Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

How I hate CFLs!

Photos: J. Cooper

Totally unprepared for this!
What shock it was to discover what appeared to be snowflakes on the carpet when I walked into my living room early this morning. Of course, on closer inspection, the 'flakes' proved to be, not snow, but scraps of some other weird, almost transparent material of an indefinable substance which disintegrated between my fingers as I tried to pick them up.

Then, looking up, I was horrified to find shards of the stuff hanging from the shade of a standard lamp...All that was left of the once exquisite silk lining!

Not many months ago I facetiously wrote:
Whooping with joy, I’ve just removed the detested Compact Fluorescent spiral from the lamp on my desk, and replaced it with a nice, fat, familiar, round, incandescent light bulb that once more surrounds me with the glorious golden glow that spells ‘home’ to me like nothing else can. (Incidentally, until I did this, I had never noticed how that 'cool' CFL was maliciously beginning to destroy the gorgeous, silk lining of my lampshade - which had survived years and years and years of incandescents before it! I was quite proud of myself for having intervened in time! )

But clearly I had spoken to soon! The rot had already set in!
Responsible citizen that I am, I’m trying to be as ‘green’ as possible, so, as a writer who very often gets so involved in the affairs of my characters that I can easily lose all track of time and work right through the night – sitting less than two feet away from the lamp on my desk - I made sure only to use CFLs. (How much is two feet in centimetres?)

As a romantic, I have thrived, since I was a child, on poems and novels that describe how the hearts of the poor, lost stranger stumbling through a thick mist, and the sailor who is finally home from the sea, are gladdened by the golden light of the flickering candle on a sill, or that of the welcome beam streaming from the window of a ‘croft on moor’. – I sure don’t see that here any more. Certainly not from my own abode!

Few things irritate me more than the harsh ‘whiteness’ of most automobile headlights boring into my eyes in heavy traffic to blind me, whether it’s raining (or sometimes not!) in Vancouver, but we bear these things stoically for the love of the planet. … Besides Al Gore says we have to!

So what had brought this on? - Five months ago?
I was sitting at this very desk that morning, typing away to finish a novel, when the news reached me from the radio in the kitchen. And guess what? It’s now considered harmful to be within 30-something centimetres from a new-fangled Compact Fluorescent lamp, for longer than a certain amount of time. (Didn’t catch how long, but I’m sure it's less than the time I've been spending!)

Sorry I can’t be more specific! I haven’t yet learned to think ‘metric’, and I was in such a hurry to get a ladder and take my old light bulb down from the top shelf in my kitchen, that I didn't hear the whole thing!

So much for Global Warming!
Victoria, historically the warmest part of Canada, was colder last month than it was at the North Pole!, on Vancouver Island
UPDATE JANUARY 7, 2010 "Frozen Iguanas falling out of trees in Florida!" -- Can you believe it?
Britain in a deep freeze; Arctic cold sweeping down through the United States as far as Louisiana?

Monday, June 22, 2009


The Spoken Word...
I have to admit that I have a very strange hobby. I keep a record of language errors committed by the people responsible for ‘news’ radio and television!

My list was begun more than thirty years ago in Thompson, North Manitoba, on the day I made a mental note of the fact that a newsreader had pronounced ‘nuclear’ as ‘nucular’. I was speechless! … To a former journalist (especially one who was raised in a South Africa, where, to get a job as a broadcaster in the early days, one had to sound like the BBC announcers, to whom perfect grammar and impeccable pronunciation were paramount) this was a shock! NB. There would come a time when I would frequently be required to speak on radio and television but, with a South African accent like mine, I doubt if I would ever have been regarded as a suitable candidate for permanent employment by the South African SABC! – (Ah! Those were the days!!) As a result I regard media-folk, to this day, as ‘the people who have to set the standard’, and - sadly - BBC English is no longer impeccable, either!

Not long after moving to Calgary in 1978, I began to make written notes. This came about after I had heard - during a TV news report about a luncheon in the States, at Camp David - that, ‘after the pink Canadian salmon, Jimmy Carter spoke.' Ever since then I have wondered what the pink Canadian salmon might actually have said! And since then, every transgression has promptly been added to the list; instantly jotted down on the nearest, convenient scrap of paper, and dropped into a now overflowing carton - labelled the "Blunder Box" and kept specifically for that purpose. (The moment I heard David of the CTV talk about ‘a phenomena', another memo made it straight into ‘the box’!) … When a leading politician incorrectly used the expression ‘a criteria’, instead of a ‘criterion’, his error was recorded; however, still heading that part of the list, is the name of the expert on a certain subject, who goes as far as to say ‘criterias’!

My list shows that that this may indeed be the case, and people have tried to persuade me to publish an article on the subject, but I hesitate. While, by sharing my list, I might provide broadcasters with food for thought, and perhaps induce newsreaders to be more particular about their delivery, I confess that I have misgivings about the indiscriminate release of these notes. My family may groan aloud at my constant, involuntary protests and outcries of disgust as we watch the telly or listen to the radio, but I do not want to intimidate my friends or, even worse, have them minding their p’s and q’s and weighing their words before they speak.

As I see it, if my neighbours had rotten voices but liked to sing, I’d say, “Good luck to them," and it would not bother me, but when people are professionals, invited into our homes, and expected to be masters of the craft for which they are being paid, that’s a different matter altogether. Especially as, on news channels, the same errors are repeated, over and over again …

We all know someone who professes to suffer from ‘atharitis’, but it’s particularly infuriating when a professional newsreader talks about a 'parapalegic' or an 'athalete'. The correct pronunciation for someone who is an 'estate agent' is 'real-tor - not 'real-a-tor!'

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN? Who is to blame — the script writer, the editor or the reader? I can’t believe that anyone holding a senior position would be responsible, considering that even the spell checker on my computer disallows such errors. I can only conclude that some newsreaders don’t read what has been written, carefully enough! Hence the pronunciation of Etc.(et cetera) as Excetera or Ecetera instead of etcetera! - (CTV ‘late news’ recently revealed a new phenomenon, as one newsreader took to saying‘exspcially’.)

Many of the politicians I have listened to lately, have erred in some respect. Like them, members of the media, are also guilty of another very common fault … that of inserting an ‘i’ into mischievous, and grievous. There are no such words as the ‘mischeevious’, or grieveeous’ regularly employed by a prominent member of the cabinet. Just as annoying to me is the omission of an ‘i’. (The word is poinsettia not poinsetta!)

If it hangs on a wall it’s a picture – not a pitcher! Pitcher and picture. … The ‘c’ makes all the difference. Unless the rest of the sentence indicates the meaning, it is often difficult to decide whether the broadcaster is referring to a jug or an image of something. (Many newsreaders are guilty of this.)

While I writhe at some of the syntax employed, it can occasionally be as tragic as it incorrect. For example, in a note made upon hearing on News 1130AM, earlier this year, about the man who “took one of his daughter’s lives,” I scribbled cynically, in haste, “Can she, like a cat, be blessed to have more than one?” Then instantly repenting and becoming solemn at the realization, I have added: “Oh dear! What he really means to say is “the life of one of his daughters!”

Nouns - Singular and plural: Early on I would have suggested that perhaps the education system was entirely to blame for not teaching students the difference between phenomenon and phenomena, but, in time, I have begun to believe that the widespread and common misuse of such words is due entirely to repeated subjection of viewers and listeners to the incorrect word on radio and television. (I see that On Feb 19, 2008, I noted - with approval - that a newsreader had actually used the correct form!)

Sports commentators (even the charming female ones) are the main offenders when it comes to confusing vertebra and vertebrae. The moment I heard this, one evening in February this year, I telephoned my favourite station to ask (very courteously and without rancour) that it be passed on to the sports reporter that ‘vertebrae’ is plural’, and it is incorrect to say: ‘a vertebrae’. The person who responded, being of the same mind, agreed. (You may be sure that I added Monday morning’s repeat of the error to my list, as I had done with CTV’s late night blunder on the previous night!)

On the same channel, talking about the outcome of a lottery affecting a number of winners, to have said ‘between’ themselves was wrong. That should, instead, have been ‘among’. ‘Between’ is used when there are only two in a particular equation .

My notes are often divided into categories such as:
(a) Loan is a noun. The verb is lend. Past tense is lent. Incorrect to say: ‘He loaned her’, instead of ‘he lent her’. Banks lend - they do not loan - but can lend or grant.
(b) Verbs - tense and numberI have become inured to the use of 'lay' instead of lie, as in ‘he went to lay down’, but detest ‘lied’and 'laid' as the past tense in this instance. I also take issue with what I term ‘unbalanced’ sentences” such as, “The jury stands (singular) by what they (plural) say. ”

Ignorance regarding participles … (ALL STATIONS)
Dec 24 CBC 690 - my life had took …should be ‘had taken’.
“He sung a song…” Incorrect. Many don’t seem to know that the past tense of sing is sang. (ALL STATIONS)
He was bit by a dog should be was bitten. On Monday, Feb. 19,2008 a child was ‘bit’ by a snake.
One of the top newsmen on CTV, referring to an incident on Parliament Hill, informed Mike Duffy that week that bells had already RANG! (Should have been Rung.)

Unnecessary use of adverbs.
Transfat discussion - ‘the food tastes 'differently'. Different would do.
I feel badly. (Bad would do, in this case.)

Personification … the car fled the scene. Very irritating. (CTV.BC late news)

Tautology: ‘Very’ unique is both unnecessary and ridiculous. Unique means ‘the only one’ and nothing can be ‘very one’. (ALL STATIONS)
Return back and reverse back (ALL STATIONS) is as bad as irregardless!

Friday, December 5, 2008
but good grief, Sarah!
Its not NU-CU-LAR! It's NUC-LE-AR! And there's no need for you to try and emulate President Bush.

Top marks to Canadian Prime Minister Harper for saying, 'It's different from and not 'different than'! He gets my vote even just for that!

Repetition of prepositions.
Today I heard a female Senator say, in a TV interview, "there are more women now from which to choose from..."

Word order or choice of word … FOR EXAMPLE: ‘Centres’ around does not make sense, as the centre of anything is in the middle. Should be centres on, or even focuses on. Majority (correct when people or things have been counted, as in ‘Majority of votes’) is too often used when ‘most’ would do. FOR EXAMPLE: ‘The majority of the weather is an example of this annoying habit.’ (CTV.BC WEATHER - Late night Vancouver news)

Confusion - especially when the singular form of a word differs in meaning from the plural.
Here's an example:
A premise is a proposition upon which an argument is based or from which a conclusion is drawn.

When referring to a building or part of a building, the correct word would be Premises.

A few miscellaneous'BEAUTS' chosen at random:

CTV News final: Judy Dench launched a bottle of champagne to christen the boat.
Sept 7: the talks hope to be finalized
CTV.BC ... have took all the tests.
News 1130AM March 3. (Seeking the cause of an accident) … they are looking into a cyclist.
Nov 4, 2007 … most unlikeliest.
News 1130am: January 6, 2008. About an injured, unhappy, and temporally sidelined NHL player: "Now he is cooling his heels with his knee!"

Sunday, June 21, 2009


September 25, 2009

This morning I was delighted to hear the morning hosts on my favourite radio news program almost howling with mirth at a report (from another station for a change) to the effect that “a car had turned into a bus”, and upon opening the Blunder Box to add this howler to my collection, I had a great time re-reading some of the others stored there over the years.

I really loved the Sleep Country commercial urging the public to come and be “educated on their beds!” Then dating back to the Progressive Conservative years, it appeared that Parliament had said “goodbye to Preston Manning …with pleasure!” There is also what Russ Froese told us (concerning opera and ballet in Toronto) that “talks hope to be finalized!” … Gee, I hope that they were indeed finalized and that the talks were happy!

About the ghastly happenings on the Picton farm. (The subject matter in this one it mot funny!) “Another family of the missing women.” How many families did each one have? Wouldn’t “the family of another of the missing women” have made more sense?

A note from a TV station: “They are not ‘adverse’ to the project.” I wonder if that was meant to be “averse?”… And yet another news item, this one about strikers somewhere refusing to return to work without a review of their “renumeration”. Were they not being counted properly?

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Written specifically for my great-grandchildren and their friends ... for reference some day, when they reach their teens.

WHY is it that people who have no trouble with these pronouns when only one individual is involved, suddenly go into a tailspin when a second person has to be included?

It’s so simple! Just think in the singular, then insert that someone else into the expression and you can’t go wrong.

Here are some examples:
This is the present someone gave ME.
This is the present someone gave Mary and I? - No! ... The ME should remain in Mary and ME, not Mary and I! (You’d never say someone ‘gave I’, so why would anyone now want to change that ME to I??)

HIM and his wife are going.
This should be: HE and his wife.

HER and her husband are going.
This should be: "SHE and her husband."

Remove the second person from the equation and you’ll see. – Would you say, “HER is going”, or "HIM is going?"

Friday, December 26, 2008


APOLOGIES: As the first of these posts have been transferred from the blog: "This is not a perfect world!" there may be some repetition...

A commentator (Josie C) points out, most strongly, how irritating it is to have to listen to conversations peppered with the word 'like'. I agree with her, and she has a famous supporter in the British comedian John Cleese - if this observation is indeed attributable to him:
"Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as 'like' and 'you know' is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication!"

Leigh v.d.S writes:
“I know your blog is mainly concerned with spoken English, but I have often been annoyed by the written use of an apostrophe s in a non-possessive plural.
Watermelon's for Sale.

Reply: You're quite right about the written word, Leigh. Thank you for writing.
Take, for instance, the following statement from the Vancouver sun: "...the house in East Vancouver, where she lived with her deceased husband for 22 years." - YIKES!

There's one consolation, however. We don't have to keep reading the same thing over and over again!


Author Nancy Steinbeck contributes:
My pet peeve is "orientated". I have three other peeves, but they're French. One is the use of "cliché" instead of "clichéd". As in, "that's so cliché." Then there's "Walla" instead of "voila". And "conciere" instead of "concierge". They make my skin crawl because they sound so pretentious, instead of coming from a person who has actually studied French in high school!

What annoys me is the habit some of the people interviewed on the news seem to have. … That of using a double 'is'. For example: The trouble is, is that etc. etc.

Stan Webber:
Saw this today on my Yahoo browser.
"Jury stumped by cop killing of man mistook for bomber."
My peeve is the incorrect version of the verb. Should be 'mistaken'.
Please post on main page.

Audrey Clarke:
Can't stand it when they talk about the second month of the year as 'Febury'.

Elizabeth Cruickshank said...
It irritates me when people use an 'a' before a word commencing with a vowel. Eg. 'A apple' - instead of 'An apple'.

I'm so picky:
You've already alluded to this. Ignoring the spelling of a word - Access is not the same as assess. One has a 'c' in it. So why are accessories (like handbags and shoes) often referred to as assessories? I've even heard this on the top TV stations.

Les Blake said... Re: Canadian Press report, Dec 22. 08
What's this supposed to mean?
OTTAWA: - Prime Minister Stephen Harper has officially named Thomas Cromwell of Nova Scotia to the Supreme Court of Canada, forgoing a public hearing that had been promised into his appointment.

Not only is the word order clumsy, but the meaning is ambiguous. After pondering the statement for some time I've figured out that that it refers to Cromwell's appointment and not the Prime Minister's.

Now you're invited to post your own.
You are indeed welcome to 'get if off your chest', but WE ASK YOU PLEASE to refrain from using bad language or making libellous statements.