Monthly Archives: August 2008

Grammar Vandals

Correcting the grammar on public signs can land in you in court. That’s right. Two young men from Massachusetts found out the hard way that the grammar police may be unwanted in many areas of the country.

[Jeff] Deck and [Benjamin] Herson, both 28, toured the United States this spring, wiping out errors on government and private signs. They were interviewed by NPR and the Chicago Tribune, which called them “a pair of Kerouacs armed with Sharpies and erasers and righteous indignation.” Continue reading

Why Cats and Dogs?

Students often ask me, as I have previously stated in another post, the origins of words and phrases because I love reading about the stories behind them. One popular question I get is “why do people say it’s raining cats and dogs?” (just like in the picture to the right).

There is no definitive answer for it, though there are a number of theories (including a few here and here). However as I have read in more than one place, the most plausible origin for the phrase is that English streets were filthy; repugnant is probable a better word to describe the offal, refuse, and putrid debris carried along the streets after heavy rains. People would not have been surprised to see the carcasses of animals float by them. In fact, Jonathan Swift described such a disgusting picture in a poem (check out the last two lines).

The poem and/or the common sights of death floating along the streets may have given rise to the saying. Or perhaps there is another explanation that you may know?

No Striking!

Teachers in a few of Washington State’s school districts have hinted at strikes to start the year (see here and here and here). To me, this is a bad idea on a couple fronts.

Firstly, one editorial writer notes that:

Facing a nearly $3 billion deficit, the Legislature isn’t likely to be more generous. In other industries [in Washington State], pay raises have been replaced by layoffs, weakening any sympathy teachers might otherwise engender. Continue reading