May 6th 2013

Alternate Realities: The Subjunctive Mood

Phuc Tran speaking at TED

In his Ted Talk, “Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive,  Phuc Tran discusses the subjunctive and how this verbal mood can impact the way in which we see the world.  

 “What would have happened if…”

How many times have you asked yourself this question? Phuk Tran often spends time thinking about what would have happened if his family had not escaped Saigon in 1975. Before boarding a bus to flee, Tran began crying and shrieking uncontrollably. His family did not get on the bus, which minutes later exploded. What if he had not cried? What if his family had not made it out of Saigon?

These type of “what if” questions are known as the subjunctive. The subjunctive mood is used for expressing hypothetical statements such as “what if,” “I wish,” “I would,” “I could,” etc. As opposed to the indicative mood, which is used for stating facts, the subjunctive mood expresses potential and alternate outcomes.

Subjunctive: Time/space dream machine

According to Tran, the subjunctive is a “time/space dream machine that can conjure alternative realities.” Since Vietnamese lacks the subjunctive mood, Tran had the ability to imagine alternate possibilities to various actions whereas his parents did not. For his parents, reality was simply what happened. There was no sense of what could have happened.

Many of us get brought down by wishing we were someone or something else, and this Tran refers to as the “dark side of the subjunctive.” Tran believes his parents’ resiliency to deal with their difficult situation stems from the lack of the subjunctive in Vietnamese. Without a linguistic way to express the concept, his parents did not waste time worrying about alternative realities.

Vietnamese optimism

In a 2011 Gallup International poll, Vietnam was considered the most optimistic country, a fact that Tran attributes to their lack of a subjunctive mood. Without the ability to linguistically express what could have happened, Vietnamese do not spend time pondering over what they “should have” done, and instead, live with what happened or did not happen.

While the subjunctive can cause us unnecessary anxiety by worrying “what if,” it also allows us beautiful creativity in our thoughts and language. Use the power of the subjunctive correctly – choose to have an optimistic outlook like the Vietnamese, but continue to dream the lovely dreams of “what if.”

Check out Tran’s TED Talk here: http://tedxdirigo.com/speakers/phuc-tran/

Leave a comment

Apr 30th 2013

5 Tips for Stress-Free Essay Writing

Do you dread writing essays? Does just the thought of doing the research make you break out in a cold sweat? Stop worrying and start writing! Use these 5 quick tips to help lessen your essay agony and increase your productivity.

1. Choose an engaging topic!
This may seem obvious, but picking an essay topic that you feel connected to will keep you writing when the going gets tough and your coffee runs out.

2. Write everyday!
December 15th may seem light years away when you are enjoying the sunny, carefree afternoons of late September, but it isn’t. Write early and write often to save yourself from last-minute stress!

3. Finish at the start!
Only write the introductory paragraph after you have finished the rest of your essay and you can explain your thesis and arguments in the best way possible. 

4. Set realistic time goals.
Telling yourself that you will sit down for 5 hours to work on your essay is easier said than done. Manage your time by taking a 5-minute break every 25 minutes. This helps you stay fresh and in control of your inevitable distractions.

5. Either lose the mistakes or lose your marks!
Download Ginger’s Spelling and Grammar Checker to keep your essay error-free!

 

What tips can you add?

3 Comments

Apr 14th 2013

What’s Your Style?

English is the most complex and vocabulary-rich language in the world. As of January 2012, there over 1 million words in use and a new word is added to the English language every 98 minutes! English incorporates many words and grammatical rules from other languages which makes it even more complicated.

How do we use language? Naturally, with so many influences and new additions, there tend to be disagreements on how language is used. Below are three disagreements over style.

Is it email or e-mail?

Back in 2011, this question was in the news due to two giants in the writing business: the Associated Press and the New York Times. To hyphenate or not to hyphenate? The AP Stylebook removed the hyphen since they thought it was only needed to explain that email meant “electronic mail” in the early days of the internet where new concepts needed clarification.

The New York Times decided to stick with the hyphen in e-mail while acknowledging that there is no longer the need to write the “message” after the word e-mail as in “e-mail message.”

Starting a sentence with and or but

Grammatically speaking, it is acceptable to start a sentence with “and” or “but.” The problem with starting your sentence with one of these conjunctions is that your writing will often come off as informal.

Instead, you can replace “and” with “in addition” and replace “but” with “however” to sound more professional.  

Hanged or Hung?

Until recently, both “hanged” and “hung” were used as the past participle of hang.

Today, however, “hanged” usually only refers to someone who has been executed by hanging: “His neighbor was hanged.”

Objects are “hung”: “Nostalgic posters were hung around the restaurant.”

 

Do you have other examples of style differences in English?

 


1 Comment

Mar 30th 2013

Easter Fun Facts

Happy Easter from Ginger!

Easter is a joyous holiday celebrated by Christians in early spring. There are many
different Easter traditions, and our favorite is the Easter egg hunt.

Roots in the Middle Ages
While the Easter Bunny may seem like a modern concept, the idea of a bunny
bringing eggs for Easter is traced back to at least the 17th century. The Easter Egg
Hunt is a game where decorated, chocolate or candy eggs are hidden for children to
find.

Easter egg hunts can be fun with just a few people or an entire town. According to
the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest egg hunt in the world included
80,000 eggs hidden in an American town of just 950 people.

Virtual Easter Eggs
In today’s electronic world, virtual Easter eggs have hatched on the scene. In the
world of high-tech, internet and gaming, interesting spinoffs of the “Easter egg” have
emerged.

A “virtual Easter egg” is a hidden feature, message or joke that can be found in video
games, websites and even movies. For example, websites “hide” eggs in their sites
and ask users to “find” them.

Our 3 Favorite Google “Easter Eggs”
Google dominates the online Easter egg hunt. Their Easter eggs consist of hoaxes,
pranks and jokes on unsuspecting visitors to their site.

We have spent some time searching and here are our favorite Google Easter Eggs!
Enjoy!

1. Do the Harlem Shake.
If you search “do the Harlem shake” on Youtube, and wait a minute, the
entire search page and video previews will do their own digital Harlem Shake
right in your browser.

2. Do a barrel roll!
Searching this phrase on the Google home page will cause the page to spin
360 degrees horizontally, giving you the same perspective as if you were in a
rolling barrel.

3. Have Gmail wash your clothes.
If you go to the Gmail Suggest a Feature Page, you can suggest Gmail to do your laundry. (Go to Gmail > New Features > Help > Additional Resources > Suggest a Feature > Feature Suggestions Page > Helpful Additions.)

Can you find any Easter eggs on Ginger’s site?

1 Comment

Mar 27th 2013

A Language Lesson from Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher’s Verbiage

In 2007, Ashton Kutcher co-created MTV’s hilarious practical joke
show “Punk’d.” This word came to describe the action of making televised
practical jokes on celebrities: “Ashton punk’d Mila Kunis.” (Ashton played
a joke on Mila Kunis.)

Verbing: Turning a Noun into a Verb
“Punk’d” is an example of the concept of “verbing.” Verbing is when
you take a noun (person, place or thing), and turn it into a verb (action
word). “To punk” becomes a verb to describe the action of playing a
practical joke on someone, unlike its noun “punk,” which is generally used
to describe a worthless person.

Some examples of nouns that now have verb forms include: to showcase,
to input, to host, to impact, and to share.

4,000+ New English Words
Each year, the Oxford English Dictionary adds about 4,000 new words.
The concept of verbing is certainly trending. (The word “trending” is an
example of verbing!) Internet lingo and the rapid and viral nature of social
media play a large role in spreading new examples of verbing.

Here are some familiar examples of verbing from the world of social media:
to tweet
to google
to blog
to friend/defriend
to pin
… and the list goes on!

The team at Ginger Software works hard to stay on top of new slang words
and, of course, the latest examples of verbing from the world of social
media!

What are your favorite examples of verbing?

Leave a comment