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Are You Kidding, or Are You Being Mean?

👿  I taught tenth grade for decades, and one of the things I tried to make my students aware of is the difference between joking, kidding, being funny, (whatever we call it) and being cruel. One of the lamest excuses we offer for cruel behavior is "I was kidding." I asked them to consider the following things, but people on social media might take the same lessons to heart. Is it necessary to point out differences? The other day I was sitting with several people when a woman we all know came along wearing, for the first time since I've known her, a wide-brimmed sunhat. The day was hot. She has lots of skin damage from years in the sun, and I happen to know she sees a dermatologist regularly. As she approached, the comments started. "Are you going out to pick cotton?" "Where in the world did you find that hat?" "You look like a dork." She took it well, but come on. Was it necessary? Might they have figured out why she'd chosen a hat that

Being Precise

This is a re-post from 2011. Just not up to being clever right now. I know that language changes over time. It has to. I know that clinging to the old ways is futile and might make me seem cantankerous or even silly. But it was my job, for three decades, to guard the language, to see that people under my care used it clearly rather than sloppily, thinking about what they wanted to convey as well as what other people might make of it. So I'm going to list some things that seem to me worth keeping in our language. PLEASE KEEP distinctions between similar words. People who are aware of the differences listed here are disappearing, yet there is good reason for keeping their separate meanings.                 nauseated/nauseous-People become nauseated when they encounter something that is nauseous.                 might/may-I might call and ask you if I may take you out to dinner.                 farther/further-He went farther than anyone else to further grammatical a

Diseases and Syndromes and Help--Oh My!

(Author's Note: I have a great deal of sympathy for those who struggle with disease and infirmity. This post is in no way meant to belittle the trauma of actual disease. It's tongue-in-cheek, because the current state of the media, both public and social, makes me crazy, and because some of us are just plain smart-alecks.) Here are some things I could get behind if there were a drive, a telethon, or a campaign to abolish them. The Meme-a-Thon: Do you or have you suffered from people saying things that make you want to punch them in the face? Research has discovered a contributor to this syndrome, and we now know that it comes from meme saturation. Useless and unprovable, memes invade every aspect of our lives, with a meme for every situation that does absolutely no good for the listener but makes the speaker think he's said something wise. With your help, we can educate people on the hurtfulness of repeating memes that often exacerbate feelings of sorrow and worth