Wednesday, July 19, 2017

This Week: Oafs, Goofs, and Goons on the Podcast + ignorant/stupid

ignorant/stupid
A person can be ignorant (not knowing some fact or idea) without being stupid (incapable of learning because of a basic mental deficiency). And those who say, “That’s an ignorant idea,” when they mean “stupid idea” are expressing their own ignorance.


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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This Week: More Insulting Language on the Podcast + disrespect

disrespect
The hip-hop subculture revived the use of “disrespect” as a verb. In the meaning “to have or show disrespect,” this usage has been long established, if unusual. However, the new street meaning of the term, ordinarily abbreviated to “dis,” is slightly but significantly different: to act disrespectfully or—more frequently—insultingly toward someone. In some neighborhoods “dissing” is defined as merely failing to show sufficient terror in the face of intimidation. In those neighborhoods, it is wise to know how the term is used; but an applicant for a job who complains about having been “disrespected” elsewhere is likely to incur further disrespect . . . and no job. Street slang has its uses, but this is one instance that has not become generally accepted.


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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

This Week: Idiots and Imbeciles on the Podcast + asocial/antisocial

asocial/antisocial
Someone who doesn’t enjoy socializing at parties might be described as either “asocial” or “antisocial,’ but “asocial” is too mild a term to describe someone who commits an antisocial act like planting a bomb. “Asocial” suggests indifference to or separation from society, whereas “antisocial” more often suggests active hostility toward society.





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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This Week: Back to the Archives for a Conversation with Mr. Gradgind on the Podcast + beginning of time

beginning of time
Stephen Hawking writes about the beginning of time, but few other people do. People who write “from the beginning of time” or “since time began” are usually being lazy. Their grasp of history is vague, so they resort to these broad, sweeping phrases. Almost never is this usage literally accurate: people have not fallen in love since time began, for instance, because people arrived relatively late on the scene in the cosmic scheme of things. When I visited Ferrara several years ago I was interested to see that the whole population of the old city seemed to use bicycles for transportation, cars being banned from the central area. I asked how long this had been the custom and was told “We’ve ridden bicycles for centuries.” Since the bicycle was invented only in the 1890s, I strongly doubted this (no, Leonardo da Vinci did not invent the bicycle—he just drew a picture of what one might look like—and some people think that picture is a modern forgery). If you really don’t know the appropriate period from which your subject dates, you could substitute a less silly but still vague phrase such as “for many years,” or “for centuries”; but it’s better simply to avoid historical statements if you don’t know your history.


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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

This Week: Reviving "When Is a Rose Not a Rose?" on the Podcast + parallel/symbol

parallel/symbol
Beginning literature students often write sentences like this: “He uses the rose as a parallel for her beauty” when they mean “a symbol of her beauty.” If you are taking a literature class, it’s good to master the distinctions between several terms relating to symbolism. An eagle clutching a bundle of arrows and an olive branch is a symbol of the US government in war and peace.

Students often misuse the word “analogy” in the same way. An analogy has to be specifically spelled out by the writer, not simply referred to: “My mother’s attempts to find her keys in the morning were like early expeditions to the South Pole: prolonged and mostly futile.”

A metaphor is a kind of symbolism common in literature. When Shakespeare writes “That time of year thou mayst in me behold/When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold” he is comparing his aging self to a tree in late autumn, perhaps even specifically suggesting that he is going bald by referring to the tree shedding its leaves. This autumnal tree is a metaphor for the human aging process.

A simile resembles a metaphor except that “like” or “as” or something similar is used to make the comparison explicitly. Byron admires a dark-haired woman by saying of her, “She walks in beauty, like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies.” Her darkness is said to be like that of the night.

An allegory is a symbolic narrative in which characters may stand for abstract ideas, and the story conveys a philosophy. Allegories are no longer popular, but the most commonly read one in school is Dante’s Divine Comedy in which the poet Virgil is a symbol for human wisdom, Dante’s beloved Beatrice is a symbol of divine grace, and the whole poem tries to teach the reader how to avoid damnation. Aslan in C. S. Lewis’ Narnia tales is an allegorical figure meant to symbolize Christ: dying to save others and rising again (aslan is Turkish for “lion”).


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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

This Week: Reviving "Steam" on the Podcast + ancestor/descendant

ancestor/descendant
When Albus Dumbledore said that Lord Voldemort was “the last remaining ancestor of Salazar Slytherin,” more than one person noted that he had made a serious verbal bumble; and in later printings of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets author J. K. Rowling corrected that to “last remaining descendant.” People surprisingly often confuse these two terms with each other. Your great-grandmother is your ancestor; you are her descendant.


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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

This Week: Troubleshooting Photography on the Podcast + shined/shone

shined/shone
The transitive form of the verb “shine” is “shined.” If the context describes something shining on something else, use “shined”: “He shined his flashlight on the skunk eating from the dog dish.” You can remember this because another sense of the word meaning “polished” obviously requires “shined”: “I shined your shoes for you.”

When the shining is less active, many people would use “shone”: “The sun shone on the tomato plants all afternoon.” But some authorities prefer “shined” even in this sort of context: “The sun shined on the tomato plants all afternoon.”

If the verb is intransitive (lacks an object) and the context merely speaks of the act of shining, the past tense is definitely “shone”: “The sun shone all afternoon” (note that nothing is said here about the sun shining on anything).


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https://commonerrorspodcast.wordpress.com/

On the podcast this week, we discuss troubleshooting photography.