Monthly Archives: July 2011

Just my type

Last week, just for antiquity’s sake, I put my paws on something I hadn’t touched in years.

Ah, the nostalgia! It was fulfilling to experience the freedom, the honest-to-goodness tactile sensation of letting my fingers go where they pleased.

But lest this seem like the opening scene of a racy novel, let me explain I’m referring to typewriters, nothing more. Coincidentally, the day after I actually typed an address on an envelope (probably the only use for a typewriter nowadays), I read an article in the Sunday Journal about many people who still use the things.

One of our regular Optic correspondents obviously has opted not to join the word-processor generation; another frequent letter-to-the-editor sender handwrites her submissions. Continue reading

This calls for collarboration

As a continuing unrepentant language cop, I really had thought of laying off criticizing those electronic message boards that greet visitors.

Yes, since it’s summer, when most of the schools are in recess, there hasn’t been much to report. But if there is a bit of criticism, I aim it at the fact that a number of the signs appear to have gone on summer break, along with teachers and students.

Several months back, I faulted Sierra Vista Elementary School staff for carrying stale information. I won’t really say the info was old, but Moses reportedly was seen on Legion Drive, carrying a couple of tablets with 10 instructions, some misspelled. The day after I brought the dated information to the attention of Optic readers, the sign went off. And it hasn’t been on since.

The sign in front of Tony Serna Elementary is off, as is the one on Mills near Robertson High School. Continue reading

An idiot’s guide to idioms

One of the things some of us did on our own, without getting paid, was individual tutoring. During my term on the faculty at Highlands University, some dedicated students, usually Asians, wishing to “rap,” often visited me.

As members of the humanities faculty, we were often approached, the English language being our bit of expertise. Typically, those seeking tutoring weren’t even my regular students. And they didn’t come to me for a specific task; rather, as one put it, “We just want to ‘rap.’” “Rap,” the operative word, in vogue during the ‘80s and ‘90s, I was happy to do. Two chemistry students from China approached me with “Our English is terrible. Can you help us?”

The ground rules were that we’d, well, rap: no written assignments, no homework, just rapping, with twice-weekly visits following no particular agenda.

But one thing puzzling for any student hoping to master English is the plethora of idiomatic expressions peppering our language. During the first meeting, I realized I’d used a couple of expressions that they said once made no sense to them, terms we English speakers take for granted. Continue reading

Same stuff, different day

“You guys keep printing the same news, and you even copy from each other.” There isn’t a newsperson alive who hasn’t needed to refute these charges.

Most of us have experienced that this-sounds-familiar phenomenon either when reading the paper or listening to the news: the same word order, the same chronology.

A modicum of truth appears in both accusations. As for running the same news, well that depends. A skit in one of the ‘50s-era live variety programs, The Ed Sullivan Show, used the same line when a man in a diner read an article about Liz Taylor having taken a spouse.

“Ooh, that’s old news; they never print anything new,” he remarked. But was it really? Was the press guilty of simply recycling an item that appeared a few months earlier? Well, in Liz’s case, perhaps. That was when she was into her third or fourth marriage, well on her way to becoming Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton (again) Warner Fortensky and possibly Winters (she wouldn’t say). Continue reading