Queue the violin music and other misused pears

mistakes with homonyms--fun with homonyms
fun with homonyms

Mismatched pear of shoes?

I subscribe to several email newsletters. A couple of them are valuable for more than the information they convey.

Their authors have a delightfully hard time choosing the right word from a pair or more of homonyms.

One of these authors admitted to being stressed by something and apparently figured most of his readership wouldn’t be especially sympathetic. So he added, “queue the violin music.”

“Queue” is a much more common word in British English than American English. It means a line of people waiting, say, to buy a concert ticket. As a classical music lover, it saddens me that the queue for violin music is always so much shorter than for rock music.

But somehow I don’t think that’s what the writer meant. Continue reading

Academic libraries and how they differ from public libraries

academic library exterior
academic library exterior

Walter Science and Technology Library, one of 14 in the University of Minnesota Libraries

In a sense, a library is a library. Public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries, and special libraries exist to connect people with the information they need.

Once upon a time, that information was all printed, except for libraries that owned manuscript collections.

The explosion of new formats—sound recordings, film and video recordings, and all manner of electronic media—has affected every kind of library.

Still, there are important differences between public and academic libraries. The following two lists by no means adequately describe either public or academic libraries, but they serve to show the contrast. Continue reading

Scam alerts: government websites you should know about

online fraud
online fraud

Online fraud

Most people work for a living at an honest job, or at least want to. As for the rest, the number of ways they invent to steal from the rest of us is truly breathtaking.

In this installment of my running series of government websites you should know about, I have chosen not to examine a specific site. Instead, I went to http://www.usa.gov and typed “scam” in the search box.

It is a page of links, and if you’re reading this close to the time of publication, here’s the latest from the blog at USA.gov: Top 5 summer scams and how you can avoid them.  I’m fascinated to see that airline baggage charges are no. 5 on the list. Right up there with phony fuel additives or unlicensed contractors going door to door. Continue reading

Brother, can you spare a digm?

Spelling is hard. have we stopped reading

Spelling is hardOh come on. You know what a digm is. You probably have at least one in your pocket. It’s worth ten cents. It’s time for a paradime shift!

Here are some sentences full of rhyming words that decided to trade endings. How quickly can you read them?

  • Did Herman really bict his neighbor’s ear? A jury mite indight him.
  • She was aglough that her boe had lots of deau, but full of wow when she saw he was sough shalloe. Continue reading

Libraries: a shelter in a storm?

storm damage
storm damage

Ruined building, Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013

With the recent observance of the anniversary of a devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma, I wondered if libraries provide storm shelters. I found both less and more than I expected.

My local newspaper had a story not long ago that the central library in Winston-Salem had a fallout shelter, one of four dozen downtown. Nobody thinks much about fallout shelters any more, but in the 1960s they seemed an important part of public safety.

Public libraries have always been community centers. They have always used their buildings in many ways that have no connection to the most obvious kinds of library services. Of course the library had a fallout shelter. Many others probably did, too. Continue reading