Focusing on Words Newsletter #06

(the sixth newsletter of a series that was formerly presented to subscribers by the Sr. Scribe, a.k.a. John Robertson)

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The Senior Scribe is trying to find more info for his project.
Carpe Diem, quam minimum credula postero.
Seize the day and place no trust in tomorrow.

—Latin Proverb
Responses to letters

If you read “Newsletter #5”, you know that there was an extensive discussion about the important field of “tribology”. Geoff, in the United Kingdom, sent me information that led to the following internet article about a “TRIBOPEN (tribo + pen)” a Plastic Identifier:

“The automotive industry has moved a step closer to maximum car recyclability following the development of two innovative plastic identifiers by Ford Motor Company and Southampton University.

“The biggest problem when recycling plastics is the sorting and grouping according to material type,” said Professor Walter Brandstetter, Director of Environment and Safety, Ford of Europe.

“Although many plastics look alike, just one percent of an incompatible plastic can be enough to ruin an entire batch of recyclate.”

The Spectrometer unit is the larger of the two. When its nozzle is placed against the plastic part in question, it will identify the exact type of plastic from which it was made. The unit compares the spectroscopic fingerprint with its own integrated database, which consists of more than 200 types of plastic.

The second, pen-shaped hand-held unit, known as the Tribopen, works on the basis of tribo-electric charges that occur when a metal or plastic surface is rubbed against the part. A wide range of different heads are available to cover all possible plastics, from car bumpers to cable shrouding. The portable Tribopen has been designed predominantly for use by dismantlers and recyclers.

Based on information from the University of Southampton with reference to Wolfson Electrostatics.

Since so many subscribers are from non-English speaking countries, the following may answer a question that has puzzled so many, including a few “native speakers”. Nichola of France, wrote:

“A Turkish friend of mine asked if I knew why English is one of the few languages of the world where ‘I’ is always capitalised. ”

Other than making it stand out in a sentence I couldn’t give him a satisfactory answer, could you help, is it based on historical use?"

Scribe answers:

Well, Nichola, and anyone else who is interested, William and Mary Morris, in their Harper Dictionary of Contemporary Usage explain:

“English is one of the few languages in which the pronoun for the first person, singular, is capitalized. For example, the French ‘je’ and the Spanish ‘yo’ are not capitalized unless they are the beginning of a sentence.

“This has nothing to do with egotism on the part of English-speaking people. Printing and handwriting have everything to do with it. In Middle English the first person singular was ‘ich’ with a lower-case ‘i.’ When this was shortened to ‘i,’ manuscript writers and printers found that it often became lost or attached to a neighboring word. So the reason for the capital ‘I’ is simply to avoid confusion and error.”

Scribe’s note: I would like to add that in English, the first person, “I” (referring to the person who is writing or who is quoted as the speaker), should always be capitalized, whether it is the first letter of a sentence or anywhere within the sentence.

Quid Novum? (What’s New?)
How to decide between erratum, errata, datum, and data.

Herewith an erratum on data
And a datum on errata,
And errata on datum,
And data on erratum:

A fact or principle denied by none is a datum.
Go down a list of errors and pick one; it’s an erratum.
Add a datum to a datum;
You have data.
Add erratum to erratum;
You have errata.

Erratum is, and datum is;
Errata are, and data are;
Except that errata is the plural of erratum,
And data is the plural of datum.

But otherwise,
Gals and guys,
Gee whiz—
Don’t say errata is.
I also bar
Saying datum are.

—Willard R. Espy, as seen in the July, 1985, issue of Writer's Digest.

Let’s Use Pronouns Properly.
The Case for Pronouns

He, she, I and we
And add to that list they
Are always subjects of their verbs,
And not the other way.

After a preposition—
like for, between and to
Use him or her, not he or she.
(You’re also safe with it and you.)

Suppose you tell an editor,
“Just between you and I Š ”
You shouldn’t be at all surprised
To hear him say “Good-bye.”

Confusion is more frequent
When objects come in twos.
Just omit the first one; that
Should serve to unconfuse.

“Don’t hit Jim and I”
May to your ear sound right.
But leave out Jim; say “Don’t hit I.”
Now can’t you see the light?

When you try to do to others
As you’d have them do to you,
Do it to them, not they, my friend—
And do it to whom, not who.

Problems with whom and who?
Replace them with him and he
And if you’ve learned to use them right,
Correct each time you’ll be.

To whom is given much,
From him is much required;
If you say he when you should say him,
You deserve it if you’re fired!
—Catharine MacIan, in the Writer's Digest
Think about it, etc., etc.
Daffynition: stray cattle, the roving kine.
—Harold Emery

The window of opportunity won’t open itself.
—Dave Weinbaum

Change is not merely necessary to life. It is life.
—Alvin Toffler

Why is it when we talk to God we’re praying—but when God talks to us, we’re schizophrenic?
—Lily Tomlin

The nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.
—Lucille S. Harper

The trouble with ignorance is that it picks up confidence as it goes along.
—Arnold H. Glasow

Politics is said to come from the Greek prefix, poly, meaning “many”; and ticks, meaning “blood sucking insects”. A pretty good description, wouldn’t you say?

—Charlie Tuna, Los Angeles Disk Jockey [Note: this is not the real etymology of the word, “politics”; however, Tuna does make a point.]

Like the proverbial bolt out of the blue: “Tornadoes may take out whole neighborhoods. Hurricanes may threaten whole states. But lightning, on average, kills more people every year than tornadoes and hurricanes combined.”
In Florida, “Seventy-one people have been hurt so far this year, compared to the usual yearly toll of 30; five have died.”
“Says Bob O’Brien of the National Safety Council: ‘Lightning is going to strike, and you don’t want to be there when it does.’ ”
USA Today, August 10, 1994

   Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in this place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

—Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869-1935)

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