Virtually real- Virtuellement vraie

Micheline Harvey: Virtual Assistant, real person/Adjointe Virtuelle, mais tout à fait vraie

Gimme Five August 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — matamich @ 9:34 pm
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Random Creative Writing Challenge (Just for fun):

 Trace the journey of a five dollar bill through the lives of five different owners.  What was exchanged during the transactions?  How much (or how little) did the transaction mean to each of the people involved?

I wrote this several years ago.

 Gimme Five

(Copyright Micheline Harvey)

Jean-Yves walked briskly across the busy intersection, dodging between the random cabs, rummaging through his pocket for his cell phone and looking at his watch. He was running late. Again. This was going to be a huge deal, he couldn’t really afford to piss off the client, not this time, so he thought that a bit of his trademark sweet talk might just fix things. He certainly knew his way around secretaries and receptionists, for so many had fallen prey to his charms. If only he could find his stupid cell phone and dial the client’s number, he was sure he could buy himself another 30 minutes or so.

He finally located the damn thing, wondering why they keep making them so tiny! He did not like the old, clunky, cumbersome cell phones from way back, but he DID like something that had at least some weight in his hand. Something that did not get lost at the bottom of his pockets so easily! As he pulled it out, avoided getting his expensive suit splashed by an impatient driver, cupped his family jewels quickly – just to check – and prepared his most sultry, sweet and low voice to charm the panties off the girl who answered all the incoming calls to MADISON, DRAKE, LLOYD & ASSOCIATES, a folded five dollar bill fell out of his pocket, fluttered out in front of him, swirled up in the whoosh of wind of a passing city bus and blew away, too fast for him to try to catch it.

Oh well, he shrugged, what’s five bucks when you make as much money as I do and are about to close the deal of the decade?

And so Jean-Yves hustled on to his appointment, speaking in hushed, syrupy tones into his teeny tiny high tech cell phone as his five dollar bill made its way down the street.


Giselle hiked the baby up higher on her hip, pulled on her purse strap and tried to untangle the many bags she was hauling with a single hand. She frowned, thinking that she’d only been a few dollars short and was unable to get her husband Steve’s big bag of veggie chips he liked so much. They were struggling a bit since the baby, and since little Trey had been basically her idea, she hated when his diapers, formula and baby food took anything away from Steve. Her husband did not ask for much, and he had not been ready for a baby. He kept telling Giselle that they should wait, just a couple of years, for him to get a raise and her to find a job. Instead, she had stopped taking the pill without telling him and presented Steve with the fait accompli. He had freaked out a little, but had been nothing but supportive throughout her entire pregnancy, taking on extra shifts and doing odd jobs on the weekends in order to be able to get her anything she wanted, or needed.

The baby sneezed, dousing her entire left shoulder with snot and drool and broke out in a curious little giggle, bouncing up and down on her sore hip and stretching out his little hand.

Giselle could not figure out what he was reaching for, until she realized that little Trey had found a five dollar bill, stuck in the branches of a thick shrub!

That’s my baby boy, she thought, smiling. Giselle looked around to see if anyone seemed to be looking for a missing bill and, seeing no one, she slipped it into her bag and headed back to the grocery store to get Steve a bag of his favorite chips.


Kat made a funny face at the baby in the woman’s arms as she bagged her purchase and handed her the change from her five dollar bill. The baby yelled, laughed, vibrated against his mother’s shoulder and let a long strand of bubbly drool fall onto the conveyer belt that led to the cash register. Kat wrinkled her nose as she fished around for the paper towels to wipe it off.

Kat’s period was ten days late. She was NEVER late. She was like fucking clockwork. She zoned out and flashed back to the night of the bonfire and how her boyfriend Luke didn’t have any rubbers. How she had drank one too many beers and felt all loose and lovely and loving. How she let him stick it inside her “just a little”. How she was so sure that he had not pulled out in time like he said he did. She eyed the rolly polly drooly little boy and thought that she was way too young to deal with having a baby. She closed her eyes for a couple of seconds and prayed for her period to start. Just. Please. Start.

The woman pulled Kat out of her reverie by asking her to give her a five dollar bill in exchange for a fistful of loose change she had just discovered at the bottom of her purse. Kat counted out the pennies, dimes and quarters and handed the same fiver she’d just put in the register back to the woman who smiled, picked up her numerous bags, and left, baby bouncing on her hip.


“Here’s the five dollars I’ve owed you forever…” said Giselle, as she put the baby in his playpen and set the bags on the kitchen counter.

“Oh, and I got you your chips.” She smiled, thinking of the luck of finding a wayward five dollar bill AND discovering as much in change in her purse after the transaction. Not only could she get Steve his beloved chips, but she could pay back a pesky little debt that had been nagging her for a couple of weeks. Having no income was a bitch.

Steve took the five dollar bill, smiled and kissed Giselle.

“You can keep this, honey. I don’t expect you to pay me back.” He said, handing it back to her.

“No way. For once I can pay you back. Please, leave me this small pleasure.” Said Giselle, tucking the bill into Steve’s pocket and copping a feel of his butt at the same time.


Joe sat on the corner, bundled up in too many layers of smelly old clothes, his dog Bugger by his side, holding up his empty coffee mug to beg for money. This was a pretty busy corner. He usually made enough money for dog food, McDonald’s and the upkeep of his drinking problem. Some people did not even look at him, other’s tossed in a couple of quarters. Mostly, he got one dollar bills. But sometimes, when he was lucky, some generous soul would fold a fiver into his mug.

Joe sometimes remembered, through an alcoholic haze, the years when he was a successful businessman. When he had a family, a wife and two really good looking kids. When he thought about this, he’d smile, until he started to remember his drinking, and what it made him do. Joe lost his values, lost his wife, lost the respect of his kids, lost his business and ended up on the street. Joe was now only a shadow of his former self. Five dollars would help him feed Bugger. Five dollars would keep him alive one more day…or give him that buzz he craved so much. Joe smiled, revealing two missing front teeth, and held his mug up high.


Standing out in front of the expensive sushi restaurant where he’d just had lunch with the sexy receptionist from MADISON, DRAKE, LLOYD & ASSOCIATES,  Jean-Yves glanced over at the homeless wino sitting in a smelly lump and begging for money. He turned his nose up and sneered, in disgust, thinking that he’d NEVER, EVER in a million years give money to people like that. They were pathetic. All they needed was a swift kick in the ass. Although he had more than enough money for several lifetimes, he would never even consider giving them one, red cent.

Little did he know…the folded five dollar bill that was just placed into the beggar’s mug by Steve, as he made his way to work, was the one that flew out of his pocket, that very morning.



Literally/Figuratively – Good grammar, it’s hot! December 4, 2011

I think good grammar is important and attractive! As a VA, it is part of my job to notice grammar, spelling and the proper use of words. Common mistakes can do serious damage to an otherwise stellar reputation. Think about the image you project and proofread, do some research, look it up…or ask me!


Have you ever heard someone say something like the following?

I was so scared that I literally jumped out of my skin.

I was so cold after two hours in the snow that I literally froze to death.

Upon hearing a statement like one of these, I think, “Really? You literally jumped out of your skin?” Or, “You actually froze to death, but you’re still alive to talk about it?”

It’s common to hear figures of speech (like idioms or hyperboles) used for emphasis, just as “jumped out of my skin” is used to express extreme fright. Such expressions are not intended to be interpreted as is, which is why they are considered figurative. In contrast, when something is literal, it is real or actual. Obviously, it is impossible to jump out of one’s skin, so this expression is figurative, not literal. The use of literally in such an expression is incorrect or, at best, unnecessary.

It could be argued that literally is used with figures of speech for the purpose of exaggeration or emphasis; that is, the person including literally is doing so purposefully to extend the hyperbole. But it is generally understood that figures of speech (as used in the examples above) are for emphasis, often involve some exaggeration, and not intended to be taken seriously. To include the word literally for further exaggeration or emphasis is, in my opinion, verbal overkill.



Les accents et le tréma – La nouvelle orthographe August 29, 2011

Les accents et le tréma

  1. Devant une syllabe graphique contenant un e instable (dit e muet), on écrit è et non é. Ainsi :

on écrit évènement sur le modèle de avènement, règlementaire sur le modèle de règlement, etc. ;

les formes conjuguées des verbes du type céder, au futur et au conditionnel, s’écrivent avec un accent grave (ex. : elle cèderait sur le modèle de elle lèverait) ;

dans les inversions interrogatives, la première personne du singulier en e suivie du pronom personnel je porte un accent grave (ex. : aimè-je).

Exceptions, en raison de leur prononciation normée en syllabe initiale :

les préfixes dé- et pré- (ex. : dégeler, prévenir) ;

les é- initiaux (ex. : échelon, édredon, élever) ;

ainsi que médecin et médecine.

1.  L’accent circonflexe disparait sur les lettres i et u (ex. : nous entrainons, il parait, flute, traitre).

Exceptions : le circonflexe est maintenu, pour sa fonction analogique ou distinctive,

dans les terminaisons verbales du passé simple (ex. : nous vîmes, vous lûtes) et du subjonctif (ex. : qu’il partît, qu’il eût voulu) ;

dans jeûne(s), les masculins singuliers dû, mûr et sûr, et les formes de croitre qui, sinon, seraient homographes de celles de croire.

2.  Le tréma est déplacé sur la lettre u qui correspond à un son dans les suites -güe- et -güi- (ex. : aigüe, ambigüe, ambigüité).

N.B. Afin de corriger des prononciations jugées défectueuses, le tréma est ajouté dans quelques mots (ex. : argüer, gageüre, rongeüre).

3.  Pour l’accentuation (comme pour le pluriel et la soudure), les mots empruntés suivent la règle des mots français (ex. : homéo-, un imprésario).

Source : la rédaction du site*.


La nouvelle orthographe – Des chevals ou des chevaux? July 18, 2011

Les enfants font souvent l’erreur, ou la confusion de dire des chevals au lieu des chevaux. J’ai même récemment entendu un splendide jeune garçon lors d’une grande fête de famille affirmer en réponse à sa maman qui le corrigeait gentiment, que « les grands manitous de la Langue Française » avaient désormais décidé que la formule des chevals était acceptée et qu’il fallait que maman se mette à jour!

Je dois avouer que cette affirmation sonnait étrange à mes oreilles, tout en les choquant. Moi-même incertaine face à plusieurs des nouvelles règles mises en place, j’ai voulu faire une vérification, tout en espérant qu’il ne s’agissait que d’une légende urbaine ou d’une fausse croyance. Voici ce que j’ai trouvé :

Une rumeur selon laquelle la graphie chevals était attestée dans les dictionnaires aurait trotté il y a quelques années…

Certaines personnes avaient alors affirmé que la graphie plurielle en -als pour tous les mots en -al avait été acceptée par l’Académie française pendant une courte durée dans les années 1980.

D’autres ont avancé que le pluriel chevals provenait des Rectifications de l’orthographe de 1990, alors qu’il n’a jamais été question du pluriel des mots en -al dans la réforme.

Enfin, l’origine la plus probable de cette rumeur serait associée à une épreuve de français écrit du ministère de l’Éducation du Québec, lors de laquelle les candidats devaient rédiger une dissertation à partir d’un texte de Michel Garneau intitulé Les petits chevals amoureux.

Une chose est certaine : chevaux est la seule graphie attestée comme pluriel de cheval.

Source :

Et personnellement, j’en suis très heureuse. Je n’aurais tout simplement pas pu me réconcilier avec le fait d’écrire des chevals, et encore moins de le dire !


Preventive Preventative – Good grammar, it’s hot! July 6, 2011

I think good grammar is important and attractive! As a VA, it is part of my job to notice grammar, spelling and the proper use of words. Common mistakes can do serious damage to an otherwise stellar reputation. Think about the image you project and proofread, do some research, look it up…or ask me!


According to Merriam-Webster Online, preventive and preventative (as  in preventive or preventative medicine) are interchangeable. Both words originate in the 1600s, though preventive precedes preventative by about 40 years.

My preferred word of choice? Preventive: it has one less syllable and rolls off the tongue more easily.

See also: Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s entries for preventive and preventative.



Podium/Lectern – Good grammar, it’s hot! June 8, 2011

I think good grammar is important and attractive! As a VA, it is part of my job to notice grammar, spelling and the proper use of words. Common mistakes can do serious damage to an otherwise stellar reputation. Think about the image you project and proofread, do some research, look it up…or ask me!


If you’ve ever given a speech or lecture, you more than likely have used a stand called a lectern as a place to lay your papers or notes. However, you probably didn’t refer to the stand as a lectern. Like most people, you probably called it a podium. But a podium is actually a raised platform used to stand upon when speaking in front of a group. Remember that you stand behind a lectern, while you stand on a podium.

If you are wondering why one would differentiate between these two words, consider the origin of the word podium. It is a Latin word derived from the Greek word podion, a form of
pous or podos, meaning foot. Aha! By looking at the derivative of the word, it becomes clear why a podium is something that is stood upon–its root means foot.



Point d’exclamation. Exclamation point. April 28, 2011

L’usage abusif du point d’exclamation

Ou : comment détruire l’effet d’une belle ponctuation.

 J’aime l’écriture. J’aime les phrases bien construites, les mots et les effets qu’on donne à des textes. Je n’aime pas les gens qui abusent de la ponctuation comme s’ils subissaient des spasmes incontrôlables en arrivant sur une touche particulière de leur clavier.

Les gens qui utilisent les … comme s’il s’agissait d’une virgule ou pour remplacer toute autre ponctuation dans un texte, m’inquiètent. Les gens qui ajoutent trois, quatre, cinq, dix ou douze points d’exclamation à la fin de chacune de leurs interventions ou chacun de leurs courriels me font penser à des personnes hystériques qui font des crises debout sur leur bureau les deux poings fermés, tel un enfant qui n’obtient pas ce qu’il veut.

Le point d’exclamation sert à mettre de l’emphase sur un mot, une phrase, à souligner l’importance d’une affirmation ou une demande, à exprimer l’étonnement, l’indignation, le désaccord, la joie, etc.

Si vous en ajoutez une demi-douzaine à la fin de toutes vos phrases, vous tuez le pauvre point d’exclamation qui désormais ne veut plus rien dire pour moi.

Tout comme l’usage abusif du mot URGENT, mais ce sera pour un prochain billet de blogue.

Exclamation point abuse

Or: how to destroy the effect of perfectly good punctuation.

I love writing. I love well-crafted sentences, words and effects that can be given to our writing. I don’t like people who abuse punctuation as if they suddenly become spastic every time they hit a certain key.

People who use … as they would use a comma or in place of all other punctuation in a text actually worry me. People who add three, four, five, ten or a dozen exclamation points at the end of each intervention or e-mail make me think that they are hysterical individuals who have temper tantrums while standing on their desks with their fists in the air like a petulant child who doesn’t get what he wants.

The exclamation point is used to put emphasis on a word, a sentence, to express the importance of an affirmation or request, to express surprise, indignation, disagreement, joy, etc.

If you systematically add half a dozen exclamation points to the end of everything you write you essentially kill the punctuation that no longer has any meaning to me. 

This reminds me of the abusive use of the word URGENT, but I’ll touch on this subject in another blog entry.


Hopefully – Good grammar, it’s hot! January 16, 2011

I think good grammar is important and attractive! As a VA, it is part of my job to notice grammar, spelling and the proper use of words. Common mistakes can do serious damage to an otherwise stellar reputation. Think about the image you project and proofread, do some research, look it up…or ask me!

I will share some basic rules and talk about common mistakes over the next few weeks.

Rule 8.  Hopefully

This is one word that has become almost completely acceptable in its incorrect form, hence its “questionable” status.

Most people use it to mean “it is hoped that,” as in the following sentence:

Example 1: Hopefully, the rain will stop in time for the outdoor concert.

Hopefully can also be used to describe performing an action “in a hopeful manner,” as the following example demonstrates:

Example 2: We hopefully waited for the winner of the competition to be announced.

Example 2 illustrates what is considered by some to be the only correct usage of hopefully, while Example 1 is considered an outright error.

The argument against using hopefully in the manner of Example 1 is that the adverb–hopefully–is not modifying anything. The rain (in Example 1) is not performing an action in a hopeful manner. Other adverbs, such as thankfully, frankly, and honestly, are used similarly.

There is much debate over the correctness of using adverbs this way. To avoid controversy, switch from hopefully to I hope or we hope. Or you can choose to go with the
masses and continue to use hopefully. Hopefully, no one will correct you.




Les mots empruntés forment leur pluriel – La nouvelle orthographe, parlons-en! November 3, 2010

Règle 6

Les mots empruntés forment leur pluriel de la même manière que les mots français et sont accentués conformément aux règles qui s’appliquent aux mots français.


ancienne orthographe devient nouvelle orthographe

des matches devient des matchs

des misses devient des miss

revolver devient révolver

Le pluriel régulier, déjà familier à la plupart des francophones, renforce l’intégration des mots empruntés ; l’ajout d’accent permet d’éviter des prononciations hésitantes.

Source : la rédaction du site*.


Bring/Take – Good grammar, it’s hot! October 18, 2010

I think good grammar is important and attractive! As a VA, it is part of my job to notice grammar, spelling and the proper use of words. Common mistakes can do serious damage to an otherwise stellar reputation. Think about the image you project and proofread, do some research, look it up…or ask me!

Et la prochaine fois, je continuerai avec mes 10 règles de la nouvelle orthographe en français pour les lecteurs francophones.

I will share some basic rules and talk about common mistakes over the next few weeks.

Rule 5.  Bring/Take

Bring and take are very easily confused as their meanings are similar. To prevent confusing these two words, remember that bring means to carry something towards yourself, while take means to carry something away from yourself.

Example 1 (bring–correct usage): Bring
the supplies to my house so we can work on the project.

Note that in the sentence above, the direction of the action is towards the speaker.

Example 2 (take-correct usage): Take
the supplies to your house so we can work on the project.

In Example 2, take, rather than bring, is used because the direction of the action is away from the speaker.