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Rosie Right


Change anyone?

Plenty of us complain about the way new words are invented, used and often established as entries in our dictionaries. With the addition of the flood of acronyms, it's hard to keep up even if we wish to.

The solution to this is not, however, a refusal to accept change. If it were, we would not have William Shakespeare. In his new book "Shakespeare" Bill Bryson tells us how much is unknown about Shakespeare and also about his use of words. According to Bryson, "We are not [even] sure how best to spell his name. …for the name is never spelled the same way twice in the signatures that survive."

"Some twelve thousand words … entered the language between 1500 and 1650 … and old words were employed in ways that had not been tried before. Nouns became verbs and adverbs; adverbs became adjectives."

Which of us would criticize Shakespeare for that?

On the other hand, those who mourn what sometimes seems like unnecessary change in the language can take pleasure in a sign that some in the advertising world care about the careful use of words and believe that we do, too.

A reader has sent me the back of a cereal box (with no indication of the cereal it held) that used the space to give us a wonderful summary of many of the grammatical mistakes that make us shudder. Titled "Don't use no double negatives" and describing itself as "a frisky refresher on good grammar and usage," the box warns us: "Don't use commas that aren't needed, use the subjunctive when it is needed, watch your verb tenses and, for heaven's sake, try to use lie and lay properly." So ... eat your cereal and read the box it comes in!

For an interesting summary of many of this era's new words, go to the New York Times online and search for buzzwords 2007.

Let Rosie hear from you by mail (1707 Summit Ave., Richmond, VA 23230); by e-mail epps.rozanne@gmail.com; or by telephone (358-0825).

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