Mountlake Terrace Library Blog

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Much Do You Know About the English Language? A Quiz.

My mother was a stickler for the proper use of English. She came from immigrant origins and never went to college, but prided herself on her "good English." She was shocked when well-educated people made what she considered common errors in grammar. And she was not above correcting them when they did!

I, too, have my little pet peeves when it comes to the misuse of the language.

And there are now so many English words that have been misused for so long that their real meanings have been forgotten.

So my peeps, dare you take this little quiz to see if you are one of the many perpetrators mangling the mother tongue?

Which of the following sentences are grammatically correct and/or use words correctly? And if the sentence is incorrect, why?

1. My whole life, I have been disinterested in math.

2. The party was so noisome, I left early.

3. Between you and I, this is a fabulous quiz and the person who put it together should get wonderful comments about it.

4. The golfer hit the ball literally a mile, I mean really, it traveled 5,280 feet.

5. I found a bracelet at an antique shop that is the most unique bracelet I have ever seen. Of course, I had to have it.

6. For all intensive purposes, it is a good idea to put on your shoes before your socks.

7. There were less cold days this last winter than the winter before.

8. My children keep moving further and further away.
Is it me?

9. I tried to teach my dog to lay down, but he sits instead.

10. "The rich are different from you and me."
(This is a quote from a famous book. Do you recognize it?)

11. The guilty man was hung at dawn.

Now here are some for extra credit:
1. When I scanned the article, I read every line.

2. The road was tortuous.

Here are the answers.

1. The use of the word "disinterested" is used incorrectly in this sentence.
This is one of my all time pet peeves, and you hear it so much these days, no one blinks an eye. "Disinterested" means impartial or not taking sides, as in "a good referee is impartial." It does not mean "uninterested." If you are "uninterested" in something, then that is what you should say.

2. Well, if the party was very smelly, then you were right to leave and this sentence would be correct. "Noisome" means foul smelling, not noisy.

3. This is a grammatical error you hear all of the time, the use of "I" when it should be "me" and vice versa.
Here's an easy way to mentally catch yourself: When you have two pronouns after a preposition, mentally place each one directly after the preposition to test it out. "Between you" sounds OK, but does "between I" sound correct? What you are actually saying is "Between you and between me," so "between you and me." And while I am on this rant, you can do this for other prepositions as well - for, to, from, with, etc. If something is for her and for me, it's "for her and me," not "for she and I."

4. This one is actually correct.
"Literally" (along with "Like" as in, "I, like, am so over the rain, like, really, like, why does it rain so much...?") is probably one of the most overused words in the English language. But in this case, the ball really did go a mile, so using "literally" is correct. Like, really, it is.

5. Redundancy is also a problem.
Something is either unique or it isn't. It can't be "more" or "most" unique. It's like the word "pregnant."

6. Another misuse but this time, almost as if people are not hearing the phrase correctly. Should be "intents and purposes," meaning "in every practical sense."

7. OK, I have to admit. I am a total snob about this one.
But I know it is easy to mix these two words up because they mean the same thing - the opposite of more. However, they are used in different circumstances. You use "fewer" with countable nouns such as hats, dogs, pencils.

"You have fewer poodles than I do."

"Less" is used for uncountable, more abstract nouns such as time or rain.

"I have less time than you do."

Bottom line: if the noun can be preceded by a number, it should be modified by "fewer."

So what does that say about the ubiquitous sign in the supermarket? "15 items or less." You are right. It's wrong. It should actually say "15 items or fewer." But I would bet that sounds strange to you, which reinforces how the misuse of the language has become almost acceptable.

(And yes, there are I expect to hear from you grammar aficionados out there).

8. This sentence is incorrect.
"Farther" is all about distance; "further" is about more time, quantity or metaphorical distance. Just remember "farther" has the word "far" in it.
Here is the correct usage: "My children keep moving farther and farther away. Perhaps it is because I keep correcting their grammar. I think I need to look into that further."

9. Maybe if you ask him to "lie" down, he would do it.
"Lie" is used when you are in a horizontal position or you want to place yourself (or you want your dog to place himself)in a horizontal position. "Lay" is used when you put or cause something to be in a certain position. You can lay your dog down yourself, but if you want him to do it on his own, tell him to "lie" down.
(I learned this at a young age, because whenever I would use lay incorrectly, my parents would ask me if I was laying eggs).

10. F.Scott Fitzgerald used proper English here, but the rest of us can't seem to tell the difference between "from" and "than."
I feel strongly about this one, too, but, again, proper usage is going the way of the dinosaur.
"Different" comes from "to differ." You wouldn't say "Mary differs than Tom," you would say "Mary differs from Tom." The use of "from" here is considered Standard English, but "than" has become commonplace.

11. OK, this one is a losing battle, because it has been misused for so long, but here it is.
A picture is hung; a person is hanged.
For the grammar nerds among us, here is the more lengthy explanation. The rest of you can skip to the next answer.
(One uses "hang" when the meaning is to execute by suspending by the neck, so the past tense and past participle of hang is hanged; "hung" is the past tense and participle of hang when the meaning is to suspend from above with no support from below).

Extra Credit:
Usage for both of these sentences is correct.
Who knew?
The word "scan" actually means to read carefully, line by line, but most people think it means to skim.
"Tortuous" means bending and twisting, not tortured.

Nine out of 11 were incorrect and both of the extra credit questions were correct.

So how did you do?

If you were correct on all counts, you are hereby proclaimed as
Word Nerd Extraordinaire, and I mean that as a compliment.

My mother would be so proud.

Share your pet peeves about grammatical errors and the misuse of words.

Do we even care anymore?

And I am sure some of you will want to share some exceptions to my rant, er...I mean, quiz.

And you know who you are!

Bring it on!

If you want more information on this topic, here is a great article, and here are some Library Resources.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Great Northwest Cookbooks

March 8th was the Northwest Cookbooks meeting of the Foodie Book Group, and we had a lovely time. Members brought their favorite Northwest cookbooks and whipped up a great treats from them:

Sarah prepared the Lemon Mousse from Ray's Boathouse : seafood secrets of the Pacific Northwest by Ken Gouldthorpe.

Julie made the Spring Chicken with Green Marinade and Orzo from Tom's big dinners : big-time home cooking for family and friends by Tom Douglas.

Sonja made the Whole Grain Snickerdoodles from Bob's Red Mill baking book : more than 400 recipes featuring whole & healthy grains by John Ettinger and the Bob's Red Mill family.

Natalie made the Rosemary Roasted Squash (p. 178) from Kathy Casey's Northwest table : Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Southern Alaska by Kathy Casey.

Debby made the Lime and Cilantro Chicken Salad from the Nordstrom Cookbook.

Sheri made the Gruyere Crackers and Smoked Salmon Spread from Skagit Valley fare : a cookbook celebrating beauty and bounty in the Pacific Northwest by Lavone Newell.

Melissa made the Apricot-Citrus Scones from Starbucks passion for coffee : a Starbucks coffee cookbook.

Lisa brought the Goat Cheese Cheesecake from Pacific Northwest wining and dining : the people, places, food, and drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

And I made the Wilted Spinach Salad with Garlic, Pine Nuts and Currants from the Pike Place Market cookbook : recipes, anecdotes, and personalities from Seattle's renowned public market by Braiden Rex-Johnson.

Also recommended were:

I love crab cakes! : 50 recipes for an American classic by Tom Douglas
Tom Douglas' Seattle kitchen by Tom Douglas

Our next Foodie Book Group is on Monday April 12th from 6:30-8:30pm, when we will be discussing (and eating from) Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gadget Coaching for Seniors

We had a lovely article on our Gadget Coaching program in the Herald this week:

HeraldNet: Teens Coach Seniors on Getting Gadgets to Work

If you know a senior citizen who would like a little help with their gadget, encourage them to come by the library this Saturday between 1 and 3pm. Our wonderful, friendly teen volunteers will be there waiting to help!

Last week folks brought in cell phones, digital picture frames, and mp3 players. Our teens were able to help them all!

Monday, March 22, 2010

What's in a Name?

I am fascinated by what people name their children and the waxing and waning of name popularity. Why and how do we name our children the way we do?

When I was born, the most popular boy's name was James and the most popular name for girls was Linda followed by Robert, John, William and David for boys and Mary, Barbara, Patricia and Susan for girls. Hence growing up, my best friend's name was Linda, and I had many Marys, Barbaras, Patricias and Susans in my classes. I also had boyfriends named Robert, John, William and David. (No, I'm just kidding about all of the boyfriends - sort of kidding).

In 2009 the most popular name for boys was Aidan and for girls Isabella, so I guess in 10 years the schools will be teaming with Aidans and Isabellas.

My mother, however, was not one to follow the pack.

I was named Rosellen Edith. It is pronounced as if spelled Rose Ellen. She named me after her best friend, Rosella, and even with that, she had to put her own twist on it.

I hated my name, not because it was an ugly name, but because no one could pronounce it or spell it correctly. In class, the teachers would call out everything from "Rozlyn" to "Roselyn" to "Rosalee," and I would have to raise my hand and correct them. For a freckle-faced ten year old with a bowl haircut, this was torture.

Spellings of my name would turn up as Roselyn, Rose Ellen and every variation in between. When asked my name, I felt I was a model of enunciation, but invariably the reply would be "Rosella?" My mother should have just given me her friend's name and be done with it.

That's where Rosy came from.

It was just easier. But again, I should have watched how I spelled it. I still run into the issue of incorrect spelling. Rosie and Rosey are common. And as for the nickname itself, as a young girl, more than once, I was called Rosie the Riveter by some old guy who thought that was hilarious. How do you respond to that? It's like when people would ask me where I got my freckles from. Funny for them, mortifying for me. ( One good thing about my name, though, is that when I answer the phone, I can always tell when it's someone who doesn't know me --usually a telemarketer, so I can just hang up or pretend I'm the babysitter. Telemarketers ALWAYS mispronounce my name).

My mother must have had a thing about roses, because my older sister is named Rosemary, which in my opnion, is a much easier name to deal with. However, for some reason her nickname was Posy, so I was spared something, I guess. So there we were, Rosy and Posy (stop gagging!)

And then there is the middle name. My mother gave me her name as my middle name. However, since my first name consisted of what could arguably be two names to begin with, it was not easy to explain that. So I didn't.

Now my husband's name is Charles. As a child he was called Charlie. For some reason, though, when he became a teenager, he decided Chuck was more adult and/or masculine. Not sure how he came up with that, but there you go. (I wonder how someone comes to be called Chaz?)

So with this legacy, I was determined that my own children would not have common names, but at the same time would not be saddled with names that would cause them embarrassment (My brother swears he had a teacher named Ima Nutt. Parents should put their sense of humor aside when naming their children). I also didn't want the names to yield horrible nicknames or any nicknames at all, for that matter. (I was also very careful that their initials would not spell out something egregious, either).

Ah, the best laid plans...

I named my son Alexander. He was almost a Justin. (If he had been a girl, he would have been Hilary. Now wouldn't that have been interesting?)

When he was born, the most common baby names for a boy were Michael, Christopher, Jason, David and James (Justin was #13). I think I discovered that Alexander was the most popular boy's name in Europe, but since I didn't think he would be going to school over there, I wasn't worried. Also the worst nickname that could come out of Alexander would be Alex, and I rather liked that. Or so I thought. One of my son's friend's mother called him Al. I know she did it just to vex me, and it did. A little five year old called Al was not cute.

As for his middle name, I wanted to give him a family name. My mother's father's name was August and my father's grandfather was Augustus, so I thought giving my son the middle name of Augustus would cover both sides of the family and since it was a middle name, not harm him too much. I thought his initials were cool. I fantasized that when he became a powerful corporate executive, his secretary would call him on the intercom and say, "Mr. Smith is on line one, A.A." (The only way I can rationalize this decision is that the trauma of birth probably addles the brain).

My son has since forgiven me.

My daughter was born almost five years later, and I was originally going to name her Jessica. But then changed my mind and named her Ashley Rose. I thought I had the brilliant idea for this name(more on that later) and better yet, it didn't conjure up any nicknames. And I guess I wanted to continue a trend with the Rose part.

My mother hated the name Ashley.
She was convinced I was on a "Gone with the Wind" kick (remember Ashley Wilkes?).

I was offended she didn't know I was naming my daughter after Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises.

My mother offered me $100 NOT to name her Ashley, which was a hunk of change in those days. But I stuck to my guns. Other than Ashley Rose sounding a bit like a china pattern, I was happy with my choice, and people even complimented me on her beautiful name.

Fast forward to the present.

Guess what the most popular girls' names of 1985 were?

Jessica, number 1. Ashley, number 2.

Do you realize, not only how many Ashleys there are now, but Ashleys with Rose as a middle name? And then there are the variations: Ashleigh, Ashlee, Ashlie, Ashly? I'm sure you can think of one. So either way I was doomed.

If only we could see into the future for those lists.

I wonder what my children will name their children. Since my son was an athlete, I wonder if he will consider Evander or Magic. My daughter was an actress, so perhaps Reese or Uma? Or maybe not. These things go in waves.

So here's my advice.

Forget the family names, keep your sense of humor in check and listen to your mother.
I should have taken that $100.

How does your name rank in popularity for the year you were born? Here is a great site to find out.

Most Popular Baby Names

Share your stories of naming your children and why you have the name you do. Do you like your name?

And here are some library resources on names.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

One of Those Things

M-m-m-m. "One of those things..."

I am a bit of a foodie and so is my daughter. I have fond memories of dining out with her or cooking a meal together. Somehow we came up with the expression "one of those things" to describe a food that went with everything and made things better.

Let me give you some examples of what I consider "one of those things."

Bacon is definitely one of those things. It is good by itself but also can be added to peanut butter sandwiches and even sweets. Maple bars with bacon are a huge hit and Skillet, the famous Seattle street vendor, makes bacon jam that they routinely run out of.

Bacon is also fattening.

Cottage Cheese.
Someone once said she never saw anyone thin eating cottage cheese.
Now that's mean.
I don't eat it as a diet food. I eat it because it is delicious and a wonderful substitute for anything creamy. My favorite use is as a topping for a baked potato and then with corn on top of that. Some people don't understand that.
Cottage cheese is also delightful just as a side to something hot. It must be the sensation of hot versus cold. One bite of hot, one bite of cold. It is especially good as a complement to pasta.
Nonfat cottage cheese, however, is not "one of those things."

Cole Slaw.
Must be the mayo, but cole slaw is delicious with everything, but especially on a sandwich. A sandwich of any kind.

Again, fattening.

French Fries.
Try putting those on a sandwich.
But they really are good with just about anything. In a salad. Dunked in your soup. With gravy (ah, poutine).
When french fries are not available, potato chips will do. Ever had potato chip cookies?


Nothing like a nice piece of french bread slathered in butter. But try putting a dollop of butter into your tomato soup. Heaven.

Must be the fat.

What are some things you think are "one of those things?"

Here's something else that is "one of those things," and it's not even fattening.

Did you see this coming?

The Library!

You may think I am crazy, but think about it. The library does "go with everything and makes things better."

Let me get you started. Let's see...OK, here's one.

A tomato
Grow it.

Here's another one.

A Ford.
Repair it.

How about a headache?
Relieve it.

The Beatles.
Enjoy it.
I have a million of 'em

So here's the challenge.

Can you think of anything the library "doesn't go with" or doesn't make better?

Double dare!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Gadget Coaching - Teens Helping Seniors

Seniors! Got a great new gadget (phone, laptop, mp3 player, etc...), but are frustrated trying to figure it out? Get personal coaching from our talented Teen Tech Coaches, volunteers from your community. Plus...try out Wii Bowling!

Teens! Want a really fun volunteer opportunity where you can get credit for school, while showing off your skills with gadgets? Volunteer to coach senior citizens on how to use their cell phones, mp3 players and more. (Get here at 12:45 to help set up, and get a free donut!)

Two Saturdays: March 13th and 27th.
Mountlake Terrace Library

And also at the Lynnwood Library on Wednesday March 24th from 4-5.

On Saturday the 27th we will also have a Seniors vs. Teens Wii Bowling Tournament! So come on the 13th to get some practice in before the big game :)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Dish

When I was a little girl and an aspiring actress, there were two major television events I looked forward to every year - "The Miss America Pageant" and "The Academy Awards."

Living in the Midwest, watching these programs meant staying up late, so I would have to bargain with my parents to stay up and watch ("I promise to take a nap...I promise I won't whine when I have to get up the next day for school...I will go to bed early the next night..."), so it was a big deal.

Now "Miss America" has fallen out of fashion, but the Oscars still hold sway over me.

It's Hollywood's Big Night! And what a night it was!

I have to remind you all that you heard it here first, folks.
Before the odds makers and bloggers, I completely called "The Hurt Locker" for Best Picture and Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director in my blog called "What I Know for Sure" dated January 17.
(I just wished I hadn't thrown a bone to "Avatar" for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. I mean, what was I thinking? The movie was about bombs!)

But 17 right out of 24 isn't bad.

My son and daughter were "playing" long distance, and my daughter and I took home the prize. The prize used to be dinner at the restaurant of the winner's choice. (It took my husband and me awhile to realize that wasn't such a good deal for us, since we paid no matter who won!). But now that we all live far from each other, the prize is the win itself (so far, anyway).

So, let's weigh in on last night.

What did you think?

Did you like the opening with Neil Patrick Harris?
Did you catch some of those lyrics? A bit risque, I thought, but funny.

How about the combo of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin?
I thought they were great.
I wasn't sure what the joke was about George Clooney, though. Did you get that one?

Anyway, here's my rundown on best moments, upsets, dresses, etc. Feel free to disagree.

Best Historical Moment: Finally, a woman wins Best Director.
Why did it take so long?

Coolest moment: Directors Tarrantino and Almodovar together.

Best speech: Michael Giacchino (won for his score for "Up.")
It's worth repeating. Here it is.

Thank you, guys. When I was... I was nine and I asked my dad, "Can I have your movie camera? That old, wind-up 8 millimeter camera that was in your drawer?" And he goes, "Sure, take it." And I took it and I started making movies with it and I started being as creative as I could, and never once in my life did my parents ever say, "What you're doing is a waste of time." Never. And I grew up, I had teachers, I had colleagues, I had people that I worked with all through my life who always told me what you're doing is not a waste of time. So that was normal to me that it was OK to do that. I know there are kids out there that don't have that support system so if you're out there and you're listening, listen to me: If you want to be creative, get out there and do it. It's not a waste of time. Do it. OK? Thank you. Thank you.
Runner up: Sandra Bullock's - She thanked her Mom.
(Are you listening, kids?)

Biggest Upset: "Precious" winning for Best Adapted Screenplay. Everyone thought "Up in the Air" would win.
Runner up: "El Secreto de Sus Ojos" for Best Foreign Language Film.
"The White Ribbon" was the favorite.

Best Dress: (You knew I had to go there) Penelope Cruz

Worst Dress: Sarah Jessica Parker
It may be Chanel, but it looked like she was wearing a sack with a bib.
Runner up: Charlize Theron's. A little cartoonish for me.

And speaking of dresses. Who can forget Cher at the Oscars?

She was the Lady Gaga of her day. I miss her.

Best Weepy Moment: The John Hughes Tribute, especially with his family sitting in the front row.
And what a rush of 80's nostalgia, seeing all of the no longer young actors he discovered.
Runner up: I am always choked up when they pay tribute to those who passed away during the year.
Did I ever tell you I worked with Karl Malden?

Best Kanye West Moment: What was with the acceptance speech for Best Documentary Short ("Music by Prudence")?
The guy was talking and then a woman, who I assume was the other winner, just started talking over him. Awk....ward...

Funniest Moment: Ben Stiller in his Avatar costume.
Runner Up: Steve and Alec being filmed as they slept together - was that a "Paranormal Activity" spoof?

Best Introduction for a Category: Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. - screenwriter vs. actor.

Biggest Question: Should Sandra Bullock have won out over Meryl Streep?
In my research, one blogger said Bullock would win because this was the only chance she would every have. Ouch.

Anyway, I thought this was a good Oscar show.

Had a little bubbly and the poodles looked adorable in their tuxedos.

For a complete list of Oscar winners Click Here

and to read all about it, here are some great titles to check out at the library:

Hollywood Winners and Losers: A-Z

Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards

The Big Show: High Times and Dirty Dealings Backstage at the Academy Awards

All About Oscar: The History and Politics of the Academy Awards

The Academy Awards: The Complete History of Oscar