anyway, it's not, usually.

Posted on September 13th, 2014 by Scraps.
Categories: Editing, Stock Phrases, Words.

Does anybody write "replica" without first writing "exact"?

Oh: I'm back. Cheers.

Is anybody there?


i know i'm a canary about fashionable words and jokes....

Posted on April 3rd, 2014 by Scraps.
Categories: Editing, Stock Phrases, Words.

....and you can ignore it. (Oh, like you usually stay up at night worrying.)

Anyway. "Hot mess" -- unless you are using it in a different way than everybody, please just remove "hot". It's past vogue.


no, really? he's a small man? get out!

Posted on October 25th, 2013 by Scraps.
Categories: Sports, Stock Phrases, Stuff.

"I think he just wants to flex his power," [Cliff] Bennett says. "He has small (man's) syndrome. I still talk to guys who are there, and trust me, there's not much respect for him in that locker room."

Cliff, why do you reference Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano's height when running him down? Many, many tall men casually flex their power, but you wouldn't refer to their height (well, maybe if he's seven feet tall). But if a short person "flexes their power", you hear it endlessly. It's cliché-psychoanalyzing. It's teeth-grindingly tiresome. As a short man (no, really? get out!), you have to behave like a short person should: deferential, always.

Greg Schiano's behavior is awful. To tie it into his height is a distraction when you should be zeroing in on the real problem: He's a classic, over-the-top boorish example of Football Coach's Syndrome.


old post #26, 13 oct 05

Posted on March 6th, 2010 by Scraps.
Categories: Old Posts, Stock Phrases, Words.

Blurbs that go on about sacred cows, naked emperors, puncturing pretensions, daring to say what others only think, etc, lean upon the reader to agree or be judged cowardly, staid, unhip. It's an attempt to put the reader on the defensive if they don't care for "satire" that is generally about as daring as a fart in class.

Worst of all: "This book has something to offend everyone."


"despite or perhaps because of" watch

Posted on August 1st, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Stock Phrases, Words.

From Wired's weblog:

Radiohead’s "pay what you want" distribution gamble paid-off despite -- or perhaps because of -- rampant file sharing

1 comment.

"despite (or perhaps because of)" watch

Posted on April 1st, 2008 by Scraps.
Categories: Stock Phrases, Words.

Jason Crock's review of the new Raconteurs album in today's Pitchfork. (In this instance "even" substitutes for "perhaps".)


the unpedant squeaks

Posted on August 23rd, 2007 by Scraps.
Categories: Pedantry, Stock Phrases, Words.

I'm impatient with most online pedantry, for two reasons. First, I view most online discourse as conversation, and it's rude to interrupt conversation to correct people on the fine points of usage. Second, most online pedantry is wrong, in my goddamned opinion; people are constantly making "corrections" that are based on things they were told or read and have never themselves thought about, and many of those corrections are nothing more than prescriptivists insisting on how things ought to be versus how they are, and often enough have no firm grounding either in logic or in the history of the language.

I enjoy the mutability and diversity of the English language. I like jargon and slang, and figure that history will take care of which ones belong and which are transient, and I don't have much interest in disdaining those I don't care for, or in looking down my nose at other folks' language. I use what I like, and read what I like. I'm sorry about the loss of distinction between "imply" and "infer," or "compose" and "comprise," or "eager" and "anxious"; I strive to maintain those useful distinctions on my own writing, but I don't get exercised at people who don't. I have a few eccentricities along these lines -- I'll use "ravel" in preference to "unravel," for instance, because they mean the same thing and "ravel" is a pretty word, and I'm probably a little too eager to explain that "till" is a perfectly legitimate spelling and isn't a truncated form of "until."

And there is nothing, nothing at all, wrong with using "hopefully" to modify a clause, and hopefully you won't let anyone tell you otherwise.

However. Mangling of idiom and stock phrases bugs me, for some reason, more than the misuse or misspelling of individual words. Maybe because idiom is such an elegant development, the grace notes that give language its style, and hearing idiom misused makes my ears hurt and my nerves cringe. The big three misused phrases that bug me this minute:

  • Beg the question
    This one is probably misused nineteen times out of twenty. (ESPN is an especially frequent offender.) It does not mean "to raise (or urgently raise) a question"; if that's what you mean, just say, "This raises the question." "Beg the question" is a rhetorical term, meaning to assume the thing you are trying to prove; a form of circular reasoning. If you were to argue that democracy is the highest form of government because the will of the majority should rule, you would be begging the question.

    If you say "This begs the question," followed by a question, you're probably misusing the phrase.

  • Sour grapes
    Okay, this one really bothers me, because it has a specific, vivid application, and it's helpfully spelled out in the parable so anyone can remember it! "Sour grapes" is constantly used to signify simple jealousy or bitterness or petulance. "'Of course the Yankees win; they're the richest team in baseball.' 'Aw, that's just sour grapes.'" "She says he only got the promotion because he's Armenian, but I think that's just sour grapes."

    Sour Grapes means to devalue the thing you want but can't have. When you say, after not getting a job, "It probably sucked anyway," that's sour grapes.

  • Emperor's New Clothes
    Don't use this unless your intent is to call everyone else a liar. When you call something the Emperor's New Clothes, you are not saying you see more clearly than everyone else -- which is obnoxious enough -- you're saying you see the same thing everyone else does, but you're the only one willing to call it as it is. If that's really what you believe, it's probably the last thing you need to say in the conversation, or that anyone else needs to hear.


  • If I were granted the possibility of reading any present-day page -- this one, for example -- as it will be read in the year two thousand, I would know what the literature of the year two thousand would be like.
    - Jorge Luis Borges