February 28, 2012

Don't Overdo the Overdue Fines

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the difference between “due” and “do”. If you’ll recall, “due” has to do with time and deadlines, while “do” is an action word where someone is doing something.

Just as people confuse “due” and “do”, they also confuse “overdue” with “overdo”. To keep the meanings straight, simply take the words apart. “Overdue” = “over” + “due”. It means that the bill, library book, or pregnancy is past the date on which it was due. “Overdo” means you did too much and you are likely to be in pain. Most of the time, this word is properly used in the past tense: “I spent the weekend working in the garden and I think I overdid it.”

If you can remember that “due” and “time” both end with the letter “e”, and “do” is part of “doing”, you won’t have any problems keeping these two words separate and clear.


February 21, 2012

Shovel Leaners and Toaster Leavin's

Here’s a pair of interesting phrases which are apparently fairly new to “formal” vocabulary.

“Shovel leaners” doesn’t appear in any dictionary that I could find. However, I did find references to it in several blogs. Gathering the meaning from the context, the term refers to workers who collect a paycheck for apparently doing nothing. The origin appears to be from road construction projects where several lanes are closed off and several individuals are leaning on their shovels watching one individual do the actual work.

“Toaster Leavin’s”, is defined at urbandictionary.com as the crumbs left behind in the bottom of the toaster.

Maybe I should go outside and offer some toaster leavin’s to those shovel leaners….


February 14, 2012

Do You Know When Dew is Due?

Today we get to examine a trio of homonyms. “Do” is a verb. Use it when there is action, when someone is doing something.
“Dew” is condensation found on the ground in the morning, usually after a chilly, damp night when the sky is clear. In the winter, dew freezes and is called “frost”. Interestingly, “dew” is not often confused with “do” and “due”, but I included it here in order to be complete.
“Due” relates to time. Bills are due. Pregnant women are due. Library books are due. It refers to a specific date, and sometimes even a specific time on that date when something is expected to happen. You are expected to pay the bills or return the library books when they due. The pregnant woman expects to have her baby on or near the date she is due.
Remember them this way: “Do” is part of “doing”. “Due” and “time” both end with an “e”. “Dew” contains the word “ew”, which is what you say when you walk outside barefoot and get cold, wet feet.

February 07, 2012

Using Commas in a List

When I was learning grammar, the rule concerning commas and lists was easy. In any list, and a list was defined as having three or more items, you put a comma between each item, including before the “and”. In other words, your list liked like this: “I need to go to the store to buy milk, eggs, butter, and cheese.”
When my daughter went to school, they taught her to omit the comma before the “and”, making the list look like this: “I need to go to the store to buy milk, eggs, butter and cheese.” This works well, unless the last two items on the list could be mistaken for a single item. For example, what if my list was slightly different? “I need to go to the store to buy milk, eggs, butter, macaroni and cheese.” Do I need to buy both cheese from the dairy case and macaroni from the pasta aisle, or am I looking for a box of macaroni and cheese from the prepared foods aisle? My daughter’s teacher told me that the comma belonged before the “and” only if there was some ambiguity in the list.
Out of habit, I continued to always put the comma before the “and”. None of my college teachers have objected to its presence. When I sat down to write this post, I decided to do a little research and find out the current rule of correct comma usage. I searched at least a dozen sources, and found a great deal of confusion. No one seems to agree whether to put the comma in before the “and”, or not. Some sources said the comma should absolutely be there, while others said it should only be included in cases of ambiguity. There didn’t seem to be a clear difference between US and UK rules. Finally, I found a resource from the University of North Carolina which seems to be the final authority. They say, “Put commas between items in a list. When giving a short and simple list of things in a sentence, the last comma (right before the conjunction–usually “and” or “or”) is optional, but it is never wrong. If the items in the list are longer and more complicated, you should always place a final comma before the conjunction.”
I’ll keep adding that final comma out of habit, but it’s good to know that while it is optional, it is never wrong.

February 01, 2012

Resolution Update

My resolutions for this year are to:

· Graduate from college.
· Write a new manuscript, something I haven't had time to do since I started college.
· Take a vacation someplace out of Arizona.
· Hug my daughter every day.
· Learn how to make book trailers and post them to YouTube.
How am I doing?
I'm enrolled in the last classes I need to take in order to graduate. I'm getting grades on my assignments that will net me A's if I can keep it up. The school will take applications for graduation beginning February 1. I intend to fill out the form and submit it by the end of the week.
Writing the manuscript will have to wait until after graduation. I plan to fulfill this resolution in November as part of NaNoWriMo.
I have a sister getting married in California in June, and plan to celebrate graduation at Disneyland while I am there.
I am hugging my daughter every day...even though we are now passing a really bad cold back and forth. I may have to temporarily suspend this until we're no longer contagious.
The book trailers, like the manuscript, will have to wait until after graduation.
All in all, I'm doing well; working on things in their proper order. Just as a side note, I am also working on knitting a sweater, and I have finished a dozen books with a collective page count of 3819 for pleasure reading this month. I have four pleasure books in progress. (One on my nightstand, one on my Nook, one on the Nook app on my phone, and one in that room of my home which my family refers to as "the reading room".)