Christmasy misspellings

It’s that time of year again. Red and green decorations line the streets and shop windows. Store clerks wrestle with the eternal question of whether to wish you “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas.” And here in Minnesota, it looks like a real-life snow globe.

Today I’m writing about some common Christmasy misspellings, so you can write your holiday cards and family newsletters with peace of mind (and peace on earth).

  • Christmastime is one word.
  • Ho! Ho! Ho! has exclamation points after each one.
  • Santa Claus has no E at the end.
  • Noël, the French word for Christmas, has an diaeresis over the E, if you want to be especially traditional. Though, “Noel” is also an accepted spelling.
  • Xmas does not have a hyphen after the X.

And if you want to add some international flair to your season’s greetings, here is how to say “Merry Christmas” in other languages:

  • Danish: Glædelig Jul
  • French: Joyeux Noël
  • German: Fröhliche Weihnachten
  • Italian: Buon Natale
  • Spanish: Feliz Navidad
  • Swedish: God Jul

You and I vs. you and me

It seems many of us are still reeling from elementary school teachers who overcorrected use of the pronoun I. How many times did you hear a knitted-sweatered, thin-lipped woman of authority say, “It’s ‘May Johnny and I go to the restroom, not Johnny and me.’”

As a result, many people think me is never appropriate when it actually is. If this is a problem you struggle with, don’t worry. You’re in good company. I hear and I used incorrectly more than I hear it used correctly. In this post I’ll teach you a simple trick to figure out when to use I or me.

Is this sentence correct?

I made dinner reservations for Rex and I.

Incorrect. In this sentence it should be Rex and me. But how can you tell?

Hint: To find out whether to use I or me, simply drop the name or pronoun that goes before and and the word and. Then see if the sentence makes sense. Let’s look at the example again.

I made dinner reservations for Rex and I.

Now drop Rex and.

I made dinner reservations for I.

Now this sentence sounds wrong, so you know it should be me. Let’s fix it.

I made dinner reservations for Rex and me.

Bingo! Now it’s correct. Let’s try another one.

Rex and me are going to the Renaissance festival.

Drop Rex and.

Me is going to the Renaissance festival.

This sounds wrong, so you know it should be I.

Rex and I are going to the Renaissance festival.

Between you and me
The phrase between you and me is often said incorrectly as between you and I. Between is a preposition, and me is used with prepositions. Here are more prepositions with me:

with: Rex walked with you and me.
to: Rex gave the present to you and me.
from: The letter is from you and me.
between: Between you and me, I think Rex is cute.

If you see a preposition, you know you should use me.

Test your skills with this quiz. Fill in the blank with either I or me. The answers are at the bottom.

1. Sandra and _______ are good friends.
2. Would you like to go to the party with Sandra and _______?
3. The flowers are for my mom and _______.
4. Between you and _______, I’m ready for the weekend.
5. She set the appointment for Sandra and _______.
6. May Rex and ______ go to lunch with you?
7. Rex and _______ want to treat you to lunch.

1. I 2. me 3. me 4. me 5. me 6. I 7. I

Between you and me, Erin Servais will be excited to learn about your next book project. Learn how to hire her to be your editor:

What does “prn” mean?

At my recent doctor’s appointment, she said, “You’ll just take this prn.” (She pronounced each letter: P-R-N.)

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“It means you’re supposed to take it as needed.”

Suspecting it was a Latin abbreviation, since we were in a medical setting, I asked her what the full-length Latin word/phrase was. She was unsure. She said she was just used to seeing it in the abbreviated form.

So, dear friends, I did an investigation. It took me perhaps twenty seconds, but still, it was an investigation nonetheless.

Prn is short for the Latin phrase “pro re nata.” The doctor was correct in that it means “for an occasion that has arisen; as needed.

Now you know.



Squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face

Postcard reads: “Are you in the jam, dearie?” “No! Mother, I’m just squeezing blackheads out of kitty’s face.”

I found this antique postcard (I think it’s from the 1930s) at an estate sale a couple months ago. I had to get it because . . . it’s just so weird. Why would someone make a postcard like this? And, what kind of person would actually send it to someone?

Then I got to wondering whether there is another meaning of blackhead that I didn’t know. Certainly, I thought, there couldn’t be a big market in the 1930s (or any time, I hope) for cards about facial secretions.

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of blackhead is: any of various birds with more or less black about the head.

It gives the example of a scaup duck, which looks like this:

Webster’s (unabridged online) gives the second definition as: comedo. This is where I learned way more than I wanted to about facial blemishes. Comedo is the proper term for blackhead. Webster’s describes comedo as: a collection of dead cells and oily secretion that plugs a hair follicle and duct of an oil gland and is usually covered with a black dot.

Because I know you want to know more about comedo, here is the Online Etymology Dictionary’s explanation of the origin of comedo: Comedo in Latin means “glutton,” which comes from the Latin comedere, which means “to eat up.” Comedere is an old name for worms that “devour the body.” It came to be used in a medical sense because it was thought that blackheads resemble these worms.

Yeah, gross. But where does this leave us with our creepy postcard?

I hope the blackheads the child mentions refer to “birds with more or less black about the head.” Otherwise, if the child means the other sense, that’s just disgusting.

How English sounds to everyone else

I got the idea for today’s post from the podcast A Way With Words. I’m super in love with this show, and I recommend it for everyone who is interested in English word origins and other language topics.

Native English speakers have ideas about how languages they do not speak sound. There are certain noises we can string together that imitate our idea of another language—noises that if we were to make to a speaker of that language would sound like gibberish.

Here’s a video of one English speaker speaking what he thinks sounds like several foreign languages:

 Ever wonder how English sounds to people who don’t speak it?

Youtube has a treasure trove of videos showing just this: English-sounding gibberish. Here’s a collection for you to enjoy.

This is a song made for Italian TV in which the singer sings entirely in sounds he interprets as sounding like English. (Also note the awesome background dancers!)

Here is a song in “fake” English from an Argentinian band:

Skwerl is a short film that plays with the same idea. In it, a couple speaks in “fake” English. One aspect I like about it is that even though they are not saying real words, the audience can still understand the emotions and ideas portrayed.

Here are more examples of foreign language speakers’ interpretation of English: