Category Archives: grammar

The Arts are fine, the Grammar not so much.

Ben and I escaped our house on Saturday for the few hours between blizzards to go to the MFA, and it was lovely. We saw the “D is for Design” exhibit, Klimt’s Adam and Eve (on loan), Japanese paper toys, cool glass sculptures in the contemporary art area, “Nature, Sculpture, Abstraction, and Clay,” and “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” Each of these exhibits was on the small side, just one room each (and the Klimt was just one painting, though it was surrounded by Oskar Kokoschka’s Two Lovers and a few Egon Schiele paintings and drawings).

In the “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” room, however, I encountered a problem (click to enlarge the photo below).

two literallys

literally the tip of the iceberg”

The word “literally” was used twice in five sentences. I’ll give them the second one; I’ve never been to the Scharfs’ home, and it may well be that there are fascinating things to look at “quite literally everywhere,” even the bathroom. (Incidentally, I once saw a Klimt print hanging sideways in someone’s bathroom. Not that the Scharfs’ would ever do such a thing, though it would be fascinating if they did.) But that first “literally”? No. The part of the collection in that room in the MFA was not “literally” the tip of the iceberg, or it would have been the tip of an iceberg. And, fortunately, it just wasn’t that cold in there. (I couldn’t even make a good Titanic joke, because the model ships were safely two rooms away.)

I know that language is not static; it changes over time. I know that in at least one case (the word “cleave”) a word may mean one thing (“to adhere closely; to remain faithful”) and its opposite (“to split or divide; to cut off; sever”). I know that language changes and evolves because of the way people use it, whether or not that usage is accepted as correct at the time (usually it’s not). But there are plenty of good alternatives for what people mean when they misuse the word “literally”: try “figuratively,” or “metaphorically,” or “as it were,” or just use a metaphor or a simile or an analogy or a stronger adjective or adverb to make your point.

Or put a damn iceberg in the room, if that’s literally what you mean.

But. On the plus side, this exhibit had a model of the Ford Fairlane, the car that Henry DeTamble’s parents drive in The Time Traveler’s Wife, and it does indeed have magnificent fins:

Ford Fairlane

And we got out of our house for a few hours, and ate a delicious lunch at the cafe, and tried out these green chenille beanbag chairs, which are even comfier than they look:

bean bag chair

All in all it was quite a good outing. It was nice to see some color, and it was even nice to get out of pajamas and into real clothes (well, jeans), and I expect we’ll go back again in the spring when the Da Vinci exhibit goes up. If spring ever comes.


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Department of Redundancy Department, how may we help or assist you?

Screenshot taken just moments ago:

Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 6.15.29 PM

No. Just no. PIN stands for “Personal Identification Number,” therefore E-ZPass is asking me to enter my personal identification number number. Argh. Clearly this was something devised by CENTRAL Central Intelligence.

I hear this a lot, and as much as I try not to let it annoy me, it does.¬†Also, “ATM machine.” The “M” stands for machine!

And we’re done here.


Filed under grammar, rants

New Orleans – signs & other oddities

I realize this trip was now over a month ago, but I am going to catch up now that I am finished with my summer class and have the occasional hour to myself.

Kitschy coffee for hungover tourists.

“Lemon cello” tart – a musical version of limoncello, perhaps?

Need a place to store your toothpicks? This hedgehog is ready to help.

“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” -Virginia Woolf

This sign was outside a lingerie shop, however. Not sure what she would have thought of that.

What more could you want from art or humor than this “Roux-ster”? And in a diner with excellent chocolate milkshakes, as well.

Pretty sure I already posted this, but here it is again, because why not. (Constant vigilance!)

Who rocks bowties? We all know someone…

What I’m reading: An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin; Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan
What I’m listening to: Dilate and Little Plastic Castle, Ani DiFranco; Interventions & Lullabies, The Format; New Miserable Experience, Gin Blossoms

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Filed under elsewhere, grammar, signage

No Exceptions

Oh Quiznos. I like you better than Subway. Why did you have to go and do this?

I just can’t ACCEPT it.

Although, points for originality – you don’t see this one much (accepting/excepting). Much more common is confusion between your/you’re, who’s/whose, their/there/they’re, that/then, and of course, its/it’s. As a public service, I am providing here a link to a helpful post from TheOatmeal. It will help clear up this confusion in a memorable way! Here, also, is TheOatmeal’s advice on semicolons and apostrophes, complete with dinosaur high-fives; this is not your grade school language arts class!

What I’m reading: Soul Pancake, Rainn Wilson; Under the Banner of Heaven, Jon Krakauer; Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand
What I’m listening to: Spanish with Michel Thomas

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Filed under grammar, signage