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Dear Auto Correct…

The advent of smartphones has ushered in sweeping changes in the way we we live our lives, from everything to online grocery, food, and pizza ordering to keeping in touch with family via video chatting, iMessage, and Twitter. One of favorite little bits of smartphone usage is auto-correct. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out DamnYouAutoCorrect.com. One of the most frequent and baffling aut0-corrects my phone likes to impose on me changing “sew” to “see.” I cannot understand why it corrects an English word–not a misspelling–to another similar word. #facepalm

In the spirit of fun, today I’m sharing two fun little auto-correct puns I’ve found on Pinterest. Remember, auto-correct frowns upon foul language. Enjoy!

"Auto correct can go straight to he'll" shirt Dear auto correct, stop correcting my swear words you piece of shut.

My Favorite German Words / Meine deutschen Lieblingswörter

My two-year stint in Germany is almost over and I have learned a ton of new German words in that time. Some I can’t ever get quite right (what is the past perfect of verstehen?!), and some I learned in the first semester of German class then promptly forgot when I needed them because of stage fright (the word for “postage stamp” is Briefmarke). Some I trip over every time I try to say them (“Muss ich” always ends up sounding like “mush ish” or–worse because it sounds like a vulgar word–“mushee”).

Here are my favorite German words, all of which, with one exception (Kartoffeln), I learned in the last two years.

Sounds Funny

  • Ausfahrt. It means: exit ramp. Why I like it: It sounds like “ows-fart.” Farts are funny, especially aus-farts.
  • nördlich. It means: north, northern, northerly. Why I like it: It sounds almost like “nerd-ly.”
  • Schnarchen. It means: snore. Why I like it: It sounds like a snore!
  • Schmachtenhagen. It means: It’s the name of a town in the state of Brandenburg. Why I like it: Say it! My mother-in-law also says it “Schma-en-ha-en” to shorten it, and that’s funny too.
  • Bälle. It means: balls. Why I like it: “Ball” sounds pretty  much the same as the English word, but “balls” in German sounds like “Bell-uh.” And that tickles my funny bone. :)
  • Kartoffeln. It means: potatoes. Why I like it: I really can’t explain why I like this word, but I always have, since I learned it from Jackie in German class in high school.


  • Glühbirne. It means: light bulb. Why I like it: German has so many logical words, and this is only one of them. Literally, it means “glowing pear.” This is a little backwards, but if you saw a pear hangin from a tree and it was glowing, what would you say it looked like? A light bulb. Logisch.

There are so many logical words in German: Krankenhaus “sick house.” A house where sick people live. What does the word “hospital” mean? Who knows. Regenschirm “rain shield.” What shields you from the rain? Where the heck does “umbrella” come from?!

What other logical German words do you know? Share them in the comments!

Entire English Phrases in One German Word

  • Absacke. It means: last drink of the night before the bar closes. Why I like it: I like the way it sounds and I love German words that mean an entire phrase or sentence in English.
  • gondolieren. It means: to ride a gondola. Why I like it: In German, I can say “We gondola-d for on the night of our anniversary.” In English, I have to say “We took a gondola ride on the night of our anniversary.” Efficient, no?
  • übernachten. It means: to stay overnight. Why I like it: In German, “We overnighted in Frankfurt.” In English, “We stayed overnight in Frankfurt.” Here, the English translation isn’t too many more words, but I just like having one word for this very frequent situation.
  • Verschlimmbesserung. It means: an improvement that actually makes things worse (slang). Why I like it: This is another one of those words that means an entire sentence in English. It’s so efficient!
  • mutterseelenallein. It means: Dictionaries will tell you that it means “all alone,” but when you know what the words themselves mean, you see the deeper meaning. “Mutter” means “mother.” “Seele” is “soul,” and “allein” is “alone.” Taken all together, it really means, as one of my students explains in her This I Believe essay*, “being left alone by everyone, even by the one thing you were always confident of: your mother’s soul.” Why I like it: Wow, do we even have words like that in English?


* Listen to “The Very Basic Rule of Energy” by Masja Raab.

Celebrate National Grammar Day

That’s right, March 4 is National Grammar Day. How exciting! My post today talks about my favorite part of speech (verbs) and issue a challenge that you can add to your bag of writing tricks before National Grammar Day 2009 rolls around.

The Wonderful, Lovable Verb

“Why does she like verbs so much?” you probably asked yourself. Verbs are the most powerful part of the sentence. Without a good, strong verb, a sentence stagnates. You just have “people, places, and things,” those traditional nouns, lounging around, inactive. Verbs bring vitality and life to even the most boring of sentences.

Using Verbs (and Other Parts of Speech) Ineffectively

Unfortunately, many people use dull, lifeless verbs to obfuscate meaning, either because they want to shroud their message or because they don’t know any better. Take this sentence for example:

The man was found beaten by the police.

The passive voice (which includes changing the verb around) makes it unclear whether the police found a man who had been beaten or someone discovered that the police had beaten the man. Now, the active versus passive argument isn’t 100% verb, but it does show how the verb can be manipulated to disguise the true meaning. Here’s another example:

In response to the issue of equality for educational and occupational mobility, it is my belief that a system of inequality exists in the school system.

This is an example right out of Richard Lanham’s Revising Prose (p. 3) (that’s right, fellow members of Eng 600, I’m quoting Lanham) , and I have to admit, the first time I encountered this train wreck of a sentence, I had to read it several times to fully understand the message. Why? Because the action is buried in “shun” words and prepositional phrases instead of where it should be. You guessed it: The action should be expressed in the verb! Lanham clarifies the message to the succinct “I believe that gender inequality exists in the schools.” Well, why didntcha just say so?!

Lanham argues that “In [the field of literary study], writing plan English nowadays is tantamount to walking down the hall naked as a jaybird, Public places demand protective coloration; sometimes you must write [with a dominance of nouns and an atrophy of verbs]”. But Lanham–and I!–argue that it does not have to be this way.

The Challenge

Don’t bury the action, the passion, the motion of your sentences in nouns. Don’t let prepositional phrases carry the movement in your prose. Resolve this year to focus on carefully proofreading what you write for verb usage. Try to use “be” verbs less as the main verbs in your writing (except where necessary, of course!). You might even consider picking up a copy of Revising Prose to get some one-on-one instruction.

So, I want to know: What is your favorite part of speech? Do you like verbs as much as I do?

Slightly edited image source

This hurts!

A&P postcard
Originally uploaded by dove95

Yes, I like grammar, spelling, punctuation, and all that stuff that makes most people cringe. But I don’t judge people when they use improper grammar or can’t spell a word right–hey, I’m not perfect either and I make mistakes all the time.

But sometimes I come across an error that WOULD NEVER EVER BE CORRECT. And this picture is an example of just such an error. “Get’s,” unless “Get” is a person’s name, could never be possessive, as the apostrophe in this postcard signals. Here, it should be a simple present tense verb in the singular. When I see an error like that, it hurts my sensibilities. I can forgive stray ” ‘s ” on nouns, but not on verbs. *sigh*

Dept. of Redundancies Dept.

BBC | 9/11 Demolition Theory Challenged

In this article, the fifth paragraph from the end claims that “The controlled detonation idea, espoused on several internet websites, asserts that the manner of collapse is consistent with synchronised rows of explosives going off inside the World Trade Center.”

Several internet websites, huh? As opposed to websites on the…

(Thanks, Sarah, for sharing the article!)

Power Superiority Despite a Numerical Inferiority

That’s the crux of the 20 1/2 page paper I turned in at 4:00 today. Hooray that it’s done!!! But *hangs her head in disappointment* it’s only 20 1/2 pages. It had to be 25 at least. Well, Dr. Biava said 23 was okay since it’s a grammar paper and they’re “more dense, like math.” And I still fell a bit short. Because I want it to be a longer paper. I love the topic: I examined how majority and minority agree with verbs. They are collective nouns, and collective have tricky agreement rules. Plus, the agreement rules of majority and minority seem to behave differently based on the meaning the speaker intends. Are you still reading this? Because here’s the really cool part: my original research (e.g. the taped conversations I recorded of my students in response to a prompt I provided) reveals the possibility for an additional meaning (see the title of this blog) not listed in a highly regarded grammar book, AND that additional meaning has a regular agreement pattern that differs from those of the other meanings of the words! That means that I might have a mini-discovery on my hands. It’s not groundbreaking or anything, but still definitely worth publishing. Oh, that is if my analysis is accurate. :)

Despite that, I am a little disappointed in my first draft besides just the 1 1/2 pages I felt short of the requirement. I’m disappointed because I didn’t have a good conclusion. I am terrible at writing intros and conclusions. I tried about four times to write a conclusion, and each time, the paragraph turned into something else, another paragraph supporting my argument, instead of tying everything together, making a recommendation, and looking forward. So I just told DrB that, and I hope she isn’t too annoyed at me.

Now that the first draft is out of the way, I can start studying for my comprehensive exams (comps), which are next Saturday morning. Ugh. I’m totally skipping my Monday evening class so that I can have a few extra hours studying. I was going to skip my Wednesday night class, but the prof is one of my comp exam readers. Prolly not a good idea. Canceling my classes and having personal conferences all this coming week WAS a good idea, though. That’s for sure!

I feel really lazy right now. I have actually, several times, considered not correcting errors I’ve noticed in this post. But I just. can’t. do it. I have to.

You know what I really realized this week? Writing is a solitary, lonely activity. I holed myself up in a little 5 x 8 room in the library for about 20 hours this week with my laptop and my backpack full of books, articles, and snacky-poos to get me through. One of my former German professors came over to the room from her study carrel (that’s what the room is called) to ask me to stop humming because it was breaking her concentration (I don’t even notice the humming most of the time. Other GAs laugh at me when I do it in the office, because I’m just not aware that I’m doing it). I felt really bad because it sucks to lose your train of thought. We chatted for about two minutes, and then we quickly exited the conversation so that we could get back to writing. Also, I broke out my head phones in the GA office again this week. I hadn’t used them all semester so far, but there’s just so much distraction in there that I knew I wouldn’t get anything written without them. I even brought the headphones home so that I could work at home without getting distracted! How about that??

Okay, now I’m going to go relax my mind. It’s starting to complain. Auf Wiedersehen.