Sunday, February 28, 2010

Irregardless is in the dictionary, to the chagrin of many and the semi-delight of others

Two alliterative sentences railing against this:

Irrespective of the irresponsible initiative of those at institutions that produce dictionaries that resulted in the term "irregardless" being integrated in to its pantheon of inclusion (with the implicit acceptance), if the definition of said term is a mere variation on "regardless" then such indiscretion disintegrates any importance of even any modicum of codification to our language (that presumably we were to infer from their effort to generate the list of the lexicon), rendering the integrity of investigating words in a dictionary to the point of irrelevance.

To adopt a misused word merely because it received an implausibly high level of utterance in common parlance seems highly irregular intuition on the part of those who ajudicate what gets imported—especially in light of the fact that there's already a perfectly good word available that holds the intended meaning by those using the longer (and more multi-syllabic) variation—makes the decision essentially irreconcilable, even if duly indicated as improper.


Three less-alliterative paragraphs that offer a compromise (of sorts):

If in all other application of the prefix "ir-" to a word changes the meaning of the new word to be opposite of the original, the conventional meaning of "irregardless" would be the opposite of "regardless" (in the same way that, for example, "irresponsible" means "not responsible"). That, of course, is not the case.

"Regardless" itself is already essentially the opposite of "regard," with the application of the "-less" suffix ("without regard to"), so ultimately that should make "irregardless" mean the same as "regard" but holding the implication of meaning "not without regard to," for contexts where one wished to refute where another had failed to regard something one thought worthy of that.

With that definition there'd be no irredeemable redundancy to what has been introduced, something filling a need rather than being merely what someone who didn't think through what he meant to say, followed by another who didn't think through what he meant to say, followed by another who didn't think through what she meant to say….


A conclusion about which all might be able to agree, but probably not:

Let's dispense with such topics, as concern for English making sense surely must be deemed irrational and itself can even be considered indefensible.

When it comes down to it: Who bothers with dictionaries any more except when playing Scrabble? Thus, all this energy suffices in arbiting board games.

(Let's not go down the path of pondering who still plays Scrabble.)


Interrogatories? Irascible diatribes?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Incongruous, not ironic

In Tuesday's post I used the term "incongruity" to describe the situation wherein one who is not an athlete was judging those who were.

One might argue that the relationship there is more one of inappropriateness than incongruity, and that certainly would be a fair argument. I suspect that in common contemporary vernacular many may have used "irony" in those circumstances, indicating they perceived it as ironic for one who could not even come close to doing the something he's watching, who could not even in the most liberal use of the term be considered an avid fan of the something he was watching, to be drawing conclusions about the nuanced superiority of one spectacular performance over another spectacular performance.

Allow me to point out that I did not choose the term "irony." I did not mean to suggest I thought that scenario was held elements of sarcasm or was opposite of my meaning, nor that it was a scenario I had specifically sought to avoid and ended up in nonetheless.

I tend to be an "irony" traditionalist. But hey, that's just me.

"Incongruity," however, appears to be a word I'll jam in any old place when I'm trying to eschew (let's call it) non-traditional use of "irony," whether the one part of the situation at hand genuinely does not follow from the other or not. The only way "incongruity" will become as… loosely… applied as "irony" has come to be is if someone starts doing that.

If it catches on, allow history to show this was its point of origin.

(I'm getting older; I need to start a legacy of some kind.)


The real question: Was there any context where "irony" would be appropriate for that part above?


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Must-see TV

Last night I stayed up watching the coverage of the winter Olympics. I'd gone in to the bedroom, so I was tired, but nonetheless I was caught up in the competition being aired at that time (which I'd started watching on the TV in the living room). I ended up lying in bed viewing the finals for about an hour.

I should interject here that I am not the sort to watch Olympic coverage. I tend to flip by it when it's on, observe perhaps a few minutes worth of the athletes, and then move on; it doesn't tend to capture my attention for long periods.

So what sport had me glued to the TV, staving off the Sandman? Something I've watched in person like hockey? No. Something more adrenaline-filled like speedy downhill skiing or rocket-like bobsled? Perhaps something featuring a name athlete such as Apolo Ohno, medal-winning short-track speed skater? No, those events are over.

What was it?

Ice dancing.

Yes, ice dancing. Not figure skating, with its throws and lifts, but ice dancing, with its rhythmic movements across the ice.

What about that would keep me watching? Well, in part I suppose I got caught up in the thrill of the competition, of seeing who would win. However, in part it was because there was an American duo in the hunt for the gold medal. Not only that, but they hailed from my wife's hometown and were juniors at the same university she attended; there was a bit more of a connection than average patriotism would dictate.

I'd seen a little bit of some earlier rounds the night before, but that was merely while flipping around. That was more just having the TV on in the background while I did stuff on the computer than getting involved in what was on screen. With last night's "free dance" round I found myself not only paying attention but also getting what I considered to be some modicum of grounds for gauging which performances were better than others. So I not only watched the Americans but also the Canadians who followed them, and then another American team, and then a Russian pair. During the opening American duo (Meryl Davis and Charlie White—egad, I remember their names without looking it up) I found myself watching and thinking, Okay, it's going well, now just don't mess up. And they didn't. After their routine they were in first place. Then when the Canadians were up I watched and thought, Well, if we (as though I were involved) must lose to anyone it would be okay if it's them, as they're really good. With the other Americans and the Russians I found my reaction was that their performances weren't as good.
Now, let's stop for just a moment and acknowledge that there I was, lying in bed (not even having to get up to adjust the volume), as someone who can maybe do half an hour of moderate exercise, casting judgments about people who could do moves while gliding across ice on one skate that I couldn't do even on dry ground with regular shoes on. The incongruity of that arrangement is not lost on me.

When the scores were in, sure enough the first American duo were edged out only by the Canadians. So as I kind of predicted during their performances I'd anticipated who would get gold and silver, and that seemed fair.

I even stayed around to watch the medal ceremony.

And now I'll utterly forget about ice dancing for another four years.


Photo courtesy of

Monday, February 22, 2010

Don't call it a comeback

A little over a week ago, during a nearly 17-minute wait while standing on the train platform (so much for getting to work a bit early that day), I spotted a couple city buses pass by. There's a bus stop on either side of the street adjacent to the train station, so this is not unusual. What caught my notice about them was the posters adorning the side (below the windows). On more than one of these passing buses the advertised thing was the TV show Trauma.

The reason that was even remotely interesting: Trauma was taken off the air months ago. The text on the poster mentioned the show's premiere back in September, so clearly that had been on the side of the bus since probably August.

Conclusion: The city hasn't been able to get a new advertiser in roughly six months.

That, and perhaps that NBC (the network that aired some episodes of the drama before pulling the plug) cannot afford to buy new ads on the side of city buses. They have been known to be making cost-cutting measures. We've seen how well those have gone, after all, with the "success" of The Jay Leno Show.

However, just recently NBC ordered a few new episodes, having some hours to fill at 10:00 after the Olympics end.

It's as though someone at the network had a premonition that leaving the presumably already-paid-for ads on the buses would pay off.

At least, I'm sure that's how that person is trying to sell it to upper management.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Good apostroph-eats

[Yes, in the last post I demonstrated a new insouciance about the use of apostrophes--and if you haven't read that one yet, please do go read it first. Seriously. I'll wait. And now, while you're primed for the topic, here we go again.]

Not too long ago my wife and I were watching a Good Eats episode. Finding Alton Brown generally entertaining we don't really need a specific interest in the topic, but for the record the show was a recently produced one (in what he's calling his "American Classics" series) about pound cake.

As any fan of the show knows, Alton's spin on cooking shows is to provide both historical and scientific information about the food in a playful manner. It's kind of Julia Child meets Mr. Wizard meets Monty Python. Between segments or when going to commercial there's little "bumpers" that have text on screen with bits of trivia about the food or dish being featured, to further the educational component.

There's a certain standard for attention to detail that has been established over the show's decade of production. For that reason, the content of one particular bumper was a bit confusing at first.

Using the possessive for the pronoun it is a common stumbling block for those composing in English, but that error tends to be mistakenly using the contraction it's instead of its. That much is understandable, of course, as the apostrophe-s combination does make the possessive for nouns.

However, on this bumper the text featured a sort of everything-plus-the-kitchen-sink format for the possessive: its'.
Yep, another dazzling photo of a TV screen.

At first it seemed a risible typographic error, a superfluous apostrophe after the s, where the person typing the text just couldn't stop. However, for such an egregious mistake to slip by on a professionally produced TV show where there's a reputation for being detail-oriented would be particularly unforgivable, so I had to ponder what other explanation there could be.

Eventually it came to me. In culinary vernacular there must be a special usage whereby it was first being made plural—presumably because there are different chemical compositions for different sugars to which it could be referring—and then that be made possessive. That, I'm sure, would be the only context where that much could ever be appropriate.

The show purports to know food history and science as they contribute to recipes and cooking; there was never an overt suggestion it focused on the particulars of written language, but apparently there's something for the English majors, too—as long as we're paying attention when the show is going to commercial.

Oh, and I suppose we could learn to make a pound cake if we followed the main part of the program.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Possibly Something to Do with One or More Presidents Day

It's the third Monday in February. The banks are closed, and my wife and I have the day off from work. Beyond that, little can be said with any certainty.

My local news programs have led me to believe it's a holiday. It started last Thursday, during the weather segment on the Good Day L.A. show on Fox affiliate KTTV. At the end that portion a graphic displays behind the female they get to read the teleprompter (that's not sexism; really, it's always a woman--and not generally one who is a meteorologist) showing the forecast for five days. That was the first time this particular Monday appeared.

This five-day graphic notes the projected high and low temperatures for each day and includes an image identifying whether it will be really sunny, mostly sunny, partially sunny, cloudy, or holy-crap-there's-water-falling-from-the-sky-run-for-your-life. Additionally, if there's a holiday or some event being commemorated there's another image in honor of it featured on that day. For example, in the five-day graphic, Sunday had a little heart with the text "Happy Valentine's Day":
Yep, this is a photo of the TV screen. Nothing but the most cutting edge in technology for my readers.

However, as we pull back to show the entire screen, we see that on Monday (i.e., today, as this is being posted) there's another little image here:
Replacing the sun is a circular image with the text "President's Day," suggesting that's what they think today is.

At this point long-time readers will be able to anticipate what I thought upon seeing that. And yes, my knee-jerk reaction was to go look at my 2010 Simpsons calendar and confirm what I thought it should be called: "Presidents' Day" (with the apostrophe after the s).

Being old enough to remember when there were separate days off in February in honor of the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. As we now have only one that appears to be attributed to the title both of those men held rather than be named for either individual, it seemed as though that day was honoring more than one former president, and as such the apostrophe in the text on the graphic was... less than accurate.

In my journal that day, when reflecting on how no one at the station appeared to notice, I glibly wrote: "But hey, it's only the news (and only in the second-largest media market in the country); it's not like paying attention is really their strong suit."

On Friday I did some further research (which is to say: in the morning I flipped around to each of the stations with a program where there'd be a weather forecast.) to see how other shows were addressing this situation.

First, the other local morning show, the KTLA Morning News, only featured a heart-shaped graphic for Valentine's Day (with its more obvious punctuation), eschewing anything for Monday whatsoever. Something of a uh-let's-just-pretend-it's-not-happening-because-we-don't-know-what-it-should-be, but perhaps at least with the awareness that they're not sure.

Obviously ABC, CBS, and NBC have nationally televised morning shows, but throughout those broadcasts they "throw" it to the local affiliates for someone in the local station to give a quick report on what we can expect "in our neck of the woods."

KCBS had no holidays noted on their seven-day forecast.
KABC had a heart graphic on Sunday and an American flag on Monday, neither having any text on them at all. They acknowledged that there were some events on those days but circumvented having to worry about punctuation, or even what those days were called.
KNBC's five-day forecast… had the exact same holiday-designating graphics as KTTV.
Uh, guys, eyes up to the upper middle. Guys...

It became clear that the images were not created by anyone in-house at either station but must have been acquired from some third-party. (In retrospect it's not surprising that this task would be outsourced.) Of course, that no one at either station could find what would seem to be a properly punctuated image was, at that time, disappointing (even if not shocking).

Although none of the other stations got it either right or wrong, during this bit of research I did see some commercials that sought to bring attention to the sales they were holding during the weekend.

GMC abandoned an apostrophe in their text:
Macy's put the apostrophe after the s (perhaps the apostrophe in their name makes them cognizant of such usage):

So at least the advertisers could make some effort in this arena.

However, none of this really identified what the day was supposed to be called (but I always trust those who make the Simpsons calendar). So on Saturday I took the half-assed investigation a little deeper: the 'net.

According to this piece on there is no actual federal holiday called "Presidents" or "Presidents'" or "President's" Day; an executive order from 1971 identified it as "Washington's Day," but obviously that's not what's it's called in common parlance. Or even in my Simpsons calendar. Still, even looking it up in Wikipedia will get you directed to "Washington's Day," where it is noted as being referred to as "Presidents Day" or "Presidents' Day." (The spelling of "President's" Day, according to that article, is "not endorsed by any major dictionary or usage authority.") And ultimately the shift to that name came into play during the '80s "with a push from advertisers," so it's a marketing ploy.

Which explains why the commercials paid more attention to how to spell it; they're the ones who got it popularized in the first place.

Thus, the only conclusion that appears applicable is this: There is no right or wrong answer. But hey, we have the day off (well, some of us), so who cares?

The more I thought about it after that the more it occurred to me that whether it's about only the Father of Our Country (birthday next Monday) or intended to include The Great Emancipator (birthday last Friday), both of those men fought to give us the freedom to spell the day whatever way we want, to make it so some can honor multiple presidents (apostrophe after the s), or just one (apostrophe before the s), or merely presidents in general (no apostrophe).

But in the graphic used by KTTV and KNBC that still doesn't explain what that image above the text is. That doesn't look like the White House to me.
Maybe I need a better TV. Hmm... if only I could find one on sale. Oh, but what are the odds of finding that?

Monday, February 08, 2010


Last week one evening I drove across town to meet a friend for dinner. For the several miles heading east down the main thoroughfare there was another car that had caught my notice, as the driver was weaving back and forth between the two lanes, occasionally riding the bumper of the car in front of him, and generally being a jerk. I stayed in the right lane most of the way, and for most of the way he stayed in the left—and I was happy to have that distinction.

Somehow as we got farther along he still hadn't passed me, and as we got over to a portion that passes through a park he was actually behind me, but amazingly not riding my tail. Through that stretch I was maybe doing 40 to 45 (probably a little over the speed limit, actually). As I approached the intersection on the far side of the park, where there was a traffic signal at a relatively small cross street, the light turned amber for our direction. I quickly gauged that from the distance where I was at that point if I gunned it I'd still hit the light after it turned red, and there was more than sufficient room to slow to a stop without having to lock 'em up or anything. So I applied the brakes, and although it wasn't necessarily a gradual stop I still had no problem ceasing the car's motion before the crosswalk.

The driver in the black car, who as I noted was not that close but was still in the same lane, had no choice but to also stop, of course. However, as he did so he honked at me. And not a little beep but really laying into it. It wasn't that he'd had to stop hurriedly; it seemed pretty clear that his frustration stemmed from that he figured I would blow through the red and intended to follow me. Not that he would have been remotely close to making the amber, but obviously that was of little concern to him. He was pissed off that I actually complied with the traffic laws and thus forced him to do so as well.

In short, his dismay stemmed from the fact that I wasn't an asshole like he was.

I've been driving for 26 years now, and experienced a lot of situations, but this was the first time I'd been honked at for abiding by the rules. I'm a fuddy-duddy, I know, but I have this wacky desire not to needlessly endanger myself or others.


Now, if I mention that the car was a recent model BMW, does that change your perception of the situation at all?

For me, it leaves me utterly… what's the opposite of shocked and surprised?

Astute readers will have noticed that I suggested that this sort of self-centered jerkishness is to be expected from those who drive BMWs. And to that I should clarify: I'm not suggesting it; I'm declaring it outright.

This is merely the latest example in my experience that has contributed to my general belief that, at least when they're behind the wheel, someone driving a BMW—and I mean the newer, obviously expensive ones, not older, worn ones—there's about a 75% chance that he (or she) is an asshole.

I will note for the record that I do know personally more than one person who owns a BMW automobile, and no, I'm not saying that I think they are assholes.

Those people are the reason the odds were only 75% and not 95%.


I'm not suggesting that these people should be rounded up or that BMWs should be outlawed. I'm sure they're fine, well-made automobiles. And further I contend it's entirely likely that these 75% who are assholes would be that way regardless of what make of car they drove. And I fully concede that there's plenty of drivers of other makes and models who are just as bad. However, those motorists haven't inadvertently organized themselves well enough in a display of arrogant driving like the BMW drivers have, and thus they haven't emblazoned in to my brain the same association.

If you happen to drive a BMW (and are still reading) and took offense to any of the above, may I suggest you go out of your way to be extra considerate when you're driving. Whether you meant for it or not, your car makes you part of a group with a bit of a rep, and that's not going away; only can it be supplanted by establishing another reputation.

You do have the power to change my mind. What your group did to my perceptions could be undone, and I assure you: I'd be delighted if that happened.

Start by staying off the horn.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010