Archive for the 'Poor Usage' Category

11
Feb
12

Moderate Usage

Lisa on Ice9

“I know.  How about we play the basketball.  I’m no Harvey Globetrotter, but-” – Marge Simpson
“Ahh. . .” – Bart Simpson

Yesterday afternoon, venerably contradictory web magazine Slate published an article called “Has Liz Lemon Become “Dumbass Homer”?”.  (As you can probably guess, it’s about whether or not 30 Rock is going downhill the way The Simpsons did.)  Set aside the question mark in the headline for a second and look at that term, “Dumbass Homer”.  I’ve probably called Homer a dumbass before, but it’s not a capitalized term I’ve ever seen people use.  The term commonly in use, here, at No Homers, and on other sites where Simpsons discussions happen (going all the way back to 1998), is “Jerkass Homer”.  Here’s the section in question:

Some put the show’s point of no return at the ninth season episode “The Principal and the Pauper,” where it’s revealed that Springfield Elementary principal Seymour Skinner is, and always has been, an impostor, real name Armin Tamzarian, who pulled a Don Draper-like switcheroo with a presumed-dead comrade from the Vietnam War—the idea being that in the process the show turned up its nose at eight seasons of established continuity. But one of the most persistent early criticisms had to do with the character some fans called “Homer the idiot,” or simply “dumbass Homer.”

He’s got two terms in quotes that I’ve never seen anyone use with any frequency.  Now, if this was just some random person off the street, or an article about gardening, or even a professional writer whose beat rarely included television or pop culture, this would be no big deal.  But this is on a self described “Culture Blog” and the author of the piece, Sam Adams, has written for:

the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Time Out New York, the Onion A.V. Club, and the Philadelphia City Paper.

But if you google “homer the idiot” you get basically nothing.  “Dumbass Homer” also gives bupkis, except for this Slate article at #1.  “Jerkass Homer”, on the other hand, has three times as many results and has the Wikipedia page for Homer Simpson as its first result.  In that Wikipedia article, under a section called “Character Development” you will find:

Chris Suellentrop of Slate wrote, "under Scully’s tenure, The Simpsons became, well, a cartoon. […] Episodes that once would have ended with Homer and Marge bicycling into the sunset […] now end with Homer blowing a tranquilizer dart into Marge’s neck."[52] Fans have dubbed this incarnation of the character "Jerkass Homer".[53][54][55]

They’re referencing your magazine!  And it’s on the first Wikipedia page you should’ve checked. 

Obviously this isn’t a world stopping mistake, and it doesn’t materially affect the main idea of the article.  But it does indicate a disturbing incuriosity.  No one, not the author, not the editor, not whoever wrote the headline, checked Wikipedia or Google before sounding authoritative about “one of the most persistent early criticisms” of The Simpsons.  (Or, if they did, they did a piss poor job of it.)  If you’re going to make generalizations like that, it’s best to know what you’re talking about. 

Doing a little research, literally just a couple of minutes, will make a better case and keep nitpicky jerks on the internet from making fun of you.  I’d also suggest hiring a few more editors, because the ones you have seem to be overworked.

Thanks for the link and the title to reader Patrick R.

13
Feb
10

A Review Worthy of Zombie Simpsons

Book Learnin'

Image used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user g_kat26.

“No children you’re not seeing things.  This, my little friends, is a schwa.” – Principal Skinner

I generally avoid criticizing the tics and tacks of other people’s grammar and sentence construction.  When it comes to the rules of the English language my knowledge is scant; the whys and wherefores of clauses and participles have always eluded me.  On top of that I have a principled objection to the idea that my communications with other people should be rigidly governed by rules that were created long before I was born.  If I am able to get my point across without sounding like the village idiot, that’s enough.  That I occasionally cause a throb in the forehead vein of some rule crazy grammar nut doesn’t trouble me.

In the case of this review of the Season 20 Blu-ray release, however, I am going to set aside my usual detente with the other woeful writers of the world.  The entire article is one big shitmine of sloppy writing, poorly deployed cliches, and textual incoherence.  This is from the first paragraph:

The show has been anything but typical and nobody would ever have expected it to become the longest running sitcom of all time. A typical show doesn’t need to follow typical thinking for video releases and Fox has decided to throw a curveball to the show’s fans and the 20th season is now being released out of order so that fans may enjoy the recent episodes now.

Yegods.  I think I got whiplash from that first sentence and the second one is even worse.  “A typical show doesn’t need to follow typical thinking”?  I think that’s the rarely seen triple contradiction.  The preceding sentence said that the show isn’t a typical show, but now apparently it is, except that you’d think a typical show would have to follow typical thinking, except that this doesn’t have to follow typical thinking so maybe it isn’t a typical show.  Or something.  And that’s just the first nine words of that monster sentence.  It runs on from there and seems to end on account of exhaustion.  Can I interest you in a period, or at least a semicolon?  Would you like some of Mitch Albom’s commas? 

The first sentence of the second paragraph got to me, though only partly because it obliquely refers to my opinions:

Some could argue that "The Simpsons" are no longer relevant and that the writing has become stale over the past countless years for Matt Groening’s creation.

“Some could argue” is about the laziest strawman setup conceivable.  It does get points for efficiency though, using just three words to stack three unsteady concepts atop one another.  That’s a vapidity batting average of 1.000!  Let’s break it down, shall we?

It leaves the subject of the accusation completely undefined, “some”, who the hell is that?  It then says that these unknown parties “could” (we don’t know!) be doing something (unless they’re not).  Finally, it finishes with “argue”, a word which in this position has a milquetoast double meaning; it could be that this argument is valid, or it could be that the argument sucks.  No position is taken. 

And what the hell are “past” and “countless” doing in the middle there?  We already know you’re talking about the past and the use of “countless” is plainly invalidated by the fact that you’re reviewing season number 20.  Toddlers can count to 20. 

This is a good time to take a break and point out that this isn’t some fly by night blog.  It’s a thirteen year old commercial website.  The staff page lists no fewer than six people with the word “editor” in their title.  Keep that in mind as we go through the rest of this. 

The third paragraph easily wins the stochastic award.  Presented here, sentence by sentence:

Season twenty is the first season where the show was released in high definition and it is the first season released onto Blu-ray and the first season where the voice talent is all under new contract.

Maybe Mitch Albom did use all the commas. 

The transition didn’t occur till the season’s midway point, but "The Simpsons" are at least evolving behind-the-scenes.

I think I understand what “evolving behind-the-scenes” means.  But I don’t know what it has to do with anything else being said here, though maybe the unnecessary hyphens are throwing me off the trail.

There is guaranteed to be a twenty second season and the twenty first season is now long underway.

This has what to do with what?

The show garnered five Primetime Emmy Awards and Dan Castellaneta won for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for the episode "Father Knows Worst."

Okay, but weren’t we talking about high definition, or Seasons 21 or 22?

This twentieth season is also the first where the voice of Homer Simpson is now given credit for being a consulting producer on the show.

I think he’s free associating at this point.  Cat . . . Dog . . . Food bowl! 

While the cast and general theme of "The Simpsons" hasn’t changed, Groening and crew are taking steps to guarantee the show has many years ahead of it.

Linoleum . . . Refrigerator . . . the future!

For brevity’s sake we’re going to skip down a bit here.  After spending a couple of paragraphs recounting various guest stars and episode titles, and then listing all the episode titles anyway, it concludes with a confession that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Cultural Revolution:

I do look forward to the releases on video and was excited to dig into these episodes. I feel a little ashamed that I do not try to watch "The Simpsons," because I do place the show as one of those I actually do like. It is such a refreshing break from the fecal matter we call "Reality Television" and for a show that continues to entertain millions of people, I should be one of them.

Several years of hard labor in a rice paddy will teach you to appreciate the proletariat.  Take him away! 

[What do you mean there’s a second page?  Okay, I’ll read it, but if it’s more of the same I’m not doing any more of this.  Yup.  I’m outta here.  Call the weekend guy, I don’t care.] 

28
Jan
10

Zombie Simpsons Commercial to Air During Super Bowl (Updated)

Coke Zombie Simpsons Super Bowl Ad

“The bubbles are burning my tongue!” – Abe “Grandpa” Simpson

It’s late January and that means that it’s time for the annual torrent of news about Super Bowl commercials.  How much do they cost?  How clever are they?  Will the NFL franchise that drafts Tim Tebow wish he had been aborted?  Well, Coke is going to have an ad that sounds like the plot of a Zombie Simpsons episode:

In one commercial starring characters from The Simpsons, Mr. Burns has lost his millions and only looks at the bright side of life after convenience store clerk Apu gives him a Coke.

That sounds about right.  Oh and Coke’s got some stupid tie in with Facebook where you can see a “20-second preview” of the ad if you help them with their marketing.  To entice people they’re even promising to make a piffling donation to charity.  Get bent, Coke. 

Update: A wise man once remarked that “pimpin’ ain’t easy”.  Apparently neither is on-line marketing.  Less than ninety minutes after I published a post that contains an abortion joke and concludes with “Get bent, Coke” a marketing firm working for Coca-Cola contacted us.  Their motivation was pretty clear, “Someone on the internet mentioned our ad campaign!  Quickly, send them further information in a formulaic e-mail, maybe they’ll help publicize this.”  So eager were they to enlist us and our everyman credibility that they did not take the time to consider the actual content of the post.  An “Oh, shit” moment ensued.  Herewith is the hilarious sequence of events:

3:35pm EST: Our e-mail address receives a press release with links to promotional images from someone whose e-mail signature reads “on behalf of Coca-Cola”.  Amongst other unintentional comedy the press release refers to the commercials as “animated billboards”, truly a masterpiece of Marketspeak. 

3:48pm EST: Our e-mail address receives a second message.  The e-mail signature is now just the sender’s first name.  I’ve no desire to get this person in trouble, everybody’s gotta make bread somehow, so I’m not going to reprint the entirety of the text.  Just know that it was two sentences long, apologized twice, and contained an obvious (and probably panic induced) contradiction about why the first e-mail had been sent. 

4:00pm EST: “Recall” requests come in for both e-mails.  This is my favorite part.  I’m no expert but my understanding of the “recall” feature is that in order for it to work 1) both the sender and receiver have to be using Microsoft Outlook, 2) both have to be using an Exchange server, AND 3) both copies of Outlook must have the feature activated.  Our e-mail address is @gmail.com.  Savvy internet marketing does not, apparently, require knowledge about how the e-mail system works. 

I love the internet. 

20
Aug
09

And It’s Not Even Close

It did have the good sense to go off the air.  I'll give it that.

It did have the good sense to go off the air. I'll give it that.

Apparently Jerry Seinfeld is coming to Ottawa.  This prompted a columnist in The Ottawa Citizen to praise Seinfeld and his show for being second only to Shakespeare in terms of adding “catchphrases” to the language.  That’s all well and good, but this paragraph cannot go unremarked upon:

Most catchphrases are pure confection and essentially hollow: think of the greatest hits of Seinfeld’s closest competitor in numbers, The Simpsons: “D’oh!” or “don’t have a cow” or “eat my shorts” are memorable, but they don’t really say anything that we didn’t already know how to say ourselves, though perhaps not so memorably. Even Bart Simpson’s “meh,” which has had a recent buzz, really only means “whatever.” Seinfeld’s catchphrases crystallized things that we all had noticed and felt, but not effectively verbalized.

In the immortal words of C. Montgomery Burns, I disagree.  The quotability of The Simpsons is second to none, and it, of course, goes far beyond Homer and Bart (to say nothing of four whiney New Yorkers).  We can start with “cromulent” and “embiggen”, which aren’t so much catchphrases as they are words with widely understood meanings.  “Smell you later” is decent way to say goodbye.  And, of course, in addition to “D’oh” Homer gave us the distinct inflections of “Woo hoo!” and “Mmmm donuts/beer/whatever”.

As we broaden our horizon to the secondary characters it’s an embarrassment of riches.  Flanders doesn’t so much have a catchphrase as he has a catch modification, “doodily”, “doakely”, “diddily” and variations thereof can be used or added to just about anything.  I’m a big fan of Dr. Nick’s “Hi everybody!” as a way to greet a bunch of people.  Then there’s Nelson’s “Ha ha” which works in any situation.  Ask a lawyer or aspiring lawyer about Lionel Hutz (“law taking guy” seems to be a particular favorite).  And if you want to talk about something that has penetrated pretty much every part of modern culture, it’s Comic Book Guy’s “Worst/Best. [noun]. Ever.”

Then there’s Chief Wiggum (wahhh), Apu (Thank you, come again), Krusty (Hey hey kids!), Troy McClure (You might remember me from such films as . . .) and, of course, Mr. Burns.  He turned a single word into a declarative sentence (Excellent) that lets everyone know exactly what you’re talking about.  Then there’s the end of “Bart Gets Famous”, a self mocking spoof of the very concept of catchphrases.

Seinfeld adding more to the language than The Simpsons?  Release the hounds.

13
Aug
09

Simpsons FAIL at The New Republic

The New Republic, like some other franchises I can name, has a proud past and a rather disgraceful present.  However great it may once have been, it certainly isn’t great any longer and that includes its presence here on the internet.  Last week on one of their “official” blogs, “The Plank”, Christopher Orr wrote a piece called “The Homer Simpson Party” (emphasis mine):

First it was Arlen Specter announcing that he was switching parties explicitly because he didn’t think he could be reelected as a Republican. Next, of course, it was Sarah Palin eschewing politics as usual by vacating the Alaska governor’s mansion eighteen months before the conclusion of her term. Now, it’s Florida Senator Mel Martinez, who’d already announced he wasn’t running for reelection in 2010, following Homer Simpson’s immortal dictum “If at first you don’t succeed, give up” by quitting office early. His reason? “[A]fter nearly twelve years of public service in Florida and Washington, it’s time I return to Florida and my family.”

“Homer Simpson’s immortal dictum”?  Not that I can recall.  In fact, I’m going so far as to call bullshit on this.  “If at first you don’t succeed, give up” does not appear to be a Homer quote, nor a Simpsons quote, nor something that can actually be attributed to anyone.  It’s certainly ascribed to Homer on multiple unsourced quote compilations, but some search engine work also turns it up on a pithy t-shirt and a skydiving bumper sticker.  Credibility!  Yum!

As always it’s possible that it’s from Zombie Simpsons and I’ve either never seen it or just don’t remember it, but that seems unlikely.  It doesn’t exist on Wikiquote, IMDB or SNPP.  Obviously this is just a harmless blog post, but if I’m going to call something an “immortal dictum” and use it as my title, even on a harmless blog post, I’d sure like to have better sources than some random websites.  Then again, I don’t work for The New Republic, so what do I know?

07
Jul
09

It’s a Baby Translator (Seriously)

Baby Translators

From The Simpsons to reality in only seventeen years.

Via Dintz and ThinkGeek comes the real world baby translator.  This one doesn’t speak in the voice of Danny DeVito, it just shows you whether the infant is Hungry, Bored, Annoyed, Sleepy, or Stressed. (That’s the symbol for “Annoyed” on the display image.)  The read out on the front, for lack of anything better to do, also displays the current temperature and humidity.

Maybe this thing could be tremendously useful to on-the-go 21st century parents, but I’m skeptical. What is the difference – for an infant – between “Annoyed” and “Stressed”?  What qualifies as “Bored” for a person with extremely limited motor control and little to no ability to understand speech?  It will cost you $100 and most of your remaining dignity.

05
Mar
09

Forfty

Quoting and referencing The Simpsons – a lot – is part and parcel of being a Simpsons fan.  Since I’m an asshole, I love excellent or appropriate usage and loathe poor or inappropriate usage.  (Though I’ll admit that I’m frequently guilty of the latter.)  Today during my daily perusing of the internet I came across this from The United Church Observer:
Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty percent of all people know that.”
This is a citation that frequently gets screwed up.  Can you spot the error?  Let’s try another example; this one is from a source which could not be more different than a 180 year old Canadian Jebus magazine, a comment thread up at the illogical, blasphemous and ultra-violent Kissing Suzy Kolber:

Otto Man Says:
March 2nd, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Listen, Stu, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.

See the difference now?  “Forty percent” “14%”  Those are both common ways for that quote to be used and both are incorrect.  The actual quote, and SNPP will back me up on this, is:
“Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent.  Forfty percent of all people know that.”
Forfty.  Homer makes up a number.  It is neither fourteen nor forty, it is “forfty”.  Selah.  
(Note: KSK is a site wonderfully heavy with Simpsons references and Otto Man is one of their all-star commenters, so I offer the above in only the friendliest of ways.  I am not a regular reader of The United Church Observer so I can’t speak to their history with Simpsons quotes.) 



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