Word Wednesday: Effect and Affect

effect-affectLet’s do a Word Wednesday feature this week, and use one of the GrammarBook.com’s recent featured lesson on the proper use of “effect” and “affect.”

This is one of those combinations that often give readers and writers trouble. This short and succinct lesson will help you to keep them straight.

Effect vs. Affect

Knowing whether to use effect or affect may not qualify you as a genius, but you will be demonstrating an understanding about a grammar issue most people find perplexing. We trust that the strategies offered here will clear up any confusion you have had.

Rule: Use the verb effect when you mean “bring about” or “brought about,” “cause” or “caused.”
Example: He effected a commotion in the crowd.
Meaning: He caused a commotion in the crowd.
Example: She effected a change in procedure.
Meaning: She brought about a change in procedure.

Rule: Use the noun effect when you mean “result.”
Example: What effect did that speech have?

Rule: Use the verb affect when you mean “to influence” rather than “to cause.”
Example: How do the budget cuts affect your staffing?

Rule: Affect is also used as a noun to mean “emotional expression.”
Example: She showed little affect when told she had won the lottery.

Published in: on November 15, 2017 at 10:35 PM  Leave a Comment  

How Are You—Good, Well, or Fine?

As we start a new month, it’s time for our latest grammar check item, compliments of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. This time it revolves around the words “good, well, and fine.”

How are you doing anyway? Well, read on and find out how you should answer.

Periodically we still receive inquiries about when we should use the adjectives good, well, and fine. We, perhaps as you do, also still hear and read these words used incorrectly.

We addressed the subject of Good vs. Well in 2007. We thought now would be a good time to review the state of these words, especially now that fine has joined the group.

We’ll first address what each word is made to convey.

Good is an adjective meaning “pious or virtuous” (a good person); “satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree” (a good baseball player); “excellent, proper, or fit” (a good professional background for the job); “well-behaved” (a good child in regard to manners); “kind or beneficent” (a good thing to do); and “worthy or honorable” (of good standing in the community).

Well is most often regarded as an adverb modifying an action. Meanings can include “in a good or satisfactory manner” (He does his job well); “thoroughly or carefully” (We listened to her well); “in a moral or proper manner” (She conducts herself well); “commendably or excellently” (I’d refer to your job as one well done); “with justice or reason” (I couldn’t well turn away the child in need); “adequately and sufficiently” (Prepare well before your exam); and “to a considerable extent or degree” (They spent well over the budget).

However, well can also serve as an adjective: “in good health; sound in body and mind” (He is a well man because of his exercise); “pleasing or good” (All is well with her); “fitting or gratifying” (I think it’s all the more well he didn’t join the debate); “in a satisfactory position; well-off” (He is well as he is). 

Fine likewise can function as either an adverb or an adjective.

As an adjective, it can mean “of high or superior quality” (a fine wine); “excellent or admirable” (a fine song); “consisting of minute particles” (fine grains of sand); “very thin or slender” (fine hair); “keen or sharp, as a tool” (a fine knife for carving); and “delicate in texture” (fine bed and bath linens).

As an adverb, fine can mean “in an excellent manner” (She performed fine on the test) and “very small” (He writes so fine I need glasses to read his letters).

Note that current usage and dictionaries allow fine to serve as finely; as adverbs, they are synonymous and interchangeable (He writes so fine/finely I need glasses to read his letters).

That’s a lot of ways we can go with three short, simple words. So which is (or are) correct in answering a basic question such as “How are you?”

This inquiry typically aims at our sense of physical or emotional well-being (i.e., our general condition). We’ll address it according to our definitions in context.

If we say “I am good,” we are conveying we are virtuous, satisfactory, proper, kind, worthy, or well behaved.

If we respond “I am well,” we are often saying we are in good health, of sound body and mind, or well-off in general. If we slightly adjust our response to “I am doing well,” we can also mean we are conducting ourselves in a good or proper manner; thoroughly, carefully, adequately, or commendably; or with justice or reason.

How about if we say “I am fine”? The dictionary dictates we’re communicating we are excellent, admirable, or of high quality if answering in adjective form. If responding adverbially, we’re saying we are existing in an excellent manner.

Interpreting the original question as applying to our general condition, we can deduce that “I am well” and “I am fine” would be suitable, accurate answers by their definitions.

The same would apply if the question were cast as “How are you doing?” If we respond “I am doing good,” in spoken language, many people will understand what we mean. However, technically, we also could be implying we’re doing something beneficial. This is where writing allows us to be even more precise by using “I am fine” or “I am well.”

The debate will carry on in common usage and stylebooks. The AP Stylebook, for example, advises that good should not be used as an adverb except in a sentence such as “I am [or feel] good,” in which case we can be saying we are in good health. It also explains that using the adverb well in “I feel well” could mean either “I feel in good health” or “My sense of touch is good,” in essence suggesting feel can muddy meaning. 

Goodwell, and fine will remain interchanging parts in language—especially spoken—including as answers to “How are you?” For the careful writer and astute grammarian, however, we champion using the words as the dictionary designs them to be.

Source: How Are You—Good, Well, or Fine? – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on October 3, 2017 at 10:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

Patrolling for Verbal Pretenders

This Tuesday night post is going to be for our occasional “Word Wednesday” feature, something I’d like to get back into from time to time. This one comes from Grammar.com (dated August 1, 2017) and gets at those “words” that people use that masquerade as real ones.

When you see the chart below and look at those imposters, I think we may have to confess that some of these may have worked their way into our vocabulary.

So now, being armed with good grammatical and verbal knowledge, we can “get real” and use the proper word in the right way at the right time.

Ready for your word patrol? Here we go!

Putting Out the Patrol for Made-Up Words

Estimates of English’s total word count vary, but linguists agree the number ranks near the top of the world’s vocabularies. A May GrammarBook newsletter article cited English as having as many as 300,000 distinctly usable words.

With so many residents in a vernacular, impostors posing as real words are bound to slip in. They start as mistakes but last long enough to wiggle into pockets of speech. Before long, they spread out, gaining confidence and popularity until they set their sights on the real prize: placement in a dictionary.

While casual conversation provides the most refuge for these con artists, their common usage still often lets them cross into composition’s more-managed domain.

Here are but a few made-up words we and our readers have singled out as guilty from the line-up of suspects:

 

Imposter: administrate (v)
Real Word: administer
Imposter: participator (n)
Real Word: participant
Imposter: commentate (v)
Real Word: comment
Imposter: preventative (adj)
Real Word: preventive
Imposter: orientate (v)
Real Word: orient
Imposter: supposably (adj, adv)
Real Word: supposedly
Imposter: conversate (v)
Real Word: converse
Imposter: undoutably (adj, adv)
Real Word: undoubtedly
Imposter: irregardless (adj, adv)
Real Word: regardless
Imposter: vice-a-versa (adv)
Real Word: vice versa
Imposter: exploitive (adj)
Real Word: exploitative
Imposter: whole nother (adj)
Real Words: another, whole other
Imposter: firstly (secondly, thirdly, etc.) (adv)
Real Word: first (second, third, etc.)
Imposter: incentivize (v)
Real Words: encourage, motivate, reward


A few of these invaders, such as irregardless and preventative, have already cleared the fence, crossed their covert tunnels, and arrived safely in dictionaries. That alone does not validate them, nor does it mean we should permit them into our writing.

You also probably noted several made-up words in the list include the suffix -ate. This is a common ploy some words will use to create more versions of themselves.

The suffix -ize operates much the same way. In addition to incentivize, keep an eye on words such as actualize, collectivize, intellectualize, and normalize. Some words, such as finalize, prioritize, memorize, and ostracize, need their three-letter caboose to deliver their meaning, but most -ize words are pitching tents where houses are built.

Made-up words present another call for us to lead the way in upholding concise, grammatical writing. By remaining vigilant, we can help halt the advance of the pretenders.

Source: Putting Out the Patrol for Made-Up Words – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on September 12, 2017 at 11:06 PM  Leave a Comment  

Sept. 1, 2017 Standard Bearer: “Treasure”

With the new month comes the September 1, 2017 issue of the Standard Bearer (cf. cover and contents below).

SB-Sept1-2017-cover

One of the special features of this issue is the latest word study penned by Rev. William Langerak for the rubric “A Word Fitly Spoken.” This one is titled “Treasure,” and that’s what it is – a treasure of valuable gems mined from the holy Scriptures.

I can only give you a sample tonight, though I wish I could give the whole article. For that you will just have to subscribe, or wait for the online edition in a few months.

The fundamental truth about treasure is this: God is our treasure, and we, the church, are chosen to be His treasure (Ps. 135:4). Our God is an infinite store of life, righteousness, power, wisdom, grace, and mercy. The world and its fullness is His treasure (Ps. 50:12). He has treasuries of rain (Deut. 28:12), snow and hail (Job 38:22), wind (Ps. 135:7), darkness (Isa. 45:3), and food for the belly of man (Ps. 17:14). And yet to His church alone He says this: “If ye will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine” (Exod. 1:11;19:5).

The fundamental attitude we must have toward treasure is this: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt. 6:19-21). Jesus taught this. It is essentially the command to believe and trust alone in Him, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3).

Do we? Jesus, knowing both His rich beneficence in giving earthly treasure and our propensity to covet it even while trying to establish our own righteousness, said: “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” (Matt. 19:21). Similarly, He likened the kingdom of heaven to treasure in a field, which when a man finds, he sells everything he has, and buys that field (Matt. 13:44)

If you would like to see other short biblical word studies like this, visit this page on the PRC website.

As you can see, the rest of the issue is packed with other gems (including a great book review!). You are encouraged to become a regular subscriber by visiting the SB webpage. There will find prices, information on how to sign up, and a free sample issue.

“Ta-ta” to Tautologies

hero-blue-bookToday’s GrammerBook.com email about English grammar is too good to pass up. It fits in well with our “Word Wednesday” feature, besides teaching proper English grammar.

Isn’t it time you say “ta-ta” to tautologies?

Read on, my friends! And you don’t even have to go above and beyond. Just beyond.

Striking the Surplus from Tautologies

The English language includes the tools it needs to communicate with beauty, depth, and precision. Like any other healthy entity, it also moves most swiftly without extra weight. In the world of words, flabby noun phrases are known as tautologies.

Merriam-Webster online defines a tautology as “1a: needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word.”

Common English is rife with such excess. It often occurs because of needless descriptive emphasis or a simple lack of grammatical economy.

GrammarBook.com touched on this issue similarly before in Pleonasms Are a Bit Much. In that entry, we defined a pleonasm as deriving from pleonazein, a Greek word meaning “more than enough.” “The jolly man was happy” is one such example of adding a pound made more of fat than muscle.

We return to this subject and call it by its other namesake so you might recognize this intruder of our language by either ID card it carries.

Tautologies will never be fully edited from spoken language simply because of inherent informality; only a well-trained and -disciplined mind will omit extra words during a conversation in motion.

Careful writers, on the other hand, have the time and the will to infuse their linguistic diets with protein. They cut the sugar and carbs that add calories without nutrients to their thoughts.

They avoid composing phrases and sentences such as:

each and every one  Choose “each one” or “every one”–both are clear when standing alone.

above and beyond   “Beyond” is all you need in a statement such as “Her report went beyond expectations.”

vast majority   You hear it all the time, and you might even use it yourself. If you do, you now recognize that “majority” means the largest part of the group, so you can cast the “vast” and not lose your meaning.

forward planning   If “plan” means “to devise or project the realization or achievement of” or “to make plans” (as in “plan ahead”), is it possible to plan backwards?

mass exodus   Yet another pudgy phrase we hear or use all the time. An “exodus” is defined as “a mass departure,” so we know which word need not join the evacuation.

Trained expert, violent explosion, invited guest, identical match: The line continues out the door and winds its way to the streets of congested communication outside.

You have the power to improve the speed and flow of traffic in English. Just say “ta-ta” to tautologies by reviewing word choices and ensuring you enhance your meanings rather than duplicate them.

Published in: on April 26, 2017 at 9:00 PM  Comments (1)  

A Journey Into the Merriam-Webster Word Factory – The New York Times

It has been some time since we did a “Word Wednesday” feature. Today (tonight!) I post this significant “word” item I saved a while back.

In this article penned for The New York Times (March 22, 2017), Jennifer Schluessler uncovers the secrets of the Merriam-Webster “word factory,” that is, the company’s famed dictionary. Along the way, you will find out some of the old ways of producing this time-tested word book, as well as the new ways that modern technology has added to and enhanced the process. Ah, the thrill of being a lexicographer!

Below is one of the images that go with the story, and then the beginning part of the article. Find the rest by clicking on the image below.

And, yes, this place certainly looks like a verbal gem-mine to me! Another one to add to my book-tour trip. 🙂

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Merriam-Webster, the oldest dictionary publisher in America, has turned itself into a social media powerhouse over the past few years. Its editors star in online videos on hot-button topics like the serial comma, gender pronouns and the dreaded “irregardless.” Its Twitter feed has become a viral sensation, offering witty — and sometimes pointedly political — commentary on the news of the day.

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer here, is very much part of the vanguard of word-nerd celebrities. Her witty “Ask the Editor” video contributions, like a classic on the plural of octopus, and personal blog, Harmless Drudgery, have inspired a Kory Stamper Fan Club on Facebook.

…But the company remains very much a bricks-and-mortar operation, still based in this small New England city where the Merriam brothers bought the rights to Noah Webster’s dictionary in the 1840s and carried on his idea of a distinctly American language. And this month, Ms. Stamper, the author of the new book “Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries,” was more than happy to offer a tour of some of the distinctly analog oddities in the basement.

Published in: on April 19, 2017 at 10:17 PM  Leave a Comment  

Word Wednesday: Candle – Rev.W. Langerak

StandardBearerThe latest biblical word study has been published in the July 2016 issue of the Standard Bearer. This time Rev. W. (Bill) Langerak writes about the meaning and significance of the word “candle.”

We make it our Word Wednesday feature today. May his thoughts enlighten your mind and encourage you to shine as lights in this world of darkness.

Candle

The candle is a significant biblical picture.  This should not be that surprising, since for thousands of years candles were a prominent appliance in the everyday life and even worship of the church.  The fact that candles have little practical value and use today does not diminish their continued spiritual significance as an enlightening symbol for us.

   In general, the candle symbolizes the presence, life, and knowledge of God.  In a real sense, God gives to every man a candle.  The spirit of man (that God breathed into him in the beginning) is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly (Prov. 20:27).  But such light is not grace to all.  God’s presence indeed gives life and knowledge, but it also condemns man and his use of that life as unrighteous, unthankful, and wicked.  There is no reward to the evil man, and in anger the Lord shall put out the candle of the wicked (Prov. 24:20; Job 21:17).  His sentence upon man’s kingdom and culture of sin is that “the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee” (Rev. 18:23).  Only in Christ is God’s presence a candle of grace.  Knowing this, the believer joyfully exclaims, “Thou wilt light my candle; the Lord God will enlighten my darkness” (Ps. 18:28).  This candle of the righteous shines so he can walk in darkness (Job 29:3).  The smoking flax (wick) of this candle the Lord will never quench (Is. 42:3).  And the candle of the virtuous woman goes not out by night, not merely because her godly care knows no limits, but because she lives constantly in the light of God’s gracious presence.

   The candle is also a glorious picture of the church.  A notable feature in the tabernacle was the menorah, a splendid seven-branched candlestick.  It is mentioned 22 times in the Torah, including how the Lord ordered it to be crafted out of pure gold, decorated with gold almond blossoms, and fueled by the purest olive oil (Ex. 25:31-35).  When moved, it was to be carefully wrapped in fine blue cloth, protected in a leather case, and carried on a pole.  When at rest in God’s house, it was to be lit every night. And on the day of dedication, the Lord gave special instruction from behind the veil that its candles were to be mounted to illuminate the way to His mercy (Num. 7:89-8:4).  Night and day, the Lord was always home, blessing His covenant people with the light of His Spirit, guiding them to His unfailing grace through His atoning sacrifice.

   This picture finds further development in the new covenant vision of the seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:11-13).  Here, the candles represent more clearly, not simply the presence of God with us, but the church itself as she lives in the world—distinct yet united, imperfect yet glorious in righteousness and works of holiness, by Christ in their midst by His Spirit (Rev. 1:20).  As a candle, the church is a continual witness to the grace and glory of God enlightening them before the whole earth (Rev. 11:4).  And if any particular church stubbornly refuses to be such a witness by leaving her love for the Lord to walk with the world in unrighteousness, the Lord can and does remove such a candle out of its place (Rev. 2:5). 

   As candles lit by the Holy Spirit of Christ in the midst of a world dark with sin, the true church and her members have only one purpose:  to broadcast the light in us of the power of God’s grace to forgive sins, sanctify, and give eternal life.  Unlit candles are useless.  So are flickering ones.  To shine brightly, the whole body must be full of light.  Take heed, therefore, that the light in you be not darkness (Luke 11:35-36).  Equally useless are bright candles hidden in foolishness, fear, or shame.  Candles are not meant to be placed under a bed or a bushel (Mark 4:21).  Jesus said, “You are the light of the world; a city set on an hill that cannot be hid.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:14-16). 

   Yet, in spite of their significance and value here, in the new creation all this changes.  There will be no candles there.  Not one.  Why?  Because there in Jesus’ presence, there shall be no night, only day; and no darkness, only light (Rev. 22:5).

For more such word studies from the Scriptures, visit this section of the PRC website.

Final Thoughts… on Words and Books – M.B. Lubbers

In the latest issue (June 2016) of the Adams’ Announcer (Christian School where some of our grandchildren attend) Mrs. Mary Beth Lubbers reflects on her impending retirement as a Christian school teacher – after 45 years!

Mary Beth is one of my favorite teachers – and I didn’t even have her for one. She taught several of our children in South Holland, IL, instructing them with “old-school” philosophy but with fresh ideas and daily enthusiasm for learning. Our children still speak of her influence on their lives.

Mary Beth (Mrs. Lubbers!), we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your faithful work as teacher for those 45 years! We will miss you and your inspirational teaching. But know that it lives on in the hearts, minds, and lives of our covenant children.

Her article, titled “Final Thoughts”, includes some of her punchy insights into today’s educational world, some of which I would like to include here today, especially her thoughts on word-use and books. I think you too will appreciate her “final thoughts.”

After so many years of dealing with the word ‘friend’ as a noun, I cannot see myself using ‘friend’ as a verb, as in the popular: ‘I will friend you.’ Similarly, the word ‘listen’ has always functioned in our language as a verb or verbal; how can I switch to calling it a noun as CNN so frequently does with its glib: ‘Take a listen.’ The word ‘like’, of course, currently qualifies as any part of speech one wants it to be. Those are grammatical adjustments I am unwilling to accommodate. But, I predict these aberrations will eventually nudge their way into our lexicon. So, it comes down to ‘Mrs. Lubbers, get on the train or get off the track.’ Well, I am getting off the track even as I continue to rail against such nonsense.

On top of all that, ‘computer-ese’ is not my second language. …For me, chrome is a shiny decoration on a fast car. It will never be a Chromebook. I recognize books as beautifully bound in leather with wonderful papery textures that respond to one’s very touch. They hold the link of letters and words and phrases and sentences and paragraphs that fire the imagination and magnify our small worlds. And I really am convinced that Johann Gutenberg’s printing press of 1440 was the first and last great invention A.D. I have always taught from books, and if I lacked the books, I am pretty sure, by now, I could teach and inspire kids from my head and heart. The spoken word. Stories that come alive. Poetry to delight the senses.

Well said, Mary Beth. May we carry on the ‘good fight’ against verbal and grammatical nonsense and FOR good books and traditional reading.

Coined by God: Legacy

CoinedbyGod-MallessIt has been a while since we served up a “Word Wednesday” feature, so let’s return to it by considering another entry in the book Coined by God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Bible , the combined work of Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain (W.W. Norton, 2003).

Our selection today is the word “legacy, an oft-used word today which never made it into the main English translations of the Bible. About this common English word Malless and McQuain write (pp.49-50):

LEGACY: (noun) anything handed down by a predecessor; bequest

One of Wycliffe’s major linguistic legacies is the infiltration of the English language with many loanwords from the Vulgate Latin of Jerome’s Bible. His literal borrowing of legacy, however, led to a semantic as well as a translational dead end.

The noun appears in a section of 2 Corinthians where Paul exhorts the faithful to become ‘ambassadors of Christ’: ‘Therefore we are set in legacy [legacie]…for Christ’ (2 Corinthians 5:20). ‘Ambassador’ would be the English translation of Jerome’s word legationem (from the verb legare, ‘to send an ambassador’), but Wycliffe chose to stay with the Latin. Consequently, legacy was dropped from the 1388 Wycliffite version, never to appear again anywhere in the Bible, and its literal meaning of ‘legateship’ became obsolete by the end of the eighteenth century.

Today, traces of that earlier coinage survive in delegate, but the most common legacy has been in the sense of a figurative bequest. This the first annual Hurston/Wright Legacy Award was recently announced to honor published writers of African descent. …But perhaps Shakespeare said it best in All’s Well That Ends Well: ‘No legacy is so rich as honesty’ (III. v.13).

Coined by God: Doctrine

CoinedbyGod-MallessFor our “Word Wednesday” feature today, we consider another entry in one of my new favorite word books – Coined by God: Words and Phrases That First Appear in the English Translations of the Biblethe combined work of Stanley Malless and Jeffrey McQuain (W.W. Norton, 2003).

Our selection today is the word “doctrine, perhaps unspectacular to us, but nonetheless, quite significant in its own right and certainly in its origin. About this now common English word Malless and McQuain write (pp.49-50):

     Another Wycliffite loanword from the Latin of Jerome’s New Testament, doctrine enters the written language in the words of Matthew’s Jesus, who is quoting Isaiah: ‘This people honors me without cause, teaching the doctrines and commandments of men’ (Matthew 15:9). This is the first time that doctrine appears in the modern sense of ‘that which is taught as true concerning a specific area of knowledge’ (as in the Monroe Doctrine, when ‘knowledge’ becomes ‘policy’). Through the seventeenth century it was most commonly understood as ‘the action of teaching,’ and Wycliffe claims first rights on this connotation as well: ‘In all things showing good faith, that they adorn in all things the doctrine [doctryn] of our savior God (Titus 2:10).

The staying power of this authoritative noun might have to do with its learned ancestry. From the Latin verb docere (‘to teach) and its Greek relatives dadaskein (‘to teach’) and dokein (‘to seem’), doctrine’s siblings include doctor (which originally meant ‘teacher’), document, dogma, orthodox, doxology, and decent.

And two hundred years after Wycliffe, Shakespeare managed to give it even wider audience when in Love’s Labor’s Lost Berowne professes that ‘From women’s eyes this doctrine I derive; /They are the ground, the books, the academes, /From whence doth spring the true Promethean fire’ (IV.iii. 298-300).

Published in: on February 24, 2016 at 6:32 AM  Leave a Comment