Holiday Goodies from Tamarack Communication

Chanukah begins December 24. Christmas follows on December 25. It’s a time for gifting, and we don’t want to be remiss. So here are a few stocking stuffers and a little gelt to add to your growing pile of presents. We’re not sure we saw everyone’s wish list, but we’re pretty sure these are things everyone desperately wants to know at holiday time.

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Words for Counting and Measuring

Less or fewer? Number or amount?

Do you care if you get this right? I’ll assume you do; if not, we’ll catch you next time.

Do you feel a little queasy saying “We found fewer negative responses than positive responses”? Think it might sound a little funny, so you fall back on “less responses”? Or maybe you’ve always thought that “few” couldn’t possibly have an “-er” at the end.

And how about conveniently using “amount” to describe things that are counted when, in fact, they are to be numbered? Doesn’t “amount” cover just about everything. Uh uh.

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Electoral College

Preserve or Repeal - just say it correctly!

With just few minutes of research you can learn the history of this institution and quickly understand why Democrats want to repeal it and Republicans want to preserve it. What might give you trouble, though, is how to pronounce it. If you, like me, haven't discussed this strange institution of our democracy since eighth grade civics class (because there wasn't a lot about the electoral college to discuss until recently), you might have forgotten the root of the word: "elect." And I think every American has got that word down pat, right? If we can pronounce "elect," we can all pronounce "electoral."

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Wait! He Might be a Good President!

He might! He might!

I’ve gone searching for a word, and instead I found a great candidate for President of the United States! And we’ve still got 24 hours left before we vote. Talk about serendipity!

Do you remember that I asked you in early September whether you thought we “might” have lost the word “might”? It seemed everyone around me was misusing the word “may” to mean possibility or likelihood. Losing a simple, functional word from our language is tantamount to losing a species from our earth. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s really no substitute for it. The fewer words we have at our disposal for clear, correct, finely nuanced communication, the less our communication will be clear, correct and nuanced. Simply, we humans communicate with words. We can’t afford to lose our words any more than we can blissfully lose our teeth or our hair or our children.

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Why the $10 word, folks?

The little one is the better choice.

Everyone should have a friend with whom they can silently roll their eyes, in unison, while politely listening to a speaker who chooses overstuffed words that, one would suppose, are meant to indicate intelligence, sophistication, or such. My friend-in-eye-rolling is Sharon Green, and I’ve got to tell you, Sharon’s got way more English language creds than I do. (That said, I can roll my eyes with the best of them.)

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"Was" or "Were" - It's more than just numbers

It's also mood!

ou may be forgiven if you no longer remember what Sister Mary Madonna said about “subjunctive mood.” Why, I haven’t had a conversation about subjunctive mood for at least 15 years; I’m pretty sure you haven’t either. But you might sometimes wonder whether your verb should be “was” or “were.”  Your first instinct, probably, is to ask whether it’s singular or plural, and that’s smart. (Joe was a baker. His two brothers were bricklayers.) But there’s more to it than that – and it’s a guideline you can learn without using any arcane verbiage.

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