Wrinkled Wisdom – New “Words”?  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Sure, English is a living language. So it makes sense for Merriam-Webster to continually update its dictionary with new words and phrases. It just added a whopping 370, as its editor notes, “to capture the language as it is used.” We love words.  But, some of these???  Let’s take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly. Oh, BTW, we borrowed our title from a “spaghetti western,” a phrase that made it into Merriam-Webster decades ago but is now pejorative for low-budget Western films made overseas. Yikes!

Shrinkflation. Good one! It describes how companies are adding to their bottom line by reducing the size or quantity of a product while charging us the same price. Shrinkflation didn’t fool us for long. We noticed when our junk food ran out faster. 

“Side hustle” carries some lingering negative connotations for us. But, today, it describes work done in addition to a person’s primary job…a definite help during this inflationary period but not really of interest to we retired folks.

Covid sure was responsible for a bunch of the dictionary additions. Okay, we’ll go with “subvariant.”  But, we don’t think “booster dose,” “false negative,” and “false positive” are needed new phrases. They simply put together two common words to form a phrase we easily figured out! 

We missed “dumbphone.” But since we have smartphones, we got it. The “supply chain” phrase sure hits home when we can’t find some of our favorite stuff at the grocery. And every time we hear the word “metaverse,” we roll our eyes. We are not big Zuckerberg fans.

Apparently we are not on social media enough because we have never heard the word “adorkable,” which pretty much means awkward or quirky in an adorable way. Okay, cute. 

But, “yeet”? We’ll put that one in the bad category. It describes tossing an item violently. It can also be used as an interjection. Example: After finishing her soda, Harriet proceeded to “yeet” it into the trash while shouting “yeet.” We’ll take a pass.

“Cringe” has been hijacked and is now slang for embarrassing and awkward. Cringe to us means wincing in disgust. If we do cringe in disgust now, are we now cringy??? More bad.

We enjoyed MacGyver, who tackled high-risk missions around the world, and Will Forte’s MacGruber skits on Saturday Night Live. MacGruber bungled deactivating ticking bombs blowing everyone up. Now “MacGyver” is a VERB!?  It’s used to describe making or fixing something with whatever you have on hand. Clever or just huh???

Falling into the ugly category are some of the new “words” created through initialism—acronyms created from the first letters of the words. Okay, we bought into OMG, LOL, TMI, and BTW; and, TBH, this shorthand saves a bunch of typing. Catch that last one? Be honest!

ICYMI is another one of the additions, in case you missed it. Also, FTW…for the win.” It’s defined as an enthusiastic emphasis to the end of a comment and often meant sarcastically. No, not interested. 

OMG! ICYMI! Almost forgot the food world’s influence on the dictionary additions. “Pumpkin spice” finally made it as well as “oat milk” and “plant-based.”  Heh, Merriam-Webster, pretty slow on these additions. Though look for a change in the “oat milk” phrase if farmers get a new law passed that forbids non-dairy products from being labeled milk!

So, our Wrinkled Wisdom for today?  Enjoy the “dawn chorus”—the singing of the birds that precedes and follows sunrise. Sweet! Start memorizing these new acronyms, words, and phrases if you want to be able to do crossword puzzles in the future. Only getting acronyms like NASA won’t cut it. Knowing “terraform” will help if the clue is transforming a planet to support human life. Doubt that will happen, so every day enjoy the here and now!

P.S. Geez, Merriam-Webster, science fiction fans have known the term “terraform” forever! You were late on that one too

Wrinkled Wisdom – Random Thoughts

Random Thoughs

We had toyed with the idea of writing a selection titled: Ten Top Reasons We’re Glad It Is Not 2020 Anymore….a cumbersome title and a blatant play on David Letterman’s Top Ten Lists.  (So fun not to have to explain who Letterman is to our readers.)  We also had a humorous Top Ten Reasons to Keep Some Masks idea, another cumbersome title.  However, things have not progressed as we had hope, so we nixed both ideas.  Consequently, we are left with… random thoughts.

Wow.  Disruptions in the supply chain are really screwing things up and driving up prices!  Costco is again limiting purchases of some items.  The issue isn’t panic buying.  They just can’t get the products to their stores. Thankfully, it’s not as bad as last year when everyone was hoarding.  Example?  Someone’s mega-package of toilet paper was strewn on the street recently and no one stopped to pick up the rolls!

Speaking of disruptions, if you need to schedule any medical appointments, do it now.  One specialist we called is now taking appointments in March.  March????

As more people are posting on various media, it’s driving up our blood pressure as we are constantly struck by poor grammar and spelling.  Sure, we all make mistakes, but we do know how to use an apostrophe!!!  And, please, there is the correct usage of “regard” versus “regards.” 

Mercedes once ran an ad bragging…More power.  More style.  More technology.  Less doors.  Less doors?  Wait, doors can be counted so, using proper grammar, the ad should have boasted fewer doors.  Some claim that companies use bad grammar to sell their products or services, arguing that it grabs people’s attention causing them to stop and focus on the message.  Nope.  Not buying that.  Just some ad writer’s clever response when caught screwing up.

Viruses constantly change through mutation.  So, we are lobbying for use of the word “mutant” over “variant” to describe the new forms of Covid.  Mutant sounds more negative to us, while variant seems more benign…like abnormal or different.  And, we are sure feeling negative about the Delta mutant taking us backwards.  

Regeneron is available to those over 65, so a positive for oldies who are suffering from breakthrough Covid cases.  Got to look for the positives these days!

Cooking has lost its appeal.  Thank goodness for microwaves and toaster ovens…and delivery!

We are noticing an increase in roadside litter.  Yes, people are back in their cars and going places, but has the pandemic made us less thoughtful about the environment???  “Leave no trace” should be honored everywhere.  Google its principles not the movie.  

We’ve noted that some do not do solitary very well; no wonder it is used as a penal punishment. 

Some people feel masks limit interpersonal communication.  There is truth to that.  Masks muffle sounds and cover facial expressions.  However, after more than a year of this mess, we’ve learned to better read body language, eyebrows, eyes, and upper cheeks, which are keys to understanding the big picture.  Listen for those audible signs of frustration.  Watch for that twinkle in happy eyes.  

The pandemic has spurred gambling from anywhere, any time, and on anything!  Even we can name multiple betting sites available to us on our phones.  And the initial no loss come-ons are way too inviting.  We don’t even understand half the betting terms, and we have limited to no knowledge about some sports.  Arm Wrestling and Rock Paper Scissors Championships! Really?

We’ve watched our screen time increase each week.  Gee…could it be killing time with online games?   Okay, maybe not Minecraft or Fortnight, but solitaire, poker, bridge, Words with Friends, or Candy Kush?  Not telling.

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?  Continue to wear those darn masks to protect yourself and others from the RISE of the MUTANTS.  Hmmm…in addition to storing personal protective equipment for the next pandemic, maybe the government should offer free American Sign Language classes so we can better communicate when masked?  Beware of online gambling!  Even if you know the terms parlay, bad beat, and vig, you can still lose your shirt.  Consider supply issues and shipping times when planning to cook or bake.  The strawberry jam bundt cake is on hold because the strawberry extract is weeks late.  We’re not advocating hoarding…but.  

Wrinkled Wisdom: To Comma or Not to Comma

We’re giggling about a blurb we read recently indirectly complimenting oldies: “As I watch this generation try to rewrite history, one thing I’m sure of.  It will be misspelled and have no punctuation.”

Bunches of articles recently underscored that point with the headline: “People do grammar bad.  Google’s AI is hear too help.”  The headline substituted the homonym “hear” for “here”…the one with an “a”…as in what your ears do.  And, “too” instead of “to”?  “Too” means “also” or “in addition.”  This sentence calls for “to,” a preposition.  To be or not to be!  The media was having fun highlighting a new service aimed at improving spell check and grammar when communicating via Gmail.  

Take the period.  Periods are no-brainers.  They end things, period.  Question marks ask a question.  Oops!  Unless you are a young person who is an uptalker—one who ends statements with an upward inflection that make them sound like questions.   Apparently, kids do it when they’re not quite sure if what they are saying is true, clear enough, or could tick off their audience.  Or, if they are Valley Girls.  

Exclamation marks may be overused, but they effectively express emotion—something funny, exciting, or disgusting!!!   Okay, we’ll plead guilty on that one.  Even semicolons become clear when it’s explained they connect two related sentences.  The colon is an issue for another day.  We are always thrilled when we say “colon” and listeners do not assume we mean a body part.

It’s the use of commas we want to focus on today.  To use a comma or not use a comma can be a challenge for any writer.  Commas deserve special attention because they can make a critical difference to meaning or intent…..even legally.  

Specifically, our focus is on the controversial Oxford comma, the comma preceding “and” in a list of three or more items.  As in:  All’s fair in love, war, and divorce.  It invokes arguments and controversy.  It’s been dropped from many style books used by newspapers and publishers.  It shouldn’t be.  

There are some famous, or infamous, examples of the power of the Oxford comma.  Many people are familiar with the book Eats Shoots and Leaves, written by former editor Lynn Truss, who is gravely concerned about our current grammatical state She hoped her book would stir more people to become punctuation advocates.

The book’s title is an attention getter.  Are we talking about an individual who eats, shoots someone or something, and leaves, or someone who eats greens?   Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism, was reportedly hot on the Oxford comma.   A linguist emphasized this with the example:  This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.  Hmmm.  Is the book dedicated to all three?  Or, without the Oxford comma after Rand’s name, are the book author’s parents Rand and God?

A missing Oxford comma cost a Maine dairy company $5 million after its delivery-truck drivers sued the company for unpaid overtime and lost wages.  We are guessing that lawyers are now paying increased attention to the Oxford comma after reading about the exorbitant cost of that missing comma.  

The intensified use of texting and tweeting and emailing contributes to shorthand that is an assault on punctuation…and spelling and good writing.  Love the term disemvoweling, which describes the elimination or reduction of vowels in texts.  OMG!

Our wrinkled wisdom for today? We recognize American English is a living language, but please join us and become punctuation advocates.  Embrace the Oxford comma!  Buy Truss’s book for your kids and grandkids so they can learn to punctuate properly, write a resume that demonstrates an understanding of good grammar, and increase their chances of getting a well-paying job.  Teaching cursive writing is going the way of the buggy whip.  Don’t let punctuation and grammar become a dying art.  Poor punctuation promotes misunderstanding and ambiguity.  Let’s eat Grandpa.  Huh?? Oh, you meant to write, let’s eat, Grandpa.  Whew!

Texting: a Foreign Language

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The hours kids spend on their phones are paying off. They have become fluent in a foreign language—texting. We get it. Texting is a way to communicate quickly with friends and family. Our fluency isn’t great. “C u l8r”—see you later—caught us off guard. LOL (Remember, grammar queens, no need for a period after text acronyms. Exclamation points, however, are just fine. OMG!)

A new study confirms what we suspected. The more kids send and receive texts, the worse their grammar skills become. IMHO

Sure, linguists will tell you language is very dynamic. We coin words, change definitions, expand usage, and watch popularity wax and wane. But, 70 percent of all text language is just plain incorrect English.

This is worrisome because text acronyms have become words for kids. Parents report that their kids are using these acronyms in their school assignments more than 60 percent of the time. And, then there is autocorrect, which can lead to an incomprehensible sentence and is creating a generation who can’t even spell common words.

We text. We are oldies yet we have embraced change! We break grammar rules all the time, knowing we are ignoring them for artistic and creative purposes. We start sentences with conjunctions…a no-no. Conjunctions include the words and, but, because, while, until, although, or if that are supposed to link sentences, clauses, phrases, or other words.

Okay, okay, okay. We swore we wouldn’t get into this fray. But, (see…we did it again…started a sentence with a conjunction) there are certain errors that are like fingernails on a chalkboard to us. Hmmm, we need to find another analogy since chalkboards, like rotary phones, won’t resonate with anyone but us oldies.

Please humor us! And, please correct the younger crowd when they screw up.

Misuse of the words fewer and less is really common and drives us nuts. Fewer is quantitative. It refers to things you can count, like mistakes in grammar or car windows. Use less as a modifier when it refers to something you can’t count, like rain or snow. We are constantly yelling at the television when ads and talk hosts misuse these words, shouting fewer when they have used less. And, these are the “guys” making the big bucks?

Irregardless is not a word! If you type it, your spell check tool will underline it in red. That should be a hint. It’s simply regardless.

Incorrect possessives have caused us to deface public and private property. The possessive is a word used to show who or what something belongs to. Ooops! Just ended a sentence with a preposition. Forgive us! Here’s the rule: always add an apostrophe “s” unless it’s a plural that ends in “s.” In that case, just add the apostrophe and nix the added “s.” That’s the Joneses’ house.

Think about the ladies’ room or the women’s dressing room, not the ladies’s room or the womens’ room. We took out our magic marker when we noted a restaurant had labeled the girls’ room the girl’s room. Oh, so this precludes more than one “girl” entering a bathroom with four stalls? FTFY! For those not in the know, that’s text for fixed that for you.

Lastly, spelling should count, too. Remember exiting is just the letter “c” away from exciting.

Our wrinkled wisdom for today? Good grammar and spelling still count, not just orally—as in spoken aloud, but in thank you notes, resumes, and especially business proposals and emails. We’d love to include tweets, but we would be wasting our breath. If you are emailing your boss, reread so autocorrect doesn’t foul something up. And perhaps most intriguing, we recently read that bad grammar can knock you off someone’s dating site picks!! Hotness points are given for knowing how to correctly use the homonyms their, they’re, and there. Bad grammar might keep you from meeting the one! Yes, sex could be a powerful motivator for all ages.