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A Little Lift

As you may have already determined* based on the sheer number of posts I’ve made in the past few days, my mood appears to be creeping up a bit at last. As usual, I’m trying to approach this uptick with caution, so as not to, like, scare it away (or burn out my synapses, or exhaust myself, or overcook my brain, or whichever analogy you like).

*If, indeed, you’re reading this in real time and not, like, seven and a half years into the future — speaking of which, thread necromancy is totally cool with me, and if you are from the future, say hi!

The timing is interesting. The whole intersex thing, in my case, means my hormones do interesting (and sometimes horrible) things on what has evolved into a fairly predictable cycle. I would, in fact, rather expect this to be the part of said cycle that makes me (and everyone in a 20-meter radius) miserable. That said, I am not complaining. Complaining about catching this lift is like complaining about catching a taxi in Times Square at 2 AM (I think? Oddly, though I have spent a fair bit of time in the Big Apple, I have never been to Times Square, let alone at 2 AM).

Of course, it’s possible (to belabor my metaphor) that this lift which appears to be driven by a sedate little old lady driver is in fact under the command of the Little Old Lady From Pasadena (Go, Granny; Go, Granny; Go, Granny; Go!). As those of us whose carpool parents were huge Beach Boys fans may recall, “…she drives real fast and she drives real hard.”

So while I am not complaining right now, I reserve the right to complain at a later date.

Speaking of dates!

I love dates. The fruit, I mean. A while ago I bought a 2-pound tub of deglet noor dates at ValuMarket (which, though it sounds like a Quick-E-Mart kind of operation, is in fact an awesome little local grocery chain; the one in my neighborhood is decidedly international in flavor).

At the time (this was several months ago; the dates in question suggest that I use them by 30 June, 2016, so we’re good), I was in the midst of an upswing and not shopping all that carefully and failed to notice that the dates in question are processed with glucose. So now I have all these sugar-coated dates lying around, waiting for a purpose in life … or, well, un-life, I suppose, since the purpose of the sugar is to preserve the dates, which are not living, and perhaps could be considered undead**?

**OMG you guys, there are ZOMBIE DATES IN MY KITCHEN RIGHT NOW. For the record, even with the excess sugar, Zombie Dates are delicious.

Since I am not really into consuming oceans of refined sugar (regarding which: dates are pretty sugary to begin with, but you eat them whole, fiber and all; it’s the added sugar that’s kind of not my thing), I have been working my way through the dates a little at a time. Last week, I added some to my batch-o-muffins. This morning, I said “screw it” and ate four of them (a portion is about eight) with breakfast.

So, to make a short story unnecessarily long, I’m thinking that the next time I have people over, I am going to make an enormous, enormous date-oriented cake or something in an effort to reduce my household Zombie Date population. I am also thinking I could probably soften them in water (which might also coax some of the added sugar off the dates), chop them up, and make them into bike/ballet fuel of some kind (and then freeze the extras).

If any of you have any recipe suggestions, let me know.

In the future, of course, I shall purchase my dates more carefully.

I make no promises about the duration of this uptick, but I plan to relax and enjoy it while I can.

In other news, our finances are more or less sorted at this point, and I was able to purchase a RAM upgrade for my laptop. Said RAM arrived last night; I dropped it in (which was an incredibly frustrating process; getting the RAM seated correctly in this machine is a huge PITA) and my lappy, unsurprisingly, is like a whole new machine.

I really should’ve done this ages ago.

Post Is Unrelated

I am something of a language nerd, and I enjoy reading articles written by other language nerds about language-related nerdery.

This morning, I ran across a good one (link to follow here) explaining where to put apostrophes in familial names on holiday cards (the short answer: don’t).   The author wondered about the source of our confusion about the use of apostrophes, but didn’t propose a hypothesis.

I’m an overachiever, so I have two.

First, many of us don’t read much — or, rather, we read text messages, news blurbs, forums, and blogs, but we spend a lot less time with texts edited by editors who know how to use apostrophes.  

We mostly encounter apostrophes in contexts in which their use is as likely to be incorrect as it is to be correct (around here, I’d argue that they’re actually more likely to be used incorrectly, but bias might be skewing my perceptions).  Seriously, drive by a strip mall and check for stray apostrophes, and chances are good that you’ll find plenty(1).

In short, we’re missing the substrate of experience that would allow us to confidently infer whether and where an apostrophe is appropriate.

Second, and much more importantly, we’re battling uphill against the power of idiom and homonym (a battle that can be won, potentially, by reading a whole lot, which helps to overcome the ambiguity of spoken English as it relates to written English).

Case in point: when we say we’re going to visit someone, we often do it using a truncated version of the phrase, “We’re going to the So-and-sos’ house” – we say, “We’re going to the So-and-so’s.”  

The context remains possessive (“I’ll be at Dave’s if you need me,” rather than, “I’ll be at Daves if…”).   This trips us up when we try to refer to our families using a plural proper name.

Because the plural and possessive forms of “So-and-so” sound alike, we forget that they’re spelled differently (q.v. other commonly misused homonyms: “too, to, two,” “they’re, there, their,” “its, it’s”).   Because we don’t have a good “feel” for the rules that govern the use of apostrophes, we choose the most familiar form – which, unfortunately, is also the wrong form.

In short, we treat family names as if they are being used within the context of a familiar possessive phrase (“The Dawsons’ house”) but apply the more familiar singular possessive (“The Dawson’s…”) rather than the less familiar plural possessive (“The Dawsons’…”).

In fact, when we say, “Happy Chanukah from the Singers,” we’re not using a possessive sense at all.

Fortunately, as with many of the arbitrary rules of English grammar, there are shortcuts to correct usage.  

The easiest way to remember whether to employ an apostrophe in a greeting is to swap out the family name (which is plural) for a personal name (which isn’t) that doesn’t end in ‘s.’   If you’re already a bit confused, names that end in ‘s’ only muddy the water.

Exchange “Good Yule from the Cunninghams” for “Good Yule from Pat.”  Make note of whether an apostrophe was required (it wasn’t).  Treat the plural name accordingly even if it ends in ‘s’  – it’s still not possessive in this context.  (For names that end in ‘s,’ just add ‘-es’ to the end: Jameses, Hearknesses, etc.)

If you’re still in doubt, of course, it’s also entirely kosher to simply write out, “Happy Holidays from the James Family.”

So that’s that.   My hypothesis, with a bit of application thrown in for good measure.

…And, yes, I know I split an infinitive back there.   The rule about not splitting them derives from a misunderstanding of the origins of the English language, contributes nothing to meaning, and, I am happy to say, is falling by the wayside thanks in no small part to the original Star Trek.

I  realize this is basically way off-topic.  I promise that I shall return to blogging about ballet, bikes, and bipolar disorder soon.

Notes

  1. I suspect that this only amplifies the problem. Business names do crazy things with apostrophes — take, for example, Chili’s. Is it “The place that belongs to Chili?” Or is it “We’re trying to name our restaurant after that key ingredient associated with Tex-Mex cuisine, Chilis?” Out in the world, you’re likely to encounter a million places with names like “Tinks” or “HotWang’s,” and it’s generally pretty unclear whether the person who name the business is simply unschooled in the correct use of apostrophes or is attempting to employ some kind of play on words (you can be pretty sure that when a business is called something like “Johnsons” or “Changs,” but isn’t actually marketing human beings, an apostrophe has been omitted). Since business names are plagued with bad puns, the context gets even muddier. It makes one long for the strictures of a language such as French or Japanese, in which nobody asks questions like these, because possessives aren’t rendered using apostrophes in the first place.
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