Repost: I’ve never been prone at the dentist’s office…

In light of today’s fresh content about grammar and word usage, here’s a related piece from my old blog, originally posted February 12, 2019.

I am currently reading actress Rose McGowan’s book, BRAVE.  To be honest, I didn’t know who Rose McGowan was before I picked up her book.  I never watched her on Charmed; I wasn’t a fan of the movie, Scream (and don’t even remember if I ever watched it); I don’t follow Marilyn Manson; and looking at McGowan’s page on, I don’t even recognize anything she’s been in since 2011.  I have heard of Law & Order, but have never watched the show.  I probably should watch Law & Order, because I probably would like it, but not because Rose McGowan was ever in it.

I picked up her book because someone in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Facebook group mentioned that Rose McGowan had been in the Children of God cult.  I recently wrote a couple of posts about that creepy sex cult that was big in the 1970s.  Rose McGowan is about my age, and she was born in Tuscany.  Why?  Because her parents were in that cult.  The Children of God sent members around the globe in an effort to recruit new people.  McGowan’s parents must not have been as closed in to the compound as others in the Children of God cult were, as McGowan has actual memories of Italy instead of just the Children of God compound. 

Fortunately for Rose McGowan, she wasn’t forced to stay in that cult until she was an adult, as some others have been.  Her parents eventually moved to the Pacific Northwest, which McGowan hated after her time in Italy.  I can’t blame her for that.  Italy is a magical place and the food is insanely good there.  I had to chuckle as McGowan described the first lasagna she ever encountered in the United States.  My very first memories are of England, not the United States (although I was born in Virginia).  I think it permanently affected my world view, just as Rose’s world view seems to have been affected by having been born and spent her earliest years in Italy.

So anyway, I don’t have too much longer to go before I’m finished with Rose’s book.  I’m kind of glad I’ve been reading it, particularly since I also just read Justine Bateman’s book about fame.  McGowan kind of echoes Bateman’s comments about how fame isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.  There is a definite downside to it.  Unfortunately, at this point, McGowan’s comments about her experiences in show business are not what is sticking out the most to me about her book.

A few chapters ago, McGowan wrote about having visited the dentist, who was pressuring her to get her teeth the “Cadillac” treatment.  You know, a lot of people in Hollywood have perfect teeth that are straight and brilliantly white.  And this is part and parcel of being in show business, since people are always looking at your teeth when you’re in a movie or on television, or even if you’re photographed for a magazine or album cover.  McGowan’s point was that this dentist was trying to pressure her into spending big bucks to repair her perfectly serviceable, but not quite perfect, teeth.  It’s toxic to women, particularly those in entertainment, that so many of us are pressured to look beautiful all the time.

But… as she was explaining this very good point about how women in show business are objectified and pressured into staying as young and gorgeous as they can for as long as possible, McGowan wrote something along the lines of, “There I was, lying prone at the dentist’s office…”

I had to stop and scratch my head at that.  In 46 years of life on this planet, I have never once been asked to lie prone at the dentist’s office.  If I ever had been, I’d be concerned about the dentist’s competence.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is what it looks like to be “prone“, if you are writing or speaking about lying flat and you want to be accurate.

If you’re lying flat, but face down, you are in a “prone” position.  I would hope your dentist wouldn’t want you lying like this during your checkup.

I think the word McGowan was looking for was “supine”.  

Yes… you want to be lying on your back so your dentist has access to the right hole.  I have altered the original version of this photo, which was generously made available in the public domain by user Asanagi.  Many thanks!

I will admit, I get hung up on these kinds of “trivial” things all the time.  It probably annoys a lot of people, especially on Facebook.  In fact, I remember recently getting into it with people in the Life is Not All Pickles and Hairspray Group about the proper way to spell HIPAA.  People got snippy with me about it, claiming it’s not a big deal.  

Maybe it’s not a big deal to you, but it is a big deal to me.  Words have meaning.  Spelling is important.  Word knowledge and proper usage is important.  If I ever get to a point at which something like this doesn’t make me twitchy, it may be time for me to see a physician.  I know some people don’t care about this.  It’s one of my quirks.  I also hate it when people use the word “utilize” when they could just as easily and more accurately employ the word “use”.  Or when they write or say “jettisoned” when they actually mean “rocketed”.  The word “jettison” is not akin to the word “jet”.  Look it up.

Remember this photo, especially next time you see your dentist.  If he or she asks you to get into a prone position, you may wish to switch doctors.

Incidentally, this morning I became aware of a new book that I’ve decided I must own.  Although I doubt I’m quite the guru professional copywriter Benjamin Dreyer is, I think we may be spirit animals.  

I hope to finish Ms. McGowan’s book today and perhaps I’ll review it later today or maybe tomorrow.  There’s more to it than just an improper use of the word “prone”.  If I know myself, though, I will probably think of her next time I get a cleaning. (Click the link at the beginning of this post for my review of McGowan’s book.)

book reviews

A review of Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m kind of a stickler about language. I’m especially uptight about word usage. I get twitchy when people misspell or misuse words. Every time I see someone incorrectly use the word “phase” when they really mean “faze”, or “tow” when they actually mean “toe”, I want to break out my red pen. That’s why I was excited when I saw the new book, Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style, made available January 29, 2019. I knew I had to read it.

Benjamin Dreyer, author of this book for uptight language nerds like me, is Random House’s vice president, executive managing editor, and chief copy editor. Dreyer never set out to be a copy editor. Originally, he pursued writing and acting, then worked in a lot of bars and restaurants. He fell into copy editing and it turned into his career. In 1993, he joined Random House as a production editor and climbed the ranks to the lofty position he holds today. I kind of admire how Dreyer’s working life evolved into what it has. A combination of luck, skill, and talent have taken Dreyer from behind the bar to behind the words of thousands of authors. It’s his job to supervise the publication of hundreds of books every year.

I bought this book in February, but only now got around to reading it. I finished this morning, feeling pretty satisfied with myself. Not only was Dreyer’s book informative and useful, it was also entertaining. Dreyer has a fun writing style; he likes to play with words and seems to think of language as fun. I also think language is fun and fascinating, so Dreyer’s book really spoke to me. I think it would be a fantastic read for a lot of people, especially those who are very smart, but not quite as anal retentive about words as I am.

Seriously, folks. I think a lot of people get kind of lazy when they write. They have an idea they want to express, say with a common expression. But then they mess up the expression, and write something like “She wanted me to tow her line.”, when they really mean “She wanted me to toe her line.” You put your toes to the line; you don’t “tow” a line. This isn’t waterskiing.

Dreyer has been called the “unofficial language guru on Twitter.” I wouldn’t know about that. Although I do have a Twitter handle, I very rarely use it. My problem is that I like to use words and Twitter forces users to be brief… briefer than I’d ever want to be, anyway. On the other hand, brevity is a virtue. Time is money. All of those flowery, extra “verys”, “quites”, “reallys”, “of courses, “actuallys” and “rathers” take time to read and space on the page. Dreyer equates them to “throat clearing”. A copy editor helps to fix all of that so that books are easier and more pleasant reading. I am horribly guilty of using all of those extra words myself. Maybe thanks to Dreyer’s book, I will finally break myself of that “very” annoying habit.

Dreyer’s English is mostly a fun read, even though it’s mainly about grammar, word usage, idiom usage, capitalization, and punctuation. Dreyer loads his copy with fun facts and trivia, and helps readers understand why some rules have changed. I particularly enjoyed his list of proper nouns, along with notes on spellings that have become obsolete. For instance, when I was growing up, the Soviet Union still existed, as did the “Iron Curtain”. It wasn’t uncommon to see Romania spelled “Rumania” or “Roumania”. Dreyer writes that those spellings, unless specifically quoted from works that existed when they were still used, are obsolete.

Another rule that used to be iron clad was that writers weren’t supposed to split their infinitives. It was wrong to write something like “I’d like to quickly run to the store.” However, Dreyer writes that it’s okay to split infinitives now. And, it’s also okay to start sentences with “and” or “but”– good thing, too, because I do that all the time. You can also end your sentences with prepositions, and he lets you know when it’s all right to use “alright”.

If I have to offer criticisms of Dreyer’s book, it’s that some of the stuff he includes is elementary. But then, to people who don’t write all the time, maybe they’re not so elementary. He also uses a lot of footnotes, which might be distracting to some readers. And, although this wasn’t an issue for me, some reviewers on Amazon were evidently offended by Dreyer’s political commentary. If you identify as a political conservative, you may not enjoy this book as much as I did. Maybe Dreyer shouldn’t be including political comments in a book about grammar, although I suspect it probably made Dreyer’s English more interesting for those who aren’t enjoying our current political situation. Finally, readers should know that this is an American flavored book. Dreyer encourages writers to write in American English. That might not sit well with those who prefer the “Queen’s English”.

If you always hated grammar class, but you have to do any professional writing, you may want to give Benjamin Dreyer’s book a look. He could help you improve your writing, and that might help you improve the impression your writing makes on others. As for me, I will try to keep reminding myself that I should stop “throat clearing” in my writing. Be clear, concise, and accurate… and spell things right. And stop using ellipses so often. Sigh… obviously, I have some work to do myself.