Posted by: episystechpubs | May 18, 2021

Editor’s Corner: The Silent L

Hi Kara,

We are working on our last spelling list of the year and my second-grade daughter is mad at the people who created the English language. (She’s a bit dramatic sometimes.) She doesn’t understand why would, should, and could have an L in them, and said, “What? Did they not have enough words with L in them, so they threw it in these!?!” Any insight that would help me explain this to her?

Thanks,

Little Drama’s Mamma

Dear Mamma,

Hello there! What a smart kid. It’s tough to argue with her; those Ls don’t make a lot of sense. I did some searching, and they are particularly difficult for people studying English for the first time. Unlike many of the topics we research, there were no compact answers or prewritten lessons to share.

There’s a cool article on Merriam-Webster’s site called Every Letter Is Silent, Sometimes.It’s a bit lengthy, but it sounds like something your daughter might get a kick out of…during next year’s spelling studies. Here is what M-W’s article said about L, which could possibly send her over the edge, though. On the other hand, maybe she helped write the first two sentences!

L

The most indecent of the silent L words is surely colonel. The word sounds identical to kernel, which is an honorable, respectfully spelled word. L is also silent in could, should, would, as well as in calf and half, and in chalk, talk, walk, and for many people in calm, palm, and psalm.

I suspected the answer behind the shifty silent L might be found in its history, so I went to my favorite etymologist online here: https://www.etymonline.com/.

I’ve cut a bit here and there to make the definitions more friendly to today’s yout’.

could

Old English cuðe, past tense of cunnan "to be able" (can)); ending changed in the 14th century to standard English). The unetymological “L” was added in the 15th to16th century on model of would and should, where it is historical.

should

Circa 1200, from Old English sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of "obligation" that has all but dropped from shall.

would

Old English wolde, past tense and past subjunctive of willan "to will" (see will). Would-be (adj.) "wishing to be, vainly pretending" is first recorded c. 1300.

To read the full descriptions and see the links to can, shall, and will, click here.

So, the easy answer to your daughter is that the L is part of the Old English words for will (would) and shall (should), and because the words can and could fit a similar pattern, they threw in the L to make them all similar, even though it wasn’t part of the original word. Now we don’t have the Old English verbs, but we’re still stuck with the silent Ls in the middle.

I hope that answer makes some sense to her, even if it does address her disdain. Tell her to keep asking those great questions!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 18, 2021

Editor’s Corner: The Silent L

Hi Kara,

We are working on our last spelling list of the year and my second-grade daughter is mad at the people who created the English language. (She’s a bit dramatic sometimes.) She doesn’t understand why would, should, and could have an L in them, and said, “What? Did they not have enough words with L in them, so they threw it in these!?!” Any insight that would help me explain this to her?

Thanks,

Little Drama’s Mamma

Dear Mamma,

Hello there! What a smart kid. It’s tough to argue with her; those Ls don’t make a lot of sense. I did some searching, and they are particularly difficult for people studying English for the first time. Unlike many of the topics we research, there were no compact answers or prewritten lessons to share.

There’s a cool article on Merriam-Webster’s site called Every Letter Is Silent, Sometimes.It’s a bit lengthy, but it sounds like something your daughter might get a kick out of…during next year’s spelling studies. Here is what M-W’s article said about L, which could possibly send her over the edge, though. On the other hand, maybe she helped write the first two sentences!

L

The most indecent of the silent L words is surely colonel. The word sounds identical to kernel, which is an honorable, respectfully spelled word. L is also silent in could, should, would, as well as in calf and half, and in chalk, talk, walk, and for many people in calm, palm, and psalm.

I suspected the answer behind the shifty silent L might be found in its history, so I went to my favorite etymologist online here: https://www.etymonline.com/.

I’ve cut a bit here and there to make the definitions more friendly to today’s yout’.

could

Old English cuðe, past tense of cunnan "to be able" (can)); ending changed in the 14th century to standard English). The unetymological “L” was added in the 15th to16th century on model of would and should, where it is historical.

should

Circa 1200, from Old English sceolde, past tense of sceal (see shall). Preserves the original notion of "obligation" that has all but dropped from shall.

would

Old English wolde, past tense and past subjunctive of willan "to will" (see will). Would-be (adj.) "wishing to be, vainly pretending" is first recorded c. 1300.

To read the full descriptions and see the links to can, shall, and will, click here.

So, the easy answer to your daughter is that the L is part of the Old English words for will (would) and shall (should), and because the words can and could fit a similar pattern, they through in the L to make them all similar, even though it wasn’t part of the original word. Now we don’t have the Old English verbs, but we’re still stuck with the silent Ls in the middle.

I hope that answer makes some sense to her, even if it does address her disdain. Tell her to keep asking those great questions!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 13, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Shorty

Hello folks!

Recently, I “met” someone from South Africa through an Editor’s Corner post. He said he was looking up the phrase, “It’s been a minute” and stumbled on our blog. After singing “It’s a small world after all,” and sending him my well wishes, I thought it was time to send out an email to everyone to remind you that we are here for you to answer your questions about English—whether British, American, Canadian, South African, or Australian. Have you been wondering about a phrase you’ve heard or a rule that seems to have changed? We will do our best to find the answer and get back to you, or guide you to a previous blog where we covered the topic before.

In the meantime, in honor of our Texan coworkers, I have a few signs from my favorite restaurant in Austin. No, I’ve never been there, but I already know it will be my favorite because of their signs and the pictures of their food.

If you have any topics you’d like us to cover as far as English goes, just send them my way: kchurch.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 11, 2021

Editor’s Corner: An Abundance of Caution

Lately, I’ve been hearing the phrase “an abundance of caution” used to describe any amount of caution—even the bare minimum that a reasonable person would apply.

I always thought “abundance” implied an excessive amount. For example:

  • Correct: There’s a 20 percent chance of drizzle this weekend. I’m filling sandbags out of an abundance of caution.
  • Incorrect: We’re in the middle of a thunderstorm. I’m going to stop flying this kite out of an abundance of caution.

When companies use the phrase, it feels condescending—as if showing any regard for my well-being is a massive inconvenience. I would much prefer to read a phrase such as, “For your safety…” or, “Because we care about our customers…”

Am I just showing an abundance of crankiness? Or are there more appropriate phrases we should use?

Sincerely,

Mr. Abbondanza

Dear Mr. Abbondanza

When I first read your email, I thought “Oh boy, I hope I can find something on this.” I was shocked when a found an abundance of blogs and newspaper articles on the topic. The ones I read were from very different sources, but the writers agreed on several points: the phrase is overused, sneaky, and has surged in the past year because of politics and COVID.

The two articles I’ll include pieces of are from the following sites:

From Bridget Read (The Cut), we have this description of why the phrase seems duplicitous:

“It has an air of rhetorical largesse; it implies politeness and restraint instead of flailing panic. It’s a verbal lasso around galloping unpredictability. Though the scale of its terms are oxymoronic—abundance signaling plenty, caution calling for restraint—that only serves to make it sound more poetic.

So as easily as “abundance of caution” slips off the tongue, it performs a sort of doublespeak. It evokes tranquility….

The blog, The Oikofuge, gives us the legal Latin term and defines it in the following way:

ex abundante cautela, “by way of extreme caution”, which was used when a person took extreme measures to avoid an unlikely adverse outcome

The writer further describes why it’s sneaky and how it can disguise the user’s intentions:

“Caution”, on its own, can be parsed as a negative attribute; but an “abundance” of anything has got to be a good thing, doesn’t it? The phrase also allows the user some considerable wiggle room if challenged. An abundance of caution can imply, “Well, I have no good supporting evidence for the course of action I took, but I did it with the best of intentions.”

You asked about alternate phrasing, but I think you should just avoid this phrase and speak frankly about whether caution is required, without qualifying how much caution must be used.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | May 6, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Words to Use Instead of Very

Good morning, friends!

In most business writing, whether it be email, technical writing, or any correspondence to a client or professional colleague, we are advised to be brief—to be polite and friendly, but to get to the point so we don’t waste people’s precious time.

To this end, Kara and I have repeatedly recommended that you avoid unnecessary wordiness. We’ve talked about cutting out deadwood phrases like “due to the fact that,” “in order to,” and “at this point in time.”

We’ve recommended removing redundancies like “return back,” “meet together,” “small speck,” “imagine in your mind,” and “added bonus.”

We have even recommended that you sparingly use adverbs like absolutely, actually, completely, and essentially.

But today, I want to bring your attention to one special, overused adverb: very.

This is a particular pet peeve of mine, and I blame my little sister who has always had a tendency to exaggerate, but not creatively. Recently, she was stung by a wasp, and she said, “It hurts very, very, very, very much.”

And this is where I went wrong. I said, “Really? Four verys? I’m glad you didn’t get bitten by a rattle snake because you’ve used up all your verys.” And this is when she called me a name I cannot repeat. I can tell you, however, that our mom would be sorely disappointed in her, which I pointed out just before I heard the expletive and then the dial tone.

In my sister’s honor (even though she’s not currently speaking to me because she’s very, very angry), I’m sharing this list of alternative words you can use instead.

I hope you have a beautiful day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Pronouns she/her/hers

About Editor’s Corner

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

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Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
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Posted by: episystechpubs | May 4, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Imply vs. Infer

Hey, Editrix!

Have y’all ever done "implied" versus "inferred?" I heard these used incorrectly this morning and it makes me crazy…

Brent

Hello, Mr. Texas!

Surprisingly, I don’t think we have covered this before. I would love to make your world a little less crazy, or at least try to.

There’s a lot of information out there about the two verbs imply and infer. Let’s start with simple definitions from Grammarly.com:

  • Imply means to suggest or to say something in an indirect way.
  • Infer means to suppose or come to a conclusion, especially based on an indirect suggestion.

Yet people do get them confused, so let’s look at a few examples. Remember imply means suggest; infer means conclude.

  • Victor said that he didn’t mean to imply that my outfit was inappropriate for the hockey game when he asked, “Are you really gonna wear pink ruffles and roller skates tonight?”
  • I inferred by the look on Victor’s face and his attitude that I should change into something warmer and more subdued, and trade in my skates for tennis shoes if I went to the hockey game.
  • When Tyler told Stella that they would never be more than friends, Stella cried, “All the gifts, flowers, and kissing implied otherwise!”
  • When Tyler told Stella that they were just friends, she told him that she inferred they had a more intimate relationship after all the gifts and kisses he showered her with.
  • The advertisement for “Festival of Fun”—complete with images of animals, cotton candy, games, and a Ferris wheel—implied there would be something all of us to enjoy. When we arrived, all they had was an old cow and a dartboard.
  • When we arrived to the “Festival of Fun” and the fairground contained only an old cow and a dart board, we inferred that we had been taken advantage of by the ticket sellers.

Does that make a little more sense? One website compared the two words to give and take. Vocabulary.com said “the speaker does the implying, and the listener does the inferring. Similarly, you could say that the writer does the implying and that the reader does the inferring. One last comparison, from Vocabulary.com provides this “Like baseball? Theodore Bernstein, in his classic The Careful Writer, gives us a way to keep imply and infer straight: "The implier is the pitcher; the inferrer is the catcher."

Hopefully some of these examples help!

And in honor of you, Mr. Texas:

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 29, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Mandela Effect

Hello, dear readers!

Several of you have asked me about the Mandela Effect. Those of you who wrote compared it to mondegreens (misunderstood song lyrics). This is a fascinating topic, so let’s just dig in!

From VeryWellMind, here’s a description of the term and where it came from:

The term "Mandela Effect" began when it was first coined in 2009 by Fiona Broome when she published a website detailing her observance of the phenomenon. Broome was at a conference talking with other people about how she remembered the tragedy of former South African president Nelson Mandela’s death in a South African prison in the 1980s.

However, Nelson Mandela did not die in the 1980s in a prison—he passed away in 2013. As Broome began to talk to other people about her memories, she learned that she was not alone. Others remembered seeing news coverage of his death as well as a speech by his widow.

Broome was shocked that such a large mass of people could remember the same identical event in such detail when it never happened. Encouraged by her book publisher, she began a website to discuss what she called the Mandela Effect and other incidents like it.

Most articles talk about movies that we’ve seen or shows that we’ve watched and “misremembered” as if we shared a collective mind. Here’s a very dated example about our dear Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. As he walked into the house each day, what did you hear him sing? “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood?” “It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood?” I certainly remember it as the first option; but it was neither! He sang, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.” As a group of people, so many of us remember the wrong lyrics that the movie about Mr. Rogers (with Tom Hanks) is called “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” This is the Mandela Effect! Don’t believe me? Listen here.

Another example of this effect includes the words from Snow White "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?" That phrase was actually “Magic mirror on the wall.” Again, from VeryWellMind:

One of the most well-known examples of the Mandela Effect is the collective memory of a movie called "Shazaam" that starred the actor/comedian Sinbad in the 1990s.

In fact, no such movie exists, although there was a children’s movie called Kazaam and some other coincidences that could help to explain how this movie became created (or remembered) in many people’s minds.

I’ll skip the explanations of this as a memory problem or the proof that there are parallel universes. Again, from VeryWellMind, here are some potential possibilities behind the effect:

  • Confabulation: Confabulation involves your brain filling in gaps that are missing in your memories to make more sense of them. This isn’t lying, but rather remembering details that never happened. Confabulation tends to increase with age.
  • Post-event information:Information that you learn after an event can change your memory of an event. This includes event subtle information and helps to explain why eyewitness testimony can be unreliable.
  • Priming:Priming describes the factors leading up to an event that affects our perception of it. Also called suggestibility and presupposition, priming is the difference between asking how short a person is, versus how tall a person is. Saying, "Did you see the black car?" instead of "…a black car?" makes a subtle suggestion that influences response and memory.

And now, I have a few items to test you on! The answers are at the bottom of the email.

In this famous portrait of Henry VIII, he is holding…

a. A book

b. A knife

c. A turkey leg

d. A glove

What color is Tony the Tiger’s nose on the cereal box?

a. Black

b. Black and blue

Which line does E.T. say in the movie?

  1. “E.T. home phone”
  2. “E.T. phone home”
  3. Both
  4. Neither

Which of these is the Fruit of the Loom logo?

  1. With cornucopia
  2. Without the cornucopia

When you have a break, you can test yourself more on Buzzfeed.

  • (d) Henry VIII is holding a glove. Most people picture him with a turkey leg.
  • (b) Tony the Tiger has a black and blue nose.
  • (c) E.T. says both “home phone” and “phone home.” [I watched it and still can’t believe what I’m hearing!]
  • (b) Tighty-whities were designed to only contain fruit, no cornucopia included.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 27, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Latin Favorites

Good day, my fellow travelers.

Todays topicone weve covered beforeis about two little abbreviations: i.e. and e.g. While the JHA Style Guide does not recommend against using these abbreviations, we folks here, writing about Episys, have discouraged the use for a long time. Its not that we dont approve of Latin, its just that we dont approve of misusing terms.

Since we still see both used (and misused), I thought it might be time for a reminder lesson.

First, what do they stand for and what do they mean?

  • I.e. stands for id est, which is Latin for that is to say, or in other words.
  • E.g. stands for exempl grti, which is Latin for for example.

Heres a little more from a GrammarBook.com newsletter:

The abbreviation i.e. restates or fully lists what precedes it. It identifies, amplifies, clarifies, or specifies to remove all doubt about what the previous statement is saying.

The abbreviation e.g. gives one or a few examples from a larger grouping. It helps to illustrate a preceding thought but does not restate, list, or summarize it.

Next, lets look at some examples:

  • Latin Abbreviation: Ruby will get the reports to you shortly (i.e., one or two days).
  • English: Ruby will get the reports to you shortly (in other words, one or two days).
  • Latin Abbreviation: It would be great if you could bring something to the party (e.g., appetizers, salad, ice cream).
  • English: It would be great if you could bring something to the party (for example, appetizers, salad, ice cream).

Last, I have some additional notes that address some of the common mistakes we see with i.e. and e.g.:

  • When using e.g., you do not include etc. at the end of the list. From GrammarBook.com: because we are identifying partial information by way of example, we would not include etc. with an e.g. reference.
    • Correct: Please bring art supplies to the class (e.g., pencils, scissors, paint brushes).
    • Incorrect: Please bring art supplies to the class (e.g., pencils, scissors, paint brushes, etc.)
  • When using e.g. and i.e., follow them with a comma afterwards.
  • If you start a sentence with either abbreviation, the first letter should be uppercase. (See my example above under, First, what do they stand for and what do they mean?
  • Dont confuse the two! When in doubt, use the English alternatives.

Professionals recommend a mnemonic device to help remember which is which. Think of i.e. as in effect; think of e.g. as example given. I use my own twisted version, which is i.e. (in other words) and e.g. (eggsample).

Unless you are short on space, its best to use English rather than these abbreviations. Semper Fi!

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editors Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 22, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Happy Birthday, William Shakespeare

Good day, good friends!

Tomorrow is William Shakespeare’s birthday. He was born on April 23, 1564. Did you know that he died on his birthday in 1616?

He wrote his first play (Henry VI, Part 1) sometime between 1589 and 1591 and he wrote his last complete play (The Tempest) sometime between 1610 and 1611. In his 52 short years of life, he wrote at least 37 plays and collaborated on several more. While writing those plays, his sonnets, and his other poetry, he invented many new words. So, it seems fitting that today we pay tribute to the man and look at some of the words he coined. The following short list comes from the Grammarly blog:

  • bandit
    Henry VI, Part 2 (1594)
  • critic
    Love’s Labour Lost (1598)
  • dauntless
    Henry VI, Part 3 (1616)
  • dwindle
    Henry IV, Part 1 (1598)
  • elbow (as a verb)
    King Lear (1608)
  • green-eyed (to describe jealousy)
    The Merchant of Venice (1600)
  • lackluster
    As You Like It (1616)
  • lonely
    Coriolanus (1616)
  • skim-milk
    Henry IV, Part 1 (1598)
  • swagger
    Midsummer Night’s Dream (1600)

These are great words, but they are only the tip of a literary iceberg. Shakespeare has been credited with inventing more than 1700 words (if you’re interested, you can see more words here.) He usually worked with existing words and changed them to fit his needs. He is well-known for joining two words into one. He also changed many verbs into adjectives, and he changed many nouns into verbs. There is also a long list of words to which he added prefixes and suffixes to make new words. In fact, we still use many of Shakespeare’s invented words today.

So, happy birthday, William Shakespeare. Thank you for the gift of so many words, so many lovely sonnets, and so many thrilling plays. Thank you for the stories we all know and love.

Visit Shakespeare Online to learn more about his life and his works.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

Pronouns she/her/hers

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
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Any unauthorized review, use, printing, saving, copying, disclosure or distribution
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immediately advise the sender by reply email and delete all copies.

Posted by: episystechpubs | April 20, 2021

Editor’s Corner: Ambigrams

Hey, Mom and Dad, I learned a new word today: ambigrams!

Let me tell you a little bit about this interesting word and show you a bunch of examples from Envatotuts+. I could not include all of them because of the size, but I selected some different ones produced through the years, and you can always visit their website.

First, let’s look at the word itself. Ambi (like in ambidextrous) means “both,” and is a Latin prefix. Gram (in words such as telegram, phonogram, and hologram) means “drawing, writing, or record” and is a Greek suffix. Put those together and it’s something like “both drawing,” which will make more sense when you read the definition from Wikipedia:

An ambigram is a visual pun of a special kind: a calligraphic design having two or more (clear) interpretations as written words. One can voluntarily jump back and forth between the rival readings usually by shifting one’s physical point of view (moving the design in some way) but sometimes by simply altering one’s perceptual bias towards a design (clicking an internal mental switch, so to speak). Sometimes the readings will say identical things, sometimes they will say different things.

Here are some titles, descriptions, and examples from Envatotuts+.

Sun Microsystems (1982) logo

Sun Microsystems logo is one of the most brilliant logos in the world. It is a rotationally symmetric chain ambigram, designed by computer science professor Vaughan Pratt.

Ultima 1998

Ultima is a rotational ambigram designed by Scott Kim. Turn this design upside down and you will see that it reads the same both ways.

Chirp

A logo identity designed by Todd Weber for his freelance business.

Labyrinth

A clever and interesting style of ambigram by Krzychu.

Philosophy

A delicate and appealing ambigram from the word Philosophy by John Langdon.

Synergy 1981

Tessellation with two 90° centers of rotation designed by Scott Kim. This design practices synergy in two ways first, the word crosses itself four times at two different types of junctions: S becomes Y and E becomes R. Second, letters are joined in pairs, reducing the number of modules to just three.

The Princess Bride

The movie, "The Princess Bride" featured an attractive ambigram on the cover of its DVD. This ambigram was accompanied by a photo that has some subtle insights into the story’s plot line.

All City

All City ambigram by Katsiedesign.

Teach/Learn

An inversion by Scott Kim, "TEACH" reflects to become LEARN.

Kara Church

Pronouns: she/her/hers

Technical Editor, Advisory

Editor’s Corner Archives: https://episystechpubs.com/

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