A peeve about political terminology…

3 minute read

December 14, 2021, 6:15 PM

One thing that always bothers me when I’m reading and listening to things from political discussions is when I hear someone use a term incorrectly, specifically referring to political parties.  As you probably know, the two major political parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.  The names, as they refer to the political parties, are themselves relatively meaningless, and are really brand names more than anything (and, in fact, the parties have switched stances with each other since their formation).  “Democratic” with a capital “D” is a separate concept from “democratic” with a small “d”.  The ideas of “Democratic values” and “democratic values” are two different things, as one thing refers to the political party, while the other is more abstract and references democracy more generally.  The same goes for “Republican” (capital “R”) and “republican” (small “r”).  The former refers to the Republican Party, also known as the “Grand Old Party” or “GOP”, while the latter refers to representative government, also known as a republicanism.  People like to consider the United States as a democracy, but technically, we operate under a republican system, because, constitutionally speaking, we are a republic, because we elect people to do all of the governing for us on our behalf, rather than all of us getting together and doing it ourselves (the founding fathers tended to view “democracy” as a negative thing, likening it to mob rule).  The concept of democracy and a small-d democratic system has little to do with the capital-D Democratic Party.  Similarly, the concept of republicanism and a small-R republican system of government does not mean a government that is, by definition, run by the capital-R Republican Party.  The idea of “republican values” and “Republican values” are two very distinct concepts.  The same goes for other political parties as well.  For instance, traditionally libertarian stances may or may not be the official stance of the Libertarian Party. Capital “L” vs. small “l” and all.  As an example, I feel like I’ve been leaning more libertarian in my own views as I’ve gotten older, but I generally don’t pay much attention to the Libertarian Party.  I like to tell people that I am a leftist, but a liberal, I ain’t.

In any event, the rest of this entry refers to the versions of these terms with capital letters, because I’ve pretty much covered the small-letter versions of these concepts as much as I need to for our purposes.

As far as use of the wrong terms goes, I mostly see it coming from Republican politicians and Republican-leaning pundits, directed at the Democratic Party, mostly because there are two closely-related terms to refer to the Democratic Party and people associated with it: “Democratic” and “Democrat”.  Most often, I see the improper use of the term take the form of referring to the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Party” and Democratic politicians as “Democrat politicians”.  You don’t get this so much towards Republicans because the same term is used to refer to people and the organization.  Members of the Republican Party are typically referred to as Republicans.  About the only different terminology there is the “Grand Old Party” moniker, typically abbreviated as GOP, and pronounced as “G-O-P”, i.e. as the letters, rather than as something rhyming with “mop”.

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Categories: Language, Politics

Formality, not respect…

4 minute read

October 20, 2019, 9:34 AM

Something has always grated on me when people would say that the use of terms like “Mr.”, “Mrs.”, “Sir”, “Ma’am”, and so on allegedly indicated respect.  It also bothered me that, at least in school, the alleged respect only ran one way.  The students were required to address the staff by title and last name, while the teachers generally addressed the students by first name only.  It only made sense to me that if using last names meant respect, that it would reciprocate, but it never did.  You knew that something was fishy about that, because anyone who’s ever seen a teacher get told off by a student knows that the student will typically use the formal nomenclature for the teacher, but still be rather uncouth.  The student won’t say, “The hell with you, Maureen,” but more likely will say, “The hell with you, Ms. Kelly.”  The teacher in question might still hustle the student out of the room and fling their stuff out into the hallway so hard that their stuff hits a locker before falling to the floor, but they were respectful, because they addressed the teacher by their title and last name, right?  Right?  I see you rolling your eyes, because the argument clearly doesn’t hold water.  The hypothetical kid in the example was clearly being disrespectful, and what name they actually called the teacher, be it formal or informal, was irrelevant.

Then in 2014, when I began work at my current company, it all became clear during orientation.  Use of last names wasn’t about respect at all, but rather, it was about formality.  Formality made a whole lot more sense than respect for that type of address.  And unlike in school, everyone was on a last name basis with everyone, as in regardless of rank or title, you are on a last name basis with your colleagues.  The general rule was title and last name.  Operator Schumin.  Supervisor Walker.  Instructor Jacobs.  Superintendent Walkup.  And so on.  I can respect that, with everyone on a last name basis.  We may have different titles and ranks, but everyone is on a last name basis.  It’s not a matter of “I’m up here, and you’re down there, and I will address you accordingly,” that you get in school.  If schools want to do formal address properly, everyone should be on a last name basis, students and teachers alike.  In other words, if the teacher is “Mr. Matherly”, the student should be “Mr. Schumin”.  Or if one is going to use position titles, “Teacher Matherly” and “Student Schumin”.

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Categories: Language

Nobody knows how to tweak you like your mother…

2 minute read

May 31, 2016, 9:32 PM

So yesterday was my 35th birthday.  And sometimes people really get one on you.  Case in point with my mother this year.  We were talking on the phone on my way home from work on Saturday (a nice long ride, as I’m working out of a facility in Alexandria this week), and amongst discussions of Hefty bags (don’t ask, but I was laughing so hard that I was in tears), my mother asked if I’d seen the birthday card from her yet.  I hadn’t.  My mother insisted that I check the mailbox to fish the card out while we were on the phone.  I was thinking, it can’t be that exciting, now, and then I saw it:

"Age is just a number but to me your #1"

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Categories: Birthdays, Family, Language

Best grammar lesson ever…

5 minute read

February 6, 2013, 10:26 PM

Sometimes, the best lessons in life are subtle and just sort of fall out of the sky.  This is one of them.  And also remember a few very important rules of the Internet:

  • The rules of proper spelling, capitalization, and punctuation still apply on the Internet.
  • There is no privacy on social media, no matter how much you think otherwise.
  • The Internet does not forgive, nor does it forget.  Once you put it out there, it is out there for everyone to see, and it’s out there forever.
  • The average Internet user is not required or otherwise obligated in any way to protect your identity if you say something stupid online.
  • It is not a violation of anyone’s privacy to circulate a message posted in a public venue.

That said, you are probably starting to realize one thing: someone is about to get nailed for something that they posted on social media.

You are about to find out why it’s best to use the language the way the rest of us learned how to use it.  However, while you may certainly be creative in your ideas and in the ways that you express them, those of us with a healthy respect for the proper usage of the English language request that you please not exercise your creative tendencies when it comes to grammar and spelling.

The incident in question happened on Facebook.  It was in response to a public post on the Power Rangers Facebook page.  The original post had something to do with Power Rangers Megaforce, and really isn’t too germane to what I’m talking about.  I made a comment about the original discussion (I know way too much about Power Rangers, by the way).  And then someone else made a post.  And it was a real doozy.

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Driving in Virginia on Thanksgiving morning…

6 minute read

November 22, 2012, 7:04 PM

First of all, greetings from Stuarts Draft, where I will be through Sunday.  And so far, so good.  The drive went surprisingly well, and then Thanksgiving dinner was absolutely wonderful.

Considering how well my drive went today, though, I don’t know why anyone would want to go driving on the day before Thanksgiving.  Seriously, this was one of the easiest drives to Stuarts Draft that I’ve had in a long time.  I left the house around 8:45, and it was more or less smooth sailing the entire way.  Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County, from my house to the Beltway, was no problem.

On that note, by the way, does anyone know what’s going on with the Freestate gas station on Georgia Avenue at Layhill Road?  This is how it looked this morning:

The Freestate station on Georgia Avenue

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“Oh, it’s terrible! The King has been transformed! Please find the Magic Wand so we can change him back.”

8 minute read

November 27, 2010, 4:31 PM

First of all, I admit – the title doesn’t mean much in relation to this entry, except that it perhaps reflects that I’ve been playing too much Super Mario Bros. 3 on my Super Nintendo lately. Regardless, this Journal entry has been a long time in coming, since this is about a trip I took to Stuarts Draft two weeks ago. All I have to say is, hey, I’ve been busy. But it’s also somewhat fitting that I post this entry this weekend, since this was “Thanksgiving” with the parents a couple of weeks ahead of the holiday. Traffic is a real pain, you see, and this obviates the need to mess with it. Have you ever driven US 29 in Virginia on Thanksgiving weekend? It’s no walk in the park.

On Friday the 12th, after driving perhaps a shade too fast the whole way down, I arrived at Stuarts Draft Middle School. After all, Mom was there, and I hadn’t seen her new classroom yet. Mom was recently switched from sixth to eighth grade, and so she moved rooms as a result, from Room 24 to Room 1. And here it is:

Mom's new classroom, Room 1

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I live in an area with a large hispanic population, and the best I can do is correct my neighbors’ grammar?

4 minute read

August 25, 2010, 7:33 PM

I was recently thinking about what I took from the foreign language classes that I took in middle and high school, and what I ultimately took from them. I took four semesters of Spanish and two of Latin (my high school was on a block schedule). And interestingly enough, I ended up really holding onto different things more than a decade out.

First of all, in Spanish, I could easily become the Spanish language grammar Nazi, because after more than a decade after taking Spanish, I remember very little of the vocabulary, but I could probably run circles around you with the grammar. I could tell you, in English, all about Spanish verb conjugations, how to put sentences together, how to order people around, whether a noun is masculine or feminine and how that works with the adjectives and articles, exactly when and where to place a diacritical mark, and the times when you should use ser vs. estar (both meaning “to be” for different situations). I mean, you wouldn’t say, “Yo soy en la casa,” because that’s a situation where you should use estar. Thus you should say, “Yo estoy en la casa,” because you use estar as “to be” when you’re describing where you are, because estar is for temporary conditions (I’m leaving the house and going to work tomorrow, after all), whereas ser is for permanent conditions and such.

When I was taking Spanish, Stuarts Draft High School used the Scott Foresman foreign language textbook series. Thus we went through Voces Y Vistas, Pasos Y Puentes, and Arcos Y Alamedas. Those of you who took Spanish in the 1990s will immediately remember this book:

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Categories: Language

Sable is packed to the gills…

2 minute read

May 11, 2007, 9:53 PM

I don’t think I’ve filled a car so full since I left Potomac Hall at JMU for the last time back in 2003. Back then, I had the Previa stuffed to the gills with my junk from the dorm. Now, I have the Sable filled to the brim with my stuff, headed for Silver Spring. That car is literally packed full. The back seats are folded down, and I’ve put stuff in every possible spot. There’s even stuff sitting in the passenger seat. I just hope the car doesn’t think it’s a passenger and sound the seat belt alarm when I get going. That would look odd to have the seat belt buckled over there, to keep the alarm quiet.

It reminds me of a rhyme by Muffy from Today’s Special:

There was an old woman who lived in a hat,
With fourteen kids and one smelly cat.
The hat was bulging, filled right to the brim,
And inside, things were looking mighty grim.
And then when the woman came back with one more kid,
The hat shouted, “Fifteen!” and blew its lid!

That was then followed by the top flying off a nearby top hat. But yeah, I think if I put anything else in there, the car will shout, “Fifteen!” and blow its lid, too.

One thing that I will really appreciate with this run for stuff is the lamps. Those four torchiere lamps that I have are coming, and will be placed in strategic locations in the apartment. It’s helpful because there are few light fixtures in the apartment, and lots of switches attached to electrical outlets. Thus since I brought no lamps on the first run, I had to kind of find my way around in the dark upon leaving the apartment, feeling for walls and furniture, to avoid running into them, and the subsequent cursing. And I don’t particularly like to swear, though I’ve been known to let them fly fairly easily.

Speaking of swearing, I remember something I did for a professor at JMU that both the professor and I found amusing. He said that we could write whatever on the tests themselves, “Just don’t write any swear words.” So I decided to be a bit of a wiseguy. I wrote “SWEAR WORDS” in all caps near the top of the test paper. Not actual dirty words – literally the phrase “swear words”.

All in all, I’m excited about living in the DC area…

“Booger” is a word, but “burqa” isn’t?

< 1 minute read

March 27, 2007, 7:13 PM

First off, hello from Pentagon City. I’ve had a fun day today. I rode out to New Carrollton on the Metro and then around to Fort Totten and then to the Infoshop. And at times, I’ve been playing Scrabble Blast on my cell phone, like while I’m waiting on the train. I’m working my wordiness, keeping my mind in tip-top shape.

However, it’s kind of strange about what words are valid words. I had tried “burqa” – the Muslim women’s veil – and it rejected it! I would have scored 212 points on it, which would be a personal record, beating “mixed” for 170 points. This is the same game that accepts “booger” and “titties” as valid words (wipe that grin off your face!), while something far less juvenile gets rejected. It gets frustrating when it rejects perfectly valid words. Of course, it also rejects a number of “colorful” words that I’ve had the opportunity to give it.

But all in all, it’s a really fun game. That and Tetris Mania.

Otherwise, I’m revamping my discussion forums, changing from YaBB to phpBB. The official cutover takes place Saturday night. I’m excited.

Categories: Cell phone, DC trips, Language

“That’s a word that grown-ups use…”

2 minute read

October 1, 2005, 10:30 PM

The thing to remember when you’re playing Pac-Man in a game room with children present and you get eaten by a ghost is to mind your language. When I play Pac-Man and get eaten by a ghost, I usually let out a mild expletive (it starts with “D”). Doing that and then realizing that children were present in the game room, I said to myself, “There are children in the room…” and just kept reminding myself of that.

I figure that the children’s parents would really love me if I inadvertently taught them some new words that would be less-than-appropriate in polite company. Sure, the children will likely learn those words eventually, but I don’t exactly want to be the one to teach those words to them.

And you also have to wonder… what would you say if a child heard you curse, and they asked you about it? (This didn’t happen to me, by the way.) That would be one heck of a tight spot to have to tiptoe your way out of. A response might be, “Well, that’s a word that grownups use when they’re not careful about what they’re saying. And you should never say that word.”

Since we certainly don’t want to rob these children of their innocence any earlier than necessary. Television does a fine job of it already, and it doesn’t need any competition. And I need to remember to mind what I say when I get eaten by a ghost playing Pac-Man. Since I don’t want to be the one to teach these children all kinds of naughty words. And remembering my time as a child, naughty words are kind of a novelty. They’re a novelty specifically because you’re not supposed to say them.

And again, I don’t want to provide the children with these novelties.

Categories: Language

[expletive deleted]

< 1 minute read

September 17, 2005, 7:13 PM

What can I say? Sometimes simple, well-intended things yield up unexpected results. Why do I bring this up? I was reading my Discussion Forums, and one thread went into state fairs and such. A link was provided to the Web site for the Haddam Neck Fair in Haddam Neck, Connecticut. The address of, due to the way the domain name is formatted, coupled with my forum’s built-in swear filter, caused the URL to be rendered like this:

had[expletive deleted]

I knew that the swear filter would render certain words (the famous seven-plus-three, plus a few others) as “[expletive deleted]” when displayed on-screen, but I never thought it would filter out a URL like that. Still, that’s pretty efficient for the swear filter, even rendering the URL incorrectly in its mission to filter out the profanity I’ve told it to watch for – something no one expected it to do. After all, it took the “damn” right out of

I ended up fixing the problem by taking “damn” out of the swear filter. I rationalized it on the forums by saying, “I figure we’re all old enough for ‘damn’ on here, and since it’s interfering with legitimate activity, I’m going to let it through.”

That was quite a strange thing to happen, though.

Categories: Language, Schumin Web meta