Archive for the 'A Passion for Words' Category

An ‘Inadquate’ Principal

IT WAS greed and bribery that set me on the path to good spelling. My greed and my primary school teacher Mr Hearne’s bribery. Every Friday he’d give a (small) cash prize to the 10-year-old who got 10 out of 10 for spelling. Every Friday, I’d be a winner. He’d try to outsmart us, the […]

Happy Birthday, Noah

I’VE often wondered how some of the simple American spellings of English words – color, center, humor, etc – came into being, and now I know. It’s all down to Noah Webster, apparently. Yes, that Webster, of Webster’s Dictionary fame (now the Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Old Noah – born on October 16, 1758 – worried about […]

The tyranny of (book) titles

THERE it was, beckoning me from the book shop shelf – An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. I had to have it. Don’t get the wrong idea – I’m no pyromaniac, it’s just that I can’t resist a quirky book title. This one – an off-the wall “tragi-comic” novel – looks like […]

What NOT to do

(Or, how grammar gremlins could see you ending up like the dinosaurs – extinct!) IT WAS a scorcher of a day in the tiny Karoo *village. Not a whisper of wind stirred up the few dusty strips that pass for streets. Even the usually free-roaming goats were stopped in their tracks, huddled together in the sparse shade […]

Peeking under Madiba’s halo

Rescuing Nelson Mandela from the dry pages of history … TWO foreigners, two books on Nelson Mandela, two entirely different approaches. Mandela’s Way by Richard Stengel and Young Mandela by David James Smith do have a couple of things in common, though. Both are well-written, which isn’t so surprising since Stengel is Time magazine’s editor […]

How To Take The Tension Out Of Tenses

AT LAST, a grammar guide especially for South Africans. And not a moment too soon, I reckon. I’m not a snob about these things, but now we’re all part of a hugely competitive global village in which English is the language of business communication, getting it right is more important than ever. Nothing looks as […]

All of a Twitter

  Media websites had their feathers ruffled recently over an instruction supposedly given by Philip B Corbett, standards editor for The New York Times, to journalists working for that newspaper. In one of those all-too-familiar cyber-generated pieces of misinformation, it was reported far and wide that Corbett had banned the word “tweet” from the newspaper – […]

A Horny Lesson …

I learnt a very good lesson today. The internet is international. I knew that all along, of course, but I just hadn’t considered it when I wrote my last blog post. It was on a World Cup-related theme. As the host country, we’re overwhelmed by World Cup fever here in South Africa, so it’s affecting […]

A World Cup Word

Got your vuvuzela and your tickets yet? With the 2010 Soccer World Cup just days away, the host cities are dressed in their Sunday best and here in South Africa the excitement is mounting to a fever pitch (sorry – couldn’t resist the pun). It’s got the word nerds in a bit of a froth, […]

Dream Job

If you’re not convinced about the importance of great spelling and good grammar, then a once-in-a-lifetime dream job – currently advertised at MAINSTREET – may well change your mind. Based in Palo Alto, California, it’s with the folks at Facebook. “Extra” perks include “micro-kitchens and free snacks” at the company’s various offices, and employees at the […]

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