Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Incentivize vs. Incentives

If you're the president of the United States, you can get away with using "incentivize."

Speaking about Medicare earlier this week, President Obama said:
So what we’ve said is let’s incentivize providers to do a more efficient job and, over time, we can start reducing those costs.
Yes, incentivize is in the dictionary: to provide with an incentive. Why not just say that, rather than use this ungainly business babble?

How about giving incentives to providers? Or encouraging providers?

I agree with Bryan Garner's description of incentivize as a barbarism. "There is no good incentive to use" the word, he says.

Even if you're the president of the United States.

"Incentivize" T-shirt available at

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Rice Paddy Redundant

You know those annoying guys that know everything about everything? Well, I'm not one of them.

But perhaps even more annoying, I know a little something about a lot of things. It's the nature of my profession: to soak up random facts and tidbits of information. So when a topic comes up in conversation, I can usually–and often do–throw in a factoid. One of my friends actually finds it amusing, not annoying. Go figure.

A recent example: rice paddy. We've all heard the term. But did you know that it's etymologically redundant?

Paddy comes from the Malay word padi, meaning rice. So technically, "rice paddy" means "rice rice."

Rice field or paddy field are preferred where I work. But sometimes we let it stand if it adds "flavor" to a story.

That's your factoid for today.

"Go tend my rice paddy" T-shirt available at

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Best Grammar Blog nomination

Here's a blatant plug. This blog has been nominated for Best Grammar Blog of 2011 by If you're feeling generous, click on the badge to vote. Thanks.

Update: Thanks for all your support! I'm officially nominated. Voting is taking place until October 17. Click here to enter your vote.

The Best Grammar Blog of 2011 nomiee

Thursday, September 15, 2011


You probably know by now that I love words. They inspire me every day, and my livelihood depends on them.

When I decided to adopt my first dog 13 years ago, I had already thought long and hard about what word to name him. He would be called Argos.

In Homer's Odyssey–my all-time favorite book–the loyal and faithful dog Argos is the only one to recognize King Odysseus when he finally returns to his homeland after 20 years. Odysseus had raised Argos as a puppy. During Odysseus's absence, Argos had been neglected, but he remained loyal to his master to the end.

Thirteen years ago I adopted a smart and adorable Labrador retriever puppy and named him Argos. What I didn't know then but learned over time was just how apt his name was. Modern-day Argos was as loyal, faithful, and noble as his ancient namesake. He was my companion and best friend, and I can honestly say that I am a better person today for having had him in my life.

Sadly, my Argos died suddenly last week. Fortunately, he died peacefully in his bed at home and didn't suffer.

For once, words fail me in expressing my sadness over Argos's passing. But his name and memories live on.