Mixing Miscellany Again



Our study of American English grammar and style sometimes gathers bits too small to feature yet worthy to gather for group exploration. In 2018, we discussed such medleys twice:

Exploring Some English Miscellany
More Mulling Over Miscellany

This year we’ve continued tracking items of note that we receive from our readers. Let’s look at several that further our mission to communicate with precision and eloquence.

Gonna   A contraction of the verb phrase “going to,” gonna is widely viewed as slang used mainly in informal speech.

While dictionaries including Merriam-Webster recognize gonna as a word, we believe it should be avoided in formal writing unless we are quoting or otherwise representing such usage.

Examples
“I’m gonna think about it for a while,” the teenager said.
Da coach thinks we’re gonna win, so maybe we should think we’re gonna win too.

Caption vs. Cutline   When we’re referring to descriptive text beneath a picture or another image, we often call it the caption. Less commonly, we might also see or hear the word cutline.

Today, caption and cutline are often used interchangeably. However, particularly in the publishing industry, the words have a distinction. A caption is like a title. A cutline is the text below a picture or an image that explains or identifies what the reader is looking at. It will typically include information such as the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Example
[CAPTION] Local Teen Throws Record-Breaking Pitch
[PHOTO] Pitcher reaching into his wind-up on the mound during a game
[CUTLINE] Smallville High senior Clark Kent, shown here in Tuesday’s game against Gotham City, reached 107 miles per hour with a fastball according to a radar gun onsite. The speed is the highest ever recorded for a high school pitcher.

Tour   This entry pertains more to speaking than writing. One reader pointed out that tour can sometimes be heard as “tore” instead of the more conventional “toor,” which is also the pronunciation in French, the word’s source language. This variation can likewise produce offshoots such as “tore-ism” for tourism and “tore-ist” for tourist.

Some exploration of the subject reveals the variance may originate from usage in different American regions. In keeping with GrammarBook’s focus on formal, contemporary English, we prefer “toor” as the proper pronunciation.

Kill   One GrammarBook reader questioned whether, in writing precisely, something other than a living being or creature could kill a living being or creature. In particular the reader was focusing on news content similar to the following:

What remained of the hurricane continued drifting inland on Tuesday, carrying more rain after killing three people and swamping the coast with flooding measured in feet.

The reader wondered whether an acting agent must be living in order to kill. If we interpret kill mainly as murder, can a hurricane perform the deed, or would it be more concise to write a person died because of the storm?

In other words, did the storm itself come down and slay three people directly, or did it bring about their demise by creating hazardous conditions?

Our response is that definitions of kill comprise more than the personal act of murder. Dictionaries include entries such as “to deprive of life; to cause the death of” and “to destroy; extinguish.” In this context, a non-living entity such as a hurricane can indeed kill.

Every Day vs. Everyday   The confusion that might attend every day and everyday is the same that can follow pairs such as any time and anytime. The key is distinguishing their parts of speech.

Every day is a noun phrase acting as an adverb meaning “each day”: We try to go to the fitness center almost every day.

Everyday is an adjective meaning “common, typical, ordinary” as well as “daily.” Less frequently, the word might also serve as a noun in informal writing or speech to mean “the routine or ordinary day or occasion.”

Examples
Do you include flossing in your everyday hygiene?
What kind of breakfast might they eat for everyday?

Posted on Tuesday, December 17, 2019, at 11:00 pm

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3 Comments on Mixing Miscellany Again

3 responses to “Mixing Miscellany Again”

  1. Lorraine Williams says:

    I did not find this previously addressed and this post brought it to mind.
    I am not a fan of google as a verb. Merriam Webster lists it as a transitive verb.
    “A quick google revealed nothing on the subject” here paraphrased from a recent news article, looks odd and incomplete to my eye; “I googled it” makes sense.
    Perhaps my discomfort means I am officially old now.

    • Similar to what happened with brand names such as “Xerox” and “Nylon, use of “Google” other than to identify an online search engine has become so common in the public domain that it is now generic to the point of becoming a word.

      While we too are not fans of using google as a noun, we acknowledge that its use as a verb is nearly established. It also appears that google (or Google) is gaining acceptance in some dictionaries as a verb for searching the internet specifically using the Google search engine.

      In your example, A quick google revealed nothing on the subject, the word google is used as a noun (with revealed as the verb). That use does not appear to be acceptable to the dictionaries we checked.

  2. Ashok Gupta says:

    Your way of explaining the things is unique and wonderful (e.g. difference between every day vs everyday, any thing vs anything, use of “kill).”
    Greatest regards.

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