Tag Archives: Marriage

You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means: Part III, Or, Commonly Confused Words.

5 Sep

Taking things out of their context can be a dangerous thing.

Take, for example, the whole tradition of bridesmaids.  In the context of weddings, it’s perfectly appropriate–and even expected–to ask your closest friends to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes and gifts and jewelry and travel all so that they can dress up in the same clothes and stand in a line holding a bouquet of flowers while you kiss somebody.

We just accept this, like it’s no big deal, like it’s a totally normal thing to do.  But the other day, I wanted to kiss this dude I’m married to now*, and so I called up all of my friends and said, “Quick! Wrap up a toaster or a set of wine glasses, put your hair in a curly sideways ponytail, and get down here to stand in a line next to me! Oh, the theme is ‘Reclaimed Rustic Garden Antique Vintage Throwback Owl Owl Owl Owl Owl.’  And instead of giving the guests favors, we’re going to donate to the charity of–hello?  Hello?” and all of the sudden everyone’s acting like this is a super weird thing to do.

[*On a non-grammatical note, I should say that I am married now, and while it’s excellent and fantastic, I do not like to use the phrase “my husband.”  Yes, sure, that’s what he is, but there’s something painfully stuffy and braggadocious about typing it.  You know, unlike the word braggadocious.

It was hard enough to say “my fiancé.”  Eventually I did just because it was easier, but for a long time I referred to him, “my boyfriend who proposed to me and I said yes.”  I suppose that, following the same idea, the long-form for “husband” would be, “That guy who watches those silly football matches with beer drinks and never leaves the toilet seat down and forgets to do home maintenance hammer projects and has an actual medical problem with obesity even though I’m thin and model-esque! Laugh track! Sitcoms! All men are fools!”]

The point I’m making is this: it is important to keep things in their proper context.  With that in mind, the following is a list of commonly confused words that you should stop using in the wrong context.

1. A lot vs. alot

A lot means “many” or “a whole bunch.”

Alot is not a word.

2. All ready vs. already

All ready: Completed prepared.  As in, “The shepherd’s pie was all ready to be eaten.  The hunter’s pie was not.”

Already: By this time; so soon, so early.  As in, “Shouldn’t the hunter’s pie already be done?”

3. Eminent vs. imminent

Eminent: Well-known; influential.  As in, “Eminem was an eminent presence in his college elective course, ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, I’M FROM DETROIT AND I’M GONNA CUT YOU: Seuss Gets Pissed, Or, An Introduction to Caucasian Rhyme.'”

Imminent: Impending; soon to occur.  As in, “If my knees feel achy, I know a storm is imminent.  Especially if my knees are achy from kicking Thor in the gut for not agreeing with me that ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ is totally his song.”

4. Precede vs. proceed.

Precede: To come before.  As in, “A new study shows that 80-90% of occurrences wherein an infectious disease is passed from one person to another are preceded by the phrase, ‘Hey, isn’t Ke$ha great?'”

Proceed: To move forward; to carry on.  As in, “The best way to proceed on an airport’s moving walk-way is this: move to the right if you’re in a hurry, and stay on the left if you’re like me, spread-eagle on the moving ground, gasping, ‘GAIA, BLESSED MOTHER, YOU’RE HAVING A SEIZURE.'”

5. Accept vs. except

Accept: To take or receive; to consent to.  As in, “My friends accept me for who I am: their boss, who has written friendship into their contracts.”

Except: With the exclusion of.  As in, “My friends accept me for who I am because of the contract, except for my best friends, who also accept me as ‘the defendant’ in their civil suit against me.  Best friends are so funny! And litigious!”

So remember: context, context, context.  It’s like the other day, when I got into a big fight with a police officer.  At first he was really mad and all arrest-y because I said, “I’m gonna punch you in the stomach until you can’t breathe!”  But the thing is, if he had waited for me to give him the context–“I’m gonna punch you in the stomach until you can’t breathe BECAUSE I’M TRYING TO GET TO A ROBBERY”–I have a feeling he would have been a little more understanding.  Instead, he gave me the Nicholas Sparks treatment, which is basically where I get tasered and then someone I love gets cancer, and also, I’m an awful writer.






15 Aug


Hello! We’re back!  We were on a long “getting married” hiatus, but now we’re back and … well, we’re back!

I was under the mistaken impression that upon getting married I would receive a new, fancier, more grown-up title.  I was thusly fully prepared to be introduced for the rest of my life as Her Royal Highness, Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, PrinCESS of Genovia.

It turns out that actually, now I’m just technically a Mrs.  I don’t get a crown or anything, but I do automatically get a 10% discount off of holiday-themed vests.

Titles actually played a semi-important role in our wedding.  Our gift to our guests was a super awesome mix CD that told our story in song.  It isn’t so much that music plays a central role in both of our lives and in our relationship: it’s more than I made an ill-advised investment in jewel cases about a year back, and I’ve got some product to move.

Choosing the songs for the CD was actually pretty simple; it was coming up with a title that was a little more difficult.  We spent an afternoon brainstorming.  We could name it something like “Kidz Bop Kidz Sing a Two-Song Sampler of Jewel’s Poetry Put to the Sounds of STOMP! Because of, You Know, the Homeless Thing,” but apparently the kidz were so appalled by how terrible Jewel’s poems were that they stormed out of the recording session, muttering things like, “‘I feel my flesh burn beneath the teeth of their inDIFFERENCE’?!  Are you kidding me?  A girl in her high school creative writing class called, Jewel, and she wants her mixed metaphors back.  Come on, guys, we need to lay down that Smash Mouth track again.  Puberty’s knockin’.”

We could have named it “Here for the Right Reasons and Other Sounds of ABC’s The Bachelor: Hot Tub Splashes and Regret,” but, you know, we didn’t.  We could have named it “Oops!…I Did It Again.  No, Guys, For Real, Stop the Truck: The Accidental Re-release of Britney Spears’ Second Studio Album,” but we didn’t.

Instead, we named it “Evan and Riane’s 100% Guaranteed Music Elixir: Now, THAT’S What I Call Marriage! Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Mix CD.”

The grammatical question these titles raise is a question I run into a lot while writing papers: how do you decide what to capitalize in a title and what to not?

The rules actually change depending on whether you’re following APA, MLA, the Chicago Manual, or something else.  If you have a specific requirement, you should follow those rules.  However, for our purposes, I am going to use the Associated Press style, which is fairly simple and widely accepted.

1. The first and last word of the title should always be capitalized, no matter what.  Even if your title is “I Swear the Last Word of This Title Won’t Be Capitalized.”

2. Capitalize nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives, adverbs, subordinating conjunctions, SOME regular conjunctions, and any word that is longer than three letters.

3. Do not capitalize the following words: a, an, and, at, but, by, for, in, nor, of, on, or, so, the, to, up, yet.

4. What about short words like “is”?

Refer to #2.  The length of the word is not the first thing that determines whether it is capitalized or not.  The purpose of the word matters more.  Is is a verb, and all verbs should be capitalized.  Therefore, is should be capitalized.

5. What if the first word or the last word in my sentence or title is automatically un-capitalized, like iPhone or e.e. cummings?

Your best bet is to re-write your title so that you don’t even have to deal with that problem.  All styles, despite their differences, want the first and last word capitalized, so quit making waves!  If you can’t re-write your sentence to do this, different styles are going to recommend you do different things, so stick with what your style book says.  My recommendation would be to keep the lowercase if it is meant to be there (keeping iPhone instead of changing it to IPhone); however, the Associated Press would disagree.

One final note if you’re looking to make an investment: it turns out that plastic jewel cases are not the wave of the future after all.  I should have realized.  They’re just hard, clear pieces of plastic … wait a minute.  What. if. we. could make. colored. jewel cases?

I have to make a phone call.


You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means.

6 Nov

When I asked  my best pal what I should write about this weekend, she responded in her usual helpful and specific way, and said, “I don’t know.”  So I said, “Please help me.”  And she said, “Grammar.”  And I said, “Like what kind of grammar?”  And she said, “I don’t know.  All grammar.”  And I said again, “Please help me.”  And she said, “I don’t know.  How about how people are idiots and always say things like, ‘I broughten that in yesterday’ or ‘I boughten groceries last week.’  Those aren’t words!”

Then she cursed a lot, because she does not like when people make up fake past tenses for words.  Also because I had just hit a deer with my car.

People do like to make past tenses up sometimes, and it’s painful.  I suppose, just to be safe, I should say right now that “broughten” is not the past tense for “brought.”  “Brought” is.  Similarly, “boughten” is not the past tense for “bought.”  “Bought” is.  So I told my friend that I agreed with her–“broughten” and “boughten” are awful, non-real words, and if I ever heard someone using them, I would subject them to the most painful punishment imaginable: having to watch an entire episode of the NBC sitcom Whitney.

Unfortunately, as I also told my friend, I was going to have a hard time stretching that one complaint–however valid–into an entire post.  The post would be so short, Kim Kardashian would call it a successful marriage.

I eventually decided to dedicate this post to a few words and phrases that otherwise intelligent people (and plenty of un-intelligent people) use incorrectly.  This post will be the first in a long series tentatively titled When You Use These Words and Phrases Incorrectly, A Bunny Gets Strangled by a Rainbow: Part I.

1. Irregardless.

Irregardless is not a word.  Regardless is a word.  Irrespective is a word.  Irregardless is not a word.  Whenever you are tempted to say irregardless, just say regardless.  Think of the extra i and r at the beginning as saying, “I r stupid if I use this word.”

2. For all intensive purposes.

Do not say “for all intensive purposes.”  That is not what people are saying, even though it kind of sounds like it.  What you mean to say is for all intents and purposes.  That is the actual phrase–it means “virtually” or “for all practical purposes.”  For all intensive purposes is meaningless.  Like Kim Kardashian’s wedding vows!

3. I could care less.

The phrase you’re searching for is I couldn’t care less.  If you say I couldn’t care less, you’re saying that you care about whatever it is so little, it is literally impossible for you to care any less.  If you say–as many incorrectly do–I could care less, then it means that you’re capable of caring less.  And that means that you care a little.

4. Literally.

Literally means ACTUALLY or WITHOUT EXAGGERATION.  It signifies that you are not being metaphorical or symbolic.

Unfortunately, literally has come to be little more than a verbal exclamation point to follow something you obviously just fabricated.  You did not just literally eat a million hamburgers.  That old lady was not literally a billion years old.  And I never want to hear you say, “I literally died” unless you are a ghost.  And even then, duh, I can see that–you’re a ghost.  Leave me alone, ghost.

5. Nauseous vs. nauseated.

If you say, “I feel nauseous,” you’re actually saying that you are a force that makes other people feel ill.  When you’re feeling sick about something (like the incorrect use of literally), what you should actually say is, “I feel nauseated.”

That’s a lot to digest (and if you digest things too quickly, you could become nauseated. Ha-HA!), so we’ll stop there.  I wouldn’t want to drag this thing on for 72 days or something.  I mean, come on, what is this?  A marriage?

No, I can do better than that for a concluding Kardashian joke.  Here, how about this: Kim Kardashian was not married for a very long time, especially considering how much money and publicity went into that marriage!

There we go.

– – –

Editor’s Note: 

Most dictionaries have, by now, changed to accept the general populace’s use of nauseous as an adjective meaning “feeling sick.”  So you can use it freely knowing that most dictionaries–however happily or begrudgingly–support you.  American Heritage Dictionary concedes, “Since there is a lot of evidence to show that nauseous is widely used to mean ‘feeling sick,’ it appears that people use nauseous mainly in the sense in which it is considered incorrect.”  Other dictionaries have jumped on the train more wholeheartedly and basically slap me in the face.  Merriam-Webster’s says, “Any handbook that tells you that nauseous cannot mean ‘nauseated’ is out of touch with the contemporary language. In current usage it seldom means anything else.”

Oh yeah, Merriam-Webster’s?! I’m out of touch with contemporary language? Well, try this list on for size: texting, kool, pwned, and, um, Tosh.0!

I rest my case.

To Infinitives and Beyond!

2 Oct

I recently became engaged.  No, not in a crossword; to be married! This is a very exciting time.  And I’m proud to say that I’ve already taken up stride with all the classy brides-to-be of the past and gone absolutely sasquatch bananas.

I realized I had gone crazy when I caught myself texting my fiancé at 3:00 in the morning using the phrases “bow ties” and “so stressed out” in the same sentence.

That was when I realized I had lost sight of reality.  Bow ties are not the sort of thing to be stressed out about: suspenders are.  I mean … thick or thin?  THICK OR THIN?!  And the rest of the world thinks America doesn’t know what real hardship is.

Another aspect we have to consider are the vows.  On the one hand, there’s the classic to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, blah blah blah.  On the other hand, there are non-traditional vows, ones written by the bride and groom themselves.  Evan and I have already made a shortened version of those non-traditional vows to each other: it was on a romantic walk in the mall, outside of the Apple Store, where he swore to me that he would never wear Hawaiian-print shirts, and I swore to him that I would never wear mom jeans.  He has never hugged me harder.

But–and here comes grammar!–do you know what those phrases (to have and to hold, to love and to cherish) embedded in the traditional vows are called grammatically?  I’ll tell you.  Those are called infinitive phrases.

An infinitive phrase is simply the word to plus a verb in its simplest form. To have.  To hold.  To love.  To cherish.  Since an infinitive requires the simplest form of the verb, it would be incorrect to say “to held” or “to cherishing.”  As Dwight Schrute says in that NBC show that we’re just going to pretend ended last year like it should have, “Michael always says, ‘K-I-S-S. Keep it simple, stupid.’ Great advice; hurts my feelings every time.”

Right now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute! Just one post ago you told me that to is a preposition! What gives?! As retribution, I am going to tell all of my friends to subscribe to your blog and leave a ton of comments!”

Well, that’s okay. You’re allowed to express your anger in whatever way you need. But you are right: to can also function as a preposition.  However, it’s easy to spot the difference: to + a noun or noun phrase = a prepositional phrase.  To the altar, to the minister, to the looney bin.  Whereas to + a verb = an infinitive phrase. To propose, to marry, to lose your mind.

Infinitive phrases can serve many roles in a sentence: the subject, the direct object, an adjective, an adverb, or a subject complement.  In this way, they’re kind of like the James Franco of sentences: they kind of do everything, but they should never host the Oscars.  Okay, at some point that analogy breaks down.

Let’s have some examples of infinitives functioning as different parts of sentences, shall we?


To play football in the NFL is my greatest ambition.

The infinitive is to play, but I’ve italicized the entire phrase because it is the whole phrase that acts as the subject of this sentence.

Direct Object:

I want to eat.

What do I want? To eat.


The only way to survive in the woods is by eating bugs, even if you’re only there for a few minutes.

To survive is an adjective because it modifies way.  Question: which way? Answer: the way to survive.


My co-worker Frank, who has eyes like topaz and skin that glitters in the sun, says if I am writing this blog to get rich and famous, I need to quit it with the Stephenie Meyer jokes.

To get rich and famous is an adverbial phrase because it modifies the verb writing.  Question: why am I writing this blog? Answer: to get rich and famous.  That’s not true, though. I’m not writing this blog to get rich and famous. I’m writing this blog to get rich and famous and maybe somehow knighted.

I’m going to leave subject complements alone for the time being.

Finally, the question on everybody’s mind: what to do about split infinitives? Also, what is a split infinitive?

A split infinitive occurs whenever a word (or phrase) is inserted between to and the verb of the infinitive phrase.  To slowly run is a split infinitive, because the word “slowly” has been inserted between to and run.

The hard and fast rule about split infinitives is this: mostly you should try to avoid them, but not necessarily.  How’s that for clarity?

I’ll say this: split infinitives are one of those things that grammarians like to argue about.  Some say the rule is antiquated and based in an irrelevant devotion to Latin, which, by the way, is not what we speak.  Others hold fast that infinitives are just like Kill Bill: they’re better as a single entity.  The argument is, for grammarians, right up there with the Oxford comma and which is the better lonely food: Stouffer’s Dinner for One or an entire carton of ice cream.

For practical purposes, I would give you this advice: in formal writing, or in assignments, be conservative.  This means (oftentimes, for the sake of your grade) avoiding split infinitives whenever possible.  However, overall, I’ll allow that occasionally splitting an infinitive with one adverb or two adverbs is not a big deal and is generally acceptable.  In fact, sometimes it makes for powerful writing.  To prove this point, many point out that the famous line from the Star Trek series–To boldly go where no man has gone before–is itself an effective split infinitive.  I respond to this the way I always do when someone gives me Star Trek-related advice: with a condescending slow clap.  And an invitation to vote on the lonely food poll.

Final summary:

1. Never create giant split infinitives. To on a cloudy afternoon following lunch run is my favorite thing is an awful sentence.  Never write a sentence like that.

2. In informal writing, go ahead and occasionally split with one or two adverbs, but only if it’s the most effective way of getting your point across.

3. In formal writing, be careful.  Avoid a split infinitive unless you are absolutely certain that the entire meaning and power of your sentence would be lost without it.  And even then, reconsider one more time.

And finally, an admonishment from me, someone looking ahead to marriage, to all of those lonely split infinitives out there: stay together for the kids.

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