Checking the mail bag

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By Joe Diorio

Champing, chomping … just get on with it already!

A television reporter was talking about how eager restaurant owners in Nashville are to reopen after being closed due to the ongoing pandemic (And it IS still ongoing, people. Don’t get me started.) and said business owners are “chomping at the bit” to get their doors open.

I am a former horse owner (I thought I could make extra money by buying and selling them. Don’t get me started on THAT topic, either.) and believe the correct term is “champing” rather than “chomping.” To champ at something is defined in dictionary.com as to bite on a bit impatiently. A “bit” is the piece of metal inserted into a horse’s mouth, held on either end by the rein.

Was the reporter wrong? Not necessarily. The Urban Dictionary notes that “chomping at the bit” is accepted as a term for impatient and eager, like a child on Christmas morning. Therefore, if we continue to accept that language is always evolving – and we do accept that, ‘K? – then the reporter was on firm grammatical ground.

Effect or affect – haven’t we gone over this before?

During the same newscast, there was an on-screen graphic saying the pandemic was “effecting the meat industry.” Earlier in the week someone on ESPN mentioned that football free agency was effecting the National Football League in ways not seen before.

We have all been down the “effect/affect” road before, but let’s try it again. In the simplest terms, “affect” is a verb and is used to describe change. “Effect” is a noun and is used to describe the result of change.

If the pandemic is creating change to the meat industry, and said change is still in progress, then the pandemic is “affecting” the meat industry. In the same vein, NFL free agency will indeed change teams – some for the better, some for the worse – and therefore free agency is “affecting” the league. We should know by week two or three what the “effect” of said change is. And, please, nobody ask WHEN week two or three will take place, OK?

But English being English, there are exceptions where affect is a noun and effect is a verb. As in, “protestors want to effect change and reopen the country,” or when one wants to express a feeling as in, “the patient had a flat affect during their COVID-19 therapy session.”

And, yes, “affected” can be an adjective, as in, “Dr. Fauci expressed affected abstraction when describing the pandemic.” So I totally understand why there is confusion.

So many of my readers think of me as a walking grammatical encyclopedia. Trust me when I say I am not. I always look this stuff up. Therefore on this subject my counsel is to remember the affect = verb/effect = noun for most uses, and don’t be reluctant to check Google or, preferably, some other reference.

An empty crowd – period

One faithful reader noted a bottom third on network news (the bottom third is the text at the bottom of your television screen) which said there was an “empty crowd” at the Denver Zoo. That line is open for debate. A crowd can be small, thin, overflowing, rambunctious, quiet, unruly, the largest in history period, and on and on. But a crowd, by definition, cannot be empty. It is the venue where the crowd may be – the zoo, an arena, a sports stadium, the National Mall in Washington, D.C. – that can be empty.

Corrections and amplifications

Two clarifications from the May issue of this newsletter.

First, I cited the German term, “kummerspeck,” which translates to excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Turns out “Kummerspeck,” being a German noun, should be initial cap. I remember my fellow classmates at Central High School in Bridgeport, Connecticut telling me German was a tough language to learn. This underscores their sentiment.

And, by the way, I didn’t study Latin in high school, either (three years of Spanish). The word “limen” as I used it in the May issue is indeed spelled with an “e” but “liminal time” should be spelled “liminal” rather than “limenal.” Two Latin teachers caught me on that one. I blame my proofreader, who right now is probably reaching for pins for her Joe Diorio voodoo doll. Ouch!

And an offer

If you have been laid off during the pandemic, then please reach out to me. I will do all I can to leverage my contacts to help you. I also will review your resume and cover letter and offer counsel and advice. For free. We’re in this together, folks. I will not leave anyone behind.

Let’s write carefully out there, people.

Joe Diorio is a writer living in Nashville, Tennessee.

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