Have you noticed? On TV or in the movies:

 90% of the time, nobody  eats the food when they are supposed to be having a meal. Why? Is it fake? Old? Cold? At breakfast, it’s one sip of a beverage and they’re out the door, to school, the office, or some appointment. What is supposed to keep them going until lunch–which they won’t eat, either? Does hard-working Mom just throw the food into the trash, then? What kind of message is that to the viewing audience? Or am I the only one who cares?

 Two people in the car, and the driver often takes his/her eyes off the road while talking to the passenger for so long that I get nervous, even though I know the “car” is a cutaway prop and is not moving, while the scenery goes by on film, and he will not have an accident unless it’s in the script.

Cell Phones: “Everyone has a Smart Phone,” you hear in the commercials, just as “everyone” has a Facebook and Twitter account. My cell phone does not even have a QWERTY keypad. And the ease with which all the teens and 20-somethings on TV appear to carry on instant text conversations, scheduling, and transactions is certainly not typical. I got my cell/mobile phone so I could talk to people when I am away from home, and I pay as little as I can to keep that service. Why should I pay $100 a month to carry around a hand-held computer?

Words & Phrases

One local talk show host says he is going to tell his listeners “a heart-rendering story.”

Many news personalities mispronounce “pundits,” inserting an n between the i and t. Three people I can think of who do this are Sarah Palin, Michelle Obama, and Diane Sawyer.

This one is uttered by educated and common folk alike: “not that big of a deal.” The expression has several variations, but the error is the placement of the prepositional phrase after an adjective (big, bad, hard, much, etc.) If you are going to use the slang expression, please omit the “of” and say, “not that big a deal.”

And still being heard: “Noo-kyuh-ler.” Need I say more? It makes you sound like a hick. (I wanted to thump George Dubyuh every time he said that, though I think he has shown a great deal of dignity and “class” since leaving the public spotlight.)


New “Smart Meters” are being installed in my city. This will allow remote reading of the meters, and the power companies won’t have to pay so many techs to go out to homes and businesses to read the meters on site. What we are hearing in the radio commercials, however, is this: “Your Smart Meter EMPOWERS YOU because no one has to come into your yard to read it. It can be read remotely. This protects your privacy.”

(So much for that BS!) Actually, this empowers THEM, not you. Soon the regulations on home and building wiring will change to permit remote access and control of thermostats, etc. While it is nice that the power company will know right away when there is a power outage, and can get started fixing it sooner, it also means that they will have the means to turn off the power to a neighborhood for several minutes if there is a heavy demand on the power grid. They can determine when or at what temperature your air conditioner or heater comes on, and perhaps when your lights will shut off. Don’t you find that empowering? I find it terrifying.



I’m “elderly,” so I get a lot of ads in the mail to come to some office or a special event to have a FREE hearing evaluation. I received one today that offered $1,000 off on their “Elite Basic 100% Digital” programmable hearing device, or $1600 off MSRP on a Binaural Set (Medicaid accepted!)
DO YOU HEAR, BUT NOT UNDERSTAND? it said on the front of the card. Absolutely! But for a number of good reasons, as I will try to explain.
DO PEOPLE SEEM TO MUMBLE? was the second question. My answer: They DO mumble, especially people under 40, and people older than that who are around young people in their work.  People who call me on the phone to remind me of an appointment, or to ask me questions in an opinion survey are the worst. Their words  are child-like and half-swallowed, or have a heavy cultural accent. The serving staff in most restaurants and the clerical staff in medical offices are next to worst.
DO PEOPLE COMPLAIN THAT YOU PLAY THE TV TOO LOUD[LY]? Ordinarily I watch TV alone and have the volume down to about “8”. But if there are people in the room talking over the sound, I have to turn on the “caption” feature if I want to know what is being said. Sometimes a loud air conditioner will muffle someone’s voice or the TV audio, and I will have to increase the sound temporarily, or read the lips of a person talking to me. I think that’s reasonable.
But here is the question I didn’t understand: DO YOU HAVE DIFFICULTY UNDERSTANDING WHEN TWO OR MORE PEOPLE ARE TALKING? Doesn’t everyone? On the TV news panel shows where everyone is talking [arguing] at the same time, I have to turn it off or switch to something else. NO one can pay attention to more than one thing at a time, and must switch attention rapidly to catch parts of what several people are saying. And that is something through which I don’t care to force myself.
 In a noisy atmosphere, such as a popular concert, a dance club with live music, or most movie theatres, I have to wear ear plugs–and have for many years. Most people don’t protect their hearing, and they don’t think it’s loud in these places. These are the people who go around wearing earphones and who find texting much easier than talking on the phone.
I don’t like noise. I like music below 70 decibels, and people speaking clearly. There is entirely too much noise pollution in our society today. I don’t think I need a hearing aid to understand my friend who speaks with a foreign accent and has a tremor in her voice. And she understands that I may have to ask her to repeat what she says on the phone, and that  I read her lips when we are together. She isn’t mumbling. But until someone finally got the management of our favorite lunch place to lower the volume on their “background” music, we couldn’t carry on a conversation there without yelling at each other across the table!

How do YOU say T-O-Y-O-T-A?

Toyota Logo

Why is it that so many people can’t seem to wrap their tongues around the oy/oi diphthong? Now it may be a local phenomenon (southern United States), where I live, but I almost NEVER hear “Toyota” pronounced correctly, even by people who ought to know better. Worse, I hear it mispronounced in radio and TV commercials!

There are at least three variations: TAY-ota, TYE-ota, and TEE-ota. Is that the way these people HEAR the name? Why is it so hard to say “TOY-ota?” Is it a case of “lazy tongue?” Or is it because that’s the way “everyone else” says it?

Which brings me to another word that is almost universally mispronounced due to ignorance: “TINNITUS,”  the term for abnormal noises or ringing in the ears. It is not “tinn-EYE-tus”, since it is not really an “itis”, like “arthritis.” It is correctly pronounced “TINN-it-us,” with a short i. Normally, it just grates on my nerves, being a word geek. But when I started hearing commercials with the word being pronounced “Tinn-EYE-tis,” I had to wonder if the people pushing their product (which claims to *cure* the condition) did not actually know how to pronounce it, or worse, they were condescending to the level of potential customers who both believed that it was an “itis”, and that there was a quick, “all-natural” cure?

Well, this gives me two pet peeves that are up there with the all-time champ, “NOO-kyu-ler!” “GAG!”

“You COULD Care less?”

How MUCH less could you care? A little? A lot? If you could care less, but you don’t, then it’s likely that you really do care an unspecified amount…which is not at all what you meant to convey! However, if you find it possible to care so little, and the object of your [not] caring so unimportant and unworthy that you are able to hold it in no regard whatever–in fact, ignore it totally– except, of course,  to mention your total disregard of it–then you may actually be unable to care less! And this is what you really meant to convey.

 But because the vast majority of people in the USA, either from ignorance, laziness, or the wish to follow current trends, are heard to say (with a flippant air), “I could care less,”  you parrot what everyone says, not realizing  that it expresses the opposite of what you mean. “So what?”, you say. “Everybody knows what it means, which is that I really don’t care. Nobody cares, man”…except for the few of us who still have respect for the English language and take pride in expressing ourselves correctly.

Oh……the correct way to say it is: “I couldn’t care less!”


Hello? Anybody care?
Hello? Anybody care?


IF I WOULD’VE KNOWN…IF THEY WOULD’VE DONE…(The Misuse of the If/Would Combination)

It has become ubiquitous in the American culture to use “if” and “would” in the same phrase. It is especially prevalent among younger people just out of school or still in school, which makes me wonder, do their teachers say it, too, in their everyday speech?

You do not hear anyone over 50 saying, “If I would have known the item was on sale, I would have bought it today.” No one over 50 would say, “If they would have put up a sign, I would have found the place.” And certainly not, “I wish they would have told me.”

This use of the if/would combination implies an intention if given the opportunity; it does not mean that any action was taken or not taken.

“If I would have known” implies that I might have known, with a number of qualifications. It is indefinite at best. “If they would have put up a sign” makes me wonder what circumstances occurred to prevent them from carrying out their intention to put up a sign–if they had one. (They would have put up a sign, BUT…) And that is pure speculation. They might not have put up the sign even if they thought of it.

The solution to this dilemma is not to use “if” and “would” in the same phrase. You should say, “If I had known the item was on sale, I would have bought it today.” You should say, “If they had put up a sign, I would have found the place.” The element of intention is removed from the first part of the sentence: the point is that I didn’t know, and they didn’t put up the sign, so I didn’t buy the item and I didn’t find the place.

Let’s take the past participle off the shelf and give it back its rightful place, so that we who are over 50 don’t have to wince when we hear our children and grandchildren speak, or hear TV personalities speak. Don’t say, “I wish I would have known” when you mean, “I wish I had known.”

Oh, and by the way, how many times have you heard a speaker at a ceremony say, “I would like to thank so-and-so for this opportunity”? What’s stopping him or her from thanking so-and-so? It is no better to say, “I want to thank so-and-so.” Why not just come out and say the words, THANK YOU? Where’s our courage?

More Language Pet Peeves

“NEW AND IMPROVED” has been around so long that we are used to hearing and seeing it. But think about it. A product can’t be new and improved at the same time. Either it is new, so it isn’t improved yet, or it is an improved version of an old product, so it can’t be new.

“RUN HIM OVER.” I don’t know where or how this got started. Does it just sound better than “run over him?” It leaves the preposition over hanging at the end of a phrase, and following its object. I ask, “Run him over what? A cliff, perhaps?”

CEMENT VS CONCRETE. Cement is a grey powder, which when combined with gravel, sand, and water, hardens into concrete. I knew my house did not have a cement foundation; nor did I have a cement driveway or sidewalk. And the highway to the next town was not a cement road. But I was still a bit confused about what to call a truck that is hauling a load of wet mix to be poured onto a prepared area to make someone’s new driveway. Some people call it a cement truck, or a cement mixer truck. I have never heard it called a concrete, or concrete mixer, truck.

My friend suggested comparing the cement to the flour used in making a cake. Do you call the mixture of ingredients “flour mix” or “flour batter?” No, I call it “cake mix” or “cake batter.” So, if a truck were hauling cake batter somewhere to be made into a really, really big cake, I would call it a cake mixer truck. Or, as the construction people call it, just a mixer truck.

But definitely not a “cement truck.” That might be what I’d call a truck hauling bags of cement, though.

Am Not, Doesn’t, and Isn’t Don’t Sing!

I just read that novelist Tom Wolfe (who says he doesn’t read blogs) is offering a $5000 reward for any song that makes it to the Top 10, which contains the words “am not, doesn’t, or isn’t.”

As a writer, I love the correct usage of the English language as much as Mr. Wolfe does, and have posted my complaints about the atrocities currently being committed against English grammar either from ignorance or for the sake of convenience.


But as a songwriter, I also realize that lyrics must be euphonious (they have to ‘sing.’) The words used in a song must conform to the rhythm and contribute to the sound of the phrase, as well as the turn of it. I find using “am not” awkward in rhythm, and will use “I’m not” instead, but that is the only alternative that will work if you have room for two syllables in the line. If you only have room for one syllable, “ain’t” is better than “amn’t”, which some have tried to foist on us as the proper contraction.

The same goes for “doesn’t” and “isn’t.” In a country or rock song, if you say, “she doesn’t” or “he isn’t”, instead of “she don’t” or “he ain’t”, then you might have to start putting the g’s back on the ends of words like goin’ or doin’, and then it wouldn’t be country or rock any more, but like that stuff they used to sing on “Your Hit Parade.”

Strange thing is, I can still recall the lyrics to those songs after all these years, but a week after I hear a new country or rock song, I couldn’t tell you one line from it–if I were able to understand it in the first place!

Love ya, Mr. Wolfe! Wish I could write something with proper grammar that would sell, and collect your $5000.