July 2nd…umm, July 4th

Why do Americans celebrate Independence Day on July 4th?

The Second Continental Congress, formed after the start of the American Revolution in 1775, voted to declare their independence on July 2. However, the Declaration of Independence, largely authored by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted on July 4th. When the Founding Fathers actually signed the document, however, remains disputed.

After the July 2 vote, John Adams famously wrote to Abigail, his wife:

The second day of July 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.

Wonderfully said, John. Indeed, Americans commemorate their independence this way—but on July 4th, of course.

Happy 4th of July to all Americans near and far!!


“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupery, French writer (1900 – 1944).

To me, this is the essence of editing. It is too easy for the main message to get lost in extra and distracting words. People also have short attention spans, so it is important to make your point quickly. A good editor helps remove the extra pieces so the essential message shines through in as few words as necessary. (This post was short for a reason!).

Pro tip: ‘typoglycemia’

Even if you were the reigning spelling bee champ in high school, you could still suffer from ‘typoglycemia’. This newly-coined term refers to your brain’s ability to skip over typos and other errors when reading text, auto-correcting them in your mind. This happens because your brain reads words as a whole and not by the letter.

The best solution is to have someone else (particularly a professional and qualified someone else) go over your material. They must look at the letter order in every word, every piece of punctuation, and every sentence’s meaning to make sure it says what you intend it to say.

Greentree Communications has been doing this professionally since 2007. We have edited books, commercial documents, websites – you name it. We stick with you through the whole editing and proofreading process until your material says exactly what you want it to. Take a look at our website (www.GreentreeCommunications.ca), and feel free to ask us a question or two – we’ll help you for free. That’s just the kind of Canadians we are.

Phobias! (part 1)

Phobias are fascinating – aside from describing things hopefully not many of us have, the origin of the words can be interesting. Here are a few:

Aerophobia: deceptively simple. It is an abnormal fear of drafts of air, gases, or airborne material. Many people think it is simply a fear of flying, properly called ‘aviophobia’.

Acrophobia: I know a person who suffers from this, it is a fear of heights (think of ‘acrobat’). Acro– is from the Greek meaning ‘topmost’ or ‘highest’.

Ophidiophobia: here’s one that jumped out at me because of its unusual spelling. It means a ‘fear of snakes’.

Turophobia: it’s an irrational fear of cheese. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, so this one is very interesting to me. It comes from a variant of ‘tyros‘, which is Greek for ‘cheese’.

Triskaidekaphobia: having my birthday on the 13th, I’ve known this one for a while, especially as my birthday sometimes falls on a Friday. This is fear of the number 13 – buildings used to be built without a 13th floor (not one marked as such, anyway). The orighin? You guessed it – ‘triskaideka‘ is Greek for ’13’.

JOMO: we all know what FOMO stands for (Fear of Missing Out). Well, this is the opposite of that – the Joy of Missing Out. Missing a boring party or a disease would give me JOMO.

Coulrophobia: this is surprisingly common – the fear of clowns. The origin isn’t precisely known, but the Greek ‘kolon‘ means ‘limb’ with the sense of a ‘stilt-walker’, and from there it’s not a long journey to clown.

If you have any that interest you, let us know! And if you need assistance with correctly and professionally editing, proof-reading, writing support, or upgrading your spoken English, look us up at http://www.GreentreeCommunications.ca!

Troublesome Words

Bill Bryson is one of my favourite authors (‘A Walk in the Woods’, ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’, ‘The Body’) because he somehow knows how to craft the best description to bring an idea across, whether he is being serious or funny. His choice of words have that perfect ‘fit’. Here are examples from his highly-recommended reference-for-writers book ‘Troublesome Words’ – often-confused words explained clearly and quickly:

acute, chronic. These two are sometimes confused, which is a little odd as their meanings are sharply opposed. Chronic pertains to lingering conditions, ones that are not easily overcome. Acute refers to those that come to a sudden crisis and require immediate attention. People in the Third World may suffer from a chronic shortage of food. In a bad year, their plight may become acute.’

adverse, averse. ‘He is not adverse to the occasional brandy ‘ (Observer). The word wanted here was averse, which means reluctant or disinclined (think of aversion). Adverse means hostile and antagonistic (think of adversary).’

amid, among. Among applies to things that can be separated and counted, amid to things that cannot. Rescuers may search among survivors, but amid wreckage.’ (It’s all about the nouns survivors and wreckage – survivors is a ‘count noun’ (things easily countable) like people, buildings, parks, and trees. Wreckage is a ‘non-count’ noun, like milk, sugar, water, wood, traffic, and sunshine).

A couple more confused English word sets

Here’s a bit of useful information – some of the less common English language confusions:

Lose and Loose: spelled and pronounced differently, but we still often don’t use them correctly. Lose (verb) means “to come to be without (something in one’s possession or care), through accident, theft, etc., so that there is little or no prospect of recovery.” We don’t usually lose car keys, for example, but merely misplace them. We can lose a job, however, and unfortunately a good many other things. It entered English usage before 900 from the Middle English losen. Loose (adjective or verb), on the other hand, means “to free or released from fastening or attachment.” Coming into the English language between 1175–and 1225, it is from Middle English los, loos from the Old Norse lauss loose, free, empty.

Resign and Re-sign: again sometimes confused, Resign (verb) means “to give up an office or position, often formally (often followed by from)”, coming into English 1325–75 from the Middle English resignen (from Middle French resigner and the Latin resignāre to open, release, cancel. Re-sign (verb) means to “sign again” (such as ‘my first signature was faint, so I re-signed the cheque’). First recorded in 1795–1805.

More to come! Please see our website at http://www.GreentreeCommunications.ca and let us know how we can help you with your English issues!

Manslaughter vs. Murder: Differences In Intent And Degree (a clear explanation from Dictionary.com)

How can a person cause the death of another without the act being considered a murder? In US law, it can come down to differences between manslaughter and murder—which comes down to differences in intent and degree.

What does manslaughter mean?

Manslaughter, simply defined, is “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice aforethought.” US law designates two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. Let’s break these two terms down.

Voluntary manslaughter vs. involuntary manslaughter 

Voluntary manslaughter can refer to when the accused kills a person, but is deemed to have been provoked by the victim, as during the “heat of passion” during an altercation.

Involuntary manslaughter
 generally applies where death is the unintentional (involuntary) consequence of the actions of the accused. Reckless driving, as while texting or after drinking, for instance, can result in the death of other people, but the driver didn’t first set out on the road with deliberate intent to harm them—and so may be considered involuntary manslaughter.

How is murder defined?

Murder is “the killing of another human being under conditions specifically covered in law.” US law also distinguishes between two major types, or degrees, of murder: first-degree (murder one) and second-degree (murder two). 

First-degree murder vs. second-degree murder

First-degree murder involves the planning (premeditation) of the act or killing that happens when another crime is being committed (e.g., robberyarson).

Second-degree murder involves the intent to murder someone, but the murder didn’t take place with deliberation or premeditation beforehand. Let’s say someone got into a major verbal fight with a neighbor and got so angry, they grabbed a gun and shot the person dead. This incident involves intent to kill but not as a result of planning the murder ahead of time.

What is third-degree murder?

Three states—Florida, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania—currently further divide murders into a third degree. The laws vary, but third-degree murder in these states can include felony murders (a killing treated as a murder because, though unintended, it occurred during the commission or attempted commission of a felony, as robbery); most states classify felony murders as first-degree murders. Third-degree murders can also be homicides that occur as a result to indifference to human life (sometimes referred to as depraved-heart murders).

Fun Friday – Karen

Karen – we seem to hear it more and more, and usually (but not always), it’s meant to be funny. Karen is a mocking slang term for an entitled, obnoxious, middle-aged white woman. Especially as featured in memes, Karen is generally stereotyped as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands.

Karen joins a trend on the internet in the 2010s of using a first name to make fun of certain kinds of people. A Becky, for example, is a stereotype for a “basic” young, white woman, while a Chad, in other corners of the internet, stands in for a cocky, young “dudebro.”

But, why the name Karen? One suggestion is that it comes from a 2007 bit by Dane Cook called “The Friend Nobody Likes.” (The friend was named Karen.)  Another explanation is that it comes from a similar character Karen in the 2004 film Mean Girls.

The character was further developed in December 2017 thanks to a subreddit dedicated to mocking the imagined Karen. Tropes that developed about Karen here were that she is an annoying (and always annoyed) middle-aged, suburban, minivan-driving white, divorced mother of poorly behaved boys (of whom she has custody) who has a so-called “speak to the manager” haircut. (adapted from Dictionary.com)

Check us out at http://www.GreentreeCommunications.ca. We are happy to help with your editing and translation needs. We are NOT Karens!!

Victoria Day in Canada

Today (May 18) in Canada is celebrated as Victoria Day. Strangely, it is celebrated only in Canada and Scotland, and to many it means summer is coming soon (not a small thing in Canada and Scotland!). But why do we celebrate the British queen on May 18 when she was born on May 24?

The British monarch was born on May 24, 1819, and she reigned for over 63 years. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Canada’s parliament officially named the holiday Victoria Day. The Canadian government decided her birthday would be celebrated on a Monday, It would be observed on May 24th if that worked out, otherwise, it would be held on the Monday immediately before it.