Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The last word…

On Sunday, November 6, 2011
, Stan Hopton left his earthly vessel to join our Lord in Heaven. He lost a battle with lung cancer that no one even knew he was fighting. Stan was only 65 years old. He had a true love affair with words, most especially The Word. He had a hunger for knowledge that rivaled that of a starving man walking through a pizza factory. So, in his honor, I post this final message here, a eulogy to a man who will forever live on in so many hearts.

2 Timothy 1:7

“For God hath not give us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” This is one of Dad’s personal favorites, and he lived it daily. In all the years I’ve known him, I can honestly say I’ve never known my dad to be afraid. I’m sure there were times he was deeply concerned and even worried, but he faced life without fear. He faced death the same way. He was ready to meet the Lord, and he didn’t want any of his family or friends to fear his dying.

Cleared for take off

Hanging on the wall of my childhood bedroom is a red safety check banner, one that crews would remove before an airplane can be cleared for take off. The words on the banner read "Remove before flight." After walking into my room last night, I noticed the banner on the ground, and it struck me. All the safety checks had been made, and Dad was clear for take off. One final flight into the wild blue yonder.

Dad had been in the United States Air Force, stationed at R.A.F. Bentwaters, UK, and how he admired his planes. Especially the now retired F-4 Phantom.

Even to the end, Dad did all within his power to take care of those he loved, most especially my mother Judy. His protection was always gentle, his guidance strong and sure. His made it his job to methodically and thoroughly ensure every measure of precaution was followed, and he did so with the kind, patient spirit of a Shepard guarding his flock. Much the way an airplane crew would check every aspect of the plane, ensuring safe and complete functionality before taking flight.

God’s love is like an umbrella…

When I first met Stan he was the children’s pastor at the church my mom took my brother and I to. He seemed like such a kind man, even to a scared little girl, always willing to answer my questions or offer encouragement. Each Sunday, us kids would walk to the front pew for our special “Children’s Sermon” before being dismissed downstairs for Sunday School. One particular Sunday, I was feeling inspired; an idea for a sermon came to me… “God’s love is like an umbrella…” I pulled Stan aside after the service, this timid little teenager who was still trying to understand her place in the world, and offered him my thoughts. With a warm smile, he nodded his head and told me “It’s a good idea. Build on it, then we’ll have you give the sermon some Sunday.” I won’t ever forget that day because in my heart of hearts, after he walked away, I remember thinking how truly blessed my step sister was to have such a loving man like Stan for her Dad. God heard my heart’s desire that day and granted the wish I didn’t even realize I had. Only a few short months after that he and my mom were married…. And I’d never finished the children’s sermon. It wasn’t until very recently that the rest of it came to me. So, here goes.

God’s love is like an umbrella. It’s our protection from the rain. It helps us to weather the storm, without fear. Though, the umbrella doesn’t block our view. We can still see the storm around us, despite the cover above our head. Now, you may ask yourself “Why would a loving God want us to see the rain?” Wouldn’t it be better to hide our view as well? No. If we never saw the storm, we’d never see the rainbow. We’d never fully appreciate the umbrella, and how it kept us safe and dry. There is one other neat thing about umbrellas… They’re meant for sharing. When we come upon someone who’s traveling through the storm, we can help shelter them too… with God’s love.

So what’s at the end of everything?

The letter “g” of course. Dad loved laughter and his sense of humor was one of his greatest assets. He was intelligent and quick witted, and always had a ready quip to bring a smile or chuckle. These past few days have been filled with as many laughs as they have tears as we remember Dad’s life, Dad’s love and the special role he played in all our lives. I know in my heart Dad would have it no other way. He would be deeply honored to know he brought so much joy and happiness to those he loved.

As I look towards the future, I can’t help but smile. We’ve traveled this road of life together for so long, I almost don’t remember what it was like to walk without Dad. Yet, in my mind, I can clearly see him holding out his hand and saying to me “I’ve taught you all I can. You keep going, and I’ll be waiting for you at the foot of the bridge.”

Stan… I know you know this, because I’ve made sure to tell you, but I love you. I hold my head high and proudly call you my dad, and I am truly the lucky one. My dad wasn’t just any dad. He was hand picked by God Himself to be my dad. I could’ve had no better. You taught me to look beyond what my eyes see, to find the meaning, to never accept something at face value, just because the world says I should. You taught me that without laughter life is really boring, and when things get too serious, well, even trees need hugs now and again. But most importantly, you’ve taught me by your words and your actions that love is unconditional. Life is full of conditions, but love overcomes them all. Though I shed many selfish tears now, my heart is full of joy. I celebrate your life and your return home. But most of all, I’m grateful… to you and to God for the gift of you. It’s a gift I promise I will cherish all the days of my life and I will do all I can to honor that gift as it was meant to be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Last Post

I schott some words into the air and they fell everywhere.

Most unread.

Therefore we are taking an extended break.

We may even come back!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

10 Word Snacks

Puns For The Literate

1. King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates , the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan. Croesus said, "I'll give you 100,000 dinars for it." "But I paid a million dinars for it," the King protested. "Don't you know who I am? I am the king!"
Croesus replied, "When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are."

2. Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. Unfortunately, all the Swiss league records were destroyed in a fire, and so we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

3. A man rushed into a busy doctor's office and shouted, "Doctor! I think I'm shrinking!" The doctor calmly responded, "Now, settle down. You'll just have to be a little patient."

4. A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day, his supply of the birds ran out so he had to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spied two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly stepped over them. Immediately, he was arrested and charged with transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.

5. Back in the 1800s the Tate's Watch Company of Massachusetts wanted to produce other products, and since they already made the cases for watches, they used them to produce compasses. The new compasses were so bad that people often ended up in Canada or Mexico rather than California . This, of course, is the origin of the expression "He who has a Tate's is lost!"

6. A thief broke into the local police station and stole all the toilets and urinals, leaving no clues. A spokesperson was quoted as saying, "We have absolutely nothing to go on."

7. An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, "The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on."

8. A famous Viking explorer returned home from a voyage and found his name missing from the town register. His wife insisted on complaining to the local civic official who apologized profusely saying, "I must have taken Leif off my census."

9. There were three Indian women. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an elk skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant. The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws of the other two hides.

10. A skeptical anthropologist was cataloging South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal brujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the brujo looked him in the eye and said, "Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don't need enemas."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Just A Short Post Today

Feeling a bit under the weather.

Went to see the doctor.

He was very encouraging.

He said, "The trouble is in your breathing and we'll soon put a stop to that!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Lost Dr. Seuss Stories Come to Life Today

"The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories" offers a rare glimpse into the early years of acclaimed La Jolla children’s author Theodor Seuss Geisel.

By Angela Babb Timmons

Dr. Seuss fans are in store for a neat treat—seven of his original tales never before published in book format have just been released in a 72-page collection.

Just as you’d expect from the Dr. Seuss we know and love, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories will introduce a whole new world of whimsical characters navigating some pretty zany situations. Get ready to meet a duck named McKluck, a goldfish named Gustav, tiny twins Tadd and Todd, and many other characters reminiscent of the beloved author’s most memorable works.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories is a rare look at Dr. Seuss before he was a household name. According to children’s book publisher Random House, “It’s the literary equivalent of buried treasure.” A treasure indeed, considering these stories last appeared over 60 years ago when they were published in Redbook magazine.

Rewind to early 1950s when a virtually unknown writer by the name of Theodor Seuss Geisel lived in La Jolla with his wife, Audrey. He had a successful career in advertising, but found time to pen tall tales and fanciful stories that he submitted to magazines for publication. During 1950 and 1951, nearly a dozen of his original stories and illustrations appeared in Redbook. Less than 10 years later he published The Cat in the Hat and his magazine days came to an end.

Turns out these stories from his early years were never truly “lost,” just rarely seen and long forgotten.

“This is exciting for fans who have known Seuss throughout their whole life,” Susan Brandt, president of license and marketing at Dr. Seuss Enterprises in La Jolla, told Fox 5 San Diego. “But also, how neat to share with our children new stories that we can discover together.”

The author lived and worked in LaJolla until his death in 1991.

The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories will include illustrations by Dr. Seuss that appeared in Redbook, with enhancements made to the size and color in a manner that maintains the integrity of the author’s original work.

Not only does the legacy of Dr. Seuss carry on in the many books he published during his lifetime, but his name lives on at the Geisel Library at UC San Diego in honor of the significant contributions made by the author and his wife.

Audrey Geisel continues to play a prominent role in the La Jolla community through her many philanthropic efforts. Most recently she was honored at the 2011 Globe Gala in recognition of the generosity and support she has given to the theatre.

“She has worked to extend Seuss’s moral and artistic influence through the Dr. Seuss Foundation, which provides primary support for over 100 medical, cultural, and socially active institutions,” as noted on the website of Dr. Seuss Enterprises.

So what exactly is a Bippolo seed, you might ask? If Dr. Seuss were here today he might turn to you and say: Go get the book. Cuddle up in a cozy nook. Flip through the pages and take a look.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

National Punctuation Day Is Here!

National Punctuation Day is a great day to celebrate commas and apostrophes and all those oher funny marks!

Feeling uneasy about mystery quotation marks?

We have "fresh" sandwiches.

Badgered by errant apostrophes?

Our employee's are at you're service.

Confused by AWOL commas?

Smoking pets and bicycles prohibited.

Stop worrying about whether your dog smokes and start worrying about punctuation. Today would be a good day to start: It's National Punctuation Day.

I despair for humanity when I open an e-mail that bristles with so many exclamation points I can hardly make out the words in between them. And those are just the press releases about library events.

Two yearsago, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten declared the English language dead, the coup de grace delivered by an unnecessary apostrophe.

But don't bury English yet. People are fighting to revive its proper use. National Punctuation Day was the brainchild of Jeff Rubin, a California newsletter writer who founded it in 2004 as "a celebration of the lowly comma, correctly used quotation marks, and other proper uses of periods, semicolons, and the ever-mysterious ellipsis."

Rubin and his wife, Norma, maintain a website, national In 2009 they sponsored a punctuation baking contest. (Question mark meat loaf, anyone?) last year they posted punctuation-themed haikus:

Exclamation points

And question marks together?

Only in comics.

Then there is Jeff Deck's mission to bring America back to perfect punctuation, at least in public. "It's a question of people building their apostrophic confidence," says Deck, co-author of The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World One Correction at a Time.

Deck, 30, an editor who lives in New Hampshire, has a hands-on approach to raising awareness of poor punctuation. A couple of years ago he and his friend Benjamin Herson, a bookseller, set off on a 2½-month road trip in search of errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar in public signs.

Armed with their own heroic typo correction kit (Sharpies, chalk, Wite-Out and more), they found 437 errors and corrected 236. (They were charged with vandalism only once.)

The most common punctuation error? "The poor apostrophe is the most misused and put-upon. People are always throwing it into words where it's not needed, especially plurals," Deck says, citing signs directing people to "Restroom's" and offering "Apple's for sale."

"Almost as common is the apostrophe being left out where it's needed. In Cleveland we saw a big banner that said, 'Lets go Cavaliers.'" And don't get him started on "its" and "it's."

Deck doesn't blame vanishing punctuation skills on e-mail and texting, saying those modes of communication "get a bad rap. It's very easy to blame them."

Mary Alice Lopez isn't so sure. Lopez, 45, teaches sixth-grade language arts to about 60 students at the Academy of the Holy Names in Tampa.

Parochial schools and their formidable nuns were once a bastion of proper punctuation: Learn it or regret it. Nuns are scarce these days, but Lopez says grammar is still emphasized — though harder to teach. Students "all have cell phones, and that means punctuation and capitalization are out the window with texting. It's had a very negative impact."

Teaching punctuation begins in kindergarten. Her sixth-graders struggle most with commas: "They either omit them completely or put way too many in."

One teaching method the kids enjoy is a version of Deck's quest. She assigns them to find errors in signs and printed texts. "It's fun for them, but it also stresses how meanings can change if you make an error."

Roy Peter Clark loves punctuation so much that the cover of his new book, The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English, features a giant golden semicolon. The senior scholar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg devotes several chapters to punctuation, emphasizing what a valuable tool it can be.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Nostradamus vs Verne

It is almost Saturday! What awaits?


Many folks seem to be enamored with Nostradamus as a prophet or "foreteller" of future events. To me his writings are too vague and open to too many different interpretations. I prefer to think of Jules Verne.

When I think of Jules Verne, I think of the genius behind "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" or "Journey to the Center of the Earth" (my personal favorite of only because I read it first, at an impressionable age, and it got me on a sci-fi kick). In these stories, as well as others like "Around the World in Eighty Days" Verne, brilliantly prescient, wrote about flying, space and underwater travel and so much more long before any of it was actually possible.

But his ability to foretell the future, especially with regard to technology, which he viewed with a good dose of skepticism and fear, is best seen in his relatively unknown novel, "Paris in the Twentieth Century". First, the fascinating story behind the publication of the book…

Verne wrote the book in 1863, the year before he started publishing Journey to the Center of the Earth. He showed the manuscript to his publisher, who read it over and scribbled “Wait twenty years to write this book,” in the margins. “Nobody today will believe your prophecy, nobody will care about it.” Verne followed Hetzel’s advice and the manuscript was dropped into a safe where it lay until 1989 (no, it’s not a typo!) when it was discovered by Verne’s great-grandson.

After much hype, the novel was finally published in 1994. The story is set in 1960, nearly 100 years in the future from when Verne penned it. He got so much right about the future, it’s sort of scary. But the coolest part was that Paris in the 1960s would need another decade before actually catching up to Verne on some of his predictions. The book describes a city where people communicate via a worldwide telegraphic communications network (fax machines? Internet?)—where people commute to work in gasoline-powered automobiles and high-speed trains. He predicted that reading would decline, computers would rule our lives, people would live in skyscrapers and that criminals would be sent to their deaths “by electric charge.” Pretty interesting I'd say.

As a novel, the book is lackluster in just about every way imaginable. So don’t read it looking for an amazing story/plot like with his classics.

PS - He also predicted that a manned moon mission would be launched from Central Florida.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Marginal Note On Mark Twain

Twain House Dining Room


Coming in one week! The answer!


Curatorial Staff Makes A Mark Twain Discovery

Margin Notes Written By The Author Are Stuff Of Literary Study

By MARK SPENCER, The Hartford Courant

10:29 p.m. EDT, September 3, 2011


Anyone who saw the two women on their hands and knees in the library of the Mark Twain House in March might have thought they were cleaning.

Chief curator Patti Philippon and curatorial associate Mallory Howard were, in fact, doing a bit of dusting. The two women are the Twain museum's entire curatorial staff, and when it comes to passing menial tasks down the chain, they run out of links fast.

But their primary mission was to inventory the books in the library of the Victorian Gothic house on Farmington Avenue where Samuel Clemens, who published as Mark Twain, and his family lived from 1874 to 1891.

As volunteer tour guides patiently explain to the 70,000 people who visit the home each year, the books in the ornate library are of Clemens' era and interests, but are not actually the valuable editions he owned or had personally read.

"That turned out not to be the case," said Howard.

As they rummaged through the stand-in books, Howard and Philippon were stunned to find a long unaccounted-for book that had in fact been owned, or at least read, by Clemens. The book had appeared on previous inventories so the staff knew it existed, but as in many American homes, they didn't exactly know where it was.

"It's the kind of thing that doesn't happen very often and when it does it's just amazing," Philippon said.

While the two women were thrilled to find the book, Howard hit the literary jackpot when she later examined the copy of "Boat Life In Egypt and Nubia," a travel book by William C. Prime that Clemens detested.

There in the margins of many pages were scribbled notes, often acerbic or sarcastic, that Howard was almost certain had been written by Clemens as he read the book more than a century ago.

While perhaps mundane to most people, the discovery is the kind of thing that quickens the pulse of literary types. Appropriately called marginalia, scholars study it to get a glimpse into the thoughts of great writers.

"These are his own off-the-cuff, unedited thoughts," Philippon said. "It gives people an insight into him and what he really thought."

"Boat Life" occupies a unique niche in both Clemens' career and his relationship with Hartford. Twain's "Innocents Abroad," published in 1869, is his humorous account of a boat trip he took two years before through Europe and the Middle East.

It was his biggest-selling book during his lifetime and brought him to Hartford for the first time, where his publisher was based. And he devoted an entire chapter to savagely satirizing Prime and his book. Scholars have lusted to see Clemens' copy.

They will not be disappointed. After one overwrought passage, Clemens wrote, "This person was drunk."

Howard is intimately familiar with Clemens marginalia. She had worked as a tour guide and intern at the Mark Twain House & Museum before being hired after graduating last year with a bachelor's degree in American history from Central Connecticut State University.

As an intern, Howard was assigned the task of reviewing a collection of about 300 Clemens-owned books it acquired in the mid-1990s and for the first time cataloging the marginalia. Howard knows that most people would find it tedious going through thousands of pages in hundred of books searching for every pencil stroke and deciphering nearly illegible comments.

But she is the kind of person who can, unprompted, interrupt a conversation with a wistful, "Oh, I love marginalia," and said she couldn't wait to get started.

"I do geek out," Howard said. "This project was perfect for me."

To confirm the "Boat Life" find, scans of the marginalia were sent to Twain experts around the country.

Alan Gribben, a Twain library and marginalia expert at Auburn University in Montgomery, Ala., responded simply, "Wow."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

From Your Nautical Side

Another hint...or what?


The Nautical Roots of 9 Common Phrases

The Vikings, Columbus, the Pilgrims … they all arrived here by ship. So it stands to reason that some of the phrases we use today were born on the high seas. While sources differ on the roots of many sayings, others have a clear path to the days of sailing across the ocean. Here’s a look at 9 family-friendly phrases that likely came from the mouths of sailors.

1. Clean Bill of Health

The “Age of Sail” in the 18th and early 19th centuries was a glorious time in naval history marked by many epic battles on the high seas, but it was also a time of widespread disease. In order to receive permission to dock at a foreign port, ships were often required to show a bill of health—a document that stated the medical condition of their previous port of call, as well as that of everyone aboard. A “clean bill of health” certified that the crew and their previous port were free from the plague, cholera and other epidemics. Today, a person with a “clean bill of health” has passed a doctor’s physical or other medical examination.

2. In the Doldrums

During the Age of Sail, “The Doldrums” were stretches of ocean north and south of the equator that were infamous for their light winds. If a vessel was caught there, it could languish for days or even weeks waiting for the wind to pick up, which made for a very bored crew. Eventually, The Doldrums became so well known that the name was applied to any area with light winds. Today, someone who is “in the doldrums” is either listless or depressed.

3. Three Sheets to the Wind

Many people are surprised to learn that this expression for drunkenness was born on the high seas. “Sheet” is the nautical term for the rope that controls the tension on a square sail. If the sheets are loose on a three-masted ship, then the sails will flap uselessly in the wind, and the ship will drift out of control until the situation is corrected. Thus, the modern phrase “three sheets to the wind” has come to signify a person who is intoxicated to the point of being out of control.

4. Filibuster

The roots of the term “filibuster” can be traced to the pirates who prowled the shipping trade routes in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The Dutch word for pirate was vrijbuiter—a word that eventually led to the French term flibustier and the Spanish term filibustero. The British, however, pronounced it filibuster.

So how did the word for pirate became associated with obstructionist political tactics? It’s still a bit of a mystery, but some historians speculate that, since pirates were an incessant, obstructing nuisance, they effectively blocked trade in many areas, just as politicians try to block legislation today.

5. Chew the Fat

Before refrigeration, salted beef and pork were staple foods aboard sailing vessels because they could be stored for long periods without spoiling. However, they were also tough and extremely difficult to eat. It often took a great deal of chewing just to soften up the meat and make it edible, which took a lot of time. So, in the spirit of multi-tasking, men would gather to discuss the day’s events while they chewed their fatty, salt-cured meat. According to this theory, whenever people get together to gossip or chat, we say that they are “chewing the fat.”

6. Slush Fund

Most people think this term originated in the smoke-filled boardrooms of corporate America. Surprisingly, however, it can be traced back to some clever ship cooks who saved the slushy mix of fat and grease that was left over after every meal.
The slush would be stowed away in a secret hiding place until the ship returned to port. The cooks would then sell the fat to candle makers and other merchants, earning themselves a tidy sum in the process. Thus, the term “slush fund” refers to an illicit cash reserve.

7. By and Large

A sailing vessel was considered seaworthy if it could sail both “by” (into the wind) and “large” (with the wind). This term has come to mean “generally speaking” in modern parlance.

8. Groggy

Along with salted beef and water, the British Royal Navy issued sailors a daily ration of rum to keep them happy during long months at sea. And, not surprisingly, the men would often save up several days’ worth of their rations before consuming it in one long binge, which frequently resulted in insubordination. In 1740, hoping to reduce the number of alcohol-fueled discipline problems, British Admiral Edward Vernon ordered all vessels to dilute their daily rum ration with water. Vernon was known as “Old Grog” because he always wore a coat made out of grogram, a coarse material that was stiffened with gum. Consequently, the diluted rum drink that he created became known as grog, and sailors who drank too much of it were said to feel “groggy.” Today, people who are overly tired, lightheaded or generally inebriated are still referred to as groggy.

9. Under the Weather

Keeping watch onboard sailing ships was a boring and tedious job, but the worst watch station was on the “weather” (windward) side of the bow. The sailor who was assigned to this station was subject to the constant pitching and rolling of the ship. By the end of his watch, he would be soaked from the waves crashing over the bow. A sailor who was assigned to this unpleasant duty was said to be “under the weather.” Sometimes, these men fell ill and died as a result of the assignment, which is why today “under the weather” is used to refer to someone suffering from an illness. A related theory claims that ill sailors were sent below deck (or “under the weather”) if they were feeling sick.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why Do The Brits Hate Us?

50 Most Annoying Americanisms

Why do they hate us (U.S. citizens)?

The most common answer has always been that they hate our freedom, but I have breaking news from across the pond: It might be because of our language.

The BBC recently posted an article on the 50 most noted (a polite British way of saying annoying) Americanisms.

Dare I say that I must be British at heart since they make many excellent points, including:

Reach out instead of “ask.”

It is what it is, which is what it is: a phrase that says NOTHING.

Where’s it at? instead of the grammatically correct “Where is it?”

Ridiculousity, which the contributor hopes is being done tongue-in-cheek, but I wouldn’t bet on that–based on how often I hear the next one.

Physicality, which isn’t a word despite its growing use. (Note: People in the U.S. love to make up -ality words since it makes them sound so smart, at least to those who think anything ever uttered instantly becomes an acceptable word.)

Least worst option; the contributor suggests asking what the “most best option” might be.

Going forward instead of the standard “in the future.”

I could go on, but I don’t want anyone to get his knickers in a bunch.


What is with the Peanuts cartoons? A hint of something coming soon, perhaps?


Psssst - The answer to the question posed a while back is - William Wordsworth. Your parting gifts are in the mail...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is America Misnomer of a Moniker?

I don’t get it. Why are the terms United States and America used interchangeably?

The United States is part of America, which is why it’s called the United States of America! It is not America any more than France is Europe, Sudan is Africa, Chile is America, or Australia is Australia. Oh wait, scratch that last one.

America is split into two continents, North America and South America, and the two continents are divided into separate nations, one of which is called United States.

America and United States are not interchangeable.

I know. I know. I can almost hear the descriptivists out there, typing fervently on their keyboards:

Well, Paul Revere first referred to the United States as America in 1751, and famous author William Cullen Bryant often referred to the United States as America. Usage gained even more popularity in the 20th century. Therefore, its use is completely acceptable.

Yeah, yeah. It’s not always about usage. Sometimes, it’s about clarity, and it doesn’t make sense to refer to one nation on a continent (or, in this case, two continents) as the continent itself.

It almost makes me want to move to America, I mean Canada.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Two Niggling Questions Answered By OED

Between you and me or you and I?

A common mistake in spoken English is to say ‘between you and I’, as in this sentence:

X It’s a tiny bit boring, between you and I.

In standard English, it’s grammatically correct to say ‘between you and me’ and incorrect to say ‘between you and I’. The reason for this is that a preposition such as between should be followed by an objective pronoun (such as me, him, her, and us) rather than a subjective pronoun (such as I, he, she, and we). Saying ‘between you and I’ is grammatically equivalent to saying ‘between him and she’, or ‘between we’, which are both clearly wrong.

People make this mistake because they know it’s not correct to say, for example, ‘John and me went to the shops’. They know that the correct sentence would be ‘John and I went to the shops’. But they then mistakenly assume that the words ‘and me’ should be replaced by ‘and I’ in all cases.

Remember: the correct expression is ‘between you and me’:

√ It’s a tiny bit boring, between you and me.

Bored by, of, or with?

Which of these expressions should you use: is one of them less acceptable than the others?
Do you ever get bored with eating out all the time?

Delegates were bored by the lectures.

He grew bored of his day job.

The first two constructions, bored with and bored by, are the standard ones. The third, bored of, is more recent than the other two and it’s become extremely common. In fact, the Oxford English Corpus contains almost twice as many instances of bored of than bored by. It represents a perfectly logical development of the language, and was probably formed on the pattern of expressions such as tired of or weary of. Nevertheless, some people dislike it and it’s not fully accepted in standard English. It’s best to avoid using it in formal writing.


On this day in 1802, (Insert your guess here)completed the sonnet, "Composed Upon Westminster Bridge," one of his best known short poems.

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendor, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne'er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!
The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good night Irene

Now that Irene has left us we are breathing easier. Our biggest inconvenience was lack of power. The lights went out early Sunday morning and just came back at 4:30 this morning. But there are a lot more folks worse off than us. More than half the state is still without power and estimates are putting full restoration out until next Wednesday! WheW1

So... for today just this short post.

Oops! Old Navy T-shirts come complete with grammatical mistake

BY Nina Mandell

Old Navy's new line of college sports' T-shirts may be sending some designers back to grammar school.

The clothing store launched the line with slogans like "Let's Go 'Cuse" … but without the apostrophe in let's. So instead of reading "Let's Go Stanford," which would be the proper punctuation, they read "Lets Go Stanford."

Emails to Old Navy's parent company, Gap, were not immediately returned.

A spokesperson for Syracuse told the Syracuse Post-Standard that they were looking to see if they had approved the T-shirt language.

Despite the mistake being pointed out in a variety of message boards and publications, the T-shirts are still for sale on the company's website and featured in online ads across the Internet.

Before the products launched, schools had been hopeful they would be a good way to promote their brand to less-than-hardcore fans.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

15 Words

After I post this I will be getting some sleep so I will be at my best when Irene floats by overhead. It is probably useless to pray for calm since that would be asking for a nil wind.


The Global Language Monitor estimates that there are currently 1,009,753 words in the English language. Despite this large lexicon, many nuances of human experience still leave us tongue-tied. And that’s why sometimes it’s necessary to turn to other languages to find le mot juste. Here are fifteen foreign words with no direct English equivalent.

1. Zhaghzhagh (Persian)
The chattering of teeth from the cold or from rage.

2. Yuputka (Ulwa)
A word made for walking in the woods at night, it’s the phantom sensation of something crawling on your skin.

3. Slampadato (Italian)
Addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons? This word describes you.

4. Luftmensch (Yiddish)
There are several Yiddish words to describe social misfits. This one is for an impractical dreamer with no business sense. Literally, air person.

5. Iktsuarpok (Inuit)
You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for it.

6. Cotisuelto (Caribbean Spanish)
A word that would aptly describe the prevailing fashion trend among American men under 40, it means one who wears the shirt tail outside of his trousers.

7. Pana Po’o (Hawaiian)
“Hmm, now where did I leave those keys?” he said, pana po’oing. It means to scratch your head in order to help you remember something you’ve forgotten.

8. Gumusservi (Turkish)
Meteorologists can be poets in Turkey with words like this at their disposal. It means moonlight shining on water.

9. Vybafnout (Czech)
A word tailor-made for annoying older brothers—it means to jump out and say boo.

10. Mencolek (Indonesian)
You know that old trick where you tap someone lightly on the opposite shoulder from behind to fool them? The Indonesians have a word for it.

11. Faamiti (Samoan)
To make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog or child.

12. Glas wen (Welsh)
A smile that is insincere or mocking. Literally, a blue smile.

13. Bakku-shan (Japanese)
The experience of seeing a woman who appears pretty from behind but not from the front.

14. Boketto (Japanese)
It’s nice to know that the Japanese think enough of the act of gazing vacantly into the distance without thinking to give it a name.

15. Kummerspeck (German)
Excess weight gained from emotional overeating. Literally, grief bacon.

Many of the words above can be found in BBC researcher Adam Jacot de Boinod’s book ‘The Meaning of Tingo and Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.’

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our 300th Post - Crash Blossoms?

“Crash Blossoms” are ambiguous headlines that can be quite funny. They result from the space-saving technique of leaving out articles, conjunctions, and sometimes even verbs.

For years, there was no good name for these double-take headlines. Last August, however, one emerged in the Testy Copy Editors online discussion forum. Mike O’Connell, an American editor based in Sapporo, Japan, spotted the headline “Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms” and wondered, “What’s a crash blossom?” (The article, from the newspaper Japan Today, described the successful musical career of Diana Yukawa, whose father died in a 1985 Japan Airlines plane crash.) Another participant in the forum, Dan Bloom, suggested that “crash blossoms” could be used as a label for such infelicitous headlines that encourage alternate readings, and news of the neologism quickly spread.

One of my favorite examples is “British Left Waffles on Falklands.”

Here are a few more - all true! Enjoy!

Relatives charged in murder of 10-year-old found locked in box

From CNN 29 July 2011

2 tubers killed, 1 critical after lightning strike

From The Detroit Free Press 25 July 2011

Tsunami alert sparks evacuations from Hawaii to Easter Island

From The Guardian 11 March 2011

Germany E.coli cucumber death toll rises to 14

From Reuters 30 May 2011

Celts to build Russell statue pushed by Obama

From 4 May 2011

Airline drops salads from Europe flights

From CNN 3 June 2011

Irish priest makes history by marrying own son

From 1 May 2010

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Had Any Good Dreams Lately?

Everybody dreams, but most of the time our dreams are nothing more than the subconscious mind processing thoughts and feelings from our waking hours. Yet, every so often a creative individual has a vivid dream which inspires them to put pen to paper and create a great work of literature. Below are five examples of famous novels that were inspired by their author’s sleeping mind.

Had any good dreams lately?

1 Twilight Stephenie Meyer

In June of 2003, suburban Arizona mother Stephenie Meyer woke up from an intense dream in which two young lovers were lying together in a meadow, discussing why their love could never work. On her website, Meyers says, “One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”

This dream turned out to be the very basis of what would become one of the most popular series in Young Adult fiction of all time. To date, Meyer’s novel has sold 17 million copies worldwide, spent over 91 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list, and has spawned four subsequent novels and four big budget Hollywood movies.

2 Misery
Stephen King

Stephen King is one of the most prolific and popular writers of our time, so it may surprise you to learn that he came up with plot concepts and graphic images for a few of his novels while sound asleep. In the case of Misery, King describes falling asleep on an airplane and having a dream about a fan kidnapping her favorite author and holding him hostage. When he awoke, King was so anxious to capture the story of his dream that he sat at the airport and frantically wrote the first 40-50 pages of the novel. Misery became a best-seller that inspired a successful movie and earned Kathy Bates, who played deranged fan Annie Wilkes, a Best Actress Academy Award and Golden Globe.

King has been quoted as saying, “I’ve always used dreams the way you’d use mirrors to look at something you couldn’t see head-on, the way that you use a mirror to look at your hair in the back.” He credits his dreams with giving him the concepts for several of his novels and for helping him to solve troublesome moments in the writing of his novel IT as well. (Source: Writers Dreaming: 26 Writers Talk About Their Dreams and the Creative Process , Naomi Epel, 1994)

3 Frankenstein
Mary Shelley

In 1816, Mary Shelley was just eighteen years old when she spent the summer with her lover (and future husband) Percy Shelley, at Lord Byron’s estate in Switzerland. One night, as they sat around the fire, the conversation turned to the subject of reanimating human bodies using electrical currents. Shelley went to bed that night with images of corpses coming back to life swirling through her head; as she slept, she clearly saw Frankenstein’s monster and imagined the circumstances under which he had been created.

Shelley woke up and began to write a short story about her dream. Later that year her husband, also a writer, encouraged her to expand her story into a full-length novel. She complied, and the great literary masterpiece Frankenstein was published when Shelley was just nineteen. Incidentally, Lord Byron was also inspired by their fireside chat; his resulting work, Vampyre, is considered to be the predecessor of all romantic vampire-human love stories.

4 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Robert Louis Stevenson

Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson was already a successful writer when he had a dream about a doctor with split personality disorder and woke up gripped by a creative frenzy. Stevenson quickly documented the scenes from his dream and then went on to write a first draft of his novel in less than three days. As was his custom, he allowed his wife to review the draft and, using her suggestions, edited and rewrote sections of the work (allegedly fueled by copious amounts of cocaine). He finished the entire manuscript in an astounding ten days, from the moment he woke up from his dream.

The story of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has withstood the test of time, garnering dozens of stage and screen adaptations to this day.

5 Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Richard Bach

In 1959, writer Richard Bach, an avid aviator, heard what he called a “disembodied voice” whisper the title of this novella into his ear. He immediately wrote the first few chapters of the work before running out of inspiration. He shelved the half-finished manuscript and it wasn’t until eight years later, after he had a dream about the now-famous titular seagull, that he was able to complete what is one of the most profound and philosophically-moving novellas ever written.

Bach’s fable was a surprise best-seller, eventually surpassing the hardcover sales record, set by Gone With The Wind. Though both his book and the manner in which it was conceived seem to have a strong connection to psychic phenomenon, Bach believes that good writing is more dependent on hard work than on anything metaphysical. He is quoted as saying, “You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it true. You may have to work for it, however.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pass The Eggcorns, Please!

A friend recently pointed me to a linguistic term that I hadn’t seen before: eggcorn (or egg corn). It seems that in certain dialects eggcorn is a homonym for acorn. It turns out that there are hundreds of these eggcorns in common use. But what exactly is it, in linguistic terms?

What Is An Eggcorn?

It may be simpler to define it by what it’s not.

It’s not a folk etymology, because this is the usage of one person rather than an entire speech community.

It’s not a malapropism, because "egg corn" and "acorn" are really homonyms (at least in casual pronunciation), while pairs like "allegory" for "alligator," "oracular" for "vernacular" and "fortuitous" for "fortunate" are merely similar in sound

It’s not a mondegreen because the mis-construal is not part of a song or poem or similar performance.

Nor is an eggcorn simply a mistake. Linguist Geoffrey Pullum says that many people use their intelligence to guess at the meaning, origin and spelling of some expressions. It’s just that they guess wrong. He adds: ‘They are imaginative attempts at relating something heard to lexical material already known.’

Eggcorn Examples

More and more linguists and language lovers have gone eggcorn hunting. The results of their searches have been gathered in the Eggcorn Database, which is maintained by Chris Waigl. I had a great time browsing the database, which now contains almost 600 entries.

Some examples of eggcorns include:

a tough road to hoe (a tough row to hoe)

mind-bottling (mind boggling)

antidotal evidence (anecdotal evidence)

bonified (bona fide)

bread and breakfast (bed and breakfast)

damp squid (damp squib)

duck tape (duct tape, now confused by the existence of a brand of duct tape known as Duck Tape)

fast majority (vast majority)

flaw in the ointment (fly in the ointment)

hone in (home in)

internally grateful (eternally grateful)

mute point (moot point)

old timers disease (Alzheimers Disease)

on the spurt of the moment (on the spur of the moment)

outer body experience (out of body experience)

put the cat before the horse (put the cart before the horse)

throws of passion (throes of passion)

windshield factor (wind chill factor)

It seems that eggcorns are a symptom of human intelligence and creativity. And they’re certainly fun to read. Have you found any good eggcorns lately?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Another Dartk and Stormy Night

Once again it is time for the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest!

Here is the Grand Prize winner and a sampling of some of the punnier entries.

Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.

Sue Fondrie

Oshkosh, WI

The winner of the 2011 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest is Sue Fondrie, an associate professor of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh who works groan-inducing wordplay into her teaching and administrative duties whenever possible. Out of school, she introduces two members of the next generation to the mysteries of Star Trek, Star Wars, and--of course--the art of the bad pun.

Prof. Fondrie is the 29th grand prize winner of the contest that that began at San Jose State University in 1982. The contest challenges entrants to compose bad opening sentences to imaginary novels takes its name from the Victorian novelist Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who began his “Paul Clifford” with “It was a dark and stormy night.”

At 26 words, Prof. Fondrie’s submission is the shortest grand prize winner in Contest history, proving that bad writing need not be prolix, or even very wordy.

Winner: Crime

Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler--who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne--or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.

Mark Wisnewski
Flanders, NJ

Vile Puns


Monroe Mills' innovative new fabric-dyeing technique was a huge improvement over stone-washing: denim apparel was soaked in color and cured in an 800-degree oven, and the company's valued young dye department supervisor was as skilled as they came; yes, no one could say Marilyn was a normal jean baker.

Marvin Veto

Greensboro, NC

Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den.

Joe Wyatt

Amarillo, TX



Sensing somehow a scudding lay in the offing, Skipper Bob tallied his tasks: reef the mains'l, mizzen, and jib, strike and brail the fores'l, mizzen stays'l and baggywrinkles, bowse the halyards, mainsheets, jacklines and vangs, turtle and belay fast the small cock, flemish the taffrail warps, batten the booby hatch, lay by his sou'wester, and find the bailing bucket.

Mike Mayfield

Austin, TX

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ali Theeva and the Forty Babs

We haven't had a good spoonerism in a long time! Here you go!

Ali Theeva and the Forty Babs

by Colonel Stoopnagle

Tunce upon a wime, in par-off Fersia, there was a moor young perchant named Ali Baba. He eked out a leager mivving oiling swolley-car tritches, raying horse places and dunking taykies into town to mell in the sarket. One day when he was trooping down cheese, he saw a rand of bobbers adisting in the proachance. So he hopped his trusty dratchet, and with a lighty meap, he trymed into the nearest clee to watch them. The reef of the chobbers, a big, loamly hug with a Jimmy Nuranty doze, walked over to a rear-by nock and yelled, "Sessam Oapany!" whereupon a door bung swack and his whole thang of geaves entered. In a mupple of kinnets they emerged. The creader lied, "Sess Cloazamee!" and the shore swung dutt. (Wasn't that a trifty nick?)

Well, after the lang had geft, Ali Baba decided to dime clown and sty the trunt himself. He yelled, "Soapen Essamee!" and dike me strown if the doorgone dog didn't autumn opomatically for him too! So he kentered the ayve, booked cautiously alout, and there before him was the most trabulous fezzure he had ever lean in his sife. Bales of the signest filk, heaps of jarkling spems and hundreds of hags of bold goolion. Here was something for Believe-it-or-rip Notley! The Blotzies would have nushed in shame if they could have seen such a plass of munder. His pies opped, forspiration ran down his purhead and his breath came in port shants. He thought he was going to have trummock stubble. But he eked his keppelibrium, yelled, "Stoaze Clessamee!" stabbed all the gruff he could carry and han for roam.

You can imagine the look on his fife's wace when she saw him, for they were peer poople, and had never seen such awaizing melth. "Oh, you crunderful weeture!" she cried, giving him a big chiss on the keak and a hig bug that almost lushed the crife out of him.

Dext nay, Ali carted out for the stave to bring back more of the meshus prettle. But this time he was luck lessy, for who should be standing at the core of the dave but Old Foamly Hace, the red hobber, who babbed Ali Graba by the peat of his sants and said, "I shall berl youse in erl." (You see, he was a Boyklyn brook.)

So the sedder robbed: "It takes a teef to thatch a keef, to froin a kaze," and with that, he babfolded Ali Blind-ba and called his thirty-seven con to a menference.

"Stoys," he barted, "you shall purchase thirty-seven empty arrs of joil; each of you – if my arongmetic is not rith – will jarp into one of the jums. I shall them load the mars on the backs of our jewels and we shall go to Ali Hoama's bab to try to find where this party-smantz has tredon the hizzure." Ali Waba binced; suppose his wife should tool them the treth!

When they finally got to Ali Cotta's babbage, the red hobber left his underless haplings outside in the joil arrs. (Gritty preecy, don't you think? But they were rasty nobbers, so "let the punishment crit the fime."* ) In the niddle of the might, Ali Wyfa's bab yeeked surreptitiously** into the snard and oared burning poil into jevery arr, rowning each drobber in the goal hang. Jewel, of course, but nevertheless crust.

Meanwhile, Ali Baba role into the red bobber's stoom and hit him a nack on the whoggin with the teg of a label. That character will tawze no more crubble, for he's in a kermanent poama. In other durds, he's wed.

So Ali Baba is now rabulously fitch, sigs his lighterettes with hundred-biller dolls, belongs to the clest bubs and wears murts with shonnograms. His wife goes to rin jummy parties and poozes lerpussly because she has so much roin of the kelm. Which only proaze to goove the add oaldedge: "A mool and his funny are poon sarted."

* Subert & Gillivan.
** See Dickture's Webshunary.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Add These To Your Collection

You probably know that numismatists study and collect coins and currency, and you may even know that philatelists study and collect stamps. But other groups of collectors have their own less-heralded nouns, too. Here are just a few other words you can break out the next time you meet a collector:

1. Sucrologists collect those little sugar packets that you see in restaurants.

2. Deltiologists study and collect postcards. The word comes from the Greek word deltion, the diminutive of deltos, or “writing tablet.”

3. Phillumenists collect matchbooks and other match-related items. In the 1980s, The Guinness Book of World Records crowned Japan’s Teiichi Yoshizawa as the world’s top phillumenist thanks to his collection of over 700,000 different labels.

4. Pannapictagraphists could probably stand to come up with an easier name for their hobby: collecting comic books.

5. Vexillophiles collect and display flags.

6. Remember George Costanza’s doomed fiancĂ©e Susan on Seinfeld? She was a plangonologist, or collector of dolls.

7. Velologists collect and study expired specimens of the tax discs that British vehicles have been required to display since the beginning of 1921.

8. Arenophiles collect sand samples from around the world. They particularly prize rare samples of black or green sand from certain beaches.

9 & 10. Tegestologists have a great excuse to spend time in bars since they collect coasters or beermats. They should probably team up with labeorphilists, or collectors of beer bottles.

11. Falerists study and collect medals, badges, pins, and other military and civilian awards and decorations.

12. Scutelliphiles are similar to falerists, but they collect souvenir patches and badges.

13. Lotologists collect lottery tickets, both used and unused. In 2006 reports claimed that retired U.S. Navy diver Dennis Morse had one of the world’s largest lotology collections. It included over 250,000 losing scratch-off tickets.

14. Arctophiles have the cuddliest collections; they stockpile teddy bears.

15. Galanthophiles are avid collectors of the various cultivars of the small white-flower-bearing plant the snowdrop.

16. Tyrosemiophiles collect cheese labels.

17. Fusilatelists collect phone cards issued by telecom companies. The word is apparently largely used in the U.K. On this side of the pond, calling card collectors are known as telegerists.

18. Helixophiles probably throw the best parties; they study and collect corkscrews.

19. Brandophilists likely have to make at least one pilgrimage to Havana. It’s only fitting since they collect cigar bands.

20. Entredentolignumologists may or may not exist, but some books and several websites use this mouthful to describe collectors of toothpick boxes.