Get Word Wise: Ongoing

In May 2015, Alma started a small series of animations that demonstrate common problems with words in the English language. She created an instagram account, @getwordwise, specifically for these animations.

In English, there are a few affirmative words that sound close to one another. Do you know when to use which word? YAY (rhymes with hay) is an exclamation of triumph or excitement. YEA (also rhymes with hay) is an older word meaning “more than this” or “not only so, but” (for example, “He was frail, yea, he was nigh unto death”). In modern times, this word is the opposite of “nay” so for example you would count the “yea” votes and count the “nay” votes. NOTE: Unless you are talking about votes, chances are you will never use this word yourself. YEAH (rhymes with nothing, but listen in the video!) is a nonstandard spelling of “yes” and is used informally. YA (also rhymes with nothing) can be an informal short form of “you,” as in “see ya later!” (Music credit Kevin MacLeod; voice credit the Loveland family.)

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Oh my goodness, you guys LITERALLY blew me away today!! Thank you so much for everyone who has followed today and thanks so much for tagging and sharing with your friends. It is a real thrill to see you joining and to see your comments to one another. As a thank you, tonight I'm sneaking in one of my favorite problems, and one that I catch myself saying as well. LITERALLY! If you think you know what I'm about to say, well then it's my turn to literally blow YOU away! The traditional meaning of literally according to Merriam-Webster is "in a literal sense or manner; actually." So for me to say, "You have literally blown me away" . . . well, watch the video!! Literally means you actually blew me away. Figuratively, "blew me away" would mean "impressed me" or "made me incredibly happy." Now here comes the big HOWEVER: Many people use literally when they mean the opposite of literally. And guess what. Our beloved English language has evolved to accept this opposite definition, too! Merriam-Webster lists a second definition of literally as, "in effect, virtually." A few other dictionaries in addition to M-W have officially recognized this formerly incorrect usage of literally. Are your heads literally exploding right now?! You get a free pass on this word! Whether you use it in the traditional sense or you use it in the new sense (as hyperbole to add emphasis), you are correct! Consider that my heartfelt thank you gift tonight for joining me here!

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As a big WELCOME to new followers and as a THANK YOU for tuning in here, I thought I'd finally tackle my most-requested confused word pair tonight: AFFECT/EFFECT. And as a little get to know you, I thought I'd share a real life story from 2 weeks ago. I dropped my phone in the water while kayaking (okay, truthfully I fell into the river while kayaking and my phone was in my life jacket in a ziplock bag, which is NOT a reliable waterproofing accessory, FYI). I wasn't too worried about my phone because I figured a bag of rice would save it no problem, but two days later I took the phone out of the bag, and it was dead. Permanently. Good news is, this is an excellent example for affect/effect! While affect/effect can be used a few different ways, MOST OF THE TIME, affect is a verb and effect is a noun. So in this case, "Water affects iPhones." Affect is a verb that means "to produce a change." If you can substitute the word "alter" then you know it's "affect." Effect is a noun meaning "something that is produced." In our case, "The effect may be permanent." A great way to remember this is suggested by @thegrammargirl (Google almost any English language problem, and she probably has written about it or discussed it on her podcast). She says that if you can put "the" in front of the word, then it is "effect," so think of the repeated "ee" sound: "theeeee eeeeeeffect." That's the basic rule that will get you through the majority of your issues with affect/effect. I will also show other meanings in another animation, but I don't want those animations to cause further confusion. MOST of the time, affect is a verb and effect is a noun.

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Here's another set of commonly confused words: principal and principle. Let's start with principle, which has ONLY ONE DEFINITION. Principle means a fundamental truth, concept, or idea. PrinciPAL has multiple definitions. This animation shows the nouns. A principal is the person with highest authority in an organization. We most commonly refer to principals of schools. A principal also means a sum of money that is invested upon which interest is paid. As an adjective (not shown in this animation) principal means first in order of importance ("the principal reason for my early departure was…"). Principal as an adjective can also refer to an original sum of money invested ("the principal amount that was invested"). Sending a big THANK YOU to teachers and principals everywhere who are working hard to make a difference!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

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Today I wanted to address something that I heard all of the time when people knew me as an editor rather than a designer, and that I’m starting to hear again now that I have started this series. People have often told me that they read their emails/comments to me several times before sending and are paranoid of making a mistake. In this account, I want to create a safe place where people feel comfortable saying, “Wow! I didn’t know that!” And I want to foster a safe place where people can make a comment without feeling afraid to hit the SEND button. While I am an editor, I am not a judger. It's my JOB to get things right, and I don't expect the same level of expertise among the general population. (If that were so, the job of editor would not exist.) My hope for this account is that we can all have fun with language and learn a few things without being made to feel inferior or stupid. (And, for anyone who HAS felt stupid for getting something “wrong” with language, just wait until I post about the evolution of the English language, and you’ll see that you’re not wrong anyway, you’re just part of the natural evolution!) And not to forget the animation above, I would like to point out, “to err” is a verb meaning to make a mistake, and “error” is a noun meaning a mistake.

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Welcome all new followers and THANK YOU! It was a little nerve wracking starting a whole new account from scratch and wondering if anyone would join me over here . I have loved seeing all of your comments, and love seeing you tag your friends and family who are word nerds like me! But enough about that! Today’s #getwordwise lesson addresses a common overcorrection I hear. As children it is drilled into our heads, “My friends and I! My friends and I!” But, my friends, sometimes “my friends and ME” is correct! The technical explanation is that when you are a subject (doing the action) then you use “My friends and I.” When you are an object or receiving an action, you use “My friends and me.” My example here is “My family and I were driving very fast” (doing the action!) and “The police caught my family and me” (receiving the action). An easy rule of thumb if you are unsure is to remove the other people from your sentence. So if you would say “I was driving” then you would say “My family and I were driving.” If you would say, “The police caught ME,” then you would say, “The police caught my family and me.”

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Today I’m delighted to have another #getwordwise to share! Several people have requested to/two/too, so here you go: The TWO flowers were TOO big TO carry! TWO = number, TOO = in addition or very, TO= a preposition with many many uses. This is an elementary level lesson but we can all use a good reminder. ***************************As I was thinking about what subject to animate here, my friend @houselarsbuilt and her incredible gigantic paper flower crafts came to mind. Funny story about Brittany. A couple years ago, a friend’s sister asked if I could reach out to a creative woman who was moving to Utah Valley and would want to connect with other creative people. So I wrote a big, nice let-me-take-you-under-my-wing kind of email to Brittany Watson Jepsen. After hitting send, I thought, “Wait, that name sounds familiar,” and I googled her and realized 1⃣ I totally knew her work and 2⃣ she’s kind of a Big Deal . Happy to report, I was one of the first people she met in Utah and I now count her as a dear friend. Anyway, I wanted to capture a bit of her whimsy and personality here. If you’re not already following her, I highly recommend her excellent blog and Instagram!! (Song credit = Grassy Grass Grass by Elizabeth Mitchell)

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Here’s a #getwordwise that many have requested, and with good reason! Lay/lie are particularly challenging in English! In present tense, you LIE down yourself but you LAY down an object. So “I lie down” and “I lay THE BOOK down.” But in past tense, lie becomes “lay,” which is confusing! So “Yesterday I LAY down.” The past tense of “to lay” is “laid,” so “Yesterday I LAID the book down.” The GOOD NEWS IS, people mess this up so often that using these words incorrectly sounds totally normal, so no one is judging you for getting this one wrong. Well maybe one uptight person is judging you but he’s a jerk. (In the song I used, Paul Simon sings “I will lay me down,” but basically he is his own object here. Same with “Now I lay me down to sleep.” Thought I’d throw that in here, just in case this wasn’t confusing enough.)

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“Complimentary” means 1⃣ FREE or 2⃣ ADMIRING. “Complementary” means matching/coordinating. #getwordwise

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Today’s lesson is “UNthaw”! To thaw means to melt or defrost. To UNthaw means… to unmelt? To undefrost? Although everyone knows what is meant by “unthaw,” standard English is simply “thaw.” ❄️❄️ Okay, so now time to talk about what I’m doing with this series. My hope is that this series of lessons is fun, playful, and informative. I am not trying to make people feel stupid. In fact, in this series I’m planning on focusing on things that MANY or MOST people don’t already know. For example, I would guess that MOST people don’t know statione/ary are 2 different words. I would bet that MANY people say “unthaw” without a second thought. So if I post something and you think, I didn’t know! Then no worries! You’re likely in the majority. And those who DO know are more likely to comment and say, “Yes that bugs me too!” Also you should know that as far as English language is concerned, I tend to be a descriptivist as opposed to a prescriptivist, meaning I recognize that language is constantly changing and evolving and I don’t think that we need to FREEZE the English language where it is. That means maybe “unthaw” WILL one day be considered standard English. If you are remotely interested in more conversation on this subject I recommend googling “arrant pedantry 12 mistakes” and you’ll find a viral blog post written by a friend. It’s a good read. As far as we are concerned here on Instagram, let’s have some fun but also keep the comments positive so that people who make mistakes (all of us) aren’t made to feel inferior. #getwordwise

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