Posts Tagged ‘grammar’

Caps Rock

April 20, 2010

When I first learned my letters I remember being fascinated with the capital/lowercase concept.  Two versions of the same letter to use at different times, one clearly more important than the other.  If something merited a capital letter then it was special.  I understood why you capitalized someone’s name, but didn’t quite get why the first word in each sentence was so important (I expressed this a few years ago in a bit more sarcastic approach).  And then I realized if you use ALL CAPITAL LETTERS in a sentence it was like shouting, but without speaking.  I was easily impressed back then.  Still am now that I think about it.

Then I got to thinking about numbers.  Numbers are just as important as letters, right?  How come numbers only get one size and shape?  How come the first number in a sequence doesn’t get any special treatment? 

So, at the age of sevenish, I set out to right this injustice by creating the first capital numbers.  As I recall, all I did was just press down really hard with my pencil.  Essentially, I discovered how to bold something before being exposed to Microsoft Word.  So for a while I wrote all my numbers really dark and really big because I didn’t want them to feel left out.

I’m not sure why all that popped in my head this morning, but it was fun going back and thinking about it.  Hope you enjoyed another little glimpse into my mind as a child.


Silent Letters

February 18, 2010

Thoughts on “B”

Stupid B.  As if enough words don’t already start with you, you have to go sticking yourself in places you don’t belong.  Numb, dumb, thumb, plumber, crumb, tomb, womb, comb, lamb.  Damb it B, what gives you the right to just join in wherever you feel like?  “Oh it’s cool,” you say. “I’m being silent.”  No, what you’re doing is taking up space and keystrokes.  You don’t improve peoples word counts, you just make spellcheck work harder.  If you ask me, I think you have co-dependency issues with M, since you seemb to always need to be right beside himb.  Get a life.

Thoughts on “K”

You’re no better than B.  You and your knights, knives, knees, knobs and knickers.  But you’re not even content to jump in at the end of a word.  You’re so attention starved that you jump in the front of words, seriously confusing children learning to use phonics and dictionaries at the same time.  What do you have against N that you keep cutting him off?  You already come before him in alphabetised lists.  What more do you want?

Somebody has to put the alphabet in its place.  Might as well be me.

– J

More Deep Thoughts

January 19, 2010

How come the orange was exempt from needing a real name?  Apple, pear, strawberry, grape, etc, all had to have real names.  Was the first orange ever discovered so perplexing that it couldn’t be described any way other than its color?  Why didn’t the lemon end up being called a yellow?  They’re pretty much the same thing.  Clearly the lemon was discovered by a more creative person.

I’m serious.  Someone associated a word as silly as “banana” with a yellow peely thing and it stuck, but an orange peely thing is just called “orange”?

Yes, these are the kinds of things I think about when I’m alone on the train.  And as a result I am now on a personal quest to find a proper name for the “orange”.  And with words like “kumquat” out there I’m free to be as ridiculous as I want.  Suggestions welcome.

– J

Measurements 2.0

September 17, 2009

I seem to be on to something here.  I knew I wasn’t the only one curious about these kinds of words.  At the prompting of a few readers, here’s some more discoveries I’ve made about the history of small units of measurement.


An interesting thing about “dab” you’ll notice is that it’s only used in reference to semi-solid materials.  You’ll never hear someone ask for a dab of steak, but a dab of mashed potatoes is fine.  I’ve used a dab of glue, but I’ve never put it on a dab of wood.  This is because dab was not originally a form of measurement, but a syrupy medicine used in the late 1800’s.  Dab was a famous cure-all sold in small towns by crafty salesmen from the larger cities.  If you’re arm was sore, put Dab on it.  If you had a toothache, put Dab on it.  Although today we know it was clearly a sham, “dabbing” something still made its way into common speech.


The “Dollop” was created by the sour cream industry in conjunction with a major whipped cream brand based out of Glenview, Illinois.  During a marketing meeting a young, spry associate was asked to describe the products when used.  In a panic he looked up from his doodle and said “Uh, it goes Plop.” And the manager said, “No, that was taken by Alka-Seltzer.”  Adding another ‘o’ was out of the question, because then you were left with “polop”, which is a terribly unfortunate homonym.  So they decided to change the first letter AND add another vowel.  After a quick brainstorming session, the Dollop was born.

Measurements of Force

The evolution of most words describing force are based on reversed phonics.  Instead of sounding out the words, you word out the sounds.  Almost all sound words are onomatopoeia’s* (words that sound like what they are describing). 

Because of this, words like pop, pow, crack and whack all originated in stories told from person to person and then had to be spelled once they were written down.  And of course, these are also the sounds that Adam West makes when he punches someone.

It’s entirely possible I’m having too much fun with this…

– J

* fun fact: the word onomatopoeia IS in fact an onomatopoeia, describing the sounds made when trying to pronounce the word onomatopoeia.

A Little Off

September 15, 2009

Not too long ago I noticed an alarming amount of random words used for small measurements.  I also realized that we use them all the time but nobody seems to know where they came from or how they ended up in our daily speech.  So I did some reasearch and decided to share my findings with you.


First up is a “tad”.  The tad measurement has perplexed many linguists.  Most assume it’s a singular word when it is, in fact, a shortened form of the word “tadpole”.  When American settlers first decided to build homes in Louisiana, they were forced to build on marshlands with crude tools.  Lacking rulers they used many common items and animals around them to dictate length.  It was not an exact measurement, but the average tadpole is approximately half an inch long.  When using a “tad” to measure volume, it means something about the size and weight of a tadpole. Some other measurements from Louisiana they used that did not catch on include a gator tooth, an elm leaf and a bucket o’ swamp water.


When someone asks you for a “bit” of something, they probably don’t know exactly what they’re asking for.  Unbeknownst by most (because it mostly isn’t true), the bit did not always reference a very small portion of something.  The bit measurement comes from a horse bit which holds the reins in a horse’s mouth.  Back then, the average horse bit was a cylinder about 5 or 6 inches long and half an inch in diameter.  They have since been modernized and PETAfied to be thin pieces of metal with hinges on the edges to allow more comfort for the horse.  But the next time someone asks you for a “bit of salt”, don’t let them get mad at you for dumping about 4 ounces of it on their green beans.  They got what they asked for.

Oh, and the “little bit” is, obviously, the bit used by a Shetland Pony.


Smidgen comes to us, like so many words, as a contraction gone awry.  The correct spelling is Sm’idgeon.  It’s a combination of the words Small and Pigeon.  I know, I was surprised too.  But this does explain why you mostly hear the word smidgen in reference to food.  As with the bit measurement, a sm’idgeon was also originally a lot bigger before being adapted into modern dialects.  I, however, still put a sm’idgeon of butter on my popcorn.

Yes, I know a few quick google searches would give me the true etymology of these words and phrases.  But I am of the mind that it’s just way more fun to just make stuff up.

– J

Making Up Words

January 26, 2009

Let’s start with a basic fact:  If you are a mother or a father, you are a “Parent”.

My question today, dearest internets, is what are you if you’re an uncle or an aunt??

To my knowledge, there is no such encompasing title.  Thus far in linguistic history we uncles and aunts have (most cumbersomely) been known as “The brother or sister of the mother or father of the child.”

Friends, this simply will not do.  I have found a hole in the English language and by God I intend to plug it.  Let’s join forces and start brainstorming!  Once we’re all agreed on a good name, I’ll get Mr. Webster on the phone and work out the copyright details.

The best I can come up with on my own is “Siblent” (sibling + parent).  Can anybody think of a better one?

– J

J’s Dictionary

June 20, 2008

New thing on the blog…  I call it “J’s Dictionary”.  As new words or phrases come to me I’ll post them randomly.

Myspaceship:  What people have that are in a long distance relationship on Myspace.  Me and Joe have been in myspaceship for almost 2 months!

Hicktrosexual:  A male individual with both the traits of a hick and a metrosexual.  I can operate a chainsaw and pick out nice drapes.  I’m such a Hicktrosexual.  (shortened: Hicktro)

Yelt: What should be the past tense of “Yield”  Yes officer, I saw the sign and yelt to oncoming traffic.

Gaycation:  When a homosexual person takes a vacation.  Me and Steve are going to California on our gaycation and getting married.

Have a great weekend everyone.

– J

Something to brag about

April 13, 2007


let-i1have always wanted to start a paragraph with a pretentious, oversized letter.  An oversized letter makes it seem like my reader is about to embark on an amazing and extremely important literary adventure.  They will feel like they are taking in something that will make their lives better and that this must surely be written by an important person.  “Just look at that oversized letter,” they say to themselves. “Reading anything that starts with a letter that big just HAS to mean this is worth the read no matter how droll or ridiculous it may end up being.  I bet my life is about to be changed for the better because of the amazing information this oversized letter surely foreshadows.”  Later that day, they will tell their friends, “You know what I read today?  I read something amazing!!” And their friends will ask them, “Oh?  What was it about?”  And then my reader will proudly respond, “I don’t really remember many of the details.  It was completely pointless and trivial…  But it started with an oversized letter.”

And their friends will be very, very impressed.  Oh yes.  They will be impressed.