Monday, July 6, 2009

Grammar blog?

Obviously I love words/grammar/spelling/etc. Sometimes I even think I missed my true calling as a copy editor. But alas, that is not the career path I chose, so now I'm left to post about it online. :) Should this blog perhaps lean in an all-grammar direction? Eh, probably not--but that doesn't preclude the occasional (OK, frequent) grammar post!!!!! Yee haw!!

Recently, one of my dear loyal readers ( it makes me sound important to refer to my "dear loyal readers," even though I only have about, um, three) asked me about the proper usage of the plural and possessive 's'. So today I present a lesson appropriately entitled: Kiss My 'S'.

When deciding whether to add an 's' to the end of a word, you must first determine whether you are adding the 's' as a plural or a possessive. For instance, are you talking about multiple dogs, or something that belongs to your dog? If multiple dogs, you need a plural 's' ("dogs"). If something belongs to your dog, you need a possessive 's', with an apostrophe (my dog's poop).

The tricky part about the 's' arises in situations where the plural form can be either an 's' or an 'ies'--when to use which form?? The good news is, you really only need to worry about this situation for words that end in 'y'. If the word has a vowel (haha, vowel--rhymes with bowel) before the final 'y' (as in "day"), just add an 's' as you normally would ("days of our lives"). If the word has a consonant before the final 'y' (as in "reality"), change the 'y' to 'ies' ("'Days of our Lives' is a show that compellingly portrays the realities of daily life").

For possessives, it may SEEM tricky to try to figure out an "s apostrophe" (s') vs. an "apostrophe s" ('s), but it's actually quite simple; in fact, it's ALWAYS correct to just add the "apostrophe s" and be done with it! The "s apostrophe" is only used after words that end in 's' (for instance, for a family named Jones, the possessive could be "the Jones' mullets"), but if you're confused, it's perfectly correct to add on the "apostrophe s" just in case ("the Jones's mullets").

Exceptions to the rule? There are always a few. People often have trouble figuring out when to use "it's" or "its", for example--and for that, use "it's" as a contraction for "it is" ("it's time for a pig roastin'"), and "its" for anything possessive ("that pig is about to feel some roastin' on its hind quarters").

In general though, just remember to determine plural or possessive, and follow the rules from there. And if you get it wrong and someone calls you out on it? You can always feel free to tell them to KISS MY 'S', STINKY McSTINKFACE!

Thank you,

Grammar Girl

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Random. Dome.

Two posts in two days? What can I say, I'm working to even out my abysmally pathetic average. Baby steps.

Anyhoo, I was just looking at my blog title and suddenly remembered what it reminds me of: Gurgi in the The Black Cauldron. Remember him? Or that book? It used to be one of my all-time favorites. I have a very clear memory of discussing the book in my sixth-grade English class, and a chubby boy with glasses who was in my small group was obsessed with how Gurgi always talked about "crunchings and munchings"--which, if you'll note, is rather similar to my title of "Musings and Ventings." So...there you have it. Then.

I'm Ron Burgundy?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Yup, it's true: I'm a total word nerd.

So I was reading one of my summer reading choices at the beach last week ("Certain Girls" by Jennifer Weiner), and I noticed -- as I always do -- that she often would use the word "bemused" in the sense that someone was operating in a state of mild amusement. This is one of my pet peeves in reading authors/columnists/writers in general, because the word "bemused" is so commonly used in this way, yet it SHOULD be used to convey a sense of being perplexed or confused. There is already a word for someone being amused; it's called "amused."

This being an issue I have come across many, many times in the past, I decided to look up the definition of "bemused" again just to confirm my misgivings. Lo and behold, what should I find this time but that Merriam-Webster online now actually lists a THIRD definition of bemused--and yes, it now states that bemused can mean a state in which one can "...have feelings of wry or tolerant amusement." Um, really? No offense Merriam-Webster, but I've been pretty secure in my assessment of "bemused" before, and have looked it up many times in the past. Never before have I seen it actually being ACCEPTED as a synonym for "amused", nor can I agree with it being used in such a way.

So, having fully embraced my word-nerdiness by this point, I did a quick Internet search on the evolution of "bemused" and came to find this very fascinating article on

If you're not as big of a word nerd as I am, and/or you just don't have the time or patience to read all of this, I'll break it down briefly here: basically, the word bemused now falls into an ever-growing category of so-called "skunked terms" in the English language, and Merriam-Webster has taken to including many of these "newer" (read: incorrect) meanings in its dictionaries. Another example cited in this article is the word "nonplussed"; its historical meaning is "puzzled", but since so many people now use it to mean "relaxed" or "unfazed", its meaning is headed down the same path as "bemused." And frankly, that is just wrong.

I'm all about evolution of the English language, but come on--are we really going to go so far as to accept evolution of word meanings simply on account of people being too lazy/ignorant/whatever to actually look them up?? I mean yes, I think we can all agree that "nonplussed", if seen without knowing its meaning, sounds like it would refer to someone who is not (non) bothered (plussed). That just sounds right, so it must be right--right? Because I mean, "plussed" just sort of sounds like "fussed", which is a kind of flustered word, so that should just all fall into accepted usage, no? Who really cares if the new meaning has become virtually the complete opposite of the actual meaning?? While we're at it, can we just add "plussed" to the dictionary too? It sounds like it should really be there, right?!

OK, well clearly I'm getting a bit too worked up over this, but I just find it annoying that we are so quick to transform a word's meaning entirely because people are so consistently wrong about using it.

Oh well. I guess I can just continue to try to do my best to use words correctly and hope that their true meanings will prevail. And as a side note, I realize that writing posts about words/incorrect usage is an open invitation for scrutiny about my own writing, but I would just like to point out that I know I am not always perfect--I like to split infinitives, for one--and I do try not to blast people who misuse words in an everyday context. I do, however, feel that professional authors, writers, etc. should be held to a higher standard on things like this. They are the ones perpetuating the mistakes to all of their loyal readers, and that is a real tragedy. (*Note: NOT, I repeat NOT, a "travesty"). But that is a post for another day...