‘Event’ Horizon

Dear All:

This time, two weeks ago, I was crashed on a hospital gurney having undergone an “event” that gave a great many people a huge scare, never mind me. Many, many test and needle punctures later, I am out, at home, and recovering quietly with Chantal; my rock and angel of light. Thank you, Sweetie.

I owe a huge debt of thanks too, to all the staff and doctors of both Ste-Sacrement and Enfant-Jesus hospitals for their professionalism, kindness, and patience. Each and everyone heroes in my book. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could name you all!

To my family: you rock my world and I am so lucky to have your love and support, because, despite all your own health issues and problems, you were there for not only me, but Chantal. Thank you!

So dear friends, I may or may not be around on Facebook and the Internet, time will tell. For the moment, I’m on sabbatical and, all being well, will see you all on the flip-side in a month or three.

Please take care of yourselves in the meantime, and normal service will resume soon.

Love N’ Peace,

Alex

The Indefinite Article

Unlike the Definite Article The (specific to something or someone,) A and AN refer to someone or something whose precise identity is not specified. And, although they are among the most common words in the English language, confusion still arises as to which should be used when.

So here’s a reminder.

A is used:
(i) before all consonants: a woman, a tree, a rock.
(ii) before an aspirated h: a horse, a hero, a humorist.
(iii) before the letter u when sounded like ‘you’: a unit, a use, a union.
(iv) before a diphthong eu: a European, a eulogy.
(v) before words beginning with y: a year, a yellow balloon, a youth.

AN is used:
(i) before a vowel sound: an animal, an example, an umbrella.
(ii) before a mute h: an hour, an honest woman, an historian.

See, it’s all as clear as mud… Now, who’s going to be first to ask me, is a diphthong the same as a bikini thong? Hmm…

Split Infinitives

Following on from Grammatical Bad Habits and Hyphen-Nation comes Split Infinitives. And no, before you ask—however much of a sci-fi geek I am—this has nothing to do with Space travel, Star Trek or, in fact, Buzz Lightyear.

A split infinitive occurs when to is separated from the infinitive by an adverb or adverbial phrase. It used to be considered the cardinal sin of good English, but it’s now accepted that there are many instances when a split infinitive is justified. In general, however, it is easy enough to avoid.

(i) She did not want to entirely surrender to his will.
(ii) He was instructed to discreetly talk to the Press.

In both sentences there is no need for the split infinitive, as the adverb (entirely, discreetly) can be placed outside the infinitive like this:

(i) She did not want to surrender entirely to his will.
(ii) He was instructed to talk to the Press discreetly. or,
(iii) He was instructed to talk discreetly to the Press.

The easiest rule to remember about the split infinitive is to avoid it, as long as there is no doubt that the meaning will be ambiguous or awkwardly expressed as a result.

I can hear you all mumbling into your coffee; “Yes, but what is the woman talking about?”

Hyphen-Nation

It’s easy to become confused over the proper use of the humble hyphen. The main purpose of which is to join two (or more) words together, thereby making them a single compound word with its own meaning. As in:

• an ex-President is a former President.
• a co-director works with another director.

The absence of a hyphen can also lead to misunderstanding:

I must re-cover the sofa (with new material).
I must recover the sofa (from the person I lent it to).

After his time in prison, he was a reformed character (no longer a criminal).
They re-formed the band and played in the garage (started up again).

Prefixes like co- and pre- should have a hyphen when next to a word beginning with the same vowel, as in: co-ordinate, pre-empt.

Hyphens can contribute considerably to clarity, as in:

You must read two hundred odd pages a day which gives the impression you are only to read the odd pages, hence the hyphen in: You must read two hundred-odd pages a day.

There are several word combinations which are hyphenated when they come before a noun, but not when they come after, as in these examples.

He is a well-known author.
This author is well known.

She is a part-time worker.
She works part time.

It’s all as clear as mud, I hear you say. Ah, don’t you just love the English language.