Category Archives: Grammar

E c s t a p h o b i a

Noun: A word that describes the feeling that something is about to go miraculously well or so terribly wrong that it might scar you forever.

You can’t step away from the moment, nor would you want to.

Whatever happens, you know it is inevitable, necessary, and life-changing.

You’ll either be fulfilled or left vacantly discontented.

There are words that approximate the feeling, but none capture the personal essence of that infinite certainty that what is about to happen will be a liquid miracle or massive catastrophe. A liquid miracle is one that seeps into everything in your life and finds its way into everything about you: love, an epiphany, the motivation to suddenly just “do” the thing that you couldn’t do before.

The risk of love, the birth of a child, surgery, or the moment when all your reasoning collapses and your course of action becomes a decision rendered as involuntary action and certainty. It is a surrender to the idea that you don’t have control of the outcome.

You’ll be changed forever.

You want it and fear it.

Because our language is entirely invented and arbitrary, I have as much ability to create new words as anyone. Words are what we say they are, just as love and happiness are. I’ve always been fascinated by words and language – and especially the absence of any controlling factor to create and use them. The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows made me realize just how ridiculous our defense of grammar and etymology is. I will put a link in the comments to a TED talk by the creator of that fascinating idea.

PS If you find yourself in a crux moment, one in which life will either reward or bash you for having the audacity, please remember that you might as well fall or jump into the opportunity. Ask.

“Life is exactly like wanting to go for a ride and jumping on a bicycle with square wheels.” – X

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https://www.youtube.com/c/obscuresorrows

Things You Probably Didn’t Know – Dr. Seuss

Think of the name “Dr. Seuss.” Pronounce it in your head.

You’re wrong. Almost everyone pronounces it wrong.

He took the pseudonym from his mother’s maiden name.

All his close friends and family pronounced it to rhyme with “Joyce” or “Zoice.” If you are saying it like “Soose” or to rhyme with “Zeus,” you’re wrong.

There are multiple reasons why Dr. Seuss went along with the mispronunciation. You can look it up if you’re interested.

You’ll also discover the heart-breaking suicide of his first wife. She knew that Dr. Seuss was having an affair with one of her best friends, while significant health problems were affecting her.

Not that I ever get writer’s block, but he’d sit in a room of hats and try one on to stimulate his creativity.

Depending on whom you ask, he might have coined the word “Nerd” in his book, “If I Ran To The Zoo.” That book is no longer printed, among several others, for reasons based on perceived prejudice. He also wrote and illustrated a book for adults about seven naked ladies.

“Green Eggs And Ham” was written on a dare that he couldn’t write a book with fewer than fifty words.

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Writing For X Reasons

“I wrote a few children’s books. Not on purpose.”Steven Wright
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“Writing is a socially acceptable form of getting naked in public.”

Paulo Coelho (one of my favorite quotes…)

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There’s no question I’m a writer. I’m not a paid writer; at least not much, I should say. I don’t monetize my blog, despite sometimes getting a lot of traffic. People drive by train wrecks, so attention isn’t always to one’s benefit.

Whether I’m a good writer is in the eye of the beholder.

More specifically, even Stephen King or Pat Conroy have detractors. Some people like steak with ketchup, others prefer theirs rare and bleeding.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” – Stephen King

Someone recently critiqued me, saying that I am the Thomas Kincade of writing. They didn’t mean it as a compliment. (Kinkade died from alcohol and valium when he was 54.)

I took it as a compliment in the sense that he found a way to live while doing what he loved. The rest of his life wasn’t so golden. For some, his work was seen as overly sentimental or garish.

After I wrote this, someone asked me to add, “You’re the Earnest Hemingway of bullsh*t.”

I love writing, even as I bedevil people with my imperfections and shotgun-style of sentimentality and offbeat humor.

I know it’s not for everyone. Nothing is.

If you hate the way I write, I rarely take it personally.

There is a magic, though, in knowing that anyone is hearing my words in their head as they read. For a moment, I’m connecting directly to another person.

This is one of the strongest powers of writing, the internet, and social media.

As technology advances and reading for pleasure declines, connections to other people always have value.

I hate that a lot of people are nervous about writing or worrying about their command of the impossible rules of English. Writing is communication, not perfection.

When I’m in the zone and writing, time and loneliness dissipate.
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P.S. “If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing.”
‒ Kingsley Amis

Love, X
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Of Brooches, Broaches, And Coincidences

The world is more interconnected than I’d imagine, even though I think about this often.

I received a text today: “X, the brooches are 1/2 off. You ought to come and add to your collection.”

Not having a-n-y idea who the text was from, I resisted the urge to reply. Before making it home, I imagined that it could only be one of two places, so I pulled into the flea market parking lot and went inside.

I limited myself to four, although they were affordable.

When I went to pay for them, I didn’t mention the text.

“Hello, X,” the cashier said.

The cashier remembered me, noting I didn’t have a brooch on my shirt today. (I’d forgotten it, along with several other things, even though I had the items next to the door.) I still had on my work badge. It is difficult to overlook the single large “X” on it.

“You can’t beat half off of something you’d buy for full price,” she added.

I told her that I was about to embark on making my own and deciding whether to get soldering tools or use felt and glue. With enough creativity, just about anything can be converted to a brooch or clip.

“But I will still stop by and see what catches my eye. It’s mainly color, of all kinds.”

When I got home, I laughed, realizing that one of today’s projects was painting some long floor tiles cobalt metallic blue. They, of course, aren’t going on the floor. What kind of foolishness would that be? 🙂

Part of my laugh was that it didn’t occur to me to ask who sent the text, or if I had encountered multiple coincidences by picking that particular flea market.

The mystery remains.

And I love that this is true.

P.S. Grammatically speaking, both ‘broach’ and ‘brooch’ are correct for these pieces of jewelry.

Love, X

Heretoforward March

“Lymph, v.:  to walk with a lisp.”

One of my favorite people asked me half-jokingly if “heretoforward” was a word. When she used it, I understood it in context.

My short answer to the question? Yes, because it conveyed meaning.

Is it proper? Who cares?

I added it to my dictionaries to ensure I use it in the future without being reminded of some arbitrary rule.

“Heretofore” is a ‘real’ word. It supposedly means ‘before now,’ or ‘previously.’

If that stupid word is a ‘real’ word, then so too is ‘heretoforward.’ English is stuffed with ridiculous words, thousands of them, most of them orphans.

It reminds me of the word ‘overmorrow,’ which means ‘the day after tomorrow.’ It’s a good word, one that shouldn’t have fallen out of favor. If we’re going to use logic, let’s take a hard look at some of the rules we take for granted, especially those which make it hard for regular people to immediately understand how our language can be used. I didn’t put the word ‘properly’ in that last sentence because ‘proper’ is a unicorn.

Regarding language, I am not a perfectionist and certainly not a purist. I like language that breaks things and evolves rapidly. If you search the ‘language’ or ‘grammar’ tags of my blog, I’ll probably irritate you with my consistent message: language exists in its present form because we politely agree that it does. It really is that simple.

You can accuse me of laziness all you want. Heretoforward, it won’t bother me. I’ll be over here doing whatever I want with the language. I won’t stray too far because I’m not writing “A Clockwork Orange.” The point is to convey meaning. If I can do that while causing the purists’ hair to stand on end, even better.

Since I’m helping someone new learn a bit of Spanish, I find myself reminding her that English is a bastard language and trying to impose its arbitrary rules on other languages is a recipe for disgust.

P.S. Commenting to tell me how stupid I am wastes your time, not mine. Ha!

Language Belongs To All Of Us

“If we have to guess or spell words phonetically in order to be able to say them properly, why don’t we just change the spelling to be phonetic in the first place?”

I’m a better-than-average speller, but I despise the way our language makes people uncomfortable when using it. Most peoole use only 800 or so distinct words in a day. And most communication is verbal. One of my biggest pleasures is trashing the expectations of those who disagree. We all abuse the language in our own way. It belongs to all of us, to use and misuse as we wish.

Earlier, I witnessed a needless haranguing over language. I intervened jokingly. The self-appointed expert asked me something to exert dominance. I replied in Spanish. “I wasn’t talking in Spanish and I don’t understand it.” I laughed. “No, but he does, so who is the asshole now?”

I intended to write more, but I slipped and fell off my soapbox.

Grammar Police Tripping Themselves

ERRORS GRAMMAR KERMIT

As a bona fide imperfectionist, I’ve spent time over the last couple of years preaching the futility of the bulk of our spelling and grammar rules. I’ve observed many lashings regarding language. One reason I’m careful of such hypocrisy is that we all make spectacular errors. Even using a professional version of Grammarly, I have to laugh at some of the glaring bits of stupidity that amazingly went past my eyeballs. Given that our language is needlessly complex on multiple levels, it’s a bit outlandish to presume you’re not making errors.

You are. We notice.

I’m throwing a caution flag at people who nitpick irrelevant errors of presentation.

I had a list of examples to include with this post. I opted to forego it though, in part because those wearing the badge of grammar police seldom have a light-hearted sense of humor about it.

As for me, I don’t mind when people point out I’ve made an error. They’re going to need a lot of free time though, given the volume of my nonsense and my lack of regard for errors when I make them.

P.S. It’s All P.S.

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People sometimes ask me why I named my original blog “P.S. Parenthetically Speaking.” It currently resides at my own website, xteri.me

First, if you’re reading the written language, it’s safe to skip over anything contained inside parentheses. (Weirdly enough, if you’re doing math, the portion inside the parentheses is vitally important.) My blog was designed as a ‘take it or leave it’ valve for my life. I’m not curing disease or mapping the most efficient economic system in my posts.

Second, ‘P.S.’ is an afterthought and also able to be skipped without too much harm to the content. When letters were the rage, a ‘P.S.’ in a personal letter usually contained fond sentiments or a personal note to close the letter.

Third, most adults can’t spell the words parenthetically, parentheses, or daiquiri. (The last word, in particular, and especially if one’s been imbibing.)

Finally, I liked the idea of someone attempting to speak parenthetically. I’m not sure if this would entail them making wide arm brackets as they spoke. One of my fascinations with language is the disparity and complexity of the written language versus the spoken one. We spend much more of our lives speaking than we do reading or writing; yet, we’ve allowed our language to be our master.

P.S. Language doesn’t need to be difficult.

The Etiquette Practicality Exception

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I still see many posts about manners and etiquette. One of them that invariably makes the lists: “Always use a person’s last name until you know them well enough or they say it is okay to use another.”

Pure manure.

One big problem with etiquette is that it’s based on past customs and behavior. Additionally, across cultures, countries, and societies, etiquette demands vary wildly.

It’s hard for some people to imagine, but there are quite a few people whose entire legal name consists of one name. Also, it is no social faux pas to have trouble attempting to remember or pronounce many of the world’s names. We should stop beating up on one another when no malice was intended, even as we botch names in our daily lives. Some names are akin to a mouthful of consonants and live crickets.

The ongoing attempt to insist that there is a single method of etiquette and politeness is absurd and almost bigoted. If you live inside a regimented or closed society, perhaps it is possible to assume that there might be one infallible way to ensure you’re behaving according to a particular imaginary list of societal demands. Otherwise, it’s a rodeo out there in the world.

Using a person’s last name requires you to know whether they’re married, male or female, and a couple of other variables. (Unless you’re a barbarian and saunter around calling people strictly by their last names, such as “Johnson!” or “Gonzalez.”) Ms., Mrs. ma’am, and Mr. are not the simple labels they once were.

Whether the older generation agrees or not, we’re changing the way we use titles and pronouns – and in ways they never imagined. It’s presumptuous to assume we know the other person’s pronoun or marital status. As I rapidly approach dinosaur status myself, I find myself needing to learn new manners and ways to extract my foot from my mouth. I strive to stop thinking that I ‘know’ the rules that are emerging in life. I don’t, precisely because the rules are a moving target.

We’re all equal. Using a person’s first name does not reveal a lack of respect or an overdeveloped sense of familiarity with the other person. It does, however, demonstrate that we are capable of unilaterally agreeing that a person’s name is, in fact, the label with which they identify. If the person in question wishes to be called an alternate name, they should politely say so. It would also help if people stopped using names as vanity devices or as ammunition in conversations. It’s worth noting that it’s bad form to call someone by a different name or label after they’ve asked you to use another one in their regard.

If we are introduced to someone as ‘Mark Hemmington,’ the only other argument to be made is that we should address them by their full name. That’s a bit unwieldy. Why not insist on using their entire legal name, even if it an absurd array of three, four, or five names? I’m one of the smart ones. I have two names, both spelled phonetically, and only have a surname from necessity. My name is the same in public, on my birth certificate, and on my identification. I don’t use nicknames, titles, or further naming devices to confound those around me. Some people indeed use some rather base nicknames in my regard; that’s another issue.

I don’t mean disrespect if I fail to use an expected title. It’s more comfortable as a society to accept a default of no harm or ill will intended.

I don’t kneel to royalty and don’t consider a senator or president to be anything other than an elected employee we collectively chose to do a job as our representative. Judges are legal experts, not demi-gods of virtue. Police aren’t officers; they are public servants whose dangerous and complicated jobs give them the authority and responsibility to keep us safe. Anyone in those professions who angrily demand conformity or obedience in regards to their title needs to remember humility as a virtue.

I have learned to distrust anyone with a reverence for titles.

I don’t call my personal physician “Doctor.” Financial transactions don’t require an element of inequality. I’m thankful that doctors are well-trained and able to help me. I’m paying for that service – and it is their job. Until the day we call all occupations by their respective vocational title, I think it’s objectionable to anyone to demand the title before their name. Carpenter Joe. Plumber Jim. Teacher Jill. All trained professionals. We need doctors desperately, but we also need people to pick up our trash, fix our vehicles, and keep us from drowning in sink water.

As always, I don’t expect my arguments to be perfect. I don’t defend these ideas with a fiery passion. I do, however, know there’s a strong element of truth running through the points I’ve made in this post.

As a person with a peculiar name and an aversion to bending a knee to titles, I watch in keen observation as society struggles with our out-dated naming conventions.