Category: Comics

Hyphenate for Clarity

#8

Post-High-School Students: Do you have the notes from yesterday's lecture? Post-High School Students: Dude...

This idea pretty much came from The Elephants of Style, and I’m going to quote it for another funny example:

I once saw somebody write of [Nancy Reagan]’s visit to an anti-child abuse center. (It’s one thing to be anti-child, but to open abuse centers?)

If two or more words are acting as an adjective before a noun, use hyphens. If they come after the noun, leave them out. So you might say:

That article was well written.
-or-
That was a well-written article.

There are many other uses for hyphens if you’d like to read more.

Update: My mom sent me this clipping from the Chicago Tribune (from 3/4/12, just over a week after I posted this comic. Ironically, it was National Grammar Day):

anti-animal cruelty charity

First abuse centers, now cruelty charities?!

Hyphenation Quiz

Where would you place hyphens in these sentences? Post your answers in the comments!

  1. After he was unable to find a publisher, he self published his memoir.
  2. I dumped a girl because she pronounced it “supposably.” Now she’s my exgirlfriend.
  3. She loves cake, but she’s anti ice cream cake. Is that unnatural?
  4. Although Tobias wasn’t a well known actor, he was given an opportunity to audition for the part.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-008-hyphenation.jpg

Etymology (Not Entomology)

#7

Do you know the etymology of 'vegetarian'? Not entomology, that's the study of insects. Hmm, I'm not sure. Let's go ask an expert! ETYMOLOGIST (not entomologist) Hi guys, are you interested in the origin of a word? I'm an etymologist, not an entomologist--they study insects. Why does everyone keep saying that?! Hi, we-- WORDS NOT BUGS!

Most of those books behind the professor just explain the difference between etymology and entomology.

If you google “etymology not entomology” (with quotes) you’ll get over 3,000 results (try it, it’s fun!). Without quotes you’ll get over 170,000. Apparently these words will be forever linked, like pancakes and syrup, fries and ketchup, or bananas and peanut butter…I really need to eat before I post.

Oh, and to answer the question from the comic, “vegetarian” comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning lively or vigorous. It does not come from vegetable as many people (understandably) assume.

Here’s the quiz question for this week: What’s the origin of etymology (not entomology)? Post your answer in the comments!

Update: Netflix Confuses “Etymologist” with “Entomologist”

Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-007-etymology.jpg

Apposition Wanted

#6

Hey Noun, what's your occupation? Well, Verb, that's non-essential info, so you should ask the new guy! Um...where is he? I'm-a coming! I'm-a coming! Wait-ah for-ah me! *Wheeze* *Sigh* Are you an artist? A chef? No! Brad-ah is a pilot! Are you sure? I'm appositive! BRAD, THE PILOT, SNEEZED.

If you’re gonna use a stereotype, why not go all the way, right? But to be fair, I often walk around town with an American flag draped over me.

An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that (often) follows a noun, and explains it. They are often set apart by commas. We can even reverse the order, so the above sentence would read: “The pilot, Brad, sneezed.” Now “Brad” is the appositive. Watch out for titles: “Former President George Bush tripped” does not need commas unless you add The: “The former president, George Bush, tripped” or “George Bush, the former president, tripped.” Now the sentence must still make sense without the appositive (appositives contain non-essential information), so The is required in the first sentence. There’s more to it, though, so feel free to read more about it.

This apposition joke was the impetus for this whole comic strip, believe it or not. I thought of this sometime in 2011, and it’s so bad I knew I had to do it. The whole premise of the blocks with words on them was invented just to support this joke. Originally this was going to be the only comic, but after thinking about it more, I realized I had other topics to write about. The plan was to post all of these on my other blog and not register a new domain (I have around ten), but of course I gave in after making the first two (before posting them). No regrets so far!

Appositive Quiz

What are the appositives in these sentences? Post your answers in the comments!

  1. Sarah’s cat, who jumped on the couch, meowed.
  2. Bill’s band, the Wyld Stallyns, played a show.
  3. Sitting at his desk, drinking some hot cocoa, Ted answered his phone.
  4. Riding on his Segway, GOB performed an illusion for his brother, Michael.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-006-apposition.jpg