Category Archives: Uncategorized

Using Generalizations for Effect

Dear A H:

You wrote:

a. Dogs don’t like me.

b. Children enjoy bad movies.

c. People do strange things.

d. Dogs attack me these days.

e. People are doing strange things these days.

In the above sentences does the plural noun include a. ALL b. MOST c. SOME of the things it refers to?

This is not really a question about grammar, but one about context. Let us face it, most generalizations are technically inaccurate, because we find exceptions. For example, I am sure that “d” would be incorrect if the speaker came across a very old arthritic dog.

Often such expression are in reaction to a single incident—but the incident stands out to the speaker so much that he or she makes a generalization about it.

Technically, to answer your question, in most cases the answer is probably “some,” but we speak this way for emphasis. As a teacher, I have lost track of how many times I have heard young women say, “I hate men!” If you were to ask them if they hate their father or a beloved uncle, they would admit that, no, they do like some men, but clearly they have had a bad experience with a certain man or group of males recently.

I hope this helps

Changes to Standard Abbreviations of Measurements

Your site’s Abbreviations of Units of Measurement page ( makes a number of recommendations and assertions of correctness, for example, with regard to cc and to µ, micro-, and micron, inconsistent with those on the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s site ( and pages linked to therefrom), which your page references. It would be helpful either to modify your page to make it consistent with National Institute of Standards and Technology’s recommendations and assertions or to note and explain the inconsistencies, for example, that, in English, the word micron is still commonly used to mean micrometer (British micrometre) in a number of fields, e.g., semiconductor technology, despite of the fact that it has not been officially internationally sanctioned for decades.


Thank you for the note. We have not checked the posting recently. Our page was based on an older standard. It has been updated.

Which English Plus?

M. R:

Vous avez dit:

Bonjour Messieurs,

Est ce que c’est possible de donner suite à ma petite demande?

Merci d’avance pour votre aimable attention.

Le traduction de notre courrier antécédent:

Nous nous appellons English Plus, mais nous ne faisons pas le logiciel appelé English +. Ce logiciel est fait par Emme Interactive de France. L’addresse électronique que nous avons est

Bonne chance.


You wrote:

I am not able to use the CD Rom of English+ in Windows 8 environment. When I try to make the setup, it displays the following message “This app can’t run on your PC. To find a version for your PC, check with the software publisher.” Please be so kind to tell me how to continue using English+ in the new Windows system. Many thanks for your kind cooperation.

The name of our company is English Plus, but we do not produce the software called English +. It is produced by Emme Interactive of France. The last e-mail address we had for them was



Good and Well

Dear D M:

You wrote:

 Your information about the correct use of good and well when referring to how someone is feeling is not correct. Although someone may say, “I feel well,” and mean that they feel healthy, what they are in fact stating is that they are able to use tactile sensations successfully (well) – just as if they were saying that they write well, they see well, etc. Most grammarians would say that the (counterintuitive but correct) way to say that one feels healthy is to actually say, “I feel good.” In this way, they are not describing the way that they use their hands or emotions to “feel” in a successful way, but that they feel healthy.

Out of context such an expression could be ambiguous—“I feel healthy” or “My tactile sense is functioning normally.” However, in most cases the context is clear, so it really is a non-issue.

Thank you for taking the time to write.

The Comedy of Errors – Production Notes

William Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors. Oct. 1998. Web. 24 Aug. 2013.

Antipholus of Ephesus is Arrested - The Comedy of Errors
Antipholus of Ephesus is Arrested - The Comedy of Errors

This is not a precisely review of Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors. These are production notes. Hopefully, the reader can still learn some things from this, and perhaps pick up some ideas if he or she is putting on a production of the play.

This was a production for a K-12 school. The cast was made up of students from grades seven through twelve. As with most Shakespeare productions, some speeches were trimmed. Because the audience would include elementary age students, we changed the Courtesan to a Courtier whom Antipholus of Ephesus was trying to bribe. We really had to change very few words to accomplish this.

We were somewhat inspired by an article that a colleague shared about a production of Hamlet that took advantage of the near ubiquitous use of Internet-enabled phones and PDAs in the audience. We felt we could not quite do what that college theater did for a few reasons. One was simply that we did not have the bandwidth at our school to support the potential number of Internet devices in the audience. Another was that the Hamlet version ended up being a sort of improvisational theater. As a director, my challenge was to get the kids to act out Shakespeare, without adding the extra extemporaneous work required by improv.

Our solution was to place a screen on either side of the stage which projected a video, simulated web pages, graphics, and other bits of information. Such things included the fund-raising “Free Aegeon” web site, pictures of grease lamps and iron crows, and an exchange rate table converting Ephesian Marks, Guilders, and Ducats into Dollars, Pounds, Yuan, and Reis.

Free Aegepm Web Sote
Free Aegeon Web Site

Instead of getting clowns to act out the story of Aegeon as is often done (we used clowns as entr’actes in our production of J.B. last year), a student made a cartoon video showing Aegeon’s story. That may have been the biggest challenge because the actors could not see the screen, and the actor’s delivery was not always given at the same rate as the pictures on the screen. Still, it helped the audience get into the story.

I saw my job as director to largely explain what was happening and what the lines meant. Once the student actors got that, as much as I could, I let them go. As a result, they came up with lots of appropriate actions to go along with the language themselves. I encouraged them to think Three Stooges, not Laurence Olivier. So the final production was able to reach our broad audience pretty well, from older Shakespeare scholars to elementary age kids who enjoyed the action and silliness. Hey, even older scholars enjoys silliness sometimes.

Timing is important in comedy, and the student actors were able to keep on top of their cues. We had no intermission because the action is fast and the whole play lasted about 80 minutes. We chose modern costumes and a somewhat modern, perhaps timeless, setting. The costumes were virtually all bright primary or Crayola eight colors. This added to the festive, if not specifically comic, tone of the play. The Duke had a black suit, but even he had a fairly bright blue shirt with his black tie. Pinch and her assistant had black robes, but they were unbuttoned to show bright multicolors underneath.

Following many other productions of the play, we included a number of pedestrians who would cross from time to time. So Antipholus of Syracuse says, “None but witches do inhabit here” to a female pedestrian walking by. When Antipholus of Ephesus agrees with Balthazar not to break down his door with a crowbar, the Abbess walks by thus confirming his conscience. Two or three times—always when none of the Antipholi or Dromios are on stage—Aegeon crosses with the jailer in tow begging people for money. He even begs in the audience. Once he goes by while Adriana is railing that her husband “is deformed, crooked, old, and sere,” so she yells at him and he quickly ambles offstage. And at one point as most productions do, we had the two Dromios pass by on either side of an empty frame and act as if they are looking into a mirror. The last two got laughs each performance.

Having said all that, let me share the production notes I wrote for the program. I like to think that this gets to one of the themes of the play. Even in his silliest comedies, Shakespeare had themes. This was more than just a cute entertainment like Menaechmi, the Roman play that inspired Shakespeare. There is a foundation that continues to make it funny today. As Thoreau would say, “Only truth wears well.”

Director’s Note

“He is stark mad!”

“There’s none but witches do inhabit here.”

With all the unusual activity going on in Ephesus, it is no wonder that some citizens think certain people are out of their minds or given over to evil supernatural activity. In The Comedy of Errors, though, it turns out there are no madmen or ghosts. Eventually, the Duke, the Abbess, and everyone else discovers the truth about Antipholus.

Jesus of Nazareth also made pretty extravagant claims about himself. Was he crazy? Some people thought so. Thanks to Freud, many people today are taught that religion is a mental illness. Was he evil? There is a whole body of testimonies saying that miracles done in his name were diabolical. Or was he the One whom he said he was? The historical testimony says that he certainly might have been. After all, rising form the dead is not an ordinary occurrence.

Jesus said, “The truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32) We see in our play how the truth set Antipholus and Aegeon free. So learning about and embracing the truth about Jesus can set you free. Examine his claims for yourself, and ask him to show you the truth.

In Memoriam Tom Clancy (1947-2013)

The Big Boss wasn’t entirely comfortable with what he was doing, Henriksen saw. Well, that was conscience for you. Shakespeare had written about the phenomenon.

—Tom Clancy, Rainbow Six, p. 582

…baseball, women, and family—the important things in the world.

—Tom Clancy, Threat Vector, p. 835

We technodudes and technodudesses at English Plus just want to take a moment to remember Mr. Clancy and the enjoyment he has given us over the years. Not only did he write entertaining stories, but he “got it.” He knew the military life and what the life of soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coasties was like. He also saw the big picture in global conflict and international rivalry. For over 25 years we have become used to reading his tales every year or two. It will be a different America without him.

Mr. Clancy, may you find your eternal rest.

Recent reviews:
Threat Vector
Locked On

Everybody with Negatives

Dear NT:

You wrote:

1-Everybody didn’t have a book.

Can’t this sentence mean two things:

1a-Not everybody had a book.
1b-Nobody had a book.

Yes, that is why no English speaker would ever say that.
An English speaker would say either a or b.

2-Each of them didn’t have a book.

This is very awkward English. No one would speak this way.

Can’t this sentence mean two things:

2a-Not each of them had a book.
2b-None of them had a book.

Truly, NT, no native English speaker over the age of six would likely every say either sentence 1 or 2.

A Word Redefined? – Protestant

As I read the news today, there is an article stating that “Protestants” now make up a minority of Americans. It is still the religious plurality in the United States, but it is no longer a majority.

There are two reasons for this change.

First, nearly twenty percent describe themselves as having no religious affiliation. This is not because they moved or are searching for a new church, it is that they do not care for any affiliation. This includes atheists and agnostics, but according to the Pew poll also includes people who call themselves “spiritual” but have no cause to identify with a specific religious group.

Second, the growth of nondenominational churches in the United States has rendered many churches with no particular affiliation. In most cases such churches would call themselves “Christian,” and perhaps might classify themselves as Pentecostal, charismatic, or fundamentalist, but they do not belong to a larger church group. In many cases they form informal groups with likeminded churches, but they have no specific organization structure outside of their local church body.

Now, most Roman Catholics would insist that such churches were indeed Protestant because they are Christian (i.e., believe in the deity and physical resurrection of Jesus Christ) and neither Catholic nor Eastern Orthodox. However, since such churches do not have any denominational affiliation our polltakers have decided to call them merely Christian. Frankly that is what most of them would prefer to be called anyhow.

This is an interesting indication of how things have changed in the United States in about a generation. In 1955 Will Herberg published a distinguished and magisterial sociological study of religious belief in America entitled Protestant, Catholic, Jew. The title summed up the affiliation of nearly every American back then. When I was a kid in the fifties and sixties, I do not believe I knew anyone who was not one of those three, at least, if you count Unitarians as Protestants, which Pew still does. (They are not Christians because they do not believe in the deity of Jesus, but they originated in the Congregational tradition and meet in churches).

Still, Pew probably is more accurate in calling the nondenominational churches neither Protestant nor Catholic. When I was a kid, I recall one time my best friend asking me if I were Protestant. I was about eight, and that was not a word I was familiar with. My friend was Catholic, so he had been taught that anyone who was not a Catholic was a Protestant. I told him that I was not a Protestant, that I was a Lutheran. We actually got into a little argument because he kept on calling me a Protestant when I knew full well that my family attended a Lutheran church. My mother settled the argument by telling me that Lutherans and other churches that were not Catholic were often called Protestant.

Now as an adult I have been attending for many years a nondenominational church. (For what it is worth, it had a denominational affiliation at one time, but it ended up going in a different direction). In a way it much less complicated for people at my church. We just call ourselves Christian. But to illustrate the impact this has I must tell a little story.

For many years an Irish family attended our church. They have since moved to another state, but they do come back to visit the church when they are in town. Since they are from the Irish Republic, they were brought up in Irish history. Catholics were good and Protestants were evil. Cromwell and the British overlords were Protestant. Irish identity and nobility of character largely comes from its resistance to Protestantism. One of the family members once said, “Oh, I would never join a Protestant church. I couldn’t. But this church is not Protestant, it is just Christian.”

A generation ago such unaffiliated churches would have been classified as Protestant. But now there are so many of them, and they have had an impact on many lives in America, like this Irish “just Christian,” so that the term Protestant still has a meaning, but it is not a significant or as inclusive as it once was.

For more on this see

Random Review – Moonrise Kingdom

OK, this has nothing to do with Grammar or the English language, but I have no other place to readily post this. Perhaps someone has a suggestion? I just saw a film that actually got me thinking about a number of things that I wanted to share. The review may not be all that well structured, but I hope it gets you thinking as well.

The main plot of Moonrise Kingdom is a coming of age story as the two main characters, 12-year-old Sam and Suzy, discover one another. Sam is an orphan, though no one seems aware of the fact; Suzy is a strong-willed pre-teen who already hates her family. We care for both kids because they have hearts on the verge of breaking or hardening, and like most young people of that age they feel they are outsiders (and in this case they probably are). Sam is a skilled “Khaki Scout” and picture painter; Suzy loves to read Young Adult fantasy novels with strong heroines. (Her books are all made-up titles, but they seem to be like the time travel stories of Madeleine L’Engle or the adventures of Mr. Bass on his planetoid.)

There is a brief campfire scene where Suzy is reading one of her novels to a group of Khaki Scouts. She is ready to put the book down and go to sleep, but the boys want to hear the rest of the story: Clear echoes of Wendy telling stories to the Lost Boys of Never Never Land.

That perhaps illustrates some of the tension of the age of the protagonists–in that impossible neverland between childhood and adolescence, part of them does not want to grow up, happy to stay in childhood, but part of them wants to grow up, to escape the limitations of childhood. In both cases we understand, if nothing else, they want to grow out of their present situations–the military styled scout camp where Sam is picked on by everyone or the gingerbread family home of Suzy whose efficiency-minded mother uses a megaphone to call the kids to supper from upstairs.

At the same time everyone is on an island. When Suzy’s mother breaks off a relationship with the island’s sole policeman, she says, “I’ll probably see you tomorrow”–not because she is still in love. It is simply that they are on an island–everyone sees everyone else almost daily.

The island is called New Penzance. Old Penzance is right before Land’s End, the last tip of southwestern England before sailing out into the ocean. So the kids are sailing off into the ocean of life. The island is shaped remarkably like Fishers Island, New York, though the surrounding mainland is quite different. We are told that the events take place right before a landscape-altering hurricane hits.

The hurricane becomes a factor in the film, but more like Captains Courageous than Nights in Rodanthe. The storm also has some symbolic value as standing for the storms of youth which contribute to most of the conflicts in the story. The church pageant near the beginning of the film (actually a flashback where Sam first sees Suzy) tells the story of Noah, a kind of foreshadowing of the flood to come. Suzy is a raven on the Ark. In the story from Genesis, the raven flies back and forth around the Ark, trying to leave but unable to do so until the waters have abated. So Suzy herself is trying to grow up and leave home, but is not going to be able to get too far unless she leaves the island.

Compared to the two Wes Anderson films that I have seen, this has more action. The story keeps moving, and there is a good balance between interior scenes which emphasize character and exterior scenes which have plenty of adventure. The interiors of Suzy’s family’s home are perfect renditions of New England beach houses (not cottages). Sam’s scout tent has stenciled figures on its walls to make us think of a tepee.

The conversations are somewhat stylized, more like stage acting, not unlike The Royal Tennenbaums, but they are effective. There is a sense of disjointedness throughout which highlights something of the human relationships in the film: the lonely policeman and scoutmaster, the parents who have difficulty carrying on a normal conversation with each other, and the social outcasts Sam and Suzy who are just looking for someone who understands them. The social worker on Sam’s case, as an orphan he is a ward of the state, has no name. She is a detached bureaucrat whom everyone calls Social Services.

But the film itself is set in 1965, a time in America when the culture itself was becoming disconnected or disjointed: the beginning of the sexual revolution, the so-called War on Poverty which institutionalized the breakup of families and the perpetuation of the underclass at the hands of bureaucrats, the escalation of the Vietnam War, and the rise of drug use.

While there is nothing in the film hinting at Vietnam or drug use (though Sam tries smoking a corncob pipe), the first two items do seep into the film. Though a few viewers might be offended or stimulated, the reference to sex in the film is awkward and as befits 12-year-olds in 1965 and is a minor part of Sam and Suzy’s attempts to find their places in the world. The orphaned Sam has drifted among foster homes as a pawn or a social services statistic. The disjointedness is highlighted by the discrete framed visuals in much of the film and the occasional use of split screens. The framed approach may also suggest Sam’s paintings and the covers of Suzy’s books.

There is some orchestral music from Benjamin Britten and Camille Saint-Saens. The church pageant about Noah is based on Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. Suzy’s brothers listen to Britten’s A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, but we mostly hear about each instrument or group separately–we rarely hear the whole symphony together. That, too, adds to the theme of alienation, but it also suggests a possible finale: What would it be like when all the instruments play together?

There are also a number of Hank Williams songs. Country music was (still is) popular among the more rural areas in New England. A 1969 visit to my cousins in Eden, Vermont, turned me on to Merle Haggard. The songs are sometimes background songs but the AM radio in New Penzance seems to favor Mr. Williams. After about the third Williams tune, I started thinking of The Last Picture Show film, but other than the similar time period, I did not see much of a connection. Moonrise Kingdom is more hopeful than TLPS. “Kaw-liga” is played twice–both times when Sam is displaying Indian-like woodcraft. You hear a few bars of “Cold, Cold Heart” in the breakup scene.

When Same and Suzy are camping out in their semi-secret cove they call Moonrise Kingdom, Suzy shares her French Françoise Hardy record and they dance to it. (Suzy is a more skilled dancer, but she also knows the song by heart). Hardy was a popular go-go style singer in France at the time, but not as widely played in America. Even the appeal of that record to Suzy likely expresses her inability to find her place in her family, or even among the kids in the church pageant.

One flashback for me was the portable, battery-operated plastic record player. I had not seen one in decades. Suzy “borrows” this from her younger brother (who listens to Britten on it) when she runs away with Sam. In 1966, when I was a Boy Scout, I recall going on a camping trip or service project. One of the guys on the camping trip brought along a record player that was identical except for the color. He mostly played either popular dance tunes like “Hanky Panky” or folk songs like “Green Green.” Yeah, I said to myself as I was watching the film, that is what they did back then.

The acting and film shots are effective, if a bit quirky. The facial expressions, especially of Suzy and her father (played by Bill Murray), show why even though the staging is somewhat theatrical, the film medium catches detail impossible to pick up beyond the first few rows in a live theater.

There is a lot of conflict–internal psychological conflict inside Sam and others, complicated family and other interpersonal relationships, and conflict with Mother Nature once the storm moves in– but the film ultimately has a hopeful ending. You may not laugh a whole lot, though you will certainly laugh some, but you will smile. The missing ingredient in all these disjointed relationships, including the citizen-state relationship, is love. Sam and Suzy are not the only ones who discover love. And this is not a emotional or oversexed Hollywood substitute love, but one based on loyalty, honesty, and looking out for the real concerns of others.

Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Jared Gilman (Sam), and Kara Hayward (Suzy).

Directed by Wes Anderson

Multiple Producers

Story Boards by Patrick Harpin

Style Not the Same as Grammar

Dear Mr. G:
You wrote:
>Is this sentence okay? To break the glass, you need to put out a sound that not only has the right frequency but is also loud enough to exceed the strength of the glass as it resists being vibrated.

It is a little wordy, but it is grammatically correct, and it does make sense. It might be a little clearer by making it two sentences or beginning the sentence with something like: “A sound that breaks the glass needs two qualities…”