Thursday, February 26, 2015

Coming Apart at the "Seems"

Seems out of place. Excuse me. That should read, “Seems is out of place.” You see, sometimes the word is should follow the word seems. Sometimes, it shouldn’t.

This is one of those times when it shouldn’t.

The sentence pictured above contains more words than it can support. In other words, it’s bursting at the seams.

Is seems extraneous, or seems is unnecessary.

It seems we have one word too many. So, let’s try it sans seems:

Four wins in four days at the 2013 Big East tournament is far-fetched, but you can’t rule anything out with this group.

Seems fine.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Blame Jerry

As Pawnee, Indiana, TV journalist Perd Hapley might say, in his totally tautology way, I love Parks and Recreation, a show that is dear to my heart. I’ve been a fan of the NBC sitcom since seeing a trailer weeks before the show premiered in the spring of 2009. When I heard Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department director Ron Swanson say, “I hate the public — the public is stupid,” I was hooked. I’ve devoured every episode since, each as tasty and comfortable as the waffles at JJ’s Diner. How often does one find a connection with not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but six characters from a single show? Like Leslie Knope, I excel at gift giving. Like Ron, I’m a private person always hankering for a great steak. Like April Ludgate, I’m a dry, sarcastic animal lover. Like Andy Dwyer, I once performed with the band Mouse Rat. Like Ben Wyatt, I have my share of geeky interests. And like Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry Gergich, I’m kind but awkward. (OK, one of those six is a lie.)

I planned on the show litch-rally lasting as long as health-conscious Chris Traeger (i.e., 150 years). Alas, that is not to be. Come tomorrow, it’ll be gone, like Li’l Sebastian, and I’ll have a pit-sized hole to fill in my TV viewing schedule. I hate to see Parks and Recreation go, though I’m thankful it lasted longer than Rent-a-Swag and Entertainment 720.

The seventh and final season has jumped ahead to 2017, to a world that is recognizable — with some twists. Elton John owns Chick-fil-A. Shia LaBeouf designs wedding dresses. Tablets are transparent and can be folded and even converted into skateboards … assuming you’ve worked out all the evil AI software bugs. Morgan Freeman and Shailene Woodley are feuding. Kevin James is the new Jason Bourne. The Hitch sequel is out; its full title is Hitch 2: Son of a Hitch. LeBron James is playing in Miami — again. Oh, and perhaps craziest of all, the Cubs are World Series champions, ending the long suffering in the Windy City. As Chicago native Lucy told Andy and Tom Haverford in a recent episode as they strolled outside of Wrigley Field: “Yeah, I think you’re really going to like it here. And obviously everyone’s in a really great mood now because of the Cubs winning the Series.”

It’s not the first time the Cubs have won in “reel” life.

In 1993, a 12-year-old boy led them to victory. (See: Rookie of the Year). According to Revolution, a defunct NBC show set 15 years in the future, in a world without electricity, the Cubs won again in 2012. (In a May 2012 trailer for the series, the marquee outside an abandoned, dilapidated Wrigley read “2012 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS.” Interestingly, when the series premiered in September of that year, the message had been digitally removed.) And as every Back to the Future Part II fan knows, the Cubs will win it all this year, sweeping Miami in five games. As the holographic Hill Valley billboard read: WAY TO GO CUBBIES!

Perhaps Cubs fans can take some solace in their multiple on-screen championships, because the real team’s extended futility is, ahem, more than one can bear.

It’s been a l-o-n-g time since the Cubs won the World Series. Longer even than the Hypable blurb above will have you believe. Mark Twain could have written about the team's last championship; he was alive at the time. The Cubs last won it all in 1908. Chicago was in the World Series in 1918, but it lost to the Red Sox, a team that would wait 86 years before winning another title. The Cubs are still waiting. Even Chris Traeger would find it difficult to put a positive spin on such a lengthy drought.

If the Cubs — the real Cubs — do win the World Series in 2015, it will be 5,000 times better than Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind,” which reminds me...

♫ Bye-bye, Parks and Recreation. Miss you in the saddest fashion. ♫

Thursday, February 19, 2015


The stickers below are whimsical examples of a spoonerism, which is the transposition of initial letters or syllables of two words, usually by accident. The swap, often made when one talks too fast, creates a new, sometimes humorous phrase. A crushing blow becomes a blushing crow, a pack of lies becomes a lack of pies, lighting a fire becomes fighting a liar and a ducking fork becomes a … well, never mind. As comedian George Carlin once said: Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things.


This transposition is named after William A. Spooner, a clergyman and warden at the University of Oxford in the early 20th century. Spooner purportedly made such verbal slips often, so the attribution stuck. When toasting Queen Victoria, Britain’s dear old queen from 1837 to 1901, he may or may not have said: Three cheers for our queer old dean.

A sticker, regardless of its cuteness and cleverness, is only as tasty as its weakest ingredient, as poetic as its worst verse. So, when said sticker contains a misspelled word, it’s comparable to a bad salad … or a sad ballad.

On these stickers, one of the words has been dis- assembled. Take it apart. Dismember that dis- member. (Why did dis- appear? It needs to vanish.) Replace it with dys-, a prefix meaning difficult or abnormal or bad.

People prone to spoonerisms may suffer from dyslexia, a learning disability characterized by difficulty reading, and people with dyslexia are dyslexics.  If you dis- that word, I must dis your dysfunctional sticker. The message it contains is important, but spelling is tivotal poo.

Have I not spoon-fed you enough material on spoonerisms? Hungry for more? I have three honest-to-goodness suggestions. 1. Head to North Carolina and attend the annual Apple Chill festival in Chapel Hill. 2. Stop at Affy Tapple in Niles, Illinois, for a sweet treat. 3. Read Shel Silverstein’s Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook.

Whatever you do, do not get spoonerism-happy around anyone named Kerry Hunt. You’ve been warned.

Jessica De Sousa Costa

Monday, February 16, 2015

Root, Root, Root for the HOME Team

In betting parlance, the point spread (also called the line or the spread) is a handicap placed on the favored team. It’s designed to give both teams (the underdog and the favorite) an equal chance at winning, from a bettor’s perspective. Let’s say, for example, that the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers are facing the lowly Philadelphia 76ers in a world without point spreads. In that case, almost everyone would bet on Cleveland — and almost everyone would win. The casinos would lose. That’s where the point spread comes into play. An oddsmaker predicts that the Cavaliers will win by x-number of points. (Let’s say 12.) This number is the point spread. Now, it’s not merely a matter of wagering on the Cavaliers to win. If you bet on Cleveland, it has to win by at least 13 points. Margin of victory is now a factor.

You get the point. Anyway, when it comes to point-spread listings, two standard practices exist: The favored team is listed on the left, and the home team is listed in all capital letters. For example, in the point spread pictured below, Utah, playing at home, is an 8-point favorite over visiting Portland.

Where, I wonder, are the Clippers playing Indiana? Knock-knock. Is anybody home? Is it a neutral-site game? That could explain the lowercase letters on both sides of the ledger. The game was played at the Staples Center, in Los Angeles, making the Clippers our homeys. As such, Indiana — in point-spread terms — was playing against the L.A. CLIPPERS, not the L.A. Clippers. In Los Angeles, of all places, someone should have been able to raise the necessary capital(s).

Use uppercase letters next time. I bet it’ll help the Clippers feel at home.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

You Do the Math

It’s math time, readers. This is an editing blog, so I’ll present the mathematics in a word problem. Here goes:

If Team A, trailing Team B by four points, outscores Team B by 11 points, by how much is Team A now leading?

To solve, translate the word problem into a numeric equation and solve for x. This is a simple one: -4 + 11 = x

Solution: x = 7

Let’s run through it in more detail: Team A is trailing by four points, 66-62. Team A then scores 13 of the next 15 points. We add 13 points to Team A’s 62, which gives us 75. We add two points to Team B’s 66, which gives us 68. Team A is now ahead by seven, 75-68.

How did the writer come up with 73? He missed the point. Two points, actually. He must have poor mathletic skills.

Monday, February 9, 2015

One False "Move"

When and where and how and what you did may not matter. But why matters. It’s a matter of principal. Or is it a matter of principle? See? Spelling matters.

I was reading the Connecticut Post and, more by accident than design, I came across an instance of more by accident, not design.

I couldn’t ask for more. Really, I couldn’t. No, more! You’re doing more harm than good. Bust a move, more. Allow move to move in.

That’s more like it!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

You Win Some, You "Loose" Some

The first time I saw the 1999 comedy Office Space, more than a decade ago, I was hooked faster than a Breaking Bad binge-watcher or a recreational golfer’s tee shot. The movie’s beginning is one of the best of all time. Is the opening traffic scene profound? No. Is it relatable? You can read the answer all over my oh face: Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes!

Office Space has, ahem, a flair for making me happy. It’s jammed with things I love, from Initech employees going gangster on a printer (@#$%& PC LOAD LETTER!) to the cute Chotchkie’s waitress to Swingline-lovin’ Milton to the badmouthing of a certain “no-talent ass clown.” The face Michael Bolton makes when the “Sounds like somebody’s got a case of the Mondays!” woman greets him during the programming-a-virus scene makes me smile every time.

My smile turns upside down less than 10 minutes later when Tom, a corporate drone at Initech, shows Peter his million-dollar idea, one comparable to the pet rock. Tom’s pet project is a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. “You see, it would be this mat, that you would put on the floor, and it would have different conclusions written on it that you could jump to.”

Poor Tom. His idea is flawed, as is his prototype, which has a defect — a loose part.

The middle square in the third row is our jumping-off point. Its first word is loose, which doesn’t fit.

“Loose one turn”?

Lose one letter.

That second o, which is on the loose, literally and figuratively, is an Office Space invader.

Tom’s not alone; he made the same mistake that is epidemic in the comments section of online sports articles. It’s a loose-lose situation with which I’m all too familiar.

The word lose, which rhymes with shoes, is a verb that means to no longer have or to fail to win. The word loose, which rhymes with juice, is an adjective that means not fastened or not tight. (Loose is also a verb meaning to release.) Below are two sentences that should help you grasp the difference:

Before you lose a tooth, the tooth must be loose.

Loose laces lose races.

Is the Office Space mat material a “true” error? That is, was loose used intentionally, as a way to establish Tom’s incompetence, or was it a flub that slipped past the director? Who am I to judge Mike Judge?

All I know for sure is that we need a cover sheet on our TPS reports … and that Tom made use of loose when he should have used lose. He refused to lose, which normally I’d commend. Not this time. If he doesn’t lose it, I’m going to lose it. Just kidding. I’m not a loose cannon.

But seriously, Tom, if you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that would be great. I know you want to make $1 million, but first you need to make loose change.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Has the following ever happened to you? You’re reading a book or an article and you come across a last name (let’s say Smith) that you don’t recall. You scan the material you’ve read, flipping back, flipping back, until you find the first mention of Smith, with requisite first name. Oh, right, that’s who Smith is. Back on track, memory refreshed, you continue reading your book or article. Only sometimes, you flip back and flip back and flip back and … nothing. Your thirst is never quenched; you never come across a first-name oasis. Smith has been — has always been — just Smith. No given name, no title. Nothing. A man of mystery, Smith is.

This is the print version, sans first name.
Frustrating, isn’t it, when this occurs? It happened to me when I read the article pictured above. (I haven’t included images of the entire article, so you’ll have to trust me on this. My pants are not ablaze, I promise you!) What you see here is the 12th paragraph of a two-page USA Today cover story. It referenced Stumpf, and it had me stumped. I didn’t recall seeing his name in the first 11 paragraphs, so I checked, expecting to see a first name on second glance. Didn’t see anything. Assuming I had missed it again, I checked again. I checked a third time. A fourth, even. Half of eight is enough. If at first, second, third and fourth you don’t succeed, give up. I had not overlooked Stumpf’s first name. The writer had.

Who was Stumpf? With curiosity piqued, I headed to the Internet, seeking enlightenment. I visited USA Today’s website and, sure enough, the online version of the article provided a first name and a title upon first reference. Stumpf is Rick, and he’s the assistant athletics director of compliance.

It’s nice to meet you, Rick.

This is the online version, after a Rick fix.