Thank you. It’s that simple.

What’s with you fools adding hyphens to “thank you” these days? My tuft is coming undone just thinking about this error and its commonality. I see it on a daily basis, and each time, it makes me shudder like the time I saw my grandma llama after a Christmas shave. I’ll make this one quick because there’s really nothing to it.

Thank you. There. See? No hyphen, nope, none of that “thank-you” business.

Now, if you’re adding a modifier after “you”, then you may add a hyphen.

Example time!

Leviticus sent Laverne a thank-you note along with a picture of his uncle tipsy on Boonesfarm.

I cannot thank you enough for handing me that extra roll of toilet paper under the stall door!

Thank you for wiping that child’s face clean of soot. 

Robellio’s thank-you card showed up two weeks late and splattered with cud. 

Must I explain more? If so, just ask. I don’t mind. So, please, if you want to thank an ewe, just say THANK EWE! (No hyphen needed unless you’ve got a modifying word after ward.)

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“You Know, Dude, I Dabbled in Pacifism Once.” — Walter Sobchak

This lesson goes out to Joshua. Joshua is a good man, but his Microsoft Word is always telling him that he’s too passive. “Joshua,” Microsoft Word says. “Stop pussyfooting around, and say what you mean already!”  To which Joshua responds, “Oh you, P.O.S.! I’m trying!” This situation results in hair loss and explosions time and time again, but what Joshua needs to remember is that he’s not alone.

Microsoft Word hypercorrects passiveness to an extreme, and anyone who uses it understands how pleasant it would feel to break out a Louisville Slugger when Word busts out that annoying little green line.

So, today, I’d like to go over passive voice. To help you understand the difference between passive and active voice, I’d like to call in a couple friends, Passive Mouse and Active Mouse.


Well, Active Mouse, that’s one way to say it.

So, what is passive voice, and why does Microsoft Word have such a freaking cow over it? Let me break it down. Passive voice is when the subject speaks as if they’ve had an action done to them instead of preforming the action themselves.

For instance, when Bobby decided that eating a bobby pin would be a good idea, he could passively say,  “The bobby pin was eaten by me,” or something a little more direct like,”I ate the bobby pin.”

Using passive voice is like not taking responsibility for your subject’s own actions. If Ike Turner were to be slapped around by Tina (You go, Tina! It’s about time!), Ike could passively say, “Tina slapped me square in the nose,” or “I was slapped square in the nose by Tina.” Is this making sense? A lot of the time, you can take your sentences out of passivity by removing the other person or object, and making the sentence about the subject and the subject only.

Another common misconception is that passive voice is incorrect. This is absolutely not true. When your Microsoft Word starts underlining your sentences in green, just give it the middle finger. Microsoft Word was programmed by drunken monkeys, and if its passive-voice recommendations are even correct in the first place, they’re really just telling you to be a little more direct. I’m certain that if grammar check was around in the days of Shakespeare, a trebuchet would have been built to catapult 17th-century projectiles at its ugly face.

Josh is a brilliant engineer, so the sentence he wrote that had Microsoft Word all up in arms was the following: This coupling is designed to absorb up to 400 Nm of vibratory torque.

My suggestion is that he could reword it to say: This coupling’s design absorbs up to 400Nm of vibrational torque. Do you see what I mean about passive voice not always being wrong? It ain’t wrong! It ain’t! But if you catch your writing sounding all feeble like Passive Mouse, dwell for a moment on the action of your words, close your eyes, and try again only this time emerging as Action Mouse. Got it? Good.

Do questions remain? Leave a comment!

All for now,

LL

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How Does the Effect Affect You?

This one goes out to my right-hoof girl, Bessie. Bessie is awesome!
Bessie edits a lot of documents, and any human who edits a lot knows that after a while, the human brain turns to mushy peas. I often start confusing English grammar with Spanish and German grammar after a while, and I have an Oxford education.

Since “affect” and “effect” can be easily thrown into the mushy-pea category, this will be our topic today. And it will affect you greatly!

So, y’all know what a verb is? It’s a person, place, or thing. Just kidding! A verb is an action word. (Hey, the majority of you humans can’t tell shat from Shinola, so I cover all ground throughout my lessons.) The word “affect” is always used as a verb. Remember this!

Here are a couple examples:

Betty was greatly affected as a four year old by watching her grandfather try on dresses.

Sure, the hurricane affected Walter, but it affected Charles most! I heard he lost his lucky set of teeth!

Got it? OK. So, moving on, the word “effect” is utilized as a noun signifying the direct result or consequence of an action. Now, what’s a noun? A noun is a person, place, or a thing. A thing. A thing? Yes, a thing. How we llamas adore the crap public schools teach you!

Here are a couple examples testing out “effect”:

The effect of the stock market crash was most devastating on bankers who were no longer able to afford cufflinks made of children’s teeth.

There’s no telling the effect of spilt uranium until people start growing an extra esophagus or two.

Is this making sense? Let’s try a few comparisons.

Look out! Thomas B. James is on the prowl again! This is going to affect the whole town!

The lack of sunshine has a pretty negative effect on my wildebeest’s general demeanor.

My hamster keeps belting out show tunes in the middle of the night, and it’s really affecting my sleep.

The effect of picking up Bertha and throwing her in the air was devastating on Edmund’s spinal column.

It’s OK to stop and consider if the affect/effect you’d like to use is a noun or a verb. Just like my last who-versus-whom lesson, this is a rule you have to practice over and over. This is all you must know: “Effect” is a noun. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun. “Affect” is a verb. “Effect” is a noun. “Affect” is a verb.

OK? OK!

Once you’ve build up your confidence, your grammatical guile will have a positive effect on everyone. I’d even say that it will even affect everyone positively!

Still confused? I sure hope not, but it happens. Feel free to leave a comment!

All for now,

LL

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Blood Libel. What’s the Bloody Deal?

If there’s one thing Sarah Palin is good at besides taking out elk from her kitchen window, it’s her uncanny ability to stir up the crowd with her choice selection of words.

And here we go again. As a well-informed llama, I find all the hype about Sarah muttering the words blood libel to be, if not another political stunt, just a misunderstanding of etymology. Blood libel. Blooooood libel. Just let those words roll around in your mouth for a second. You want to spit them out, don’t you?

Blood and libel are two words that connote gore and destruction in the English language, and now they have also done the same for my lunch hour when I’ve had to be subjected to the NPR crew getting their BVDs all in a bunch about what Sarah did this time.

So, what is the etymology behind blood libel, and what’s all the fuss about?

Blood libel has been utilized throughout history suggesting that minorities, mainly Jews, murder children for religious customs. This false accusation has resulted in the misunderstanding and persecution of Jews, their customs, and their religious beliefs for years upon years. (Now this is when it just gets absurd.) These blood libels suggest that Jews require the blood of children, especially Christian children, to bake matzos for Passover. And how convenient it was throughout history for people to claim that when their child died mysteriously — probably because the kid had dysentery or ate dirty turnips or something — everyone pointed at the Jews and claimed blood libel?

“Billy disappeared and turned up dead after recess, Mom!”

“Oh, honey! Hide your scapular! Those dirty Jews are out to bake a fresh batch of matzo balls tonight!”

So, moving forward to 2011 when the devastating shooting rampage in Arizona took place just last week, every politician had something to say about it — while pointing their finger at their opposing party, of course. Sarah Palin, in keeping with her dialectal drama, blamed the scene partially on continuos tension and blood libel between republican and democratic parties. Yeah. Uhh. This didn’t fare very will with Jews nor the politically correct. That ol’ Sarah! She probably just thought that blood libel sounded so swift, so edgy.

Llamas are Switzerland; we are entirely neutral claiming partialness to neither side of the political fence. However, from what I know of Sarah Palin, I really, really, really do not believe she understood the heavily rooted etymology, or the consequences, of using such a term. But now you do.

All for now,

LL

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Who and Whom: It’s as Simple as Men!

I often hear many o’ folk attempting to make themselves look fancy by throwing out a whom here and there. If you really want to make a llama laugh, say something like, “Whom put this cruddy rubber cement on my brand new fanny pack?” Rubber cement and fanny packs aside, llamas will be laughing at that incorrect whom plopped in there, most certainly.

Although my good buddy Bryan A. Garner’s prophecy predicts whom growing rapidly archaic, I say something even more archaic to that notion: Nay! If llamas could wear hats, I’d tip mine to a good soul many of fortnights from now for using whom — only if used properly, that is.

I could recite some yawn-worthy rules here about correct who and whom usage, but I’d rather just chatter off a little trick an old professor taught me, Dr. Ruth Seymoure. Allow me to reiterate her wisdom to the best of my South-American camelid ability.

When you’re confused between who and whom, test out the following:

Who = he

Whom = him

(I could use she and hers, but men are so much more simple to understand.)

OK. So, take that he and him and plop it into your who or whom sentence. Huh? What? Watch, I’ll show you.

Who/Whom is sticking gum on Albert’s tail?

Now change that who/whom to he/him, and see which makes sense.

He is sticking gum on Alberts tail? Sure, that makes sense!

Him is sticking gum on Albert’s tail? No, you dope! That doesn’t sound right, now does it?

So, who it is.

Let’s try another! Here’s one you can use on your next phone call to City Hall.

To who/whom should I address my belligerent letter of disapproval?

Now, which would make more sense? You tell me.

To he should I address my belligerent letter of disapproval? That’s a bit odd-sounding, isn’t it?

To him should I address my belligerent letter of disapproval? Much better.

Him wins it, so whom it is.

Get it? The more you practice this quick little trick, the more you’ll feel like you’re learning English as a second language instead of a sixth. Got it? Good.

 

All for now,

LL

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“His thing fell off.” — Grandma

My llama grandmama is 97 years old. She’s of the Polish stock and a total riot. She loves to eat gizzards and potatoes, and she adores dirty romance novels, chips, watching the news really loud, and gossip. She also enjoys to use the word “thing” randomly between sentences. What I’m about to teach you may be the most important grammar rule that you’ll never find in any usage guides under the shining sun.

Be careful when using the word “thing”.

Grandma likes to reiterate the news and other random tidbits she’s heard in the following manner:

If a man’s house caught on fire, she’ll say, “His thing caught on fire.”

If a man lost something of value, she’ll say, “Did you hear about the man who lost his thing?”

If a man ran over his garbage can, she’ll say, “That man was backing down his driveway and ran over his thing!”

This has caused a lot of snickers in my family, and no one ever attempts to correct her — and could she even be changed at the age of 97?

So, kids, be careful how you use the word “thing”. According to the Oxford Dictionary, there are four definitions that explain the denotation of “thing”.

1 an object that one need not , cannot, or does not wish to give a specific name to

2 an inanimate material object as distinct from a living sentient being

3 an action, activity, event, thought, or utterance

4 (the thing) informal what is needed or required

In conclusion, the llama believes that it’s safe to use “thing” when you are speaking hastily and cannot unearth a semi-intelligent description to describe whatever it is that you’re blabbering about. There really isn’t much of a rule here; however, if you choose to use “thing” within the confines of your limited vocabulary, be careful not to make it sound like you are talking about a ding dong. I guess that is the rule. Allow me to repeat it.

If you choose to use the word “thing”, be careful not to make it sound like you are talking about a ding dong.

If you don’t know what a ding dong is, ask Buck Bumbly or your mom. And if you continue walking around asking, “Has anyone seen my thing?”, may the great Lord help you.

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But What If I Want to Begin with a But?

I feel a bit sorry for the brave souls who get real good and sloshed one day and decide it’s a good idea to write a grammar guide. I really do. I don’t know how they put up with all the sassy letters from college kids and business men who just got a good grasp of what an auxiliary verb is and are convinced the author used one improperly once throughout his or her 6,000+ page text. Cheers to you, brave ones.

So, that being said, allow me to discuss a common conundrum the English language beholds: beginning sentences with adversative conjunctions. As always, it is best described by my good buddy, Bryan A. Garner. (Note: Bryan and I are not affiliated with one another in any way, although I’m sure he would think me handsome if we had the chance to meet for tea in a trough.) You might be wondering, “Well, shucks, whut da huh is an adversative conjunction?” I’ll make them bold in the following examples for a little clarity.

The little Italian babies are cute dressed up for Christmas, but man, they sure do bite.

Margie’s ham hocks needed a little something; however, we still ate them.

Yanni says he used Lysol, yet it still smells like throw up in his room.

Got it? They’re conjunctions used in the middle of a sentence after a comma or semicolon. They look pretty sitting in the middle of sentences, don’t they? But (note that I just started a sentence with “but”) what happens when you need, absolutely need, to place one at the beginning of a sentence? My llama mama tells me stories of how nuns used to spank kids on the fanny with flaming yardsticks if they ever even thought of pulling such a stunt. Thank God this trend is now more socially accepted by linguists, llamas, and nuns alike.

As Mr. Garner states (and I recommend reading the following sentence in a British accent with a steaming cup of Earl Grey swirling under your beard), “It is a gross canard that beginning a sentence with but is stylistically slipshod. In fact, doing so is highly desirable in any number of contexts, as many stylebooks have said…”

You’re probably wondering, “What the huh does canard mean?” I admit, I had to look it up myself. It’s an unfounded rumor or story.

I could go on and on with this topic, as I always can about any old thing, but allow me to summarize while the confusion is hot: If you can throw a conjunction into the middle of a sentence, do it. If you simply cannot, if your phrase cannot be solidified without starting a sentence with a conjunction, do it. Don’t make a filthy habit out of it, but gingerly dashing a few buts and howevers and neverthelesses and yets at the front of a sentence never hurt anyone…except those poor Catholic-school children.

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