Monthly Archives: February 2014

Putting February to bed

“April is the cruelest month,” wrote the esteemed poet, T.S. Eliot, but I, a mere mortal, must take issue with his conclusion. Given the winter we’ve endured here in Toronto, I would submit that February has earned the title of the cruelest month, because it has teased us with a bit of warmer weather before bringing Jack Frost back to taunt us.

Good grief, it has been cold this winter! There have been days when even the squirrels who play in the yard next door have been rarely visible, and who can blame them? The weather has made me long for a fur coat of my own — although mink would be much preferable to a squirrel’s pelt.

Here are seven reasons I’ll be happy to see February 2014 in the rear-view mirror:

  1. Ice and more ice:  As if the Christmas ice storm of 2013 weren’t insult enough, the sidewalks have been caked with the slippery stuff. Two falls so far, with only my pride and my backside hurt.
  2. Groundhog Day: ImageAs usual, Punxsutawney Phil, Wiarton Willie, Shubenacadie Sam and their marmot counterparts offered us grim news: six more weeks of winter. If it’s only six, I’ll be grateful!
  3. More bulk: My toes is froze – and they aren’t the only parts! Layering has become a daily ritual; the only question is “How many layers today”?
  4. Vacation envy: Jealousy isn’t an admirable emotion — see The 10 Commandments — but, wow, have I felt it in spades! Seeing smiling people with tans on commercials sets me to weeping, and I have declared a moratorium on viewing Caribbean vacation photos.
  5. Slow going: The poor weather has made driving more perilous. Woe be to those of us who need to use our cars! I truly pity the daily commuters.
  6. Valentine’s Day: Alas, I wasn’t the lucky recipient of any cheerful flowers or yummy chocolates this year. Great for my weight, not so good for my ego.Image
  7. Bye, bye Lady Mary: Downton Abbey, my favourite BBC series, ended its season last weekend. How could the folks in TV-land abandon me during this grey time of year? Don’t they know I count on them for a weekly dose of joy?

I probably could go on and on, but then I’d be too blue to finish my homework or meet my clients’ deadlines. So I’ll leave you with one positive February thought: 2014 isn’t a leap year!

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Wither the weather?*

(*With thanks to my trusty Canadian Oxford English Dictionary)

Snow blanketed the streets of Toronto earlier this week, which engaged more people in the popular Canadian sport of complaining about the weather.

Since I do most of my travelling by subway, rather than car, I was unperturbed by the white stuff, but all the talk of weather turned my mind toward homonyms: those words that sound alike or are spelled alike, but have different meanings. Like weather and whether, for example.

Homonyms can be tricky, and many a user stumbles when typing them into an email or writing them onto the page. Unfortunately, there’s no easy remedy, except to be aware of them and check the dictionary when you suspect you may be using the wrong word.

Frustrating, but true –and the English language is full of them! For anyone who is not a native English speaker, it can be even trickier.

If you’re uncertain that you’ve caught all of your possible errors or you know that homonyms are your weakness, ask a friend or a colleague to read through your document to avoid embarrassment.

Although it would take pages to explore them all, let’s look at a sampling of the homonym traps that await the unsuspecting writer:

  1. Weather and Whether: The first is a noun that refers to the state of the atmosphere; the second is a conjunction – or a bridge word – that expresses doubt or choice between alternatives.
  2. It’s and Its: This is a pet peeve of many an editor. It’s is a contraction that means It is; its is a possessive adjective meaning belonging to it, whatever the “it” may be.
  3. Wear and Where: Wear is a verb that means to be dressed in; where is an interrogative adverb that means “to what place”?
  4. Read and Reed: The former is a verb meaning “to look at and understand the meaning of written or printed words,” while the latter is a noun referring to a water or marsh plant.
  5.  Till and Till: As a verb, till means “to prepare the soil for planting,” while as a conjunction, till is a form of until, meaning “up to the time when,” as in Till the cows come home.

Is your head spinning? Are your eyes rolling? It’s (not its) no surprise – and it’s enough to make anyone wish they had paid more attention in elementary school English class!

But, soldier on. Mistakes are often the best way to learn.

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