Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fighting Cancer, Anyone?

I'm proud to say that on Thursday, I'll join tennis great Pam Shriver as emcee at this year's breast cancer fundraiser at the Acura Classic Tennis Tournament.

Unlike a lot of charities, particularly fundraisers for breast cancer, every single cent raised goes directly to breast cancer screening and care. Proceeds benefit the Scripps Polster Breast Care Center here in San Diego. And although tickets are running out fast, there's still time to buy a table at this event for a most worthy cause.

The Acura Classic, by the way, has come a long, long way in its 24 years. But this is its last hurrah, so if you ever wanted to check out this premier sporting event in Southern California, this is the week to do it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sneak Preview of "Anyone & Everyone"

I'll be moderating a panel discussion at KPBS on Thursday night after the sneak preview of the new film, "Anyone & Everyone." It's a documentary by bestselling author Susan Polis Schutz. See it before the rest of the nation does. Deets here.

UPDATE: The response to this invitation has been overwhelming! The event's free, but the reserved seating in the KPBS studio for this screening is almost gone. (And it's a big studio, too!) So if you want to make sure you get a seat at this event Thursday evening at 6:30, call 619-594-3119 right away. Tell 'em Martha sentcha!


Monday, July 23, 2007

Comma Cropper

See? I'm not the only one upset about commas. Newsweek's Robert J. Samuelson is, too. He doesn't seem to share my angst specifically about the serial comma, mind you. But still, in this week's column, "The Sad Fate of the Comma," he observes:
Commas are disparaged as literary clutter. They're axed in the name of stylistic "simplicity." Once, introductory prepositional phrases ("In 1776, Thomas Jefferson ... ") routinely took commas; once, compound sentences were strictly divided by commas; once, sentences that began with "once," "naturally," "surprisingly," "inevitably" and the like usually took a comma to set them apart.

No more. These and other usages have slowly become discretionary or unacceptable. Over the years, copy editors have stripped thousands of defenseless commas from my stories. I have saved every last one of them and piled them all on a secluded corner of my desk. They deserve better than they're getting. So here are some of my discarded commas, taking a long-overdue bow: ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.

I'm not quitting quietly. By my count, this column contains 104 commas. Note to copy desk: leave them be.

Right on, Robert. Read the whole thing here.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

You Can't Judge a Book By Its . . .

Now, don't get me wrong. I LOVE my readers. But don't ever let me even think of doing this, okay?

Making Sense of "Like"

Patricia T. O'Conner writes in today's New York Times column about the bane of so many sticklers' existence -- the word "like" -- and makes a lot of sense.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Name that Kid!

Geez, maybe Grant and I should get into the baby-naming biz. After all, he and Sarah did a fine job naming little Guthrie. Well, here's a long article in the Wall Street Journal about the growing business of baby-name consultants.

Or maybe we should have a section on "A Way with Words" where prospective parents call in with their prospective progeny's proposed monikers, and you tell us (and them) what you think. How does that sound?

One thing's for sure: Before parents get too attached to a name, it pays to google. As the article points out:

When Julie Tiedens, 34, a high school teacher who lives near Eau Claire, Wis., typed her favorite name for a girl, Zoe Rose, into the search engine, she was forced to go back to the drawing board. The name was already taken -- by a British porn star. "It was on the first page that came up," she says.


Today's Term: "Weird Life"

Really interesting article in Saturday's New York Times about stepping up the search for "weird life." That's what scientists call organisms that lack DNA or other familiar molecules -- maybe even carbon or water. The writer of the article, Carl Zimmer, keeps a cool blog here.

Friday, July 06, 2007

GB + MB on BBC

Grant and I had a great time last night on the BBC program "Up All Night." We spent an hour talking with the host, Dotun Adebayo, and author/broadcaster/indefatigable polymath Graeme Donald, about the differences between American and British English.

They don't archive their shows online for more than a week, but for now you can hear all the good-natured sparring here about our respective Englishes here.

UPDATE: Grant has been kind enough to post it as a much-easier-to-reach MP3 here, so hooray.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Palindromes Galore!

Welcome, podcast listeners! Here, as promised, in my most recent summer podcast of "A Way with Words," is a link to the lyrics of the Weird Al Yankovic palindrome song.

You can also download Yankovic's song from iTunes. While you're there, I'd appreciate it if you'd take an extra moment to go to the podcast section to vote for "A Way with Words" by scribbling a quick (and of course, enthusiastic) review of our show. Just a line or two is plenty. That lets The Powers That Be know that you appreciate witty, well-informed conversation about language and want us to keep it coming! And it helps spread the word about our show. If you do write a review, please drop me a line so I can send you a personal note of thanks.

One more thing: Check out this extremely cool palindrome in Latin.

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Word Lovers' Summer Reads

The good folks at Thinkmap, creators of the popular online tool, Visual Thesaurus, (and proud sponsors of "A Way with Words") are offering a whole beachbag-full of great summer reads for word lovers. You'll find recommendations from me, including books by David Sacks and Kristin Espinasse, as well as from logolepts Erin McKean and Nancy Pearl, the latter of whom is the only librarian I know who has her own action figure. Press the button and she shushes!

You'll have to subscribe to Visual Thesaurus to get beyond the first page, but you can get a refundable 14-day subscription for as little as $2.95. Such a bargain!

Monday, July 02, 2007

At Your Service!

Just back from London, where I met with radio colleagues from that side of the pond, then headed out to Wimbledon to watch some tennis. Here I am at Centre Court.

Heard many comments about how very weird the place is without the roof, which I'm told made the place feel much more intimate. "Now it feels like any other stadium in America" was a common refrain. I happened to be there the day that British favorite Tim Henman outlasted Spain's Carlos Moya in a thriller of a match. Which reminds me of how much I enjoy picking up new-to-me expressions from British newspapers, one of which noted the next day that Henman prevailed over the Spaniard because Henman has "big onions." (Onions?)

Meanwhile, I'm doing my best to take advantage of the show's summer hiatus by digging through mounds of email that have been accumulating in recent weeks. I'm extremely grateful for all of it, and especially for all your recent comments about my rant about the serial comma. Don't forget that during our summer hiatus, we'll continue to post a new mini-broadcast every Wednesday. This week, Grant explains what a "walking school bus" is.