Double “Is”

I had an interesting debate with my better half the other day. He seems to think that a double “is” is correct when used with phrases such as, “The reason is is…” or “The problem is is…”  or “The question is is…“.

Is that what you think, too?

Well, hate to be the one to break it to you, but the rarified time a double “is” is correct is when you’re using it like I just did or when the second “is” starts a question.

Let me give you some examples. (Read these aloud to yourself.)

The point is is I would like you to stop using a double is. — Incorrect.

The point is I would like you to stop using a double is. — Correct.

The question is, is a double is correct in this sentence? — Correct. (And, yes, it’s correct.)

There’s an easy way to get yourself to stop using a double is. It’s really about what word you’re emphasizing in the sentence.

In the first example, if you had read it aloud, you would have found that you emphasized the first “is” and then said the second “is” almost like an echo. There was almost a hesitation to make the point of the sentence.

In the second example, the emphasis was on “point.” There was no hesitation about making the point of the sentence.

In the third example, the heaviest emphasis was on “question,” and then you breezed through to make the point of the sentence.

Does that help?



Bad vs. Badly

I am not one who sits idly by when someone (or someone’s writing) sounds pretentious. I tend to, well, correct. It’s my nature. (Actually, it’s probably not my nature because my grandmother, the 1920s secretary, and my mother, the genius, were always correcting us kids whenever we used incorrect words.)

Aaaaanyway, I don’t like pretention. And to me, few words sound more pretentious than “badly” when it is used, well, badly.

Let me give you an example: I feel badly about that. Really, I do.

No, actually, you feel bad about that, whatever that is.

As a rule, “bad” is an adjective that describes or modifies nouns and pronouns. They show how something was or is, provide additional information such as size, shape, and color. Example: My commute to the stadium was bad.

And “badly” is an adverb that, you guessed it, modifies verbs because most verbs are action verbs. Adverbs can be a single word or a set of words that answer how, why, when, where, to what extent, how often, or how much. For example: When I saw my hair in the mirror this morning, I realized I badly needed a trim.

There is an exception for badly, and this is where people start to sound pretentious. If you have linking verbs like be, is, and was, the form to use is bad, not badly. (See the first example.)

Some linking verbs, like smell and feel, can also be linking or action verbs. Here, you’d also use bad rather than badly.

How would that look?

Karen felt around badly because her hands were covered in grease.

The air smelled bad.

Yea, Yay, and Yeah

Have you ever noticed people saying “yea” when they mean “yeah”? Me, neither. When people speak, they generally use the correct words to express themselves. When people write, however, something breaks down in the brains of some people.

I swear that happens.

I know this, because I’ve even seen close relatives of mine, who I know are well educated, write “yea” (pronounced yay) when they mean “yeah” (pronounced ya-uh). It’s really irritating.

While “yea” and “yeah” are both forms of saying “yes,” the former is used almost always in relation to voting. “Yea” for yes; “nay” for no. It’s kind of formal, when you think about it, especially when you consider this is also another way to say “indeed.”

“Yeah” is decidedly not formal. It’s an informal way of saying “yes,” and if you’re American, you tend to almost always say “yeah,” even in formal occasions. Also irritating.

“Yay,” on the other hand, doesn’t mean “yes” in any way, shape, or form, unless you’re in the habit of exclaiming “Yes!” when something great happens. “Yay” actually exclaims excitement, happiness, or joy. Think of it as a shortened form of “hooray,” and you’ll always get this one correct.

So, how would these look?

Yea, though I walk through the valley in the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. (I couldn’t resist. Sorry.)

Ten yeasthree nays. The yeas have it. The motion is passed.

Yay! The Spartans take the Wolverines in football. (Yes, I am a Spartan.)

Yeah, I sure would like another Diet Vanilla Coke. Thanks.


Blonde vs. Blond

How exactly do you spell “blond”? Is it “blond” or “blonde”? It’s not unusual to see it spelled either way and sometimes even spelled both ways in the same article. Were editors taking a break when those particular pieces crossed their desks?

The quick answer is no.

The reason readers sometimes see both spellings in the same article is because the word actually has a feminine and masculine form. The word came to English from the French language, which has feminine and masculine forms. When it came into English usage as a noun, it kept those forms. When the word is used as an adjective, however, “blond” is correct form.

How would that look?

My hair is fair, so I, being female, am considered a blonde.

My brother, whose fair hair has darkened over the years, is considered a dishwater blond.

Anyone can have blond hair if they have a good hairdresser, but please, don’t just bleach it yourself.


Bridgestone Channels Dr. Frankenstein

Oh, Bridgestone. Have you really gone and given life to your latest version of tires? I thought the act of animating inanimate objects lived only in literature. If your advertising agency’s latest commercial is to be believed, though, your researchers have accomplished what was once thought–if anyone gave it a thought–impossible.

Yes, somehow, some lab team found a way to not only bring doughnut-shaped forms of rubber; bead wire; fabric, fiber, ply, and steel cords; as well as steel belts to consciousness, but they also instilled a current politically correct conscience.

These tires are concerned with the environment. “Environmentally conscious” is what we’re told.

Really? How, exactly, is that accomplished?stockvault-car-tire-texture140076-1

I visited my local tire store/garage and tried to have a conversation with one of these wondrous tires, and the thing–I have no idea if it was male or female–ignored me. How rude!

My disappointment was obvious. The store manager came over to, I believe, console me, and when I told him what I was trying to do, he kind of looked at me sideways. I pointed out that, as a journalist and media critic, it was practically a sworn duty for me to investigate such groundbreaking claims. I even showed him my trusty Livescribe pen and Dot Paper notebook. Even though I was as sincere as a person could be, all I got from him was a belly laugh. Had I not been a long-time customer, I think he would have thought I was loopy, but by now, he knows how I am.

Now, I have no particular prejudice against those writers, even ad writers, who give inanimate objects human-like qualities. I really don’t. I do, however, have a problem when these people who share a corner of my profession create verbal crap viewers and listeners are sure to repeat. As I’ve said before, we in the media are the new language teachers. Whether or not we and they know it, we set the standard for how people in our culture express themselves.

Language is a living thing to be sure. Let’s not make it choke on stupidity.