Queer at the Hospital, Xtra West #348, December 21, 2006

Queer at the Hospital
In the middle of November, around the time of the boil-water advisory and the heavy snowfall, I had emergency abdominal surgery. I had never been in the hospital before. But all of a sudden there I was at VGH, IVs everywhere, blood transfusions, painkillers, Salisbury steak for dinner, the whole deal. For six days.
Read the full column here.

Sarah on Sounds Like Canada

Shelagh Rogers interviewed the editor of Nobody’s Mother, Lynne Van Luven, and two contributors, me and Sadhna Datta, on Sounds Like Canada. You can hear the interview by going to this page and scrolling down to November 20. The interview runs about 50 minutes and is more like a discussion among the four of us. Shelagh Rogers wrote the foreword to the book.

Grammar Tip #9: Not Your Everyday Tip

Another hot tip from Sarah’s Dad:

Do not confuse everyday and every day.

In spelling two-word phrases there is a trend toward uniting the two words into a single word. Often there is an intermediate stage in which the two words are joined by a hyphen (flower pot, flower-pot, flowerpot). In many cases, however, it is important to distinguish between the one-word form and the two-word form of a compound.

This is usually obvious in the case of compound verbs. The verb carry over means to continue or postpone, while the noun carryover is what has been continued or postponed. Other words seem trickier because the meanings of the different forms are close.

The single word everyday means “ordinary, usual, unremarkable.” In the sense of a routine or recurring event, it can also mean “happening daily.” Here are some everyday examples.

An everyday occurrence. An everyday experience.

Everyday prices.

I look forward to my everyday yoga session.

She quit her everyday job.

In contrast, the two-word phrase every day means “on each day.” It is just like the phrases “every minute,” “every hour,” “every week,” “every time,” etc., all of which are also spelled as two separate words.

I have this experience every day.

Low prices every day.

I look forward to my yoga session every day.

The two-word phrase every day can also mean “all days”: She loved every day of her job.

Other pairs that have distinct meanings include altogether and all together, already and all ready, and compounds using the word any.

I’ve already done that. — I’m all ready for the dance.

She’s altogether too polite. — She gathered them all together in the kitchen.

Anyone would know that. — Any one of you would know that.

Anyway, I certainly knew it. — Any way you look at it, they deserved it.

In all these cases, stop and consider the actual meaning of the compound in the sentence you are writing. All right, folks, that’s enough for today, and maybe every day.

Life is Full of Medical Surprises

This site has been lacking updates because I had unexpected surgery in the middle of November. Everything went fine, and I gathered lots of material for comics and other such things… but computer work won’t be an option for a while. Please check back in December!

Grammar Tip #8: Spend A While With My Dad

It was taking me so long to get another grammar tip posted, I knew I needed help. So I emailed my dad and asked if he would be a Guest Grammar Tipper. And he said, “Oy! I can’t do it right now. Maybe tomorrow.” But within an hour I received the following. He is obsessed. That is why I am so weird.

Rob teaches Zev some grammar
(this is Dad explaining the following rule to my nephew Zev)

A While and Awhile
By Robert Leavitt
Do not confuse a while and awhile. The noun a while means “a relatively short period of time.” The adverb awhile means “for a short time”; in other words, awhile is equivalent to “for a while.” The following examples illustrate the differences.

She spent a while on the telephone.

She was playing cards awhile this afternoon.

Wait for a while before you go out. Wait awhile before you go out.

It’s not always easy to tell which term is correct. A good rule of thumb is that if you can substitute “for a short time” then you can use awhile. See how this works in the next two sentences (and try it in the other sentences here, too).

She waited (for a short time). — Therefore, She waited awhile is correct.

She waited quite (for a short time). — This doesn’t make sense; therefore, you must write She waited quite a while.

If you remember that prepositions (in, after, for, etc.) are followed by nouns, then you can avoid spelling errors in the following situations.

Lunch will be ready in a while.

He got the hang of it after a while.

At the beginning of a sentence, a while is almost always a noun.

A while later, he returned from the store.

A while ago, I received a cheque for $500.

So, stop awhile! Take a while to decide on the correct spelling!

Grammar Tip #7: Avoid “excessive” and “inappropriate” use of “quotation marks”

Quotation marks can be used for a number of purposes. They can indicate dialogue, a word used as a word (see Tip #6), slang, epithets or nicknames, titles, or, my favourite, irony. Like so:

Amy said, “Please come with me to the coronation, dearest.”

Remember when “depilation” was a dirty word in our crowd of lesbian feminists?

Where I come from, we call notebooks “scribblers.” (See Geist Magazine’s Canadian Phrasebook for more sentences about Canadian slang.)

Many people know me as Sarah “the Pathetic Grammar Weirdo With Nothing Else to Do on the Weekend” Leavitt.

I have always loved “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” by John Donne.

Word is that Anchal on America’s Next Top Model is “fat.”

There are other uses, too. But all too often, quotation marks are misused. As on this sign I saw in Prince Rupert, BC last summer:


Here, quotation marks are used incorrectly for emphasis. But we read it as irony. So it’s as if the sign is saying we shouldn’t really drive slowly. Or the people who made the sign didn’t mean us to understand the common definition of “slow” but maybe some other meaning that only locals know.

Here is another example, from BC Ferries:


See what I mean? Do not use quotation marks willy-nilly. It makes people laugh at messages that are supposed to be taken seriously.

PS The quotation marks in the title of this post are excessive and inappropriate and undermine the serious nature of what I am trying to say.