Tag: PG

Etymology (Not Entomology)


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


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

Active Alex (active vs. passive voice)


GIRLS WERE KISSED. Stop being so passive! Get outta here, weak verb! GIRLS KISSED. Nice! Now things are getting active. Lemme get in on that... GIRLS KISSED ALEX.

It’s no coincidence that yesterday’s post talked about The Elements of Style‘s section on active voice. If you’re not familiar with the subject you should read more about it elsewhere, but I’ll give a quick overview. Active voice has the subject doing the action: “Girls kissed Alex.” To make that sentence passive we switch the subject, and make the target receive the action: “Alex was kissed by girls.”

Passive voice enables you to leave out the person doing the action: “Alex was kissed.” Sometimes this is beneficial (if you don’t know who it was, or they’re unimportant), but often it makes the sentence weaker. Which you use can depend on who is more important in the sentence:

“Bob is hated.” (passive; Bob is the focus)
“Everyone hates Bob.” (active; “Everyone” is the focus)

Be careful not to confuse past tense with passive voice (“Bob was happy.”), and don’t assume it’s passive when there’s no person (“The glass broke.”).

Active vs. Passive Quiz

Are these sentences in active voice or passive voice? How can you rewrite them to change the voice? Post your answers in the comments!

  1. In the early morning, the cabin caught fire.
  2. Although he ducked, Ted was hit in the face by the ball.
  3. Jerry ate cereal for lunch every day.
  4. I can’t think of a fourth sentence before midnight.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-005-active-alex.jpg