Posted by: episystechpubs | December 10, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Syllable Quirk

Dear Editrix,

Last week, a client pointed out to me that when a word is used as both a noun and a verb that the emphasis will be on the first syllable if it is a noun and on the second syllable if it is a verb. For example, desert. As a noun it is pronounced DEH-zert, and as a verb de-ZERT. The client gave me other examples such as object, permit, and insult. I told her that it did not work with vomit, but perhaps I am just pronouncing it wrong as a verb. 👩 Can you expand on this a little?

Sincerely,

Just wonDERing

Dear WonDERing,

I was not aware of this particular quirk with English. As you found, it doesn’t apply to all verb/noun pairs that are spelled alike, but it does happen with a lot of them. It happens often enough that there is a name for the process where the stress moves to the first syllable of a verb when it is used as a noun or adjective. This process is called “initial-stress derivation,” and it sounds a little like something you might catch if you walk into a patch of poison ivy. According to Wikipedia, you can find this occurring

in the case of several dozen verb-noun and verb-adjective pairs and is gradually becoming more standardized in some English dialects, but it is not present in all. The list of affected words differs from area to area, and often depends on whether a word is used metaphorically or not. At least 170 verb-noun or verb-adjective pairs exist….

Many of these have first syllables that evolved from Latin prepositions, although again that does not account for all of them.

Here are a few more examples, but for a more complete list, check out the entire article here:

Noun/Adjective Verb
ADDict aDDICT
ADDress aDDRESS
COMbat comBAT
COMbine comBINE
CONsole conSOLE
DEfault deFAULT
ENvelope enVELOPE
INdent inDENT
INsult inSULT
MISprint misPRINT
OBject obJECT
PERvert perVERT
REbel reBEL
TORment torMENT
UPset upSET

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | December 5, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Premises

Dear Editrix,

I’ve noticed the use of “on premise” instead of “on premises” in company documents and accounting codes. I’ve also seen it on a restaurant’s website advertising “on-premise” catering. I see Google claims that “on premise” has become the accepted tech industry term. Why did this incorrect use become acceptable? I know language evolves, but this is a case of total replacement. If I have to say or write “on premise,” I’ll feel stupid, but if I stick with “on premises,” I might be seen as ignorant of modern technology terms.

What’s the tipping point? At what point does a stickler tip over?

Thanks for any insight!

Emily

Dear Emily,

I don’t really know of the tipping point for sticklers, though I’ve been tipped a few times. I think a lot of these things are just shortcuts that become accepted, but in this case, it is the removal of a single letter and I don’t really see the point. I was about to go on a tirade about this particular term, but then I found an article that’s better than a rant from me. Here is Shirley Siluk’s response, from Collective Content. (Note: It is a British group, so the following article has some differences in punctuation and spelling.)

Not every writer enjoys being a scold about grammar and usage. Here at Collective Content we’re willing to give the occasional pass….

But even non-pedants have sore spots about certain bad writing habits, and here’s ours: describing information technology infrastructure as being ‘on-premise’. And we hear that a lot, given the main area where Collective Content operates is B2B IT.

According to the OED, this would suggest that your IT is on ‘a previous statement or proposition from which another is inferred or follows as a conclusion’. And that, obviously, is doubtful.

No, when people write ‘on-premise’, the term they’re really looking for is ‘on-premises’. As in, the IT equipment is located on the site of a ‘building… occupied by a business or considered in an official context’.

We get it. ‘On-premise’ is shorter, quicker and a bit easier to say than ‘on-premises’. But it’s a usage that’s just a bit too wrong…, even when compared to other bad writing habits. For instance, some of us might snicker when we see business copy using ‘service’ as a verb…. But the verb ‘service’ does have a legitimate alternate definition that means to ‘perform a service or services’. For now, at least, there’s no such alternative for ‘on-premise’.

Beyond being grammatically wrong, saying your IT is ‘on-premise’ is also imprecise from a technology perspective. And that’s not an impression any tech company should want to make. Customers seeking good, secure, up-to-date IT want highly specific things: 99.999 percent uptime, laser-sharp focus on security, low mean-time-to-detect and mean-time-to-respond, and so on.

Even if just a few prospects are put off by something as wrong as ‘on-premise’, you could hurt your chance of winning new business.

The problem is, the use of ‘on-premise’ has become pervasive in some corners of the tech world… to the point it’s becoming standard. Before it’s too late to reverse this trend, could we suggest a few solutions?

First, just try making a point of saying ‘on-premises’. It’s really not that difficult or time consuming – certainly not for an industry that loves using ‘utilise’ instead of ‘use’, or ‘incentivise’ instead of ‘encourage’.

If not, perhaps a shortened form – ‘on-prem’ – might be better? [KC – Yuck. No, it is not better. This is where I disagree. Just add the “s” to the end of the word. We don’t need to make the language that lazy!] It’s a variation that’s also appeared frequently in the tech world, and it avoids the whole ‘premise’ versus ‘premises’ problem entirely.

That’s a premise that works for us, no matter whose premises you’re talking about.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | December 3, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Rest

Dear Editrix,

I keep noticing lately—and only in the past year or so—people ending a conversation by saying “Have a great rest of your/the day.” Do you think that we consider this proper grammar? Where does this come from? Am I wrong in thinking that this just recently became popular?

I would think that “Have a great day,” as I always heard it, worked just fine, and that “I hope the rest of your day goes well,” or something similar, works better than “Have a great rest of your day,” which almost sounds like “I hope that your rest goes well—the rest that is to happen on your day!”

Sincerely,

Enjoying My Rest

Dear Rest,

I have to agree with you that “have a great rest of your day” is grammatically awkward. “Enjoy the rest of the day,” or “Enjoy the remainder of your day,” are grammatically correct, but “have a great rest of your day” is a bit ambiguous. Are we talking about a nap? Or are we talking about enjoying the remainder of the day?

I couldn’t find any information about when this started becoming popular, but I found a ton of discussion threads about how annoying a lot of people find it. Many called it a “peeve” of theirs. And then the response from others (using less pleasant language) was “Why are you complaining? People are trying to be nice!” I also saw that one person said it’s perfectly fine, but their first language was Portuguese, so I’m going to write that off.

My guess, from the number of people out there complaining online, is that it is being used more frequently. I also found an article by Shopify that listed it as a nice thing to say to show your thanks to customers. Hmmm. I’m with you. I’d stick with “Have a good/great day” or even “Enjoy the rest of the day.”

Enjoying their rest for the day

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | November 29, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Black Friday

Good morning to those of you who join me in working on this, hopefully quiet, Friday. Well, Thanksgiving is behind us, and we all know what that means: Black Friday is upon us.

I thought I’d share a little bit about the background of Black Friday. According to an article on Vocabulary.com, the earliest mention of “Black Friday” to refer to the day after Thanksgiving occurred in the November 1951 issue of Factory Management and Maintenance—and it was about worker absenteeism, not shopping and huge sales.

But the tradition that made the name “Black Friday” part of our national lexicon, and that linked it to holiday shopping, occurred in the 1960s. According to the Vocabulary.com article, “Retailers would like you to believe that it’s the day when stores turn a profit on the year, thus ‘going into the black.’ But don’t you believe it: the true origins come from traffic-weary police officers in Philadelphia in the early 1960s.” And this event did have to do with the shopping rush. The article states that many Philadelphia police officers were forced to work 12-hour shifts to deal with heavy shopping traffic.

Back in the ’60s there was a push to find a more positive term than “Black Friday.” The term “Big Friday,” was introduced, but it just didn’t fly. “Black Friday” took hold, and the shopping tradition grew more popular and spread across the states.

I heard on the news on my way in to work this morning that just a few years ago, 51% of people in the United States participated in Black Friday shopping. And when the craze was at its worst, in 2008, a Walmart employee was trampled and killed by a shopping mob on Black Friday. This year, only about 30% of us are expected to shop on Black Friday, which still makes it the busiest shopping day of the year—hopefully, the smaller crowds will be better behaved.

In any case, I’m not participating. I’m here, with you, working so that my husband, Mick, can join the fray and buy me something really magnificent. No pressure, Mick. I’m sure whatever you find will be wonderful. It’s not the present that matters, it’s the fact that you risked life and limb to get it for me. That’s true love.

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.

Did someone forward this email to you? Click here to subscribe.

Don’t want to get Editor’s Corner anymore? Click here to unsubscribe.

Do you have a question or an idea for Editor’s Corner? Send your suggestions or feedback to Kara and <a href="mailto:DBurcher.

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 | November 26, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Recursive Acronyms

I recently did an Editor’s Corner refresher on acronyms, and one of you dear readers asked if any of us had ever discussed recursive acronyms. I don’t recall doing anything on those, so it seems like now is a great time to talk about them.

A regular acronym is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word, such as NASA (for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration). A recursive acronym is an acronym that uses its own name in the abbreviation. For example, BIRD, which stands for BIRD Internet Routing Daemon. You may ask yourself, “Why would someone do this?” According to an article in Wikipedia, a recursive acronym was invented to explain an “infinite series,” in a book titled Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

Still wondering about this whole thing? When I saw that title with “Escher” in it, it suddenly made sense to me. The acronym using its own name in the abbreviation is like a mobius strip or an Escher drawing: it’s tough to find a beginning or an end in it. Maybe some pictures will help, or a few more examples?

A mobius strip:

And for more about M.C. Escher and recursion, here is a brief description from an article about him and some of his art:

“M.C. Escher occupies a unique spot among the most popular artists of the past century. While his contemporaries focused on breaking from traditional art and its emphasis on realism and beauty, Escher found his muse in symmetry and infinity. His attachment to geometric forms made him one of modernism’s most recognizable artists and his work remains as relevant as ever.”

And some additional recursive acronyms from the Wikipedia article:

  • ANX — ANX’s Not XNA
  • ATI — ATI Technologies Inc.
  • CAVE — CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment
  • FIJI — FIJI Is Just ImageJ
  • GNU — GNU’s Not Unix
  • JACK — JACK Audio Connection Kit
  • MIATA — MIATA is Always the Answer
  • PIP — PIP Installs Packages
  • XINU — Xinu Is Not Unix
  • ZWEI — ZWEI Was EINE Initially (“eins” and “zwei” are German for “one” and “two” respectively)

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | November 21, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Richard Lederer on Numbers

Good morning! Since many of you enjoy Richard Lederer’s columns when I post them, I have another one to give you from a few weeks ago. This one is all about numbers. (Thanks, Ron, you’re number one!)

The English Language Always Has Your Number

It is not only the mathematician who is fascinated by numbers. Whether we know it or not, we all speak numbers, from zero through 10, and well beyond. It’s as easy as one-two-three.

From time to time, I hear people say, “That didn’t work. I guess we’ll have to go back to ground zero.” Ground zero is a fairly new compound in English. It refers to the point on the Earth’s surface closest to a detonation. The term was first used in 1946 to refer to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, the sites of nuclear detonations in World War II. It broadened its meaning to mean any detonation site, and now any site that is a center of activity.

People often confuse ground zero with the more logical phrase “I guess we’ll have to go back to square one.” Here the metaphor is probably rooted in the playground game four-square, which first appeared in the early 1950s. A player starts in square one and tries to move through squares two and three to square four by hitting a ball that is unrerturnable into one of the other squares. The losing player goes back to square one.

Hidden forms of the number two occur in the words between, betwixt, combine, zwieback and twilight, in which tween, twixt, bi, zwie and twi all mean “two.” The root sense of zwieback is “twice baked” and of combine “to join two things.” Twilight is literally the time of two lights, the fading sunset and the emerging light of the stars.

Three Dog Night was a popular rock band in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties. Their name, however, preceded the band. A three-dog night is a night so cold that it takes three dogs to keep you warm.

You might call a low-down skunk a four-flusher. Four-flusher characterizes a poker player who pretends to hold a flush but in fact holds a worthless hand of only four same-suit cards.

Now let’s take five for the number five. It’s easy to see that the quint in quintet and quintuplets means “five.” Less apparent is the quint in quintessence. The ancient Greeks held that everything in the world was composed of four elements—earth, air, fire and water. To these the philosopher Aristotle added a new element: quinta essentia, “fifth essence.”

To deep six is naval idiom that means “to throw overboard,” with six signifying “six fathoms (36 feet) deep. The original term came from measuring the water depth under a ship using a lead-weighted sounding line. The lines were marked at two, three, five, seven, 10, 13, 15, 17 and 20 fathoms. If the depth was at a mark, the leadsman would call “by the mark” followed by the number; if the depth was between two marks, he would call “by the deep” followed by the estimated number. Six fathoms would be “by the deep six.” By extension, to deep six has come to denote generally “to get rid of someone or something.”

Your sixth sense—the one beyond sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—may be leading you to seventh heaven, the very height of happiness. The Mesopotamians created the concept of seven heavens, and the phrase has come to mean “a state of supreme joy.”

The best-known expression involving the number eight is behind the eight ball. In Kelly pool, up to 15 players may participate. They draw numbers out of a bottle to determine the order of play. Any player past eight has little chance of winning. Behind the eight ball has been generalized to mean “any difficult, troublesome situation.”

I truly hope that you’re not deep sixed and behind the eight ball but in seventh heaven and on cloud nine. On cloud nine, meaning “in a state of high euphoria,” is a reference to the 10 types of clouds defined in International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896. Cloud nine is a cumulonimbus cloud that can rise to the lofty height of 6.2 miles, as high as a cloud can be.

Dec is the Latin root for “ten,” as in decade, decimal and decimate. To decimate once described the nasty habit of the Roman commanders of slaying one out of every 10 soldiers, selected by lot, in a mutinous legion. Nowadays decimate means “to destroy a large number of living things,” with no connection to the number 10, as in “the gypsy moth caterpillars decimated the trees in our yard.”

Clearly, the days of our English language have long been numbered, 24-7.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | November 19, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Place Names

As we move further away from summer (okay, it was a sweltering 90 degrees here yesterday), I thought place names might be a good topic to look at today, since some of the photos that go with this information are very “vacationy” and make me want to visit all these places.

This information is from an article called the Surprising Stories Behind 50 Country Names. I picked five stories because of the space needed for photos, and also because some of the stories are not really very surprising. 😊

Here are the winners of the day (the photo of each follows the place name and description):

Anguilla

This Caribbean island is long and thin, and its shape most likely prompted somebody — Christopher Columbus, according to some theories, but more probably French explorers — to name it for the eel, “anguilla” in Italian, “anguila” in Spanish, and “anguille” in French.

Barbados

This Caribbean island takes its name from the Portuguese phrase “os barbados,” the bearded ones, most likely a reference to the bearded fig tree (Ficus citrifolia) that grows all over the island and has long hanging roots thought to resemble facial hair. (The tree is depicted on the Barbados coat of arms.)

Cameroon

Portuguese explorers in the 16th century called this West African region’s principle river Rio dos Camarões, or river of shrimp, for the abundance of those crustaceans found there. That name evolved into Cameroon. (The river is now called the Wouri.)

Greenland

How did this ice-covered island end up getting called Greenland? It apparently got the name Grønland (Greenland in Norwegian) from the Norwegian adventurer Erik Thorvaldsson, better known as Erik the Red, in 985 A.D. The popular explanation is that he dubbed it that as a public relations measure, to encourage colonization. Ice core and mollusk shell data, however, indicate that between 800 and 1300 A.D., island temperatures were considerably warmer than they are today, so maybe he was simply reacting to a verdant landscape that has long since disappeared.

Honduras

This Central American country takes its name from the Spanish word “hondura,” meaning depth, for the deep anchorage in the Bay of Trujillo off the northern coast.

Wherever you are, I hope you have a great day!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | November 14, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Just Deserts Take 2

Sorry for the second email, but the chart in my previous email included a mistake. Here is the correct pronunciation chart. Sorry for the confusion!

Spelling Part of Speech Definition Pronunciation
dessert noun sweet treat de-ZERT
desert noun hot, arid environment DEH-zert
desert verb to abandon de-ZERT
desert noun a deserved reward or punishment DEH-zert de-ZERT

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 | November 14, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Just Deserts

The term “just deserts” has come up twice in a very short span of time, so I thought it would be a tasty topic to discuss today.

One of the questions I received is this: “Is the spelling ‘just deserts’ or ‘just desserts’? Are we referring to sweet treats; the hot, arid environment; or something else altogether?”

There’s a reason people are confused. The term “just deserts” is pronounced like the sweet treat but it is spelled like the environment. So, what’s up with that?

Let’s start with the word dessert, whichis a noun thatrefers to a sweet treat you eat after dinner. It’s spelled with two s’s and is pronounced de-ZERT. You can remember that dessert has two s’s because you always want more.

On the other hand, the word desert, with one s,has a few different definitions. It can be a noun that refers to the arid environment, and in that case, it is pronounced DEH-zert. But it can also be a verb that means “to abandon,” and when used in this context, it is pronounced like the sweet treat: de-ZERT.That makes desert a homograph: a word that is spelled the same but differs in meaning, derivation, or pronunciation.

And here’s where it gets interesting. Desert also has a less common meaning: a deserved reward of punishment. And that gives us a little more insight about “just deserts,” which actually indicates that someone got a punishment they deserve, not their favorite cake. And in this context, it is pronounced like the sweet treat. Confused yet? Maybe this chart will help:

Spelling Part of Speech Definition Pronunciation
dessert noun sweet treat de-ZERT
desert noun hot, arid environment DEH-zert
desert verb to abandon de-ZERT
desert noun a deserved reward or punishment DEH-zert

And if you’re interested in the etymology of the term “just deserts,” according to Merriam-Webster, it was first used in the mid-1500s. Originally, you might have heard “just desert” instead of “just deserts,” and it didn’t always have an ominous connotation. At one time, it referred to anything deserved—good or bad.

Enjoy your day and your glorious just desert (or dessert if you’ve got a sweet tooth).

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.

Did someone forward this email to you? Click here to subscribe.

Don’t want to get Editor’s Corner anymore? Click here to unsubscribe.

Do you have a question or an idea for Editor’s Corner? Send your suggestions or feedback to Kara or <a href="mailto:DBurcher.

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 | November 12, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Lickspittle

Dear Editrix,

How about the word lickspittle? I’d never seen it until I read it in an article the other day.

Love,

Mom

Older Posts »

Categories