No one says “full point.” Full stop.

First, let’s go back to 2014 or thereabouts, when I first bought my copy of the New Oxford Style Manual. I’d taken on a couple of English clients, and I wanted to be sure I didn’t make any stupid mistakes in “correcting” their writing. I knew about the tendency to use single quotation marks (which they call “inverted commas,” for both single and double marks) where we use double and vice versa, but what didn’t I know?

As I skimmed the section on punctuation, I realized that almost everything was either the same as it was for American English, or I already knew about the difference. And then it happened.

Chapter 4, section 6: “Full point.”

What’s that? I’ve never heard of that. Oh, I see: “also called full stop, or in American English, period.” (emphasis theirs)

Now, I’d heard of a full stop. However, this is the English publishers’ equivalent to the Chicago Manual of Style, so I figured it must be correct. Right? Surely I was a woefully misinformed Yank. So, I set out to ask my English clients about this term.

They’d never heard of it.

Neither had their children. Not one teacher called it a “full point.” Full stop.

I set my concerns aside, and decided to call it what everyone calls it.

Now, let’s move forward in time to last week. I was reading Lynne Murphy’s delightful book on British and American English, The Prodigal Tongue, when I happened upon this bit: “By the 20th century, Americans generally used period and didn’t bother much with full stop, while Britons retained full stop and eventually lost period. (Full point is still occasionally found in printers’ jargon.)”

And then, I took my purple gel pen in hand and annotated the margin: “And the New Oxford Style Manual!” (Of course, I underlined the title as I was taught in grade school.)

[For those who are wondering, that text combines New Hart’s Rules with the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors in one volume.]

Just today, I tweeted that I was going to write a blog post about “this full point silliness” and I tagged Lynne, because it seemed the proper thing to do. After all, if not for her book, my memory wouldn’t have been jogged. She replied, asking “Who’s silly about full point?” So I told her.

I got a like. I’ll take it!

Full stop.

Shine a light

I have Elton John running through my head at the moment, since typing those three words. Sorry if I’ve earwormed anyone else.

There are two verbs that many people have trouble conjugating and using correctly. (Okay, there are many, many more than two. But I’m talking about only two today.) There’s shine the transitive verb, which conjugates shine/shined/shined, and there’s shine the intransitive verb, which conjugates shine/shone/shone. Continue reading “Shine a light”

The fifth link of Christmas: REEEEEEE-GION-AL SPEECH! (Did you sing it?)

This collection doesn’t get as much business or traffic as some, but what’s here is worthwhile, I think. I started with the idea of focusing solely on AmE and BrE differences, but I’ve expanded that to regionalisms as well.

There are some great blogs out there with a focus on AmE/BrE differences, chief among which is the one from Lynne Murphy.

“For N o’clock” or “by N o’clock?”

When you have an appointment, do you say you need to be there “for” or “by” the scheduled time?

I have always said “by.” I need to be at the office by nine o’clock.

My husband, however, has always said “for.” He needs to be at the office for eight o’clock.

The first time I heard it, I mentally stopped, stock still. “For?” Surely you mean “by,” right? I didn’t ask, though. I just made a note and kept listening. Sure enough, that’s the phrasing he always uses. He was born in MA and grew up in RI. He’s not British, which this usage would seem to suggest (it’s “exclusively” BrE, according to Algeo’s British or American English?”: A handbook of word and grammar patterns).

I’ll suggest it may be less “exclusive” than his research led him to report. He states “0 iptmw in CIC texts” for AmE. In English (AmE, precisely), that means zero instances per ten million words in the Cambridge International Corpus. I can swear to the existence of three American English native speakers (my husband and his two daughters) who use “for” where I use “by” in this particular construction. Is it a spoken AmE thing, but not a written AmE thing?

I’d love to hear from linguists who have experience with this wording. Is it as “exclusive” as Algeo says? Or are there other AmE speakers (perhaps from New England, or perhaps only in that little bit of MA and RI) who use this? I’m a corn-fed Midwestern gal of Frisian extraction. This British thing . . . I didn’t grow up with this.

Which or That? Who Cares?

If you’re a speaker/writer of American English (AmE), these two relative pronouns may well strike terror into your heart. Which one to use? How to keep them straight in your head?

If you’re a speaker/writer of British English (BrE), you probably wonder what I’m on about in that first paragraph. (That is, unless you’re also versed in the quirks of AmE usage.) Continue reading “Which or That? Who Cares?”

You are not orientated correctly, irregardless.

I had hoped to catch another “typo in the wild” as Ray put it last week, but sadly the sign I spied over the weekend was gone today. It was one of those mobile signs with removable letters, sitting in the parking lot of a small resale shop. I did a double-take when I spied it because a) I wasn’t sure I saw it correctly and b) I was driving, and had to watch the traffic. The sign proudly proclaimed “SHABBY SHEEK.” Yeah. “Sheek.” Perhaps it was a “cute” misspelling of the kind I first learned about in 6th grade English class, and which I’ve hated from that very day. Perhaps it was really about a down-at-heel Saudi fellow, in which case it was still spelled incorrectly, but the end result would’ve been far closer to the actual spelling. Sadly, I suspect that neither of those possibilities is what actually happened. I suspect that whoever placed the letters has no clue that “chic” is the word they were after, and just went with the closest phonetic spelling. We’ll never know for sure.

Now, for the rant. As the blog entry says, “You are not orientated properly, irregardless.” Backformations drive me batty. Some of them are indeed correct, standard English words. However, “orientate” is not standard American English. It’s more commonly used in British English. This article explains that speakers and writers on both sides of the Big Pond bemoan the other’s usage.

As for me and my house (is that Biblical enough for you? I hope so, it’s about as Biblical as I’ll get–and notice, that’s capitalized because I’m referring to the Bible, not to something generally enormous. But I digress.), we will continue to use the American standard formation of “orient” because it’s standard American English. And because it sounds better. So there.

Regardless of what we choose to do, you are free to do as you please. Note, I didn’t say “irregardless”–because that’s not a word. It’s wrong. The word is “regardless.” Just because “respective” has as its antonym “irrespective” does not automatically mean that “regardless” needs an “ir-” prefix. It’s not only redundant (the word already means “without regard for”), it’s wrong. Stop it. Please.

That’s a pretty short rant, but it’s nearly 100 degrees outside and I’m easily tired today. I hope it’s still enjoyable. Later, folks.


[calendar pages fly in a strong wind, moving from July 23, 2012 to March 24, 2015]

[dolly shot from calendar to editor’s work space, hands on a backlit keyboard]

Wow, how times change a person. Well, times and continued education and making connections in other fields related to one’s chosen area. Linguists are way cool, I’ve found out.

And because I’ve been hanging with linguists and lexicographers and other editors with experiences different from my own, I need to update this post a little. I’m here to tell you that “irregardless” is, indeed, a word. It is. It has meaning; we know exactly what someone means when they say it (the same thing as “regardless”), even if we get on our high horse and pontificate about how we can’t possibly know because the person’s not speaking proper English and that’s not even a word and how dare they you get the picture, I hope.

It’s even in the dictionary.

Watch Kory Stamper of Merriam-Webster explain “irregardless” by clicking this here link thing.

Now, before you stomp off into the distance raving about my traitorous stance, hear me out. One of my favorite sayings is “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” Usually I apply that to things like scientific fringe procedures that I find ethically (and probably morally) questionable. However, it also applies to language usage. Sure, “irregardless” is a word. That doesn’t oblige ANYONE to use it. It simply means that those who choose to use it have made that choice.

What others think about them for having made that choice is up to those others. For myself? I don’t use it. I don’t care to hear it and I certainly twitch when I see it in print (unless I’m reading Internet comments or very casual writing). As for me and my house, we will still say “regardless.”