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Omelets Are Better Than Omelettes, the Apostrophe Does Not Swing Both Ways, and Is Texting Destroying Our Language?

A couple of tidbits to share today that I present in kinda bare-bones form since I'm a little too sniffly-sneezy to weave them into a more entertaining form.

* Three out of three dictionaries I checked with prefer the spelling "omelet" to "omelette." All of them, however, allow both spellings.

* If it ain't facing left, it ain't an apostrophe. In my copy editing work, I'm coming across a lot of right-facing apostrophes (that is, ones with their openings to the right, like the letter C). MS Word likes to make them when you hit the neither-right-nor-left-facing apostrophe key. There's a name for a right-facing apostrophe: an open single quotation mark. Real apostrophes face left.

* I finally found an expert to answer the question, "Are kids screwing up our language with their technology and texting and IMming and blogging and ROFLing?" The answer: No. Technology is not hurting the language at all. Happily, it's just poisoning kids' minds. I got this from a Noam Chomsky clip I found on YouTube. (The whole talk is long, so if you want to hear just this portion, skip to around minute 50.) He makes a good case.

18 Comment count
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You Can't Make an O. . Without Breaking Eggs

Do you use more eggs for an omelette?

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Actually ...

... yes you can. But the Bible forbids it. : )

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Text destroying our language?

You listened 50 minutes of rambling? Geez, all you needed to do was ask any teenager if they thought  texting  was screwing up langauge skills and communication. Of course, you would not get a verbal message but a text to your cell and all of it would be in code. :) OMG! ROFL!

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Yeah, old people like me can sit through 50 minutes of rambling. Of course, we younger old folks need a little more mental stimulation, which is why I was also doing needlepoint (not really).

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We need more learnin'

Never thought about omelet vs. omelette. Guess I've always been an omelet man. And now I'll check which way my apostrophes are facing. Thanks for the heads-up.

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I call it copy editor's disease

I can't read jack anymore without wondering, "Is that the preferred spelling of my style guide's default dictionary?"

 You don't even wanna get me started on "ambience"/"ambiance."

Thanks for the comment! 

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Grrrr! I just read that word in an old Gore Vidal novel. I was appalled. There's a shop in the Haight-Ashbury called that as well.


Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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I figured out ambience/ambiance ...

... just to get all screwed up again. I think most dictionaries allow both. (I really should memorize it since it comes up in my copy-editing work a lot.)

But here's a bona fide boo-boo I came across yesterday in "What Liberal Media?" by Eric Alterman: The media gave the congressman "free reign."

Should be "free rein."

You could make a case for the former. But the latter is the established idiom. It was a typo.

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I have to say until now I thought "ambiance" was an English-speakers' version of the French ambience, in which the first e is pronounced "ah." But dictionary.com allows both, too. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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I suspect that's its origins ...

... but that through usage the new spelling has become accepted. (Actually, I should look this up before I keep on typing because I'm going from memory. But now must jump into L.A. traffic ...) Until I get around to checking, you may not want to take my word for it.

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Almost forgot, Huntington ...

Funny you should mention Vidal because, in my Chomsky YouTube viewing yesterday (he's a pioneering linguist), I came across a clip of Chomsky debating William F. Buckley Jr., which then led me to a clip from the 1968 presidential coverage in which Buckley makes a very nasty attack on Vidal -- complete with threat of physical violence.

Search YouTube for it if you're intersted. I'd never seen it before yesterday and, I gotta say, I was frickin' appalled.

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I've watched some of those

I'm an excessive Vidal fan (check out the fun comments on Ivory's first blog post), so I looked for those on YouTube as soon as I realized they were probably there. I can't believe how nasty Buckley got. Is this the high-brow, WASP, conservative virtue that is so praised? Not that Gore can't be a bit unpleasant from time to time, but he's my kind of unpleasant, mostly.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Yeah ...

I can't BELEIVE they haven't found a bunch of severed heads in Buckey's basement. That man just wasn't right. (No pun intended.)

I saw the clip of that vicious threat against Vidal immediately after watching a clip in which he threated to punch Chomsky in the GD face -- same basic wording. (I thought Catholics like Buckley had a commandment against that kind of talk.)

Anyway, two threats of punching in GD faces back to back -- from a Brylcreamed weirdo like Buckley. It was surreal. And spoke volumes.

Do you know: I assume the Vidal one actually aired live. In which case, the Q word would have -- conveniently -- had a very huge impact (considering the era). Do you know whether that aired? Or were they actually pre-recording stuff in those days?

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Gotta love the internet

From a really complete Vidal fansite:

"In all of Vidaliana, there may be no more famous moment than the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 28, 1968. It happened at 9:39 p.m. EST, on live TV, with Gore Vidal on the Left, William F. Buckley Jr. on the Right, and the esteemed ABC newsman Howard K. Smith figuratively stuck in the middle (he was actually at an anchor desk in another room). The place: Chicago - at the Democratic National Convention. The times: a’changin’.

"Vidal and Buckley had long been ideological enemies, and naturally, that made good television. In fact, before the legendary encounters in 1968, they had debated twice before: first, in September 1962, for two hours, with David Susskind as the moderator of his syndicated show Open End; and in July 1964, during the Republican convention in San Francisco, with Susskind again as moderator.

"So ABC invited them to conduct a series of debates at the summer’s two big political shows. The men met four times at the GOP convention in Miami, and then four more times at the Democratic show in Chicago, where Mayor Richard Daley had mobilized a massive police force to make sure protesters - bitterly angry at President Lyndon B. Johnson’s policies in Vietnam - didn’t disrupt the show. Each encounter lasted between eight and 22 minutes.

"At the Aug. 28 debate in Chicago - the penultimate encounter in the series, with an estimated 10 million people watching - things began with relative calm. But it didn’t stay that way, and before long the men began exchanging words that one simply didn’t hear on TV at that time (see box below). Vidal called Buckley a "pro-crypto-Nazi," a modest slip of the tongue, he later said, because he was searching for the word "fascist" and it just didn't come out. Inflamed by the word "Nazi" and the whole tenor of the discussion, Buckley snapped back: "Now listen, you queer," he said, "stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in you goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered." Smith attempted to calm the exchange with "gentlemen, let's not call names," but the damage had been done. The two men, considerably subdued, met the following night for the last of their week of debates."

There's more here.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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Love the Internet indeed ...

... I had never heard of any of this until about 22 hours ago. Now I've learned a lot.

Still waiting for the new media to break the heads-found-in-Buckley's-basement story, though ....

Thanks for passing that along. Ten million viewers. "Ooops."

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Just read "WWGVD"

And now I know. He'd maintain grace and take the high road in the wake of an threat/attack in front of 10 million viewers.

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Well, just to cut the kids

Well, just to cut the kids some slack....us radiotelegraph operators have been using even terser abbreviations for over a century.  By the way, I wonder if anyone here saw that Jay Leno piece a while back of a contest between telegraph operators and text messagers.  Two of the supposed "world's fastest text messagers" were blown out of the water by the telegraph operators.    (I met one of the telegraph guys last weekend at the Alaska Hamfest.)

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Thanks for posting that. I tend to think of technology-driven language abuse as something that started with advertisers: "Drive-thru." "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should."

Thanks for calling this to my attention. Stop.

: )