Karen’s Conundrum – The Apostrophe Catastrophe – REVISITED

The Obsessive Possessive – Part One


“Jesus loves me, this I know …” and because of that, I know all will be forgiven when I revisit “The Obsessive Possessive – Part One” to discuss possessive Jesus, and the Joneses and their possessiveness. Let’s start with Jesus—and then we’ll clear up my Jones faux pas.

If we were to follow the revised CMoS rule (as I cited in my original post)—

 7.16 Possessive of proper nouns, letters, and numbers. “The general rule extends to proper nouns, including names ending in s, x, or z, in both their singular and plural forms, as well as letters and numbers.”

—then possessive Jesus would follow the same form as possessive Jones, and we’d all have Jesus’s blessings as we dove to great depths to find Davy Jones’s locker .

Or so you would be led to believe …

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Karen’s Conundrum – That Highfalutin Hyphen

At a recent CWG critique session, one of the members asked me about hyphenation and if there were any pearls of wisdom I could impart about identifying when phrasal adjectives are hyphenated, and when they are one or two words. At first blush I thought this was a moderately simple question. I answered the query with a promise of a well-detailed, low-maintenance, all-inclusive blog post dedicated to the seemingly innocent, childlike hyphen.

With that bald assertion made, I hightailed it to my office, ready to attack this self-imposed project with quasi ease. And that’s when the truth hit me—bull’s-eye—

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Karen’s Conundrum – The Apostrophe Catastrophe

The Apostrophe Catastrophe

Such a deceiving little character the apostrophe is. It’s light and floats above the line. It flits between letters allowing us to add dialect to our dialogue, condense words, and show possession. At first blush, it looks like a harmless, helpful elf that wins our trust with a wink. And then, just like a light breeze in cahoots with puffy white clouds can turn a beautiful afternoon into a severe weather event, that innocent-appearing mark of punctuation has the uncanny ability to wreak havoc in the mind of the writer, causing the flow of words to come to a screeching halt, and for one to suffer an acute case of monkey brain.

I have been jonesing to attack the rules of the apostrophe and today I begin that challenge. I invite you to accompany me on this journey, but I must warn you, the odds of us sinking to the depths of Davy Jones’s locker are extremely high. In fact, it’s pretty much a sure bet. If you’re still game, let’s dive into the deep, apostrophe-infested waters and tackle …

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Karen’s Conundrum – Stalled on the Road to Homonymy

After thirty-nine consecutive days of editing countless pages of legal nonsense, gobbledygook, gibberish, galimatias; listening to pompous attorneys and egomaniacal experts spout meaningless ipse dixitisms, as soon as I resumed my journey on the Road to Homonymy, I ran out of gas. As I felt myself begin to buck and sputter, I shook my head and muttered, “What a pain in my butt.” I was certain that there wasn’t a thing anyone could do or say that could turn my frown around, that could make me chortle. Completely certain … until I received this timely note:

“Is it butt naked or buck naked? These are the kinds of questions I come to you for.”

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Karen’s Conundrum – On the Road to Homonymy

I set forth this week to gather facts and tidbits about the world of homonyms, homophones, and homographs to share with you. Before finding the homonymic state I sought, two words I uttered to a friend ended up sending me on a detour down a path I traveled only a few weeks ago. So, while I promise you that we will get back on the Road to Homonymy (although it will take another post to complete that journey), first pull up a seat, allow me to pour you a cup of coffee, and feel free to smirk as I tell you about my latest conundrum: The Coffee Clutch.

“Coffee is a way of stealing time that should by rights belong to your older self.”

~Terry Pratchett, Thud!

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Karen’s Conundrum – Quotation Marks and Parentheses: The Copious Incurvatures

Recently a request was made for me to address the conundrum of the copious incurvatures—quotation marks and parentheses—and their circuitous relationship with various punctuation marks.
I welcomed the challenge with open arms. And as I attempted to wrap my brain around the task at hand, I flipped the pages of my Chicago Manual of Style (CMoS) to Chapter 6, and dove in. In an effort to make the cited rules more embraceable, I have incorporated in my examples quotes (some verbatim, some paraphrased) of George Carlin.
(Disclaimer: All italicized examples contain George Carlin’s words, in one form or another.)

Now, here we go.

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Karen’s Conundrum – The Idiomatic Idiom and the Coquettish Colloquialism

The Idiomatic Idiom and the Coquettish Colloquialism

This past month I have had my serving platter-sized plate heaped with close to two thousand pages of trial and deposition testimony. One of the many challenging, yet fun, aspects of my job as a scopist (one who proofreads/edits transcripts for court reporters), is working with the spoken word. Witnesses, whether they are experts or laypeople—and let’s not leave out the attorneys—often speak in a conversational style and will quickly start using idioms and colloquialisms in ways that can make one want to pull their hair out. Karen's Conundrum Logo Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – The Idiomatic Idiom and the Coquettish Colloquialism”

Karen’s Conundrum – It’s ALL about …

KarenConSMAre you all ready for an altogether new edition of Karen’s Conundrum? It’s probably already apparent where I’m going to be taking this, but allow me to put it all together in this post that all told will hopefully cure my all-consuming obsession with a few commonly misused words, one of which has proven to be an all-round troublemaker.

So, are you all in? All right then, let’s get this party started with an all-time favorite …

All together versus altogether

The two-word phrase “all together” simply means collectively.

We can drown out the voices in our heads if we shout all together.

“Altogether” is an adverb meaning entirely, completely, all told.

Seeking psychiatric help for the voices in our heads is a different thing altogether. Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – It’s ALL about …”

Karen’s Conundrum – The Illusively Elusive Ellipsis

“One fine winter’s day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in front of his house, he happened to look up, and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called to him, he just went on walking.

‘Hallo!’ said Piglet, ‘what are you doing?’

‘Hunting,’ said Pooh.

‘Hunting what?’

‘Tracking something,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.

‘Tracking what?’ said Piglet, coming closer.

‘That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?’        

‘What do you think you’ll answer?’

‘I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,’ said Winnie-the-Pooh.”

~A.A. Milne – Winnie-the-Pooh

As I was walking round and round in a circle in my office, thinking about which of the many conundrums that fill my head I was going to share with you in this post, it struck me that there was no time like the present to address the proper usage and appearance of the almighty ellipsis. Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – The Illusively Elusive Ellipsis”

Karen’s Conundrum – OK or okay

“Curiouser and curiouser!” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Welcome to the debut of CWG’s blog, Karen’s Conundrum. Often it’s interesting to trace an event, an idea, or a word back to its origin. I thought it only fitting to start this inaugural post with a brief recounting of this blog’s genesis.

KarenConSMNot long ago at one of our Saturday critique meetings, when there was a rare window of time available between critiques, I seized the opportunity to put a question out on the floor to my fellow members pertaining to the word “OK/okay.” As a copyeditor, I am constantly plagued by pesky, annoying imponderables, and that particular day OK/okay was my conundrum du jour. My question was simple: Which word/spelling is correct? OK or okay? I was pleasantly surprised at the lengthy, insightful, and humorous discourse that ensued. But in the end, it was agreed that no answer was conclusive. Continue reading “Karen’s Conundrum – OK or okay”