A strange and wonderful thing is this English language. It is made up of over a million words, a couple of hundred thousand of which are in common use, with about 20,000 new ones added each year.
Of particular fascination (to me, at least) are those words that describe common things and actions, yet are virtually unknown. For example, when you get dressed, you may be utilizing Aglets (the plastic things on the end of shoelaces), a Keeper (the little loop on a belt near the buckle that you thread the belt through) or an Armscye (the shape or outline of the armhole in clothing).
The last time you decided to tidy up your office or basement, you may have Cancatervated (heaped things into a pile) or even Defenestrated (thrown a thing–or person–out the window).
And imagine my surprise to find out I don’t dance clumsily…I Balter.
The common nuts and bolts of English often have uncommon names. The little dot over the “i” and “j”? That’s a Tittle to you and me. And when writing out a formula, you may want to use an Obelus (÷ or division sign).
Dropping these uncommon appellations can both illustrate your lingo legerdemain and add spice to your communications. To wit:
“Please enter your password, followed by the Octothorpe.” (# or pound sign).
The RonnBlog has previously noted that the exclamation point was once known as “shriek mark”…darn apropos, n’est-ce pas? Well, if you really want to punch up your next text, tweet or email, why not use an Interrobang? It’s fun and easy! Just combine an Interrogative point (question mark) with a Bang (what printers call the exclamation mark) like this:
- “He said what in church?!”
- “You had how many beers?!”
- “Your fiancée said what?!”
It also makes a snappy addition to a blog title.
Which brings us to the Oxford comma.
The Oxford comma is a comma placed immediately before an “and”, “or” or “nor” in a series of three or more terms. Controversy surrounds the use—and non-use—of the Oxford comma. Some say no, some say yes, others say “Hell, yes!” while still others say “Not now, not ever!”. And then there is the “maybe yes, maybe no, sometimes, it depends” crowd.
Many a lad and lass fall into one of two camps: “Use it but didn’t know what it was called” or the “Never use it and didn’t know what it was called” gang. Until just last year, I was among the latter. For whatever reason, it just didn’t look right to me. Now that I know what to call it…well, it still doesn’t look right.
Adding to the brouhaha is the fact that there is even disagreement as to what to call this innocuous grammar morsel. In addition to Oxford comma, it’s also known as a Serial comma, a Series comma and…in a transparent dig at it’s Oxford University pedigree, a Harvard comma.
I leave it to you to make your own choice. You’re a faithful follower of the RonnBlog; I know you’ll do the right thing. But promise me that whatever you choose, your handwriting will not be unreadable.
That’s Griffonage. And we wouldn’t want that, now would we?
Today’s Fact Cetera
The longest one-syllable word in the English language is “screeched.”