When people are disgruntled they are displeased, discontented, sulky, or peevish. The word is derived from the onomatopoetic sound a person makes when in a bad mood, a “grunt,” from the Old English grunnettan. In this case, the prefix dis- intensifies the medieval term of annoyance gruntle, so that to be disgruntled is to be extremely gruntled.

· Disgust
Unlike disgruntled, the dis- in disgust is as negative as they come. Disgust is a feeling of nausea, strong distaste, or loathing. The word is derived from the Latin gustare meaning “to taste,” and though it’s impossible to be simply gusted in English, it’s easy to do something with gusto that is with “zest, relish, and a hearty enjoyment as in eating or drinking.”

· Nonchalant
When people are nonchalant they’re casual, unconcerned, and indifferent. They are often exasperatingly cool, and they are unmoved by situations that tend to rouse emotion in the hearts of passionate people. The word comes to English by way to the 18th century French nonchaloir meaning “to lack warmth (of heart),” but the root calere is derived from the Latin meaning “to be warm.”

· Disheveled
People look disheveled when their hair or appearance is untidy or disarranged, as if they’ve just rolled out of bed. It comes to us from the Old French descheveler literally meaning “to disarrange the hair.” The base term sheveled never entered the English vernacular alone, so next time you roll out of bed with disheveled hair, take heart, looking sheveled simply isn’t an option.

· Debunk
This relatively young word debunk entered the vernacular as a neologism, invented by novelist William Woodward in this 1923 book Bunk. The main character in Woodward’s novel was known for “taking the ‘bunk’ (i.e., nonsense) out of things,” thus revealing a more honest truth. But the word is a derivation of an earlier Americanism, bunkum, or insincere speechmaking that emerged in Congress in 1819 when representative Felix Walker made an inane speech on the behalf of Buncome County, North Carolina.

· Impinge
To impinge upon something is to “encroach” or “infringe” upon it, hindering it in some way as one might impingeupon another’s rights by denying them. The word is derived from the Middle Latin pangere meaning “to fix, fasten” and reintegrated as “to unfix” with the addition of the negative prefix im-. But in the 1530s the negative Latin form impingere grew to mean “to drive into, strike against,” a shade closer to our modern English definition.

· Discombobulate
To discombobulate is to confuse or disconcert as in, “they tried to discombobulate their attackers with a decoy.” Like debunk, discombobulate is also an Americanism, invented around the 1830s as a fanciful new spin on words like discompose and discomfort, and although the prefix remained, the base is still rather discombobulating.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 10, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Rules for Using Phrasal Verbs

Rule 1: Don’t Compress Phrasal Verbs

Many phrasal verbs have noun or adjective forms that are either one word (cutoff, giveaway, handout, makeup) or hyphenated (check-in, drop-off, mix-up, show-off).

The Chicago Manual of Style says, “Don’t compress [a phrasal verb] into a one-word verb … e.g., one burns out (phrasal verb) and suffers burnout (noun).”

Incorrect: The supermarket hired me to handout free samples.

Correct: The supermarket hired me to hand out free samples.

Incorrect: I need to drop-off my brother at the mall.

Correct: I need to drop off my brother at the mall.

The good news is that phrasal verbs always have a space between words. The bad news is that some noun (or adjective) forms of phrasal verbs are hyphenated, and some are not.

The following table shows some of the most common phrasal verbs we use in our documentation and the appropriate noun (or adjective) form of each.

Phrasal Verb Noun (or Adjective)
Back up Backup
Log on (to) Logon
Log off (from) Logoff
Set up Setup
Sign in (to) Sign-in

When in doubt about hyphenating a noun, consult your preferred dictionary (we use Merriam-Webster).

Rule 2: Don’t Use Redundant Phrasal Verbs

The Chicago Manual of Style says, “Avoid the phrasal verb if the verb alone conveys essentially the same meaning—e.g., rest up is equivalent to rest.”

This rule is a specific case of a more general principle in technical writing: don’t use unnecessary words.

I couldn’t find a list of redundant phrasal verbs, but I thought of some more examples:

Call up someone Call someone
Clean up Clean
Finish off Finish
Go on home Go home
Lie down on Lie on
Ramble on Ramble
Shout out Shout
Stand up Stand
Study up on Study

In my next post, I’ll discuss two more rules for writing about phrasal verbs. Until then, keep on keeping on (or just keep keeping).

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 | www.Symitar.com

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 9, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Phrasal Verbs

Many English language learners consider phrasal verbs to be one of the most difficult parts of our language. But many native English speakers use phrasal verbs every day without even knowing what they are.

Merriam-Webster defines a phrasal verb as “a phrase (as take off or look down on) that combines a verb with a preposition or adverb or both and that functions as a verb whose meaning is different from the combined meanings of the individual words.”

You May Already Be an Expert

If you don’t think you’re a phrasal verb expert, read the following example and pay attention to how different prepositions (up, in, out, on, and for) change the meaning of the verb call.

Example: This morning, I called up a call-in show to call out our hypocritical mayor and call on listeners to call for his resignation. Then I called in sick and called on my baseball-playing neighbor (who was called up to the majors) to call in a favor.

Phrasal Verbs Are Hard

Learning phrasal verbs requires memorizing them (through dedicated study or by hearing them spoken over and over). Even if you know the meaning of the word call and the word out, you can’t logically deduce the meaning of the phrase call out (“to publicly criticize or fault someone”).

Phrasal verbs are unforgiving. Using the wrong preposition can sound awkward (“calling up sick”) or can change your meaning in unintended ways (“checking out” your grandma instead of “checking on” her).

Even if you have a good ear for phrasal verbs in general, there are some mistakes you should avoid. Tomorrow, I’ll discuss some of these mistakes.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 | www.Symitar.com

Symitar Documentation Services

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Posted by: episystechpubs | October 6, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Economic or Economical?

I recently wrote a post about the words historic and historical. And that research got me thinking about the words economic and economical. Are these words interchangeable?

They are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, economic means “relating to economics or the economy.” The word economical means “giving good value or return in relation to the resources used or money spent; sparing in the use of resources or money.”

Daily Writing Tips has this take on this word pair:

So, government policies to do with finance would be economic but fuel-efficient cars would be described as more economical.

The main confusion arises when writers use “economic” when they really mean “economical.” Take, for example, the phrase “economical with the truth,” a euphemism for lying brought into popular usage by the British civil servant Robert Armstrong.

Armstrong used the phrase correctly, but many do not, referring instead to being “economic with the truth.” A simple web search will reveal many thousands of instances of this phrase, although it is essentially meaningless.

In colloquial English, the distinction between the two words is often blurred, but it is always useful to know the correct meanings.

As an aside, the adverb for both words is the same: economically.

I’ll sign off now to make sure that this post is an economical use of your time.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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