Monthly Archives: June 2008

To ‘e’ or not to ‘e’ — that’s the question

There shall be no further debate: The word is “adviser” and not “advisor.” Period.

Of all the questions that get asked of a teacher, the perennial one is whether the noun that identifies someone who advises ends in “er” or “or.”

Strange that not enough people have caught on.

The Associate Press Stylebook doesn’t even try to explain the rationale for why it’s “adviser” rather than “advisor.” It simply declares that the first spelling is correct.

So I did some research on why there’s a discrepancy with these and other words. The discrepancy, by the way, is huge, in that we find the misspelled word, i.e, the one that ends in -or, in newspaper ads, in most job descriptions and in the cranial storage facilities of every English teacher on the planet. We journalists, though correct, remain outnumbered.

As one who taught mostly journalism at Highlands but English in high school and at Luna Community College, I find it necessary to acquiesce and spell it incorrectly, with “-or” when at Luna. The rest of the time it’s -er.

But that’s not convincing enough. One wants to know why some words contain the “e” and others the “o.” Continue reading

What gifts these mortals bring

If you want to drive to Camp Luna to visit, we live on the northwest corner (almost). But if you’re a dog-dropper-off-er, we’ve moved to Honolulu.

Let’s vary the statement somewhat: If you need us, we’ll be at home. It follows, then, that if you don’t need us, we’re elsewhere.

We covered this iffy kind of conditional mood a couple of columns back, implying that people’s intentions determine the physical location or even the name of the other person.

Let me explain:

Three times in the past couple of months we’ve been recipients of the that-looks-like-a-friendly-home syndrome, which means that those dog-gone folks who don’t want to take responsibility for recently hatched animals simply drop them off early in the morning — usually in the Camp Luna area.

That serves a dual purpose: the dog-dropper-off-ers don’t need to worry about spaying, feeding and otherwise caring for the animals, and second, making these matutinal deliveries a distance away virtually guarantees the Fidos won’t find their way back home. Continue reading

Stop verbing those nouns

The waiter at a Santa Fe restaurant greeted us with the usual spiel: “My name is Brian, and I’ll be your waiter for the evening.”

There are only two ways to respond to this kind of greeting: “That’s nice!” and “My name is Art, and I’ll be your customer for the evening.” But rather than poke fun at a formality which at least shows, well, formality, I was struck with the non-sequitur that followed.

He reminded us, “If you need anything at all, my name is Brian.” Well, now, that means if we don’t need anything, his name is Isaiah or Joshua.

It’s a question of a conditional expression in which the implication — to language nit-pickers like me — implies the server has more than one name, depending on the needs of the customer.

The conditional non-sequitur already got covered in a column last year. Yet, being in the newspaper trade exposes me to more unusual uses of the language than the average person. It’s my passion. Continue reading

Riding against the grain

Phillip Uzduwinis, the former director of the Highlands University Foundation, gave me quite a scare without meaning to.

A few years ago when my office was near his, by Kennedy Hall, I’d wave as I zipped by on my bicycle, on the sidewalk, heading west where the one-way sign points east. I’d take this route as a shortcut to the Wilson Complex, four or five blocks away.

After not having seen me riding by for several months, Uzduwinis asked if I still rode the bike, and if so, why hadn’t he seen me lately? I explained I’d moved to a new office on a different part of campus. He said he’d thought I’d stopped riding altogether.

And why? “Well, because the last time I saw you crossing on National and 11th, you almost got clobbered.”

Who, me? If I had been about to meet my Maker, I certainly hadn’t realized it. Uzduwinis explained that as I crossed National, some driver, who obviously hadn’t seen me, came within inches of making me sorry. Continue reading