Grammar Moses: Of double letters and double meanings
What is it with Southern states and double letters? You have Tennessee and Mississippi, for starters, each of which uses just four different letters. Come on, there is so much more to the alphabet!
Consider one of my new favorite towns -- Chattanooga, Tennessee.
With that many double letters, you'd think there would be a contraction for it other than "Chatt" and "Nooga."
Which, of course, brings me to Millennium Park in Chicago.
That's two L's and two N's. Yes, two.
Someone at City Hall, in hastily putting together a parade route to celebrate the Sky's winning the WNBA championship last weekend, misspelled the name of Chicago's quintessential park by shaving off the second N.
Fans seemed to find the celebration nonetheless.
Forever and a T
Among the avalanche of news releases I received the other day was one with a decidedly consumer-friendly bent, especially given the eternal shortage of toilet paper.
"The Charmin Forever Roll is now available in the Chicago area -- it's been rolled out for purchase at local Target and Meijer stores. Butt, what is it?" wrote cheeky PR person Cameron Leach. Yeah, we see what you did there.
"With Charmin Forever Roll, you can go up to ONE MONTH before changing the roll."
OK, who among us has ever gone a month without changing a roll? Is it the size of an oil drum? Is it the thickness of gold leaf? Is it (and I know this isn't possible) one-half-ply thick? Is it dispensed one sheet at a time, with no opportunity for seconds?
When it comes down to it, is it really that big a deal to change a toilet paper roll?
Does this have anything to do with grammar, other than the clever double consonant in "butt"?
Sorry, I guess it's time to change the subject.
I've written before about contronyms -- those words that can mean something and the direct opposite of that something. To ravel is to weave together and also to undo. Drawing a curtain could mean opening it or closing it.
Night News Editor Michelle Holdway came up with "sanction."
"It could mean an endorsement. But in the case of recent school mask defiance, the state's sanction is a punishment."
Word of the Week:
Former President Donald Trump recently sued to block the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 free-for-all at the Capitol from looking at documents related to him.
"The Committee's request amounts to nothing less than a vexatious, illegal fishing expedition openly endorsed by (President) Biden and designed to unconstitutionally investigate President Trump and his administration," the suit read.
I might have told you that I am not an attorney. So I don't throw around "vexatious" in my daily conversations with Alexa.
In legal circles, a "vexatious" lawsuit is one that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning. It's filed purely to annoy the defendant.
Don't write vexatiously!
• Jim Baumann is vice president/managing editor of the Daily Herald. Write him at email@example.com. Put Grammar Moses in the subject line. You can buy Jim's new book, "Grammar Moses: A Humorous Guide to Grammar and Usage," at grammarmosesthebook.com. You can friend or follow Jim at facebook.com/baumannjim.