Monday, December 4, 2017

A Mere Я Image

Fred Robbins is a former NFL defensive tackle who spent six seasons with the New York Giants. In a Dec. 4, 2005, game against the Dallas Cowboys, Robbins registered five tackles — and did his best impression of a Toys Я Us kid.

Here’s the scoop: I derived enjoyment from this uniform mess, and today I’m going to bask in Robbins’ backward glancing blow. Let us press forward.

Sew what? Is that an Я stitched on Robbins’ uniform? Is Я in the English alphabet? No. I know the alphabet backward and forward.

That Я is a mirror image of R, of course — a reflection of considerable oversight.

Я? You serious?

Monday, November 13, 2017


I always hesitate when spelling South Carolina’s capital or the South American country bordering Panama. Is it Columbia or Colombia?

The U.S. city is spelled with a u. Columbia is a poetic, 18th-century term used for the United States and is depicted as a female. Though the term fell out of favor as the personification of the United States, it pops up across the country today, from the nation’s capital to a river in the Pacific Northwest, from an Ivy League school in New York to a film studio in California. Heck, it is even part of the nomenclature of a recording label, a line of sportswear and a space shuttle. Columbia is a New Latin term, based on the surname of an explorer who sailed the ocean blue in 1492. It means “Land of Columbus.”

The country famous for its coffee is spelled with an o. Colombia also derives its name from Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer. In Spanish, however, his name is Cristóbal Colón.

Both the city and the country germinated from the surname of the same person, but the city is spelled using the root of his anglicized name (Columbus) rather than its Spanish counterpart (Colón).

In short, sometimes it is spelled Columbia, and sometimes it is spelled Colombia. Never, however, is it spelled Cloumbia.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Cleaning Up a Major Oil Spell

We drill for it. We fill our cars with it. We distill it in a, um, crude manner. We install filters for it. We mull over building pipelines to carry it. We call it black gold, informally. We spill it. In a nutshell, we do all sorts of –ll things to it. No bull. Oh, I forgot one: We misspell it. You know what it is.

Take dead organisms and add heat, pressure and time — lots of time — and you’ve got oil. Sometimes, however, you come across a sorry substitute. When that happens — every 3,000 miles, three months or four letters — you should change your oil.

That headline opener petro-fies me. The writer made like a large storage container for viscous liquid derived from petroleum and tanked.

It is my understanding that one should not rig oil with a fourth letter.

An initial l, like water, is vital for life, forms lakes and can be found in glaciers, but a second l, like water, doesn’t mix with oil.

Including two wasn’t a slick idea. I’m agitated. I’ll calm down, I’m sure, when oil is said and done.

So let’s get it done. Try removing the last letter.


We’ve struck oil.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Masquerading as a Word

Be yourself.

Screw that.

That advice, banal as it may be, is worth following 364 days of the year. But not today. Not on All Hallows' Eve. Put on (or take off) whatever you want, to be whoever (or whatever) you want to be. The possibilities are endless. Well, almost.

At the risk of upsetting the sensibilities of anyone in today's easily offended climate, I'd like to count down a half dozen costumes that need to be deep-sixed. Let's make like thin ice supporting a polar bear and get cracking.

This may have been clever the first time it was implemented (was that by Jim Halpert on The Office?), but no longer. It's lazy.

Avoid the white bed sheet with two eyeholes, which is as basic as basic gets. It's the costume equivalent of a college course called Introduction to Introductions. I'd love to see a ghost — just not this ghost.

Don't dress as you do in real life. If you're a surgeon, don't wear scrubs to the Halloween party. If you're a member of the Queen's Guard, forgo the red tunic and bearskin hat. If you're Aaron Judge, don't wear a Yankees uniform. You get the idea.

Getty Images

Don't paint "SOY BOMB" on your chest and attempt strange, robotic gyrations while the music plays. Don't walk around holding a bottle with "TIGER BLOOD" scribbled across a strip of masking tape. Don't wear a tux and pair it with a paper bag on your head that reads "I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE."

Axel Schmidt/AP

If you wear a yellow shirt, you're wearing ... a yellow shirt. It's not a costume. Don't claim to be a lemon. This same principle applies to purple shirts and grapes, green shirts and limes, and so on.

Pay no attention to the dog with the leafy hat and natty bow tie. Zero in on the penultimate line. That's where an error made like a ghost and manifested. T comes right before U in the alphabet — and in the word glaringly misspelled here.

Too bad, on this day of dress-up, the writer couldn't mask his costumes.


Monday, October 30, 2017

Going to Seed

Ay, e, I owe you.

Yesterday I intercepted that phonetically mellifluous message, composed by the letter a. The vowels a and e, separated by only three consonants, are worlds apart, despite their shared interests in arts and entertainment.

A resides in Malibu, in a mansion. E lives in Detroit, in a hovel.

A is in a gassed-up Bugatti. E drives around in a Gremlin that’s usually running on E.

A is rolling in cash. E is in debt.

A is always in class. E is in detention — twice. (Which may explain why a always gets better grades.)

A attends every party. E sits at home.

Neither a nor e got the girl though. I did. Enough about me. I mean, enough about i.

While “Mullen” over the Sporting News blurb below, I discovered something awful — and it’s not awful. It’s awfully close to awful.

This nonsensical sentence is full of beans. Well, my bean counter registers one. It should read zero. Unfortunately, bean sprouts where been belongs.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It's Happening Again

It appears the message relayed in Monday's post didn't reach everyone.

Item No. 1 on today's pre-launch checklist: Change it's to its. We need the possessive form of the pronoun it, not the contraction of it is.

Why does this error happen so often? Its frequency is alarming. It's not OK.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Dream On

It's supposed to be its.

It's not.

Its problem is the apostrophe.

It's got to go.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Springing Into Action

Actions speak louder than words. We all know that. But what if your ACTION has too many words? You’re going to hear about it — deafeningly and resoundingly.

Follow Sports Illustrated’s course of ACTION. When you near the finish line, you’re going to trip over something. Someone, it seems, wanted a bigger piece of the action. Figures. (Action … figures. Get it? I’m toying with you.)

We’ve got dupes. Oops. The exists in duplicate. I don’t react well to that. A “the the” belongs in ACTION as much as MetLife Stadium — home of the New York Giants — belongs in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s time to take action against a word called into ACTION twice.

With a simple extraction, we can fix this ACTION infraction and put the out of action. Such a simple, elegant, poetic solution, huh?

I await your stunned reaction.

ACTION Sports Illustrated writes a fantasy football sentence, throws in the same word back-to-back and leads editor to point out the repetition.
REACTION The editor isn’t Shakespeare, and the “the the” theme has been broached before, here and here. Move along.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Time to Have "the" Talk

The “State-by-State” news brief pictured at right was in the USA Today. Note I didn’t refer to the newspaper as The USA Today. For some papers, the is part of the official name, and in those instances, it must be capitalized and italicized. Otherwise it needs to be lowercased (unless it starts a sentence, of course) and set in a regular, or roman, font, if included at all.

The USA Today blurb mentions my local paper, to which I subscribe. That paper is the Connecticut Post. There is no the in its official name. Need proof? See below. Note the lack of the.

When I was in college, the local paper did have the in its name. I subscribed, therefore, to The Gainesville Sun, not the Gainesville Sun. Need proof? See below. Note the inclusion of the.

Sometimes the is right, then wrong, then right again. In the spring of 2014, a British daily founded in 1754 restored the after going nearly half a century without it. The Yorkshire Post dropped its article opener in 1968, only to witness the return of the following a 46-year hiatus. Why the change? As new editor Jeremy Clifford told Johnston Press:

“We are THE newspaper campaigning for Yorkshire. We set the agenda, identify the issues that concern the people of this region and ensure Yorkshire’s voice is heard. … Reintroducing the cements our position of being THE best place for news, sport, entertainment, culture, analysis, debate and campaigning. Those three letters set the standard by which we will continue to be THE national newspaper for Yorkshire.”

The. We give that ubiquitous function word little thought. Its official inclusion (or omission) may seem inconsequential, but accuracy is important. Do you read the New York Post or The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times or The Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution?

See the difference?

The makes a difference, and not only on a newspaper’s nameplate. Consider other mediums.

The Changeling came out in 1980, but Changeling didn’t hit theaters for another 28 years. Evil Dead premiered 32 years after The Evil Dead made its 1981 debut. A whopping 64 years separate The Killers (1946) and Killers (2010). Deep Blue Sea, a 1999 action movie about scientists battling sharks at a remote research facility, and The Deep Blue Sea, a 1955 British drama about infidelity, are oceans apart.

The Twilight Zone ran on CBS for five seasons, from 1959 to 1964, near the end of television’s “Golden Age.” No, wait. Twilight Zone aired during those five gold-specked seasons. No, no, wait. The truth is, The Twilight Zone ran for the first three seasons before crossing over into the Twilight Zone. For reasons as undefined as, yes, a twilight zone, the Rod Serling series dropped the when the fourth season began as a midseason replacement in January 1963 for Fair Exchange, the very show that had replaced The Twilight Zone on CBS’ 1962 fall schedule after the anthology series failed to secure a sponsor for a fourth season.

That Twilight Zone trim may have been the first example of television losing the, but it wasn’t the only one.

Discovery Channel, home to Shark Week, took a bite out of its name in 1995. Back then, the cable station was known as The Discovery Channel. The head honchos, however, figured that dropping the from the network’s name would help the company’s expansion as a multiplatform brand.

On March 20, 2008, The History Channel was history. In hopes of eroding its image as a stuffy network offering nothing more than World War II documentaries, the cable channel dropped the and channel from its name. According to executive vice president Nancy Dubuc, this, ahem, historic change was part of a multimedia rebranding effort. “We really look at this as more of an evolution,” Dubuc said. “People refer to us as History, and the listings refer to us as History, and everybody refers to us as History. So we really just wanted to keep the name in step where we were as a brand. And we really do see the brand as all things history, and this evolution embraces that.”

What popular website was launched in a Harvard dorm in 2004? Did you guess Facebook? You’re wrong, technically. When Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking site began, it was called Thefacebook, and it remained that way for a year, until the company purchased the domain name for a cool $200,000 and dropped its first three letters. My guess is that the world’s largest social network wanted to be known as Facebook all along, but a bit of domain squatting prevented it. If you believe what you see at the movies, Napster co-founder Sean Parker spurred the change. At the end of his first meeting with Zuckerberg, Parker, played by Justin Timberlake in The Social Network, offered the following advice: “Drop the the. Just Facebook. It’s cleaner.”

Parker may have considered the a dirty word, so to speak, but its level of impurity must be measured on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes that definite article definitely should be dropped; sometimes it’s a keeper.

That’s the truth.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Reconstitution ERA

Look at the bottom of the leaderboard — at the end of an ERA, if you will.

In a rundown of Major League Baseball’s earned run average leaders, Oakland’s Lester is in a sixth-place tie with … Oakland’s Lester. This list, it seems, is made of poly-Lester. Like an inconsiderate parker, the pitcher is taking up two spots.

We could do nothing about this ERA error, and hope one Lester festers, but why not be proactive? We can pitch Lester. Let’s make like many of the pitcher’s initial offerings to a batter: Strike one.

But which Lester is the lesser of two evils? In terms of rank, there is an A-Lester and a B-Lester. The A-Lester must be a bigger name, even though both have six letters. So, let’s get rid of the less popular B-Lester.

And don’t even think about adding a C-Lester and a D-Lester. The last thing we need is mo’ Lesters. (Groan!)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Woo Pig Screwy

Those odds are … odd. Why did the writer "pig out" and list the Razorbacks twice? Is Arkansas a sure thing to make the upcoming NCAA basketball tournament, or will it likely make it? We'll find out in two days. That is a lock.

Monday, January 30, 2017

And D

Oh, crackers!

Gosh dang it!

I can't stand any errors.

Can you spot the one in this Modern Family summary? I did. Adam Devine* would too, I bet.

Get rid of Any. I want Andy. I love normal Andy. Tomato-soup-and-grilled-cheese Andy. Still-in-bed-by-11 Andy. Uses-the-word-tummy Andy.

I can't stand Any errors.

* Adam Devine played Andy on Modern Family. He was the manny, not the Manny. Turns out, spelling and capitalization are important.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Miss. Spelling

Toward the end of the 2016 disaster movie Deepwater Horizon, Felicia Williams (Kate Hudson) tries to get information about a fire on the offshore drilling rig where her husband is working. She has the news on, and things don't look good — for Felicia or the film's graphics department.

Deepwater Horizon nailed Louisiana and Texas and almost went a stately three for three. Consider it a near Miss.

Anyone who has seen the premiere episode of the fourth season of Good Times ("The Big Move: Part 1") knows that the Magnolia State is missing a "crooked letter."

Deepwater Horizon's Miss. take was a mistake, though it failed to match the depths BP reached when the company neglected to test the integrity of the cement at the rig's well. Nor did the proxy Mississippi reach the levels of ineptitude and irony attained by the headline below, which made the Internet rounds years ago. I'm literate, but I can't read that headline ... without laughing.

This isn't the first time something has been amiss in Mississippi, and it won't be the last. Still, my advice to the Deepwater Horizon producers is to bury that footage so it's never found. Do it now. I'll give you, oh, 20 seconds to hide it, and I won't look.

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A Shutout

While watching the second half of Saturday's Kansas-Oklahoma State basketball game, I discovered that ESPN2's telecast got shut out. That's what happens when you have zero points. You can't win that way. Flip-flop the i and the o, ESPN2. Oh, and while you're at it, make sure teams has an apostrophe, because it's possessive. Score!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Sacking the Rookie

So let me get this straight: In the 50 Super Bowls that have been played, no starting quarterbacks have a win? Au contraire! A starting quarterback has won every Super Bowl.* (A starting quarterback has also lost every Super Bowl, but I digress.) Even when a team wins a Super Bowl in spite of its starting quarterback (See: John Elway, Super Bowl XXXII; Peyton Manning, Super Bowl 50), the starting QB "wins" the Super Bowl.

Dak Prescott is aiming to become the 51st starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl but the first to do so as a rookie. Will he? No, says this Cowboys fan. But he's trying. The caption writer was trying, too. Sometimes trying isn't enough.

* If you want to get technical, starting quarterbacks have won 49 of the NFL's 50 annual championship games. In Super Bowl V, Baltimore Colts QB Johnny Unitas suffered bruised ribs and had to be taken out late in the first half, with his team trailing the Dallas Cowboys 13-6. In stepped Earl Morrall, who led the Colts to a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter in Baltimore's 16-13 victory.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Tech No Bowl

USA Today's accuracy record in bowl blurbs after listing West Virginia as the winner of the Belk Bowl.

This "Magic Number" needs Tech support, because that bowl's a crock. When Arkansas blew a 24-0 halftime lead in Charlotte on Dec. 29, it did so against a school with Virginia in its name — but not West Virginia. The Razorbacks lost to Virginia Tech. West Virginia played the day before, losing to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl in Orlando.

Yes, Virginia, as sure as there is a Santa Claus, there is a difference between West Virginia and Virginia Tech.