How to Pronounce Blessed

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Oct 102014

Here’s a little piece of grammar that most English-speakers probably get right just because they were raised doing it this way. I don’t ever remember being formally taught about this little tidbit. This is short and sweet for a Friday evening. Ready? Here goes.

The pronunciation of the word blessed varies according to its usage.

The word blessed can be used as an adjective or a verb. Actually, it can also be used as a noun.

When using it as an adjective, pronounce it in two syllables: BLES-SID.

So, the blessed day, the blessed saint, the blessed mother: all are said with two syllables.

When using blessed as a verb, pronounce it in one syllable: BLEST

He waved his arms and blessed the day.

He blessed the ground upon which he walked.

He blessed the meal before eating.

Now, how about when blessed is a noun?

The blessed shall be chosen first.

In this case, blessed should be said with two syllables. Think of this as substituting for “blessed people,” in which case, as an adjective, blessed would be two syllables.

That’s all, folks!

On Tenace the Menace and Robligation

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Aug 312011

Last week I saw a headline that read, “Irene Menaces East Coast.” I have to admit that the first thought that crossed my mind was, “Aha, I gotcha!” Then I (naturally) thought, “How on earth did that one make it past the editors?”

Now, contrary to my household’s general belief, I am not the Grammar Police. My goal in life, though, is to assist anyone who needs help so that an unhappy encounter with said Grammar Police can be avoided.

I made a mental note to double-check and confirm my suspicion, though I was already nearly positive that I was right. In fact, I was close enough to being certain of my correctness that I even announced during lunch to the adoring crowd (my children) that I had found a faux pas in the morning news. They too were aghast. I shook my head and sighed. They shook their heads and sighed. Together, we shook our heads and sighed.

Ring ring ring!

“Hello?” I responded. “Oh, hello Aunt Ruth.”

“Hello, my nauseating nephew,” she replied in her usual jovial way. “Do you remember the World Series of 1972?”

“Sure I do. That was the beginning of the dynasty.”

“Dynasty? You mean like the Ming Dynasty?”

“Did the Mings win the World Series?”

“Uh, no, but I’m not sure what dynasty you mean,” she said, clearly exasperated.

“The Oakland A’s won the World Series in 1972, 1973, and 1974, behind the slugging of Reggie Jackson, the pitching of Catfish Hunter, and the fielding exploits of Joe Rudi.”

“Right. They had a catcher, too, who had a great series in ’72.”

“That would be Tenace.”

“Right. Tenace menaced the Reds in 1972.”

“Yes he did. He hit three home runs in that series.”

“What was Tenace’s first name? Was it Dennis? Dennis Tenace menaced the Reds.”

“It wasn’t Dennis. It was Gene.”

“I like Dennis better. Saying, ‘Gene Tenace menaced the Reds,’ just doesn’t have that ring to it.”

“Word play isn’t solid justification for changing somebody’s name, Aunt Ruth. Oh, and hey, better look up the word menace. You don’t want to be arrested by the Grammar Police for verbizing.”

“Wrongo, my nephew. Look it up yourself.” Though I couldn’t see her, I knew she was smiling a victorious sort of smile.


“Really,” she replied. “Say, what are you doing the rest of the day?”

“I’m hoping to have a ruthless afternoon,” I said, sighing and hanging up the phone.

Verbification, the act of verbizing – taking a word that is not a verb and using it as such – is a fun but scary thing and should not be taken lightly.

When done correctly, verbizing can be effective and humorous. A favorite word coined by our church youth group is “Robligate,” which comes from a combination of the word “Rob” (the first name of the director of our church’s youth ministries) and the word “delegate.” When Rob assigns a task to a youth, the youth has been Robligated to do something.

When done incorrectly, verbizing can be ambiguous and confusing, or even just simply annoying. Text as a verb is a verbized creation, and though it has become more accepted, I suspect that the majority of people out there who care about English are aghast at the use of the word. The problem with text is that a few of those who text tend to be so rude … sending or reading text messages while talking face-to-face with someone else. It’s almost like being on the phone with somebody and he receives another call. “Excuse me, but I’m waiting for an important call.” Sigh.

So anyway, I eventually looked up menace and discovered that it CAN be properly used as a verb. It is perfectly fine for something to menace something else. I was actually pleased to discover that – my vocabulary space just grew a couple of sizes and I have a new word I can use. Yeah!

Be careful with verbizing though. Verbizing can cause one to be aghast. And I don’t like it when someone aghasts me.

Letters from Aunt Iquity

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Apr 092011

My dearest Ruth,

It is with great remoras that I am swimming on the beach. Really, those suckerfish are huge. I am still looking for my porpoise in life, at least hoping to find a ray of meaning. “Live each day to the fullest” — that’s always been my manta. Sometimes I flounder, but other days I have a whale of a time.

Oh, I’m such a kidder. Enough with the puns already. Anyway, just dropping you a line to say howdy. I’m doing laundry today and I hung my clothes outside on the line. It’s humid though. I was hoping my clothes would be dryer than they are by now.

Later Gator,

Dear Aunt Iquity,

Why would your clothes become an appliance?


Dear Ruth,

What are you talking about?

Later Crocodile,

Dear Aunt Iquity,

You said you wished your clothes were a dryer. A dryer is something that makes things more dry than they were. You want your clothes to be drier. A dryer makes clothes drier.


Dear Ruth,

I’m glad you set my mind at ease on that point. I’ve been worrying about it all week. I can breath more easily now.

Later Babe,

Dear Aunt Iquity,

If can is a helper, why did you put a noun after it? You said, “I can breath” … that’s like saying, “I can porcupine” or “I can chihuahua.”

I believe you wanted to say, “I can breathe,” not, “I can breath.”


Dear Ruth,

Picky, aren’t we? I think your girdle is too tight. Relax, girl. Losen up.

Your distant relative,

Dear Aunt Iquity,

Sticks and stones may break my bones, and names do hurt me sometimes. You meant loosen up, not losen up.

Affectionately yours,


Can we talk about something else now? You’re driving me bonkers.

A distant relative whom you will never see again,

Dear Aunt Iquity,

Yes we may.


Dear Ruth,



I Laid an Egg — A Nice Alternative

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Feb 082011

The first book, I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head, was well received enough that I have embarked on the sequel (to be named) and hope to have it out by the end of the year. What I find encouraging are the stories that y’all have sent or told me …

Here’s what I’m hearing:

My child hates grammar … but loves your book!
Actually, I’ve heard this from many.

Your book helped me on the SAT!

My child loves to have the stories read to her at night.

I love the worksheets (several teachers write). The book is being used in high schools in Iowa and Nebraska. Stories from the book are being used in speech contests as well!

Are you using the book and/or worksheets?

I would love to hear back from you!
Write me ( or leave a comment.

Conjugationally Ambiguous

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Jan 052011

“Have you had breakfast?” the inquisitive youngster asked Aunt Ruth, whose jowls were still oscillating from her recent plop into the comfy chair.

Aunt Ruth thought for a moment or two and then carefully replied, “Yes.”

The youngster heaved a sigh of relief. “Good! May I finish the Super Sugarfied Fruity ChocoFlakes?”

Mortified, Aunt Ruth stammered, “But … but … but I would like a bowl of Super Sugarfied Fruity ChocoFlakes too!”

“I thought you said you have had breakfast.”

“I have had breakfast. I had breakfast yesterday. I had breakfast the day before yesterday. I had breakfast the day before the day before yesterday. I’ve had …”

“Stop! Aunt Ruth, how old are you?”

“That’s not a polite question to ask an old person, but if you must know, I’m 102 years old.”

“Wow, okay. So 102 years is … let’s see … that’s about 37,230 days if we assume 365 days per year. Now, if you list all the breakfasts you’ve had in your life, that would take a heck of a long time.”

“Right. My point is that I have had breakfast before; I simply have not had breakfast today.”

“Yuck. So in spite of the fairly complex verb conjugation that we have in the English language, we still need adverbial phrases to help determine when some things occur.”

“I guess that’s a fair statement,” said Aunt Ruth.

“Who invented this language?”

“A guy named Bernie from Brooklyn,” smiled Aunt Ruth. “Anyway, doesn’t the ‘have had’ thing kind of depend on context?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if it’s morning and you ask me if I’ve had breakfast, then maybe I should assume that you meant to inquire if I had eaten breakfast already on that day. If it’s after lunch, then at that point perhaps it applies to sometime in the past.”

“What if you slept late and didn’t eat lunch. Suppose it’s two o’clock in the afternoon. What would it mean then?”

“Oh I don’t know.”

Skipping into the room, the little girl in pigtails stopped when she saw Aunt Ruth. “Are you eating breakfast?” she asked.

Aunt Ruth, still sitting in the comfory chair and not eating anything, said, “No, I’m not.”

“Good!” exclaimed the little girl. “May I finish the Super Sugarfied Fruity ChocoFlakes?”

“Wait!” shouted Aunt Ruth. “You asked if I am eating, and I’m not eating; however, I will be eating soon, I hope.”

“What should I have asked?” sighed the little girl.

“Will you be eating breakfast?” suggested Aunt Ruth.

“But that might mean you will be eating breakfast tomorrow or the next day or the day after the next day or the day after the day after the next day or the …”

“Stop!” muttered Aunt Ruth. “I have had enough of this.”

“Wait,” asked the boy and girl in unison, “have you had enough of this for today or for all your days to come?”

“What?” asked a confused Aunt Ruth.

“Never mind,” replied the kids.

“Hey, has anyone seen the box of Super Sugarfied Fruity ChocoFlakes?” asked the father, stumbling into the room with sleepy eyes.

“Yes, I have,” smiled the boy.

“I too,” smiled the girl.

“Do you mean today, like right now, or just sometime in the past?” smiled Aunt Ruth.

“I’m going back to bed,” sighed the man.

Dec 222009

The maraschino cherry that rested (Was it really resting?  I mean, does a maraschino cherry get enough exercise that it needs to take a break before it can continue being a maraschino cherry?) on top of a dollop of whipped cream, capping a bowl of rich, decadent chocolate pudding, was what I was looking forward to most.

Aunt Ruth, I knew, would try once again to find a way to gain possession of said maraschino cherry and devour it before I realized what was happening.  She could fool me once; she could fool me twice; well, okay, she had fooled me five times in a row, on our regular Sunday afternoon picnics at the park, but I wasn’t about to let it happen a sixth time.

I had finished my celery, carrots, and bologna sandwich while she was still working on her celery.  My goal was to finish my food so quickly that she didn’t have time to form a plan to get the maraschino cherry.  I was eating my banana — the last step before going for the pudding — when suddenly she blurted out, “Look, it’s Halcyon’s Comet!”

She pointed upward at some location in the sky behind me.  What?  Halcyon’s Comet?  I had never heard of such a thing.  Always enamored with events astronomical, I turned and looked.  I didn’t see a comet.

“Aunt Ruth,” I said, still looking up and behind me, “did you say you saw Halcyon’s Comet?”

“Hmmm mmm, hmmm mmm,” she mumbled, for some reason not speaking in her usually articulate way.

I turned back and proceeded to finish the banana.  It is possible that I wouldn’t have noticed anything was awry for another, oh, thirty seconds or so, except that Aunt Ruth had a smudge of whipped cream on the corner of her mouth.

My maraschino cherry was gone!

“You savage beast!” I exclaimed.

“No, my naive nephew, just clever.”

“Clever indeed.  Halcyon’s Comet?  Where did you come up with that?”

“Well, that’s the famous comet, right?  Isn’t that the comet that came the day Mark Twain was born and came again the day he died?”

“Something like that, I guess.  But the name of that comet was Haley’s, not Halcyon’s.

“Oh, really?”

“Really.  If you had said Haley’s Comet, I wouldn’t have turned.”

“Just lucky I guess.”

“So do you know what Halcyon means?”

“Well, sort of.  Halcyon is that mineral that you need to keep your bones strong; you get it from drinking milk and spending time in the sun.”

“Um, no, wrong answer.  Thank you for playing and have a nice day.”

“Oh wait — halcyon is when you imagine you are seeing things that aren’t there.”

“Nope, that’s also incorrect.”

“Okay, my dear nephew, when did you become the vocabulary expert?  I thought you were a grammar sort of guy.”

“So it’s like this, Aunt Ruth.  The word halcyon now means peaceful and calm; it’s also meant to imply a kind of happy nostalgia for days gone by.”

“Do you mean like the golden years?”

“Mmm, I guess so, though maybe it’s more like golden days.  There’s an expression — halcyon days — that reminds me of something Ray Bradbury might have written.”

“He’s one of my favorite writers.  I’ve heard that expression before, but I always thought it meant something about comets.  He did write about space things — Martian Chronicles, for example.”

“Yes he did — and I love his writing — but he also wrote stories of youth and growing up.  Dandelion Wine is one of my favorites.  Stories like that remind me of halcyon days.”

“And it’s not about comets.”

“It’s not about comets.”

“Where did halcyon come from?”

“I’m glad you asked.  It’s a long story, but the Nauseating Nephew Notes version of the story is that a halcyon is a type of bird, related or similar to a kingfisher, and it would build its nest out on the calm sea, where it would lay its eggs.  The sea was peaceful for one or two weeks out of the year, and those were the halcyon days because that was when the bird could safely lay and hatch the eggs.”

“Is this for real or is it mythical?”

“There’s more to it in a mythological sense, but I’ll stop here.  The bottom line is that halcyon is used these days to mean calm, peaceful, and golden.”

“Thanks for explaining this.  Did a halcyon bird look like the bird over there in the jujube tree?”

I glanced behind my shoulder.  I didn’t see any bird; nor did I see any jujube tree.

“What jujube tree, Aunt Ruth?”

“Hmm mmmm, mmm mmm hmmm hmmm.”

I quickly turned around.  Aunt Ruth was gone, and so was the rest of my chocolate pudding.  In its place was a half eaten piece of celery and a carrot, along with a note that read, “You need to eat more vegetables and less dessert.  You’ll be in better shape and thus happier.  Someday, when you look back on these times, you’ll find yourself thinking about halcyon days.”

In Praise of I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head

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Oct 262009

Thom Gunn once wrote of “the dull thunder of approximate words.” And Horace gave us the formula: we should instill profit through pleasure. Joel Schnoor has written an excellent book (not for our shelves but for our desks) that delights and informs and helps us to get the right word in the right place.

On the battlefield or in the courtroom imprecise communication can be disastrous: “CEASE FIRE!” “SAY AGAIN ALL AFTER CEASE!” “FIRE!” “ON THE WAY!”

In ordinary, everyday life the proper use of the English language adds dimensions of clarity and pleasure to both the speaker and the listener.

Joel Schnoor has done us all a favor by writing this excellent book. In fairness I should disclose that I once met his Aunt Ruth, who assisted in the solving of a most perplexing crime, purely by applying the rules of grammar. Perhaps Schnoor will favor us with that story at some time in the future.

In the meantime, I (and the young attorneys and staff who work for me) will become very, very familiar with this modern masterpiece of diction and grammar.

John Stevens Berry, Sr., Fellow, American Board of Criminal Lawyers
Author, Those Gallant Men

Are you in love with the English language and have more than once been tempted to demand the Grammar Police deliver one of your erroneous or felonious friends to our already overcrowded prisons?  This is the book for you!  In his humorous and irresistible style Joel Schnoor makes lie and lay and its and it’s clear to us in a way too funny to forget. 

Joel Schnoor’s “I laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head or Conquering the English Language and its Ruthless Ways” made me laugh and cry and that isn’t because I actually did know the original Aunt Ruth.
After all, Aunt Ruth is “She for whom the Bell tolls” for each and every one of us.

Glenna Luschei, PhD, OFB (Order of the Folies Bergere)
Author, Unexpected Grace

If you are looking for something different to read, this could be just what you need. This book can be read as a collection of amusing stories, or as a way of improving your English grammar.

The author covers many of the common mistakes people make and shows how amusing the results can often be.

So, if you want to be entertained by Aunt Ruth and get educated at the same time, this is the book for you, a well written and organized book for students and adults.

Louie Jerome
Author, Peter and the Black Dog

I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth's Head by author Joel Schnoor

Aunt Ruth’s Only Struggles

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Oct 212009

“I’m in a query,” she said, mystifying me.

Phone conversations with Aunt Ruth were often difficult.

“So … someone is asking a question about you?”

“No, wait … I don’t mean query. I mean quarry.”

“Ah, that’s better. So you are digging up rocks and gems and things. Pretty cool. Hey, if you find any pieces of obsidian, I’m trying to build up my collection.”

“Okay, I guess I don’t mean quarry either. Oh, I’m in a quarrel.”

“Are not.”

“Are too.”

“Are … listen, we’re arguing. You are in a quarrel indeed, and I guess I’m part of it.”

“Hm. I guess I’m not in a quarrel either. What am I in?”

“Are you in that yellow polyester pant suit that is five sizes too small, and when you walk it looks like there’s a mountain lion in there trying to escape?”

“Uh, no.”

“Are you in a pickle?”

“Something like that. It begins with ‘q.’”

“You are in a quandary.”

“Yes, precisely. I am in a quandary.”

“About what is your quandary?”

“If only I knew.”

“If only you knew?”

“Yes, precisely.”

“Aunt Ruth, if only you knew, then no one else would know. You would be the only person to know. Just you would know.”

“Know what?”

“Whatever it is that you want me to know.”

“But I do want you to know. That’s why I mentioned it.”

“Right, but then you said ‘if only I knew,’ meaning what it says … if only you knew, not if someone else knew.

“Dear me, I’m getting confused.”

“Me too. Let’s sort through this and lay it out in a way that makes sense.”

“I think what you meant was, ‘if I only knew.’”

“But doesn’t ‘if I only’ mean the same thing as ‘if only I’?”

“No, not quite. The word only generally modifies the word directly after it.”

“Oh great. I think I need some examples.”

“Coming right up, my dear aunt.”

“I only have a dog. That is, you only possess the dog. You don’t love the dog, you don’t feed the dog, you don’t walk the dog, and you don’t tell your dog to attack the neighbor who is having a wild party on his (or her) back deck at two o’clock in the morning.”

“I don’t?”

“You don’t. Now, if you have only a dog, then you have a dog but you don’t have a cat; nor do you have an elephant, a hippo, or a purebred Guernsey cow.”

“What if I have a dog and a cow?”

“Then you say you have a dog and a cow.”

“Wow, I might be able to handle that. But, I have a question. If I say I have only a dog, then does that imply that I have nothing else at all? I have a dog, but I don’t have an alarm clock; I don’t have a pair of gym shorts; I don’t even have an umbrella.”

“Well, it needs to be in context, doesn’t it? I mean, if you say I have only a dog, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a nose. Everybody knows you have a nose.”

“How would everybody know I have a nose?”

“Everybody knows you have a nose because you smell.”


“No need to get offended. I just meant you smell with your nose.”

“How do I smell?”

“Quite well, I presume.”

“If my nose were cut off, would I still smell?”

“Of course.”

“How would I smell?”


The Book Is Ready!

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Oct 142009

I Laid an Egg on Aunt Ruth’s Head, featuring the adventures of Aunt Ruth as a way to humorously teach English grammar and usage, is available!  You can order it directly from me here (sales tax is included for NC residents). If you’re ordering outside the U.S., it’s probably easiest to do it through Authorhouse.