Posted by: episystechpubs | August 22, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Slush Fund

Dear Editrix,

What is a slush fund?


Curious in Cincinnati

Dear Curious,

This was certainly an interesting read, although I hope your tummy’s ready for the etymology! Here is the definition of a slush fund and its etymology from Wikipedia:

A slush fund, also known as a black fund, is a fund or account maintained for corrupt or illegal purposes, especially in the political sphere. Such funds may be kept hidden and maintained separately from other funds that are used for legitimate purposes. They may be employed by government or corporate officials as part of efforts to discreetly pay influential people in return for preferential treatment, advance information (for example, to acquire non-public information in financial transactions) or some other service

The term slush fund was originally a nautical term: the slush was the fat or grease skimmed from the top of the cauldron when boiling salted meat. Ship officers would sell the fat to tallow makers, with the resulting proceeds kept as a slush fund for making small purchases for the ship’s crew.

Of course, I don’t like political corruption very much, so I prefer maintaining a slushie fund instead. Here’s what the internet has to say about the Slurpee® and slushie arena:

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 21, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Bang for the Buck

Dear Editrix,

Where did the phrase “bang for the buck” come from?

Mr. U.

Dear Mr. U,

I was a little worried about where this research might take me, but I was happily surprised to find a nice article on Wikipedia about this idiom. Here’s what they had to say:

Bang for the buck is an idiom meaning the worth of one’s money or exertion. The phrase originated from the slang usage of the words "bang" which means "excitement" and "buck" which means "money." Variations of the term include "bang for your buck," "bang for one’s buck," "more bang for the buck," "bigger bang for the buck," and mixings of these. "More bang for the buck" was preceded by "more bounce to the ounce," an advertising slogan used in 1950 to market the carbonated soft drink Pepsi.

The phrase "bigger bang for the buck" was notably used by U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Secretary of Defense, Charles Erwin Wilson, in 1954. He used it to describe the New Look policy of depending on nuclear weapons, rather than a large regular army, to keep the Soviet Union in check. Today, the phrase is used to mean a greater worth for the money used.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 20, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Fluffy Words

I noticed this sign as I was walking into a store. Basically, this sign is telling people to watch for cars—but it is positioned at the entrance to the store! I was so distracted by it that I almost got hit by a car.

This sign is a good example of using fluffy words (vehicular drive isle), which clutter your writing and could cause confusion. Instead, be as clear and concise as possible; someone’s life may depend on it. And the only fluff I want is in my pancakes.

Jackie Solano | Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.542.6711 | Extension: 766711

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 16, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Happy Palindrome Week

I may not be the first, but let me be the most enthusiastic in wishing you a happy Palindrome Week! Who doesn’t love a palindrome? Maybe only those who aren’t quite sure what it is. So, for those folks, here’s a definition: a palindrome is “a word, phrase, or sequence that reads the same backward and forward, e.g., madam or nurses run.” This is a very special week because every date is a palindrome.

I just got back from a trip to England, and I am pretty certain Palindrome Week is not being celebrated there (or in most of the world) because they write dates in the day/month/year format, making today 16/8/18. Oh well, we’ll celebrate twice as heartily for them.

So, palindromes can be made up of numbers (like this week’s dates and like my zip code, which is 92129), but we are probably more familiar with palindromes made up of letters. These palindromes can be a single word:

  • kayak
  • noon
  • racecar
  • rotator

Or they can be a few words:

  • my gym
  • taco cat
  • top spot

Or they can be an entire sentence:

  • A Santa lived as a devil at NASA.
  • Eva, can I stab bats in a cave?
  • Mr. Owl ate my metal worm.
  • Was it a car or a cat I saw?
  • Yo, banana boy!

A palindrome can even be made up of a sequence of words instead of letters, as in this example:

  • King, are you glad you are king?

And if you’re interested, I found this history of the palindrome (from Your Dictionary):

The word palindrome is derived from the Greek “palin,” or “back” and “dromos” or "direction." The actual Greek phrase alluded to the backward movement of the crab. Palindromes date back to about 70AD, when they were first found as a graffito buried in ash at Herculaneum.

This first known palindrome was in Latin and read “sator arepo tenet opera rotas” which means either:

The sower Arepo holds the wheels with effort.


The sower Arepo leads with his hand the plough.

Not exactly a grammatically correct sentence, but still pretty fun.

Palindromes were also found in ancient Greek and in ancient Sanskrit, so obviously people have been having quite a lot of fun with these unique words for quite a long time.

I hope all of you enjoy the rest of Palindrome Week.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

One of my Editor’s Corner helpers left this article on my desk. It brings up some interesting points that I thought I’d share with my fellow language lovers. (Some edits were made for the sake of Human Resources.)

Is the English Language Prejudiced Against Women? by Richard Lederer

Women make up the majority of the population in almost every country in the world. Yet concern has been growing that the English language stigmatizes women as an inferior group of human beings, undermines their self-images and restricts their perceptions of life’s possibilities. As a way of examining this contention, I ask you to answer the following questions as precisely and honestly as you can and to compare your responses with the comments that come afterward.

1. Which of the following people are married and which are single: Mr. John Smith, Mrs. John Smith, Miss Mary Jones, Ms. Mary Jones?

Mr. John Smith may be married or single, but Mrs. John Smith is definitely married. In addition, she has acquired her husband’s last name, passively defined in relationship to his identity. You think this form is timeworn and proper. But it isn’t. Martha Washington would have been mystified to receive a letter addressed to Mrs. George Washington.

Miss Mary Jones is, of course, unattached, but Ms. Mary Jones, like Mr. John Smith, may be single or married. It is the unequal state of affairs that exists between Mr. John Smith and Miss Mary Jones that women are protesting when they ask to be identified as Ms. rather than Mrs. or Miss, or simply as Mary Jones. Ms. is a sincere attempt to return to a connubially neutral name for women that matches the one for men.

2. If a king rules a kingdom, what does a queen rule? If a man mans a station, what does a woman do? If a man fathers a movement, what does a woman do?

Queens, of course, rule kingdoms, not “queendoms,” and nobody “womans” a station or “mothers” a movement. Apparently, we English speakers feel that nouns like queendom and verbs like to woman and to mother are too weak. But language can change. The rise of to parent in our language has given us just the androgynous word we need to express the co-adventure of being a parent and to unite the two genders in mutual activity.

3. What do you picture when you hear or read the following expressions: The Ascent of Man, Renaissance man, Language separates mankind from the other creatures, A teacher affects eternity. No one knows where his influence stops. (Henry Adams)?

Do words like man, mankind and he include women and children? This question was tested by sociologists who asked 300 college students to select illustrations from pictures that were supplied for chapters in a textbook. One group of students was presented titles such as “Social Man, “Industrial Man” and “Political Man,” the other titles such as “Society,” “Industrial Life” and “Politics.” Results indicated that the word man evoked pictures of males participating in that activity far more than women or children. Another survey revealed that children from kindergarten through seventh grade interpreted the sentences “Man must work in order to eat” and “Around the world man is happy” to mean male adults, not females and children.

Read and hear this: “Whan that April with his showres soote/The droughte of March hath perced to the roote . . . .” These are the opening lines of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in Middle English between 1387 and 1400. The history of English, like that of all living languages and living things, is the history of unstinting change. I believe that our vocabulary can evolve so that men, women and children can be free to imagine and explore the full range of their human potential.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 14, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Smurfing

Dear Editrix,

Speaking of criminal activities like kiting, how about smurfing?


Gargamel and Azrael

Dear G and A,

See what happens when you little devils get a bit of freedom? Well, here is an answer to your question about smurfing—in the banking world, the gaming world, and the drug world.

From Wikipedia:

Structuring, also known as smurfing in banking jargon, is the practice of executing financial transactions such as making bank deposits in a specific pattern, calculated to avoid triggering financial institutions to file reports required by law, such as the United States’ Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). … Structuring may be done in the context of money laundering, fraud, and other financial crimes. Legal restrictions on structuring are concerned with limiting the size of domestic transactions for individuals.

Structuring is the act of parceling what would otherwise be a large financial transaction into a series of smaller transactions to avoid scrutiny by regulators and law enforcement. Typically, each of the smaller transactions is executed in an amount below some statutory limit that normally does not require a financial institution to file a report with a government agency. Criminal enterprises may employ several agents ("smurfs") to make the transaction.

The term "smurfing" is derived from the image of the comic book characters, the Smurfs, having a large group of many small entities. Miami-based lawyer Gregory Baldwin is said to have coined the term in the 1980s.

As far as gaming, I didn’t find an official source, but I read a few “boards” about the term smurfing. In gaming, smurfing means to create different accounts to disguise who you are, so that people don’t know what your skill level is. This is one way an experienced player can be matched up with the inexperienced, and gain easy wins.

And who knew? Meth makers also make use of smurfs to do their smurfing. What is smurfing for a meth maker, you ask? Smurfing is when you get people (friends, family, or whoever) to go into the store to buy the allergy medicine that is used to make meth. The individuals can only purchase one or two packages of Sudafed at a time. The meth maker later gathers all of the packages to create his or her payload. This is similar to smurfing in the banking arena in that the smaller purchases or smaller deposits are to stay under the radar of those watching for bigger chunks of money (or meth) to be moved around.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 13, 2018

Editor’s Corner: “To Include” or “Including”?

Lately, I’ve noticed people using the infinitive “to include” when the gerund “including” would make more sense.

Example (Correct): I have visited every national park, including Death Valley.

Example (Incorrect): I have visited every national park, to include Death Valley.

People communicate with different levels of formality. You probably use more formal language when emailing the CEO of your company than you do when talking to a friend.

Many common writing mistakes are a result of using language that is too casual—writing like you speak. I believe that “to include” is an example of the opposite phenomenon: very formal language (like you might see in a legal document) creeping into less formal everyday writing.

Futurity, Arrangement in Advance, or Obligation

According to Merriam-Webster, the word be is “used with the infinitive with to to express futurity, arrangement in advance, or obligation.”

Example: I am to interview him today.

Example: You are to repay the loan in monthly installments.

Although I can understand these sentences, they sound awkward. I would instead write, “I am scheduled to interview him today,” and, “You must repay the loan in monthly installments.”

Most people don’t use the “be + to + infinitive” construction often. It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to imagine a sentence becoming mangled when the tense changes.

Before: You are to submit an application, [which is] to include your birth certificate.

After: We received your application, to include your birth certificate.

The first sentence is awkward; the second sentence is incorrect. The application was already received, so it doesn’t make sense to refer to the future inclusion of the birth certificate.

In technical writing, the goal is to write clearly, not to sound fussy and unnatural. Even if you’re sure that your sentence is grammatically correct, ask yourself whether you can say it more simply.

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

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 | August 10, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Tongue Twisters

I received an interesting article the other day about tongue twisters. My dad used to tell us some whoppers when we were kids. I can’t remember which one it was, but there was one that would make us swear if we messed up; of course, that was our favorite. This Mental Floss article from our coworker Paul F. includes many of the standards and two that were completely new to me. The whole article is here: Mental Floss. The two tongue twisters I picked out, “Betty Botter” and “Two Tooters” (plus a little history) are below. Enjoy!


Betty Botter bought some butter;
"But," said she, "this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will but make my batter better."
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So ’twas better Betty Botter
Bought a bit o’ better butter.


A tutor who tooted the flute
Tried to teach two young tooters to toot.
Said the two to the tutor,
"Is it harder to toot, or
To tutor two tooters to toot?"

Both these classic twisters can be traced to poet and novelist Carolyn Wells’s writings in the late 1890s. Betty Botter would go on to be included in Mother Goose’s nursery rhymes and both verses can be found in several variations. While we don’t know who or what exactly sparked the characters of Betty or the tutor, we do know Wells was pretty prolific in terms of her writing. Her 1902 book A Nonsense Anthology—another volume of silly linguistic gymnastics—would be her most famous, but she was also behind more than 100 other books, including mysteries and children’s stories. As if her written contributions to the American language weren’t enough, Wells was also known for donating her epic collection of Walt Whitman manuscripts and first editions to the Library of Congress.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 9, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Kiting

When I think of kites, I usually think of Gasworks Park in Seattle or Seaport Village here in San Diego. I might even be reminded of the song from Mary Poppins—another happy thought associated with flying a kite. I think most of us see kites as a joyful thing, but this brings me to the question of the day:

Dear Editrix,

What do kites and kiting have to do with fraudulent checks?


Up in the Atmosphere

Dear Up,

I think you’ll see from this article in Wikipedia, that the financial world has applied the fun and playful imagery of floating and kiting to the world of check fraud.

Check kiting … is a form of check fraud, involving taking advantage of the float to make use of non-existent funds in a checking or other bank account. In this way, instead of being used as a negotiable instrument, checks are misused as a form of unauthorized credit.

Kiting is commonly defined as intentionally writing a check for a value greater than the account balance from an account in one bank, then writing a check from another account in another bank, also with non-sufficient funds, with the second check serving to cover the non-existent funds from the first account.

The purpose of check kiting is to falsely inflate the balance of a checking account in order to allow written checks to clear that would otherwise bounce. If the account is not planned to be replenished, then the fraud is colloquially known as paper hanging. If writing a check with insufficient funds is done with the expectation they will be covered by payday—in effect a payday loan—it is called playing the float.

I think I’d stick with playing the piano and floating silk or Mylar kites, rather than kiting paper checks. J

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

Posted by: episystechpubs | August 8, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Snickelways

Just when I thought I was through with Nestle® Toll House® Cookies and different names for roadways, one of you provided me with a word I’d never heard of before: snickelway. Imagine my excitement when I looked it up and found it directly connected to one of my favorite vacation discoveries, York, England. Here are some details and photos about snickelways and the lovely town of York, from Wikipedia.

The Snickelways of York, often misspelt snickleways, are a collection of small streets and footpaths in the city of York, England. The word snickelway was coined by local author Mark W. Jones in 1983 in his book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, and is a portmanteau of the words snicket, meaning a passageway between walls or fences, ginnel, a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and alleyway, a narrow street or lane. Although the word is a neologism, it quickly became part of the local vocabulary, and has even been used in official council documents, for example when giving notice of temporary footpath closures.

The snickelways themselves are usually small paths or lanes between buildings, not wide enough for a vehicle to pass down, and usually public rights of way. Jones provides the following definition for them:

A snickelway is a narrow place to walk along, leading from somewhere to somewhere else, usually in a town or city, especially in the city of York.

York has many such paths, mostly mediaeval, though there are some modern paths as well. They have names like any other city street, often quirky names such as Mad Alice Lane, Nether Hornpot Lane, and even Finkle Street (formerly Mucky Peg Lane).

In 1983 Jones devised a walk taking in 50 snickelways within the city walls. His book, A Walk around the Snickelways of York, soon became a local bestseller. It was unusual in being completely hand-written rather than using printed text, with hand-drawn illustrations, a technique which Jones explicitly acknowledged as inspired by the Pictorial Guides of Alfred Wainwright. At least nine editions of the book have been published, each revision incorporating necessary changes, such as the closure of snickelways which were not public rights of way or the opening of new paths.

Ready to plan a trip to York? Here are some other great sites to see (York), though I did NOT enjoy the ride at the Jorvik Viking Center, which was enhanced with what I’ll call “smell-o-vision.” They gave you a “tour” of an old Viking town and provided a whiff of everything…and I mean everything that’s part of daily life. Not cool!

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »