Friday, November 25, 2011

A Simple, Desultory Philippic About Black Friday

We're stuck with "Black Friday," I suppose, but it's kind of a ridiculous monicker. It's said to refer to black (as opposed to red) ink, as in that allegedly being the day when retailers' balance sheets finally edge into positive territory for the year. I've long doubted that, and Kevin Drum and Ben Zimmer do a great job of telling the real story. What looks like a sardonic term is, in fact, a sardonic term.

I'm all for sardonic, but now stores are using the term with a straight face to celebrate their sales.

There is something to be said about embracing a derogatory term to take away its power. But this isn't an example of that. It's an example of stupidity. That same stupidity, the inability to distinguish between fact and commentary, between names and descriptions, has given us frontage roads named Frontage Road and base models of car lines named the Base.


A punk rocker who calls himself a punk rocker is a joke, a poser. Play punk rock and people will call you a punk rocker.

Label humor or satire "humor" or "satire" and you've killed the joke. Present humor or satire and people will laugh.

Build a frontage road and people will say, "Hey, look, there's a frontage road."

Offer a cheap car that isn't the XLT Landau Brougham Super Sport and people will talk about the base model.

And if you put crap on sale the day after Thanksgiving, people will know what you're doing.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An LOL Moment

Meet Guga, our household's Cat No. 2.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Speaking Words of Wisdom?

Here's a new one on me: A reader who went to parochial school tells me a nun was "very adamant" about the idea that people's names used in apposition should not be set off with commas, because that would risk confusion with direct address.

In other words, you'd have to say "My mother Mary is at home," because "My mother, Mary, is at home" would be telling someone named Mary that your mother was at home.

Anyone else ever heard of this wacky "rule"?

It's absurd, of course, for a number of reasons. (Even if all your readers were named Mary, most would presumably realize you weren't writing directly to them.) But I suppose some people would roll their eyes at the logic most of us apply -- using commas if we have one mother and no commas if we have two or more.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Homework Assignment

I could care less about "I could care less," but I couldn't care less -- at least not a whole lot less -- about the passive voice.

If you're one of the haters, or a particularly enthusiastic cheerleader for the active voice, your assignment is to win me over to your side, without mentioning "Mistakes were made." Give me real-world examples of the passive voice just ruining everything, and keep your argument free of passivity.