#HomophoneHell: Bear and Bare

I see this error so often in both edited and unedited work, I have to write about it. As usual, it’s something I never had trouble with, so I have problems understanding why it’s so hard to get it right. I’m mean like that. However, I’ll do my best to explain. I’m helpful like that, too.

The issue isn’t with bear as a noun. I never see that misused. The issue is with bear as a verb. “The right to keep and bear arms” as stated in the second amendment to the Bill of Rights is probably one of the most famous usages in AmE. There, it means “carry” or “use.” (I’m not looking this up; I find that providing my own words usually helps people more than quoting dictionaries. If you want to look it up, I’m sure you know how to go about that.) Bear can also mean “endure” or “withstand,” as in “It’s more than I can bear.” (“I can’t take it anymore.”)

Women bear (carry and birth, “birth” used as a verb here) children. We all have our burdens to bear (carry, endure). Sometimes they’re crosses. Sometimes they’re not.

Bare has nothing to do with carrying or enduring, and a lot to do with being uncovered or revealed. “The wolf bared its teeth.” (They were hidden by its lips, but it snarled, pulling its lips back, and thereby bared them.) A sleeveless shirt leaves one’s arms bare (revealed, naked, uncovered). Ground might be bare (naked in the sense of there being no vegetation whatsoever). Bare can also mean minimum (as in the repetitive phrase “bare minimum” or as in “the bare necessities,” made famous by Baloo the Bear in the Disney animated version of “The Jungle Book” — a bear, singing about bare … ). Then there’s “lay bare,” to expose. There’s a lot of that going on in this election year. Threadbare fabric has been worn thin.

So — if you’re enduring something, you’re bearing it. (Perhaps badly, but even so, you’re bearing it.) If you’re carrying something, you’re bearing it. If you’ve taken off a garment, you might be baring part of your body. If you’re having an emotional moment, you could be said to “bare your soul” — to expose it to others.

Bear the standard of proper usage high, my readers. Lay bare the misunderstandings that lead to homophone errors!


#HomophoneHell: Stationary/stationery

The word pair is right up there (::points to the blog post title::): stationary and stationery. They sound exactly the same, and sadly the latter has fallen into disuse to the point where some people don’t even know the word anymore.

Something stationary is stable, unmoving. Stable and stationary both have an A in them. That might help you remember. (I know, there’s also an E in stable. However, the problem syllable isn’t “sta,” it’s “ary.”)

Stationery is paper goods for writing letters or note cards. Some people include writing implements in the category, since you can’t write a letter on stationery without a writing implement. You remember letters, don’t you? We wrote those before we had email. (Some of us still do it.) Stationery shops can still be found if you hunt hard enough; of course, if you’re not in the mood for hoofing it, you can always shop online. The words letter, pen, and envelope all contain the letter E, and so does stationery. That’s always been my mnemonic for it. (You’ll note I use words that do NOT also contain an A. That would be madness.)

You hold your stationery stationary with your hand while you write your letter.

#HomophoneHell Is Coming!

It’s almost time for #HomophoneHell again (October’s coming up fast!), so I’m getting the jump on it with this post about some of the most troublesome words in English: lead/led, and their rhyming partners read/red. For whatever reason, I don’t see the last ones misused nearly as often as the first ones. Continue reading

The eleventh link of Christmas: Editing tools

This is the smallest of my collections, because honestly I don’t use many tools aside from PerfectIt3 that aren’t already built in to my software.

Here you’ll find my less-than-glowing review of “Ginger,” a tip on how to respond to a comment in MS Word, and a few other tidbits.

It’s been 11 days of posts. I figure folks are getting a little bit full, so today and tomorrow are lighter fare vis a vis the post count.

The tenth link of Christmas: Homophone Hell!

One October I made this a theme, because of that whole Halloween/devil/demon/hell thing.

It’s not really seasonal at all, though. Homophone hell is ever present. Here’s the proof.

My gift to you: LINKS! (Post the first of over a dozen!)

While I’ve been less than perfect about posting here, I’m very active over on G+. In fact, most of my business is done there, whether it’s getting referrals or discussing projects. Because I spend so much time there, I’ve embraced the Collections feature and set up sixteen groupings of posts. I won’t link to all of them here (my Editing Projects, for example, aren’t really germane to everyone in the blogosphere, and the GRAMMARGEDDON! posts are already here, duh), but I’ll post a link to each Collection with a brief description of it so you good people can see the rest of my inspiring content. ::cough::

I just realized I’m posting at least a dozen links over the next few weeks. Rather like an editorial “Twelve Days of Christmas.”

But not. Anyway . . .

First up, in keeping with the theme of this blog, is my GUMmy Stuff. These are all about grammar, usage, and mechanics. Some of them are original content, some are links to other folks’ blogs, some are cartoons, but all are focused on GUMmy Stuff.

Here you go. Don’t get stuck in there. It can be messy.

GUMmy Stuff (Grammar, Usage, Mechanics)

Ginger Page? No thanks.

Pursuant to a discussion with Google+ user Fiber Babble about proofreaders and grammar checkers, I looked into Ginger Page, a free grammar and spelling checker (and supposedly much more) that I heard about on Twitter.

What follows is an edited version of a series of posts I made at G+ earlier this morning. You can read the original here. Continue reading

Let’s chew some GUM.

Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics. And we’ll throw in Syntax and Style for good measure. And no, those won’t be capped for the entire post. That’d be silly. First use is plenty, because now you readers know what the Important Terms are going to be for the rest of this discussion. (That’s a style thing. You’ll learn more about it later.)

We can’t write or speak—we can’t use language—without at least four of those things. Grammar tells us the rules that explain how our words work. It tells us about nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions, and more. It tells us what we need for a complete sentence (a subject and a verb). It tells us how to form a question. Grammar is a set of rules. Not suggestions, not guidelines. Rules. And you know what? Most of us learn these rules by osmosis. We absorb them from hearing other people talk; we are exposed to them when we read. (Sadly, we may read poorly-written material and learn the wrong things, but that’s another post for another time.) Continue reading

No guarantess

They're "captive," all right. This was on the back of the ladies' room toilet stall door.

They’re “captive,” all right. This was on the back of the ladies’ room toilet stall door.

The agency this poster promotes promises a “captive audience” for your advertisement. It’s one of those that specializes in pre-show theater ads, you see.

It does not, however, promise that all the words will be correctly spelled.

(This was the middle panel of a triptych. I saw nothing wrong on the other two. Perhaps I was too gobsmacked by this one to notice.)

Yes, I have seen Weird Al’s video.

I quite like it, too. Surprisingly he’s far more of a prescriptivist than I ever would’ve pegged him for, but to each his own, right?

Here is my take on the types of grammarians.

Now, just this morning I found links to an article about Weird Al’s “grammar gaffe” in my Twitter feed.

And here is what I had to say about that subject some time back.

I’ve said more over at Google+ in the past 24 hours, too. Like this, from yesterday afternoon when my Twitter feed was still roiling like a shark tank at feeding time.

Just in case you haven’t yet seen “Word Crimes” for yourself, here. It’s fun, and it’s funny, and I’d rather listen to it than “Blurred Lines” any day of the week.

“Word Crimes” at YouTube

Now, it’s time for more coffee and some chair dancing.