Thursday, October 31, 2013

Syllabification: eve-ry-where or everywh-ere? pleas-ure or plea-sure? re-think or reth-ink?

Syllabification: to break a word down into syllables in speech or writing
reach: reach
rethink: re·think
pleasure: pleas·ure
everywhere:  eve·ry·where
It’s not every morning I read print edition of The News & Observer with intent to find mistakes. Usually the mistakes jump off the page at me. When that happens, the morning coffee with my wife and The N&O includes more of those errors and less of the actual news/opinion content of the paper which, today, is not much anyway. This post is about the mistakes, not the content, so, please, read on...
Back in my youth, growing up in Sanford NC, what I learned at the dining room table every morning at breakfast and every evening at dinner was more of my academic education than what I learned in K-12. I remember more of what my parents taught me than what was presented by those wonderful under-paid teachers.

Mom was the stickler for grammar, definitions, and spelling. Dad taught practical applications. Both educated us in social skills (some took with me; some didn’t) and philosophy. My guess: With my five siblings and me, Mom’s lessons had a greater lifelong impact. She corrected grammar (until we got the hang of it and then used it incorrectly just to needle her); she instructed us to “look it up” for a definition instead of offering the meaning of a word. She also taught us to spell by sounding words and understanding the syllables.

Syllabification should be taught daily in K-12. It is a great way to teach pronunciation, spelling and, just as important, hyphenation, or where a word can be split at the end of the line using a “-“ between syllables. We see that more today in printed newspapers and magazines—those that hit the driveway in the morning or are delivered to the mailbox later in the day—not the website “online” editions where justified type (even margins on the left and right) is a thing of the past.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Printed newspapers and magazines are not immune to the laws of syllabification but, for some reason, sometimes the rules are ignored. It may be editors who are at fault or some flawed program that automatically hyphenates words at the end of a line when the entire word will not fit. With justified columns, words are syllabified to help with economy of space or to fit more in within the limits of the paper on which the words are printed. These broken words from the right of one line to the left of the next line should only be separated at the correct syllable break. One syllable words do not break. Multiple syllable words should break at the syllables. See examples above.

(5th & 6th lines top)
(4th & 3rd lines bottom)
Newspapers, of course, have different rules than the rest of us when it comes to a lot of things, too many to include here. I’m not sure how this happened, but in the Wednesday, Oct 30 edition of The N&O, without an extensive examination of the newspaper, I came across these four wrong hyphenations at line-breaks:

reth-ink (1st & 2nd lines)

reach: re-ach
rethink: reth-ink
pleasure: plea-sure
everywhere:  everywh-ere

They can blame it on budget and personnel cuts and automatic syllabification programs, but if The N&O wants to be used in the education process, proper syllabification should be followed when hyphenating words.

By the way: syllabification: (syl·lab·i·fi·ca·tion)
From time to time, I still misuse “I” and “me” in speech. It is easy to do and was a regular correction at the table growing up. (If I agree my nephew, which I don't, it’s not how I say it but what it means even if I say it incorrectly.) But, shouldn’t a Harvard Law School grad get it right all the time? In his October 21 Rose Garden excuse for the mishaps of the website, President Obama said, quoting from November 4 edition of Time magazine which is the same thing he said on one of the national newscasts the evening of his speech, “Nobody is madder than me about the fact that the website isn’t working.”

To his credit, during the same speech, he said “nobody is madder than I am” which is correct. It’s “I” and not “me” because by using “me” he was saying that nobody is a madder except Obama. What? A madder? Well, according to the Oxford dictionary, a madder is a scrambling or prostrate Eurasian plant of the bedstraw family, with whorls of four to six leaves. Now that’s a description I’ve not heard when referring to President Obama. Is it just me? Or, is it I?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Keep "Redskins" nickname but change the logo!

Washington Redskins
The political correctness scrimmage in our nation’s Capital over the use of the name “Redskins” and the logo that accompanies it is nothing new. While use of the nickname apparently offends the Oneida Indian Nation, there must be a reasonable solution for both the native Americans who protest along with their namby-pamby friends and the owner and loyal fans of the National Football League team that calls Washington DC home even though the home stadium is in Landover MD.

The uproar, fueled by the no-good-doers in the liberal media who also can be described regularly as self-righteous, is really silly, in my opinion, but then I’m far from being American Indian or any other minority so I’m told I can’t relate. The political correctness movement has been going on for years, dating back to who-knows-when psychologists, sociologists and tree huggers who believe in building self-esteem by taking away others' rights and desires. It’s stupid.

Many years ago, when coaching baseball in a recreation league, I was asked by one of the parents of the 6-8 year olds playing on the team, “Who’s in charge of getting the trophies?” She said her child deserved a trophy for playing. I disagreed, expressing that trophies and material rewards were for the winners and not for the participants. Their reward, I reminded the mother, was good instruction for improvement in play (I think I did a good job), encouraging words from the coach despite lack of ability (by both players and coach), and a hug from Mom and Dad along with, “We sure are proud of you trying so hard.” She pressed on, saying that the trophy would help build her daughter’s self-esteem. I stood my “Scrooge-like” ground. There were no materialistic self-esteem building rewards for the bunch that had less than a .500 record that season. But I did tell each player of the enjoyment of participating with them in America’s game. Most shrugged their shoulders, turned to parents and asked, “Can we go for ice cream now?”

Self-esteem and political correctness are part of the reason the United States is not as tough as it once was. We are so darn concerned with building self-esteem in others and saying all the so-called right things that we forget to take care of ourselves and we stop short of honest and straightforward communication. You don’t have to be vulgar or mean to communicate but talking while walking on egg shells has always been ridiculous. Speaking of that, considering the lousy state of our elected officials in Washington, I suggest that the owner of the Washington Redskins would gladly drop “Washington” to escape the terrible embarrassment associated with it. Landover Redskins has an interesting ring to it.

Stanford Cardinal (tree logo)
There have been plenty of colleges and universities that have dropped reference to native Americans. The best example, I believe, is the Stanford Indian (singular not plural) which changed in the 1970s to the Stanford Cardinal (the color and not the bird) and the mascot is a tree, appropriate for a California university. Probably had something to do with self-esteem and political correctness, though I can’t see why “Indian” is offensive except for the caricature used at the time. So, change the caricature/logo.

Cleveland Indians
In Florida, the Seminole Tribe has embraced the Florida State Seminoles. It must build the self-esteem of the native Americans in the Seminole Tribe. The Atlanta Braves are still the Atlanta Braves with a tomahawk logo and the tomahawk chop, stolen from the Florida State Seminoles. The Braves once had a laughing “Brave” as its logo along with Chief Noc-A-Homa who lived in a teepee in the left field bleachers and was the official mascot for the Milwaukee Braves and the Atlanta Braves. Not sure of the Boston Braves but the Chief was let go in 1986. The Cleveland Indians have a logo/mascot worse than the Landover Redskins. That Cleveland Indian has some great teeth! But he looks happy so don't worry.

Even with the crap going on in Congress and the White House, the primary talk in DC is the application of perceived and manufactured-by-the-media pressure on Daniel Snyder, the owner of the Washington Redskins, to drop the nickname and the logo of what appears to be a somewhat old but dignified native American. I know of none who appear that way today; it’s a historical view. There’s a lot of great history with the franchise. Summarized from Wikipedia, the team originated as the Boston Braves, based in Boston in 1932, and played in Braves Field, home of the Boston Braves baseball team (that went to Milwaukee and Atlanta). In 1933, the team moved to Fenway Park and changes its name to the Boston Braves. They relocated to Washington in 1937. Today, the Washington Redskins, win or lose, are a rallying point in DC, a place that needs a rallying point because neither the Capitol with the current elected occupants nor the White House with the current elected occupant are.

Maybe there needs to be a change, but dropping Redskins would be counterproductive. It has been suggested dropping Redskins for “Snyders.” Stupid, I say. Redskins must stay; fans rarely use the entire word, shortening it to ’Skins. Enough of this self-esteem and political correctness stuff. However, there is a side of me that understands how the Oneida Indian Nation feels. While not a minority by any stretch of one’s imagination, in a way I’m Jewish. My Dad’s mother and father were Jewish which made my Dad Jewish but my Mom was of English descent and a Southern Baptist, to boot, and I understand being Jewish passes to off-spring through the mother, or something like that. But, as a non-Jew, I’ve felt picked on plenty of times. Not sure why, but so be it.

Anyway, using the rule of not complaining without a solution (though I'm not complaining), here's my solution to all those self-esteem, political correctness freaks: Keep the name, Washington Redskins, but change the logo. Here are my two suggestions: