A Motel By Any Other Name

You spend decades living down the movie. You endure the bad sequels. You shudder when a remake premieres at local cinemas (and breathe a sigh of relief when it bombs).

You never know when someone will throw out a joking reference to it that makes you cringe. Sometimes you preempt the jokes by making them yourself. Especially when inviting guests to stay at your home.

Then, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the shower, this happens…

Oh, no. Not again! (Video may be considered NSFW.)

Oh, no. Not again! (Video may be considered NSFW.)

Apparently, this prequel debuts March 18 on the A&E network. And, with that, there’s only one thing left to say: Hope it dies as swiftly as Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, in the original Hitchcock movie.

The Essential Guide to South by Southwest

SXSW 2013 sparks up March 8 – 17 with sessions on everything from indie film and music to emerging technologies. The full conference schedule is available here.

Here’s a basic guide to the emotional arc of SXSW attendees and how that’s reflected in their commentary on social media. (In April, simply substitute Coachella for SXSW and Tupac hologram for Twitter. Rinse. Repeat.)

SXSW Cycle of Hipness. Image copyright Vickie Bates.

How Became Became Because

I know. Ouch, right? Especially since this was posted by a major news site, where you expect editors to catch these things. And because, when repeated, mistakes like these can erode credibility.

Photo Blog_2_2

It could happen to anyone, really.

It’s definitely happened to me – whether because of some autocorrect feature on my phone or via some weird mechanism in my brain that’s started transposing words. Just the other day, I was typing an email. I needed to give someone a name from an event that took place the previous night. Instead of typing, “Here’s his last name,” I typed “Here’s his last night…”

The problem here really isn’t our brains or our super-helpful autocorrecting phones, it’s the speed with which we’re delivering our communications – enabled, of course, by the simplicity of technology.

The solution is slowing down, briefly, to re-read carefully and edit, where necessary. After all, what’s a few seconds when credibility is on the line?

Ad Homonym

Ayuh, you need a wicked sense of “hu-mah” to live here.

I said farewell to New Hampshire this week, so I thought I’d share a favorite bit of Granite State humor.

You could produce an encyclopedia on the variety of accents between Maine and Rhode Island. As a part-time New Englander, I’m particularly fond of New Hampshire enunciation – okay, I’m biased, but the elongation of the vowels and the dropping of the Rs is more gently executed than in Brunswick or Boston.

And, so we arrive at this sign that makes my heart sing. It’s got that wicked New Hampshire humor and perfectly captures the “New Hamshuh” drawl. The road’s true name is “Sodom” (don’t ask me why; there’s no Gomorrah Lane nearby), and if you lived here, you’d probably make fun of it, too.


Time Isn’t On My Side

There were bizarre moments for brands at this year’s French Open tennis tournament.

Novak Djokovic smashed his Perrier player’s bench in frustration over Rafael Nadal’s strong start. The French bubble-water-maker nevertheless was prepared, and a new bench, with a pristine Perrier logo, debuted during a rain delay.

It’s a lesson watchmaker Longines could learn from. Longines is the official timekeeper of the French Open grand slam with branded Longines clocks tracking match time at both ends of the court. One of the digital Longines timekeepers went a bit wonky early in the two-week run at Roland Garros, blinking erratically.

Perrier could very well have left its busted bench on court through the rest of the final. No one confused Djokovic’s attack on the bench with the brand – it was all about how he was playing in the first two sets. And the smashed logo wasn’t associated in any way with the Perrier product itself.

But that demented flashing clock! It’s hard to imagine it wasn’t a distraction to the players. For that reason alone, Longines should have gone out of its way to repair the thing. But the primary reason to fix the clock is that it isn’t just a brand logo, it’s one of their timepieces, a demonstration of the quality of their brand.

Brands sponsor sporting events to draw attention to themselves at a time when millions upon millions of viewers are tuning in. But this isn’t the kind of awareness they want: Look! Our clocks don’t work!

Less is More?

Does bad grammar darken your day when you hear it on TV? This ad for L’Oréal Youth Code, a skin-care product, makes me see spots whenever it’s aired.

My first reaction was to the choice of “less” instead of “fewer.” However, the more I listened to it, the greater my suspicion grew that perhaps the writers chose “less” deliberately to confuse viewers as to the actual benefits of the product.

Are users seeing “fewer dark spots” (presumably the end result desired by consumers) or are the spots merely “less dark” and thus still hanging around? Here’s the clip. What do you think?

By the way, here’s what Grammar Girl, who always says “No” to bad usage, suggests regarding “less” versus “fewer.”

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Moon!

If you looked up in the sky last night, you’d have spotted “super moon” – so named for the serendipitous occurrence of a full moon on the night the satellite passes closest to Earth in its orbit. Wikipedia says the official name for this is the “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system,” which sounds like something one of the guys on “Big Bang Theory” would say.

This photographer gets an “A” for effort (bringing back a photo of the moon on the rise) and an “A” for science, but the grammar miss? Wider than a mile.

There's some bad grammar on the rise. (Click image to enlarge.)

Excessive Possessiveness

I fear this is one of those grammar strictures that’s broken so many times, it’s about to get dumped. Somewhere along the way, editors stopped doing their duty and allowed writers to hang an “s” onto possessives ending in “s,” so they work just like possessives that don’t have an “s” at the end.

Grammar rules for possessives.

The rule, in case anyone still wonders, is this:

Add ’s to possessives that don’t end with the letter “s” (except for “its”). Possessives that end with “s” simply take an apostrophe. For example:

Lt. Valeris’ alacrity enabled Star Fleet to deduce Ambassador Nanclus’ role in the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon.

In recent decades, the Associated Press Stylebook (a favorite of mine) allowed for the addition of ’s to possessives that end in “s” when the word is only one syllable. Therefore:

Mills’s educational excellence is enhanced by its sylvan campus.

Where do you stand on slipping in a second “s”? (Here’s what Grammar Girl suggests.) In my case, growing up with one rule means that when I encounter examples like the one above, I lose track of the point of the sentence and stop while my mind corrects the grammar. Plus, to my eyes, it looks wrong, that row of “ssssss,” like a cartoon-balloon for a snake. What do you think? Am I being too possessive of the old rules? Is the new usage more helpful? Does it make more sense?