My Name is Not Gven

Living, as I do, in Sweden.
I’ve often heard and often seen,
That Swedes don’t care,
Or aren’t aware,
That V and W are different.
Whilst seeking out a library book,
After a long and thorough look,
One may find that one,
Can locate none,
Of Wordsworth, Wells, or Whitman.
Try going back one letter, please.
They’re probably within the Vs,
Right next to Verne,
Since Swedes don’t discern,
There are two different consonants.

Spelled Spelled Spelt

Spelled spelled spelt,
May be spelled right.
But to me it looks unkempt.
Don’t mean to start,
A grammar fight,
But it’s got me all verklempt.

Does one say dreamed,
Or is it dreamt?
Depends on where you’re from.
The English prefer,
Their past tense teas.
But Americans like them none.

We’ve spilled.
They’ve spilt
We’ve barbecued.
They’ve grilled.
We’ve stood in line.
They’ve queued.

And spelt to me.
Is not a verb.
It is a type of wheat,
With high protein,
And often served,
As a tasty breakfast treat.

WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter B

Ballcock.

Stop it. Just stop it right now. I know, I know. I’m awful. But it’s not what you think, dammit! You’re the one with filthy mind. Shame on you. A ballcock is actually the most mundane object you can imagine. It’s a piece of plumbing equipment, a floating ball that controls the water level in a tank. So there.

The problem is that this perfectly innocent little word sounds very, very naughty, which is of course due to all the well known ribald associations of the words that make up this compound noun. Just reading this word causes the corners of one’s mouth to curl up in a smile.

And I think that’s wonderful. This word makes people happy.

WOTD: interesting and/or funny words beginning with the letter A

I love dictionaries. I really do. They’re almost porn to total word nerds such as myself. All those lovely words. I used to read them (along with the encyclopedias) when I was a kid. An excessively weird kid. As I’ve discussed previously.

Anyway, today I was flipping through the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) to pass the time while my students were working on an in-class writing assignment. Eventually I intend to read the definition of every single word in the OED. I know, how very Malcolm X of me. Yet, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to achieve this feat since the unabridged version of the OED is comprised of several thick volumes that are revised and updated regularly. This is because the English language is the most dynamic language in the world, and new words are being added to it all the time.

There are several words in the A section that I feel are particularly noteworthy. Aardvark is worth mentioning because it’s the first actual word in the OED. It’s apparently a large nocturnal burrowing animal that lives in South Africa. The word itself is in Afrikaans, which is a South African dialect derived from the Dutch language.

The next word that I was a bit taken aback to see in the OED is “Aargh!” You know, the sound people make when they are frightened, angry or frustrated. This is an example of an onomatopoeia, a word which is the spelling of a sound. Other examples include: meow, beep and plop.

Finally, there is the word abreast . It’s normally associated with walking side by side, as in, “The stroller pushers were walking three abreast on the sidewalk, so I was forced to walk into oncoming traffic to get around them.” (Yes, this actually happened.)

Despite its pedestrian definition, this word is the subject of oh so many bad puns and jokes for obvious reasons. It’s one of those old-fashioned words that nobody ever uses anymore because speaking it aloud would cause everyone in the area to titter like teenagers in a sex-ed class. Now that I think about it, the word titter also causes people to titter in the same way.

WOTD: pretty

Pretty is a funny word. By funny I don’t mean ‘haha’ funny but ‘weird’ funny. Come to think of it, funny is a funny word too and thus it may appear in a future WOTD post. But pretty is a funny word because it has more than one rhetorical meaning.

It’s primarily defined as an adjective that describes something aesthetically pleasing in appearance.For example: Those flowers are pretty. See how the word pretty as an adjective clearly modifies the plural noun flowers.

However, today’s word has a secondary rhetorical function as an adverb, which has much the same meaning as the words: very, really, quite and other similar words.

(This is where the funny part comes in.)

Since the word pretty can be used as an adverbial modifier, this means that the phrasal adjective “pretty ugly” makes perfect rhetorical sense and it is not at all an oxymoron. Even though it definitely looks like one.

WOTD: priggish

After a looooooong pause, here at last is a Word of the Day. I’ll see if I can get back into the normal routine of posting one word per day. Mostly. I took a break during summer vacation.

Anyway, today’s word was inspired by Shark’s previous post about the fallacy-ridden letter to the editor. He sent me the link to a previous letter he thought was particularly amusing. Someone writes about how offended they were after seeing a photo of a “half-naked” woman used to publicize a local stage production. Well, it turns out that the woman in the photo can hardly be described as naked or even “half-naked” since all of her offensive parts are covered up. She might be considered scantily clad, though, as she is pictured wearing shorts and a bikini top.

There were a few comments submitted by readers advising the writer of the letter to lighten up, but the following comment is by far the best:

This priggish prude should crawl back into her convent. This is 2011, for *****sake!

This brings us to our word, priggish. It’s the adjective form of the word prig, which is defined as, “a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner.”

The word itself seems to have come straight out of a Jane Austen novel. Maybe that’s because it describes so many Jane Austen characters. Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice is the perfect example.

WOTD: whom

Okay, I admit it. I love the word whom. I’m an English teacher so I’d better goddamn love that word. It’s a pronoun, innit. It’s also one of those words that isn’t used very often anymore because it tends to make the user sound like a pretentious twat, or like an English teacher, which amounts to the same thing, really…

Many people find the usage of whom to be confusing, so they tend to replace it with the subjective pronoun, who. Whom should always be used with a preposition, such as: about, for, to, etc., and everyone knows the commandment of English grammar usage which states that Thou Shalt Not End a Sentence With a Preposition, right? Well, perhaps not, but ignorance of this rule leads to a lot of incorrect usage.

Example 1: Who are you talking about? This should be written, “About whom are you speaking?”

See? Now isn’t that as lovely and civilised as a Jane Austen novel?

Example 2: Who does this pen belong to? Well, this should really be, “To whom does this pen belong?”

Yeah, that sounds really stuffy. A little too stuffy. I say go ahead and use the first version, though it is technically incorrect. Who cares? The corrected version is approaching pretentious twat territory.

According to the Urban Dictionary, people who use the word whom do so because they are knowingly trying to sound smarter than they really are. When this happens, one should issue a whom alert:

Jim: So Rob, how’s that advanced calculus class going? 
Rob: I’m not certain for whom the curriculum was written, but I am definitely far too brilliant to be wasting my time on this tripe. 
Jim: That’s it, buddy! I’m calling a whom alert on you!

People who use whom are generally the same people who say, “It is I” instead of “It’s me.” Even I think that sounds self-satisfied and pedantic. Therefore, as an expert in such matters, my advice is to avoid using the word whom and other stuffy words and phrases in normal conversation unless one is an English teacher and/or a pretentious twat that keeps the company of likewise.

Also, one should avoid using the pronoun one in conversation because this also tends to lead one down the path of pretentiousness.

Then again, using one does make one sound like royalty. One agrees.