These Guys Are My Heroes!

March 23, 2009

This recent article from Reader’s Digest details how Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson have made it their business – nay, their calling – to wipe out typos from all public signage. They’ve formed a group called the Typo Eradication Advancement League (TEAL) and have traveled around the country correcting editorially offensive signage – now that sounds like my kind of organization!

I doubt they do it as a public service; if they’re anything like me, it’s more of a compulsion than any attempt at re-educating the faultily learned masses. Quite simply: they can’t help themselves.

There’s also – if you can believe it – an Apostrophe Preservation Society – founded by Englander Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (which is a delightfully funny, if somewhat acerbic, read).

According to Beth Quinn, who wrote in the Times Record-Herald of Middletown, NY (several years back) of Truss and her book:

“In her rather militant way, she pickets businesses that have apostrophe errors in their signage. Off she goes with a great big apostrophe on a stick and marches around in front until the business owner is shamed into correcting his punctuation.”

Now all we need is a Society for the Prevention of Hyphen Abandonment. I’ve got this little plastic box sitting on my desk – a box filled with stray hyphens – which I find myself accessing on a more regular basis lately as I read. It seems people just don’t know what to do with their hyphens, so they fling them about all willy-nilly, giddily hoping they’ll land in some functional configuration (appropriately wedged between two parts of a compound modifier, for instance). Sadly, though, that generally isn’t the case and they end up falling into words that should never be hyphenated – like “never-the-less.”

What’s your favorite maligned punctuation? Hackneyed strings of exclamation points employed by hyper-enthusiastic email correspondents? Interrobangs? (Still considered to be non-standard punctuation, the interrobang combines an exclamation point – or “bang” – with a question mark.) The oxford comma? (This is a comma that precedes the “and” near the end of a list of items.)

Let’s hear from you…


Xena’s Adventures in Doggy Hell

March 18, 2009

When we decided we would bring Xena with us when we went away last weekend, I asked my hubby whether we should request the same room we had last time we’d stayed in the hotel where we’d be staying (first floor, close to an exit, so she’d have easy access to the outside). He said no, he wanted an upper floor. Okay, fine; he’s the boss. Besides, he figured, the stairs are carpeted, so the dog won’t have an issue with them.

So we get to the hotel, check in and drive around to the entrance closest to our room. We decide to bring in the dog’s stuff first, then come back and get our bags. I take the dog and hubby grabs her bed, food and water (yes, we had to bring a gallon of tap water from home; at one place we stayed recently, we had to go out and buy her bottled water ’cause she wouldn’t drink the hotel’s tap water; it smelled like they’d piped it in from the pool, there was so much chlorine in it!).

We reach the staircase (again, carpeted stairs, no problem… right? Wrong!) and hubby starts going upstairs. I follow. Xena stops. Digs her nails into the carpet. Whines. I give her leash a tug and offer a few words of encouragement (“C’mon, Xenie, it’s okay…”). No use. She whines and starts pulling away so fiercely she begins gagging. I think she’s going to puke on the carpet. Not an ideal way to kick off our weekend. Well, considering they’re charging us $50 to let her stay, at least we could feel as though we’d gotten our money’s worth.

She’s not budging. She won’t go up the stairs (perhaps because the risers are open and she can see behind the treads). I try again. No use. I try pushing her. Nope. Now there’s a couple approaching with their bags. I nearly trip over Xena as I’m trying to get her to move out of the way so they can get by.

“Beautiful dog,” they say.

“Thank you,” I reply. What I want to say to them is, “You want her? Right now I’ll pay you to take her.”

They go on to their room. I try again to get her to go upstairs. By now, my longsuffering husband is probably wondering what’s become of us.

I remember there’s an elevator down the hall. “C’mon, Xena,” I say, leading her away. She goes gladly. At the elevator, she tries to walk away while we’re waiting for the car to arrive. At last, the big metal door slides open and she sees… smooth, gleaming linoleum. Xena hates linoleum! She’s afraid of our kitchen floor and will take flying leaps from the back staircase to land on the boot tray near her food bowl, just to avoid having all four feet on the dreaded linoleum… because it’s slippery; yet she thinks nothing of running on ice in the back yard. Go figure.

You want a Siberian Husky? I’m letting her go cheap. In fact, I’ll give you a quarter to take her.

I somehow maneuver her into the elevator (I think I had to push her in). She whines and whimpers and carries on. Then I press the button for the second floor. After considering its other options, the door closes. Finally, the elevator starts to move. Xena’s been in an elevator before – but that was a carpeted freight elevator and hubby had just given her a big cookie, so she was kind of distracted.

She tries to grip at the linoleum. No use. I can practically hear the rudimentary thought process going on in that big furry head: “Uh oh. Ground’s moving. Floor’s slippery. I’m gonna pee.”

Fortunately, she’d peed just before we got inside the hotel, so that doesn’t happen. But I can tell she’s thinking about it; and again, it would certainly make the dog fee worth it.

When we reach the second floor, she backs out of the elevator. Yes, backs out. She can’t risk turning around and walking out. For that matter, she often walks backward through the kitchen at home; we think it’s so she doesn’t have to see where she’s going.

All the way to our room, she walks right up against the wall, as though the middle of the corridor is out to get her. I’d never seen her walk that close to anything… except maybe a hot-dog vendor.

Yep, he’s waiting for us at the door to our room; he says he’d wondered what had happened to us. I get the dog inside and pour her a bowl of water from home, give her her pills and feed her. Then we go back down to the car to retrieve the rest of our stuff.

At some point, we realize we don’t have one of those “Pet in Room” signs we’d had last time we stayed here. Hubby suggests I bring Xena outside to befoul the landscaping and get a sign from the front desk on our way back in. He says, “Oh, she won’t have a problem going down the stairs.”

Yeah, famous last words.

I pocket two cookies, to use as motivational aids, put her on her leash and lead her into the corridor. It’s like she’s made of metal and the walls are magnetized. Foomp! She’s up against that wall like – well, like a neurotic dog not wanting to face the staircase again.

I manage to coax Xena to the stairs and try to entice her to follow me by holding out a cookie for her. No use. I start down the stairs, thinking she’ll follow. I feel resistance. She’s not coming. She’s adamant about that. I stop and turn around to look at her. I give the leash a little tug. She starts to moan and tug back. Well, to be precise, she’s not just tugging; she looks like she’s trying to tow a Boeing 767 at one of those redneck tractor-pull events.

“Okay, okay,” I concede, hurrying back up; fortunately, I’d only made it down a few steps and I get to her before she launches into full wail. I’m beginning to consider the merits of getting her a part-time job as a fire siren. “Alright, we’ll take the elevator. C’mon, let’s go find the elevator” (as if she can understand what I’m talking about).

We get to the elevator. Conveniently, it’s still at the second floor, because no one else has used it since our first trip up. When the door slides open, I get inside and try to lead her in. She screams! I mean literally screams! Like I’m killing her or something. After several tries, I shove my traumatized pooch into the elevator and pray no one in any of the nearby rooms is trying to sleep. Xena looks like she’s about to pee again. The door nearly shuts on her tail, but I swipe it out of the way just in time. I press the 1 button and she glares at me with contempt.

We get downstairs. The door opens and Xena backs out of the elevator and strides purposefully along the corridor. She spies the exit at the end of the hall and bolts for it, dragging me along behind her. We get outside and I can almost hear her heave a sigh of relief. She disgraces herself in public and waits impatiently for me to clean up after her. Then we head back inside, to see the nice man at the front desk.  Isaiah recalls her from our last visit (five weeks ago) and asks how he can help us.

I tell him Xena is concerned about our lack of a “Pet in Room” sign. While I’m at it, I tell him Xena would also prefer to have the elevator carpeted and the stairs removed. He says he’ll see what he can do about that.

As we’re heading back from the lobby toward the elevator (I’ve got Xena’s 30-foot leash retracted as far as it will go, so she’s only got about a foot and a half of play). She decides to play her “Let’s Trip Rita” game and stops for no reason other than canine vindictiveness. I trip over her. She snickers to herself. Meanwhile an old woman with one of those wheeled suitcases with the telescoping handles approaches and asks, “Is that the elevator?” She points to a white door with a sign with a wheelchair logo and “Men” written on it.

“No, that’s the men’s room,” I reply kindly, trying not to laugh – and certain that Allan Funt and Durwood Kirby must somehow be behind this. I point slightly ahead, toward the other side of the corridor. “There’s the elevator.”

She thanks me and toddles in that direction.

Well, there’s no way I’m going to inflict a screaming, neurotic, moon-walking Siberian Husky on this poor, myopic woman in a closed elevator car, so I go on ahead, thinking maybe now I can persuade Xena to try the stairs again.

Nope. The wall hugging begins the moment she sees the carpeted staircase looming ahead of us; the moaning and tugging follow almost immediately afterward. She streaks past the stairs, heads to room 233 and begs to be let in.

I steer her away. She moves on to the next door and awaits entry. I try to explain that we don’t live on the first floor this time. The Queen of Neurotica doesn’t want to hear it. She also wants no part of those stairs.

By now the woman is out of the elevator. I press the call button and the elevator obligingly returns. The door opens and Xena lets out a muffled scream. I think by now she’s realized the futility of trying to get away and has resigned herself to her dreaded fate. She nevertheless resists as I tug her, sliding, across the linoleum, just far enough to let the door slide shut behind her.

Xena’s wall-hugging antics resume the instant we exit the elevator and she’s back on a carpeted surface. First, she tries to run toward the suites at the other end of the corridor. It takes what little strength I’ve got left to turn her around and propel her in the right direction (I’ve been trying to keep from laughing practically this whole time).

At last we make it back to room 342. The door is ajar; I push it open and Xena bolts inside. It’s dark in the room, except for the flashing lights. I’m sure there’s either a State Highway Department snow plow in our room or I’ve landed in 1978 and I’ll hear a voice announcing a “ladies-choice couples-only skate” any second. Nope; my darling husband (technology geek that he is) has a pair of those spinning yellow “Woot-off” lights plugged into his laptop. By their golden glow, I can tell he’s grinning expectantly at me.

Had I not spent the past ten minutes engaged in a life-or-death struggle with a 50-pound dog, I might have found it more amusing. Instead, I look at him and say, “Either we ask them to move us to a downstairs room or you can take her outside whenever she needs to go.”

He assures me that won’t be a problem; he won’t encounter any difficulty. He’s had dogs all his life, after all; he knows how they think and act and react. He can handle Xena.

Yeah, right.

Well, when she’s ready to go outside for her final pee before bedtime, he clips the leash on her and glibly follows her out the door. Shortly thereafter, I hear a series of wails and screeches that sound strangely like what you get when you beat a cat with a mesh bag of three-penny nails.

A few minutes later, Xena reappears, followed by my hubby. He doesn’t seem amused anymore.

“Did she pee?”

“We never made it outside,” he admits.

“Was that her screaming?” I ask, knowing I needn’t have asked.

“You heard that?”

“I think the whole floor heard it.”

“Yeah, the couple down the hall that has their door open, they thought it was hilarious. I could hear them laughing. I tried to take her downstairs in the elevator, but she wouldn’t get in.”

“Well, she’s not going to hold it ’til Sunday. We’ve got to find a way to get her to go downstairs,” I tell him.

Eventually, I give him a towel with instructions to go on ahead, summon the elevator and lay the towel out on the elevator floor. I follow behind with the dog. She steps into the elevator without incident. I look at him and say, “It’s a good thing you keep me around”; then I hold my breath ’til the door closes and they’re safely on their way.

The next morning, not even bacon (smuggled back from the breakfast buffet) could entice Xena to venture down the stairs. Good thing I’d brought the towel with me. Of course, when we came back from our walk, the guy at the front desk wondered why I was carrying a towel around. I tried halfheartedly to explain… but it just kind of lost something along the way.

Next time we go back there, we’re getting a first-floor room!

Okay, now let’s hear about your funny canine encounters.

“Should Have, Could’ve, Would Of?”

March 10, 2009

A writer friend asked me recently to discuss one of her pet peeves: the butchery of the phrase “would have.”

So often people run the words “would have” together into the perfectly acceptable contraction “would’ve.” But since the “ve” sounds an awful lot like “of,” many folks mistakenly believe the phrase is “would of,” not “would have” or “would’ve.”

This has long been a major irritant for me… it’s about as annoying as having one of those pesky, stray eyelashes jabbing you in the eyeball and not being able to remove it. Yeah, it’s that annoying.

But it’s not just the “would of” that gets me… it’s the improper usage of the correct wording, “would have” when “had” is appropriate.

Many moons ago (how many moons are there in 20+ years, anyway?), while I was working on air at a suburban Connecticut radio station – okay, it was early 1987 –  Chicago released a song entitled, “If She Would Have Been Faithful.”

Hip adult-contemporary rotation aside, I despised playing that song – mainly because of the incorrectly used phrase “would  have” in the title… never mind that I just out-and-out hated the song. Every time that horrid dreck came up in rotation during my air shift (and it pains me deeply to say this, because Chicago really is one of my favorite bands), I would grit my teeth and play the silly drivel, knowing I’d have to backsell the darn thing afterward.

Even though the wording itself was – technically – correct, what galled me was the improper usage of the phrase “would have.” The grammatically correct title for this song is, “If She Had Been Faithful.” But, of course, metrically, that wouldn’t have worked out, so I can almost understand the literary license the lyricists took here. But still, understanding it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

So the lesson here is this: Next time you’re faced with saying, “If I would of taken the highway, I would of gotten there half an hour sooner,” you need to do three things.

First, look over your shoulder to make sure I’m not standing behind you with a club, waiting to scream and pummel you senseless.

Second, realize that you should replace your first intended “would of” with “had.”

And third, know that you should replace the second intended “would of” with “would have.”

Your sentence then becomes, “If I had taken the highway, I would have gotten there half an hour sooner.” And that makes your Persnickety Proofreader happy. And, after all, isn’t that all that really matters?

Welcome to Daylight Saving Time

March 8, 2009

Well, here we are again… the second Sunday in March. Let me be the first to welcome you to Daylight Saving Time.

Notice I didn’t say Daylight Savings Time. There’s an excellent reason for that: There’s no final “s” in Saving. Never has been; never should be. Well, not under ordinary circumstances. Not when you’re talking about time zones, at least.

If you were going to the bank to deposit your paycheck (although, not into your checking account) and the bank is only open when the sun is out, I guess the time at which you go to the bank could be considered your own personal daylight savings time… but that’s the only instance I can think of when adding the final “s” is proper. Otherwise, if you’re referencing the results of the annual “spring ahead” activity, it’s always Daylight Saving Time.

Nuff said. Now I’m going to go take a nap while I adjust to this DST thing. Did you notice we “spring ahead” earlier now than we used to in years past?

Have a great day… hope you get over your own DST lag soon.