One of my goals for 2012 is to write in my blog once a week, a goal more easily accomplished now that Ken is a full-time student who works weekends. It's a rough schedule for him but it means I have access to the desk computer on Sunday afternoons. I could use my laptop to write but it's just not as handy. Sometimes I simply need a mouse rather than a mousepad.
I had started a post in November highlighting the Ig Nobel Prize, awarded for Improbable Research (motto: "For achievements that first make people LAUGH then make them THINK"); the Prize is still worth mentioning. It proves that no field is so highly regarded that it can't be poked fun at. We've all heard of peculiar scientific studies. A local study of Orca poop was recently highlighted in the news, most likely due to Tucker, the dog whose sniffing ability helps locate the floating poop. Who can resist a story like that?
Let's return to the Ig Nobels. Among the 2011 winners are studies on:
- the ideal density of airborne wasabi particles needed to wake people who are sleeping, leading to the invention of a Wasabi Alarm. (Chemistry)
- contagious yawning among red-footed turtles. (Physiology)
- using procrastination to get things done. (Literature)
- a certain kind of beetle that mates with a certain kind of Australian beer bottle. (Biology)
Those are actual studies and you really should take a look. You can browse the winners all the way back to 1991.
There's a noticeable rise in grammar humor. One of my favorite posters comes from The Oatmeal, a Seattle-based cartoonist with a curmudgeonly attitude. There's often a swear word or two included (heads up) but some of his work is really funny, about all kinds of things. I should just give in and buy his "How To Use An Apostrophe" poster.
In other Grammar News Online, there's a deep debate going on about the Serial Comma vs the Oxford Comma. It's surprising how hotly this is being discussed in blogs and on Twitter and Facebook. People have strong feelings about it. I prefer to use the Oxford comma. Want to know why? Look here for an explanation of the difference between them. I bet it will make you smile. There's an even funnier but mildly disturbing example out there involving JFK, Stalin, and two strippers. (That sounds like grist for a terrible joke, doesn't it?) This particular example is all over the Web, noted in a blog as recently as the 24th. You can see it here. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Have you heard of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar? They have a website. SPOGG is as bad as I am about posting - the last entry was in October - but it's a good place to browse if you're a grammar or word nerd. People send in spelling and grammatical errors that they happen upon. It reminds me of the Blog of Unnecessary Quotation Marks. Oddly enough, I'm currently reading a book written by Martha Brockenbrough, SPOGG founder. The book, "Things That Make Us [sic]," takes on "Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the world." Ms. Brockenbrough muses upon the errors and eccentricities of the English language, highlighting mistakes in letters, speeches, emails, and classified ads. I enjoyed this excerpt from a letter written by Lord Chesterfield to his son in 1750:
"You spell induce, enduce; and grandeur, you spell grandure; two faults of which few of my housemaids would have been guilty. I must tell you that orthography, in the true sense of the word, is so absolutely necessary for a man of letters, or a gentleman, that one false spelling may fix ridicule upon him for the rest of his life; and I know a man of quality, who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w."
Good spelling matters, always.
Finally, if you need a small diversion, you can discover what typeface you are. It's based entirely on your name and is pretty silly but, for what it's worth, I am Pistilli Roman.
Overheard on Twitter: Kid: "How do you spell America?" I'm going to file this under reference-questions-that-sound-like-country-songs.
See you next week.