Here’s another little problem that you’ll come across every day: “The crowd was scattered in all directions.”
What’s wrong with this? “Crowd” is a collective noun that can sometimes be singular and sometimes plural, depending on the use. If it’s used to indicate a single group, then it must have a singular verb.
e.g. “The crowd roared as the players entered the stadium.” Here, the crowd is acting as a single entity.
“The crowd was scattered in all directions.” This is incorrect, since this time, we’re talking about the individuals who make up the crowd. “The crowd were scattered in all directions.” Correct.
If you start by referring to the collective noun as being singular, you must treat it as singular throughout the entire sentence.
e.g. “Since the committee controls such matters, we must abide by their decision.” Here, we’ve started treating the committee as a single entity, then switched to plural in the second part of the sentence.
It should read, “Since the committee controls such matters, we must abide by its decision.” (Or, “Since the committee members control such matters, we must abide by their decision.”
Some weeks ago, I mentioned that no words in the English language rhyme with “month,” “orange,” “silver” or “purple.” Last week, I posted Debbie’s suggestion, which in turn prompted Lisa to send this:
“I have a book here called Words Play, by O.V. Michaelsen. The first part of the first chapter is about rhymes, and features the purple, orange and silver words. Here’s what it says…..
- hirple (British) – walk lamely or hobble
- curple – hindquarters, especially of a horse.
- blorenge – a hill near Abergavenny, Wales
- sporange – a sac in which spores are produced; sporangium
- Wilver – “Willie” Stargell, coach for the Atlanta Braves
- chilver – a ewe lamb
There is an online rhyming dictionary that lists the following words as rhymes for month: billionth, millionth, seventh, trillionth, zillionth.
So it seems you can always find a rhyme – if you just look hard enough.
OK, you asked for it, here’s another little excerpt from Bill Bryson’s book, Down Under (In a Sunburned Land):
“…Perth is a cheery and welcoming place. There is first of all the delight in finding it there at all, for Perth is far and away the most remote big city on earth, closer to Singapore than to Sydney, though not actually close to either. Behind you stretches 1,700 miles of inert red emptiness all the way to Adelaide; before you nothing but a featureless blue sea for 5,000 miles to Africa. Why 1.3 million members of a free society would choose to live in such a lonely outpost is a question always worth considering, but climate explains a lot. Perth has glorious weather, good-natured weather – the kind that sets the postman to whistling and puts a spring in the step of delivery people. Architecturally, Perth has no particular distinction – it is a large, clean, modern city: Minneapolis down under – but its sharp and radiant light makes it a beauty. You will never see bluer city skies or purer sunlight bouncing off skyscrapers than here.”
Here’s a part of Australia that not many are fortunate (unfortunate?) enough to experience:
“Today central White Cliffs consists of a pub, a laundrette, an opal shop, and a grocery/cafe/petrol station. The permanent population is about eighty. They exist in a listless world of heat and dust. If you were looking for people with the tolerance and fortitude to colonize Mars this would be the place to come.
“…I don’t know how much money you would have to give me to persuade me to settle in White Cliffs – something in the low zillions, I suppose – but that evening as we sat on the motel’s lofty garden terrace with Leon Hornby, the proprietor, drinking beer and watching the evening slink in, I realized that my fee might be marginally negotiable. I was about to ask Leon – a city man by birth and, I would have guessed, inclination – what possessed him and his pleasant wife Marge to stay in this godforsaken outpost where even a run to the supermarket means a six-hour round trip over a rutted dirt road, but before I could speak a remarkable thing happened. Kangaroos hopped into the expansive foreground and began grazing picturesquely, and the sun plonked onto the horizon, like a stage prop lowered on a wire, and the towering western skies before us spread with colour in a hundred layered shades – glowing pinks, deep purples, careless banners of pure crimson – all on a scale that you cannot imagine, for there was not a scrap of intrusion in the forty miles of visible desert that lay between us and the far horizon. It was the most extraordinary vivid sunset I believe I have ever seen.”
And lastly, a glimpse of Sydney:
“… I was eager to stretch my shapely limbs, so I crossed the (Sydney Harbour) bridge to Kirribilli and plunged into the old, cosily settled neighbourhoods of the lower north shore. And what a wonderful area it is. I wandered past the little cove where my hero, the aviator Charles Kingsford Smith … once impossibly took off in an aeroplane, and into the shaded hills above, through quiet neighbourhoods of cottagey homes buried in flowering jacaranda and fragrant frangipani (and in every front garden cobwebs like trampolines, in the centre of which the sort of spider that would make a brave man gasp). At every turn there was a glimpse of blue harbour – over a garden wall, at the bottom of a sloping road, suspended between close-set houses like a sheet hung to dry – and it was all the finer for being furtive. Sydney has whole districts filled with palatial houses that seem to consist of nothing but balconies and plate glass, with scarcely a leaf to block the beating sun or interrupt the view. But here on the north shore, wisely and nobly, they have sacrificed large-scale vistas for the cool shade of trees, and every resident will, I guarantee, go to heaven.”
This week’s quiz:
Some more of those tricky past tense and past participles:
Last week’s quiz:
Substitute one word for each of the following expressions:
Here are LaVonne’s suggestions for the quiz – I think she’s covered most possibilities, don’t you?
1. get up – ARISE, TRANSCEND,
2. get in – ENTER, PLUNGE, PENETRATE, PIERCE, ENSCONCE
3. get on – PROCEED, ALIGN, BOARD, ENPLANE, ENTRAIN
4. get off – DEPART, DISMOUNT, EXIT, DEPLANE
5. get down – DESCEND, ALIGHT, DISMOUNT, KNEEL
6. get to – ARRIVE, REACH, COME
7. get over – TRANSFER, HEAL, FORGET, DISMISS
8. get across – TRANSPORT, EXPLAIN, CLARIFY, ENLIGHTEN
9. get at – ACCESS, APPROACH
10. get past – CIRCUMVENT, TRANSGRESS
For those of you who sometimes feel that you’re fast approaching the day when you fall off your perch, a story about a little girl who went to her grandpa and said, “Grandpa, will you make a sound like a frog?”
“No,” says Grandpa, “that’s a silly thing to ask.”
“Please, Grandpa,” she says.
“No,” he replies. “Why do you want me to make a sound like a frog?”
“Because Mummy said when Grandpa croaks we can go to Disneyland.”
… Feel better now?
Word of the week:
A morbid fear of being seen. “Scotophobia” is a morbid fear of darkness. How appalling to suffer from both simultaneously! Think about it. (Hall of Superior Words)
Tautology of the week:
This week’s tautology was sent in by Frank from Palos Verdes Estates, California USA : “I thought you might enjoy the following which I came across in the Microsoft Front Page 2000 instruction manual: “Before proceeding with the next procedure, change the default setting from Width to Height in the AutoThumbnail tab of the Page Options dialog box…”
And one I heard last night and just had to include: “A whole broad range of ideas …”
A great conversation ender for those times when you can’t get away (and it sounds much better in Latin):
Di! Ecce hora! Uxor mea me necabit! (God! Look at the time! My wife will kill me!)