Monthly Archives: February 2013

Hail to the Chiefs

It seems like everyone gets to be Chief something or other these days.  It started with the now-ubiquitous CEO.  Then we got the COO, because the CEO was so busy with his E that he didn’t have time for his O.  (Isn’t that what secretaries are for?  Ba-dum-pum.)

Then we got the CTO and CFO, because naturally the CEO didn’t have the F’ing time to keep up with T.  Then came the CIO, CCO, CLO…

Sure, it seems like overkill.  Especially when each ‘C’ means another seven figure salary for companies already having to cut employee bonuses and health benefits… because of the down economy.

Never mind that — it’s the new corporate way.  Companies need more highly paid executives than their competitors, just to be competitive.  Even if it means laying off workers.

Taking a look at the alphabet, there is still lots of room for more Chiefs.  So here are some of my suggestions, along with companies who might be interested:

CAO = Chief Acceleration Officer (Toyota)

CBO = Chief Bluescreen Officer (Microsoft Corporation)

CDO = Chief Dancing-silhouettes Officer (Apple Inc.)

CGO = Chief Gambling-debts Officer (Citigroup, AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, HSBC, etc.)

CHO = Chief Horsemeat Officer (Tesco, Burger Chain)

CJO = Chief Jihad Officer (Al Jazeera)

CKO = Chief Knockoff Officer (TJ Maxx, Winners, Marshalls)

CMO = Chief Monopoly Officer (Wal-Mart)

CNO = Chief Nugget Officer (McDonald’s, Tyson Foods, Pampers)

CPO = Chief Propaganda Officer (Fox News)

CQO = Chief Queef Officer (Maxim)

CRO = Chief Rightwing-nut Officer (Koch Industries)

CSO = Chief Spill Officer (Exxon)

CUO = Chief Underwire Officer (Victoria’s Secret)

CWO = Chief Whitewash Officer (British Petroleum)

CVO = Chief Value-dilution Officer (American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Air Canada)

CXO = Chief Xmas Officer (North Pole Industries)

CYO = Chief Yabbadabba Officer (Hanna Barbera Productions)

CZO = Zero? Zulu? Zygote? um…

I ran out of ideas for ‘Z’.  Any suggestions?

Avoiding a Catapostrophe

The apostrophe.  Often misused and maligned, but here to stay.  For now.

What is this little piece of punctuation used for?  Only three things.  It’s actually pretty simple:

(1) an apostrophe takes the place of a missing letter.

The primary example here is contractions.  As examples, “you are not” becomes “you aren’t”, and “he is not” becomes “he isn’t”.

What about a contraction for “I am not”?  Why are we missing the first person singular?  Actually, it is not missing, just forgotten: ain’t.  For some reason, ain’t has devolved to become improper English while all the other contractions have survived… including shan’t, of all things.  It just ain’t right.

In English, contractions are a contradiction.  Written language is generally modified to fit spoken language, because people read aloud in their heads.  Why else would you write “an” instead of “a” before a vowel?

So why is it that contractions are used constantly in spoken language, to the extent that not using them makes you sound stuffy — but contractions are considered improper when written?  That is starting to change… I mean… that’s starting to change.

Similarly, the apostrophe is used to indicate regional speech.  Where would Eliza Doolittle be without “all I want is ‘Enry ‘Iggins’ ‘ead”, or Bob and Doug McKenzie without “How’s it goin’, eh?”  And let’s not forget the ubiquitous and universally applicable Southernism — y’all.

Unfortunately, as the language continues to devolve through the influence of texting, the apostrophe-s is becoming a ‘z’.  For example, “Where’s the beef?” has become “Yo grrlz wherez the lolz?”

(2) an apostrophe indicates possession.

This is a shortcut that doesn’t exist in many languages, and is actually pretty handy.

For example, if you want to say “this is Bob’s blog” in French, you must use the roundabout “this is the blog of Bob”.  You can say that in English too, of course, but why would you?

Use of an apostrophe in this way is a leftover from the ancient Saxon (Germanic) influence on English.  Danke Vortigern!

There is a weirdness here.  If whatever you are pluralizing already ends in “s”, you don’t add another one, such as “my parents’ house”.  Else it would look weird.

There is an even bigger weirdness that occurs when possession conflicts with contraction.  There is only one case of this in the English language, as far as I know.  It’s it’s.

People screw this up constantly, not just in emails and blogs but in big expensive things like signs and menus.  Seriously, the rule is really simple:

  • if it’s a contraction, use the apostrophe.  For example, “it’s a contraction”.
  • if you are showing possession, don’t use the apostrophe. For example, “remember to subscribe to my blog so you won’t miss its fascinating facts and perspicacious prose”.

(3) use an apostrophe to pluralize lowercase letters.

This is a strange one, which comes about for clarity.  For example, if you write “the word kerbopple has two ps in it” this would make people try to spell it “kerbopspsle” or something.

So you write “the word kerbopple has two p’s in it” and the meaning is clear.

This practice has also survived in the phrase “mind your p’s and q’s”.  If you wrote “mind your ps and qs” it would change the meaning entirely.  So, um… mind your p’s and q’s.

Note that people used to use an apostrophe to pluralize uppercase letters, numbers, and symbols as well.  This practice has mostly disappeared but it’s still a grey area.

For example, you can write “I love the 80s” or “I love the 80’s” and no one will complain.  However if you write “I just bought two iPod 5’s” you will look so 2000’s.

This is similar to the grocer’s comma, or more correctly, the grocer’s apostrophe (though in this context being correct is missing the point).  It got its name by the greengrocer’s habit of using an apostrophe when they want to indicate a plural, e.g. “fresh tomato’s” or “banana’s by the pound”.

Personally, I have never seen that in my local grocery store, but I have seen it in many other place’s.  I mean, places.  It drive’s me bonker’s.

Wait!  You say.  What about the use of apostrophes to indicate speech, or to set off words for ’emphasis’?  Well, technically those are not apostrophes, they are quotation marks.  Different animal entirely.  The fact they often look the same is purely because of limitations of font.

Bonus fact: did you know apostrophe can also mean “the rhetorical address of a usually absent person or personified thing“, as in: “O Liberty, what things are done in thy name!”  Me neither.  It smacks of Shakespeare.

Strangely, this meaning doesn’t appear to be related at all to the punctuation mark.  O English, thou art a fascinating subject!

Bonus the second: there is (was?) a movement to remove the apostrophe from the English language.  It was once led by the great author George Bernard Shaw, who hated the thing.  What would he think of the grocer’s comma?  Then again, there are some people who love the apostrophe.  Who knew punctuation could be so divisive?

Which side do you fall on?  Personally, I dig the apostrophe, but I’m a language nerd / nazi (and proud of it).

The Hollywood Convention Center

I watch a lot of movies.  Like any art form, they tend to follow certain rules.

As I live in the good ol’ US of A, the films I see mostly come from Hollywood.  They have their own set of rules.

So for the Hell of it, here are my favorites, in no particular order:

  • when foreigners get together, they must speak the first few lines of dialogue in their native tongue, at which point they will spontaneously switch to English, even if everyone speaks said native tongue
  • foreign accents are an acceptable substitute for a foreign language
  • anyone with a French accent is a villain
  • anyone with a Russian accent is a gangster
  • ancient Romans didn’t have Italian accents, as one might expect; they actually had English accents (and modern ones, at that)
  • any scene in Canada or Russia must have snow somewhere in the picture
  • if a scene is set in the USA, you must show a subtitle with the city and state, but if it’s in any other country, you only need to show the city and country (or just the country)
  • computer hacking is always performed with a colorful 3D graphical interface that looks like a video game, and if the graphics are still too boring, the computer will talk as well, and its voice will come booming out of even the tiniest laptop
  • even the most brilliant computer geek will use a short password of all lower case letters to protect his computer, and he will base it either on something from his past, or on something in the room
  • passwords from the previous rule will be guessable by anyone who knows that character in three or four tries, but only during a dramatic moment
  • if the hero comes up with a clever plan, he must keep it to himself, even from friends and allies who are directly involved and would certainly benefit from knowledge of this plan
  • the killer in a murder mystery is someone we met, but never the first one the cops interrogate
  • any time there is a prairie scene, a hawk will screech… and it’s always the same hawk
  • when a man and woman are in bed, his chest will be bare and hers won’t be, even though he just saw her naked: corollary, when she gets up to go to the bathroom, she will demurely cover herself with a blanket, even though he just saw her naked
  • all movies must take place in LA or New York, unless there is a compelling reason it be set somewhere else, in which case this is unusual enough to make it into the title; as examples: Last Tango in Paris, Mystery Alaska, Sleepless in Seattle, Chicago Hope, Fargo
  • in every city in North America, all phone numbers start with 555: corollary, even 800 numbers
  • no matter how many people are at a kitchen or restaurant table, they will leave one side of the table open
  • no matter how loud people are or freakishly bizarre their actions in a crowded restaurant, every else will ignore them
  • hospitals only hire young and beautiful doctors
  • in real life, about 90% of adult men have chest hair… in movies it’s zero
  • movie lipstick never smears, movie mascara never runs
  • lasers must be visible and make cool noises
  • no one will show up to interrupt a climactic battle between hero and villain until the battle is all over, no matter how many shots were fired or explosions hurled fire into the sky
  • after the climactic battle in the previous rule, cops will announce their arrival with distant sirens just as the villain is gasping his last
  • World War II didn’t really start until December 1941: corollary, of the five beaches stormed on D-Day, only two had anything of significance happen on them
  • the colonists in the American Revolutionary War all had modern American accents, even though they grew up as British subjects
  • the redcoats in the American Revolutionary War all had English accents, even they were from all over the British Isles, and the modern (non-rhotic) English accent wouldn’t evolve for a century hence
  • semi-automatic pistols have no recoil
  • bad guys are terrible shots, but they do get a lot more ammunition to make up for that

Think of some I missed?  Put ’em in the comments!

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