Archive for the ‘The English language’ Category

One must give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump has picked up the political lingo of Washington much faster than I thought possible. For a long time, it was “Obama can’t be President because he wasn’t even born in America.” Even after the President showed a birth certificate, Trump questioned its authenticity. After Obama visited a mosque, Trump commented, “Maybe he feels comfortable there.” And, in a tweet on October 25th, Trump said, “Obama is a disaster.”

Ah, how things have changed following the “rigged” election that is now not rigged because Trump won the Electoral College vote. Trump now speaks of the President as “a good man.” Of course, Trump had to add that “the feeling is mutual.” For his part, When Obama was asked about Trump, he responded, “You know, he is somebody who I think is very engaging and gregarious.” Asked point blank, “Do you like him,” Obama said, “You know, I’ve enjoyed the conversations that we’ve had. He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence…” The President added, “…it’s probably a prerequisite for the job, or at least you have to have enough craziness to think that you can do the job….I think that he has not spent a lot of time sweating the details of, you know, all the policies…”

In Washington politics a “good man” is another way of saying, “This asshole couldn’t sell air conditioners in Florida in August.” A “good man” in Washington parlance is like calling someone a nebbish. For those not knowing the term, it’s akin to asking, “Did someone just leave,” when a “good man” or “nebbish” walks into a room. A “good man” is a nobody, a nothing. It’s about as backhanded a compliment as one can offer. Even Obama didn’t stoop to calling Trump a “good man.” However, his digs were, perhaps, deeper and more Washington—ese in their delivery. “He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence” can be taken in many ways. It might be interpreted as “You may think the ice is three feet thick, but two steps out and you’ll be up to your neck in muddy water.” Or, “not lacking in confidence” may be interpreted as, “Oh, you poor cocky son-of-a-bitch. If you only knew what awaits you over the next four years.”

You see, in Washington, “yes” when heard from a Representative or Senator, means, “No way in hell,” in part because those people never, under any circumstances, give a direct answer to any question. It’s just something that is not done, whether in polite company or not. “Well, that’s a good question, and our committee is looking into that right now.” This indicates that, “I don’t have a friggin’ clue to what you’re talking about, and how do I get the hell out of here…right now?” If caught a couple of weeks later by the same reporter with the same question, that reporter is likely to get, “Well, I’m glad you brought that up because I spoke with…and he or she will name some other sucker…and they’ve sent that back for review by…” some other committee you’ve never even heard of. Then, the reporter might ask about some freshman Senator or Representative who’s been attempting to make waves, and guess what the response will be. You got it, “Well,” this is the word that can be drawn out for close to ten minutes while the inquisitee gathers what are supposed to be his/her thoughts, and eventually comes out with, “He’s a good man.” Doesn’t really matter that you, as the reporter, were asking the question about a woman. It’s just the politically correct thing to say.

Now, I really should not castigate all Representatives or all Senators for the manner in which they respond to questions when on camera or in front of a print media person with a tape recorder in hand. [Whew, that’s a long sentence.] No, the old timers, those who have taken the course on “Correct Speaking in the Halls of Congress 101,” usually offered by any one of number of lobbyists, can come back at you and turn the tables faster than you can say “money under the table.” No, it’s always best to grab a ‘newbie’ who’s just gotten his or her feet wet with a few committee hearings, and then smack that person with a question about something completely foreign to what they are currently doing. With luck, you just might mine a nugget that you can either use as blackmail for getting something later on, or that you can take to the folks back in East Overshoe, or wherever you come from…but…first and foremost…you must know the lingo.

You may feel that Mr. Trump messed up when he called the President “a good man,” particularly after reading this primer, but you would be in error. The reason behind this is, quite simply, because Mr. Trump went on to say, “The feeling is mutual because it takes two to tango.” I have to tell you, Donald, that’s a bit limp. It’s weak because, as Trump may recall, when Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) was told by the President in A Clear and Present Danger that he now had “a chip in the big game” and could do the Washington two-step, Ryan replied, “I don’t dance.” Yeah, that was a bit weak too. However, President-elect Trump will learn quickly enough from those around him, that “No” means whatever the speaker wants it to mean; “Yes,” is always no way in hell; and “I’ll look into that right away Mr. President,” means “I hope to hell I can disappear for a couple of weeks so he’ll forget it.”

Anyway, you won, Donald…good luck, God speed, and if someday you are feeling weak and under the weather, have someone check your back for what might be one of the “thousand cuts” mentioned in Chinese torture books…I’ve been told.

Read Full Post »

I am slightly bothered by the extent to which technology has taken over our lives. Tomorrow I will attend a commencement ceremony where I fully expect the graduates’ chins to be resting on their chests except for those brief moments when they are required to stand and process to the stage to receive their diplomas – I’m certain at least one will pause to take a ‘selfie’ with the president – and that moment when they are told to switch their tassels from the left to the right to prove they are now alumni/ae of the institution. Come to think of it, if a ‘selfie’ gets taken early enough in the procession, every damned one of those kids will pause for a ‘selfie’ with the president. If she allows the first one, she is screwed! Years ago, upon learning the former president’s love for golf, the senior class members each handed him a golf tee or ball after they shook his hand…”quick get a bucket,” could be heard from someone behind the stage. Fortunately, it was a small class; nonetheless, juggling 380 golf balls and tees while trying to shake the hand of someone attempting to hand you another tee or ball tends to make the top executive look something like a fool…no, exactly like a fool!

I mentioned the “chin on chests” thing because the graduates will be more interested in texting their friends, perhaps two seats over; perhaps a thousand miles away – “sitting here trying to text you but some doofus on the stage is talking loud and ah well, be home soon. Did u go o8 w BB last nite?” Is there really any hope for the nation? It’s one of the problems with having a name that begins with the letter ‘A;’ you’re generally in the front row and it is considered rather déclassé to be texting when everyone on the stage is giving you dirty looks…tres déclassé!

I cannot help but wonder where all of this is leading. Teachers can no longer teach the way they once did because of the vast amounts of knowledge available through the Internet. The wise ones are using that knowledge to expand the horizons of their students as well as impart practical wisdom in subject areas, and this is wonderful. It keeps both teachers and students on their respective toes and forces them to adapt to the exponential increase in knowledge that is taking place daily. What I see on too many occasions is that social interaction skills on the part of students are starting to lag. Young people aren’t as quick to look you in the eye; business letters are poorly written; even a two-way conversation is an effort for all too many of the younger graduates.

In most respects, I’m happy that my high school and college years, even my working years, are behind me. In other ways, I cannot help but wonder how teachers and students cope with this knowledge revolution which bombards them daily. In my time, high school still consisted of reading, writing, and math, with a smattering of civics and history thrown in for good measure. In college, attempts were made to broaden our horizons, but I still remember using a Friden calculator at a store across the street from my university to complete statistics projects. We were required to book time in the store when we could use the machines. This was equipment that was being sold to the public as new, and I have no clue how many members of “Stat” courses before or after our class used the things. Today, the number of subjects in which students as well as teachers are expected to have a working knowledge is far broader than anything to which I was exposed.

Just think of it, today’s smart phone has more computer capability than the computers that sent men to the moon. The next question is when we begin inserting computer chips in newborns in order that one of their first grade classes, with which they’ll be thoroughly familiar, will be Particle Physics! That may be a bit of an exaggeration but at the rate computer technology is expanding, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it happen in the 22nd Century.

So tomorrow I will sit with an audience of about 5,000. My attention will be focused on the speakers on stage – unless they’re really dull; then I’ll turn on my Kindle and read or play games – and my granddaughter will walk across the stage to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in business. From the stage, the speakers will stare out, not at the eager faces of the graduates, but at the tops of the mortarboards that are facing them. Faces will be invisible to those on the stage because (a) they are on a platform that is approximately five feet above the seated grads; and, (b) the faces of the graduates are staring down into their phones as they text. The soon-to-be-newly-minted-alumni will stand for the invocation and dutifully sit down when it is over. They will not hear the president tell them how fortunate they are to have received such a wonderful education – true for some but not for all. They will not hear the upbeat commencement speaker tell them to go out and take over the world because he or she is certain they can do it – damned few will do anything of the sort. They might pick their heads up momentarily when their class speaker shouts, “We did it” with such enthusiasm that the microphone will squeal and the technicians in back shout just a bit less loudly, ”Jesus H. Christ, is he/she trying to deafen everybody?” They will then file across the stage; get the piece of paper that says they have completed the requirements, etc., etc., take their selfie with the president if possible, and march back to their seats…where they will immediately text all of their friends who aren’t there and say some stupid thing like, “I made it!”

And another graduation ceremony will go into the books. Good luck Class of 2014. Just stop texting, keep your head held high…and don’t be surprised when you get fired from your first job because you aren’t considered a team player and can’t write worth a damn!

Read Full Post »

The wordsmiths who are in the know add new words to every new publication of Webster’s finest. One of the latest is ‘okay,’ and I guess that’s alright, but it’s still a bit ‘slangy’ for me. If we are to become a nation where only American is spoken, it will make it more of a bitch of a language for immigrants to learn if they wish to become citizens. We can’t say that we speak English; we did at one time, but over the past three or four hundred years, something happened. It seems we didn’t believe that ‘honour’ required a ‘u’ any longer; as a matter of fact, the poor ‘u’ left a great many words in the English language. We even changed letters from our original tongue, mixing ‘s’ and ‘c’ and God only knows what else. However, my concern is not with how we have Americanized the tongues of our ancestors; no siree, Bob – what the hell does that mean, anyhow – but I would like to add “didjaevah’ or ‘didjaever’ if one is from outside New England. It just seems a better abbreviation for “did you eveh” or ‘did you ever’ if…you get the point. Linguists of yore are probably spinning like tops in their graves at the mere thought of further destruction of their lexicon, but, what the hell, they’re dead so what do I care.

Be all of the above as it may, “didjaevah’ jus set ‘n watch the world go by outside yer winda? Didjaevah? Lord, but I can just hear Sydel Sokuvitz, Professor of Management Communication and dear friend, screaming, “You cannot destroy language in this manner!” as only Sydel can say it. I can see my high school English teachers, Gert Ellsworth, Victoria Howarth, and Agnes Lioy getting the coven together to haunt my every dream from this moment on.

Let us move on from this hauntingly boring discussion. The reasoning behind it will appear later. First, let me describe our family room. It is approximately sixteen feet long and twelve feet wide…a decently sized room. One wall is made of stone and reaches a point at the top of the cathedral ceiling. It has a gas fireplace and two small, thin windows…this is one of the short walls. The long walls hold two things: one consists of three floor-to-ceiling windows…not all the way to the peak of the cathedral, of course; let’s be somewhat practical. From the couch across the way, one looks out on a small patio and a portion of the back garden. In that garden is an azalea bush, many, many different types of lilies, roses, pansies, daffodils, and several other flowering plants that bring beauty and color as a view from early spring to mid autumn. The eave, which extends under the roof, is also visible from the couch. It is filled with bird feeders of every variety…from a three-tiered pagoda, a protected dome, a log drilled for suet, hummingbird feeders, and several others which define decent description. It’s probably unnecessary to describe the remainder of the family room. Oh, sure, the perquisite 42” flat panel television sits in one corner and at the other end of the room is a lounge chair, but these only interfere with our discussion.

In the winter, we are treated to blue jays and cardinals and a few other species of hardy souls. Squirrels feed on the seed that is thrown onto the snow and every so often twenty to thirty turkeys show up for some cracked corn and other goodies that my partner keeps stored away…she loves those turkeys. As an aside, I should mention that some have been coming to be fed for almost three years. They first arrived as nineteen chicks or poults, along with two mothers…and you’re bitching about twins…get over it! Rather than calling them with, “Here, turkey, turkey, turkey,” my partner opted for “Here kitty, kitty, kitty.” Think about it; hell, they don’t know who or what they are; give them a name no one else will use and who knows, they might just get used to it….and they have. Today, when my partner goes to the back door to feed them, they immediately and with alacrity disperse. “Here, kitty, kitty, kitty” will draw back any who were here as youngsters and that’s generally enough to bring the rest of the crowd. What a sight to see from the couch. We have video of them jumping in an attempt to reach some of the bird feeders. We have still photos of them staring straight at us. There are even a couple who will peck at the windows when the food supply is running low…greedy bitches! That’s the year round crew. The spring is a different story.

Around April, the migrating crowd returns. It’s the return of the snowbirds, but ours deserve the name. There are finches of every size and type. To me, the most beautiful is the gold finch. The male is covered in yellow and black with the yellow predominant; woodpeckers of all types and sizes attack the suet log with gusto while starlings, red-winged blackbirds, and hundreds of others vie for seeds of every variety.

Didjaevah just sit and watch birds for a while…see, you knew that word would reappear. I don’t mean as one of those professional bird watchers with the Nikon 5000 with the three foot lens that will allow you to see individual raindrops on a feather. Didjaevah watch birds feed one another or, as the cardinals seem prone to do, kiss a lot. Didjaevah watch squirrels fight over a single peanut or publicly do what you wouldn’t allow your children to watch on late night pay-per-view. When it doesn’t matter to you what you are watching through those huge windows, anything can bring a smile or a chuckle. It’s life as seen  in the raw. When mother sparrows have brought their young to be fed and teach them how to do so; when turkeys carefully walk around the smaller birds, but still get their fill; when the blue jays squawk because the squirrels have cleaned out the peanuts, this is when you can get enjoyment from simple things. There was a time when the television would be on, blaring Sports Center or the Today Show or some other “mind-numbing” garbage…and, occasionally, it still is, but watching what goes on outside by own windows really gives me an appreciation of nature. Oh, and you should be aware that all of our squirrels are Francois because several have something of a French flair about them and pencil-thin mustaches; all chipmunks are Chester, all though I really can’t tell you why; rabbits are “fru-fru” and that, too, has me stumped. The cardinals are O’Malley’s to honor a Cardinal of the same name. Since they mate for life, perhaps we’re being a bit sacrilegious, but I’m not certain we’ll wind up in Hell just for that. Every species has a nickname of some sort…blame my friend; don’t look at me.

You may well have your own “didjaevah” for one thing or another. I have many, but watching those birds ranks up near the top. Pay no attention to the semi-literate who further abbreviates the new addition to my personal Merriam-Webster. If the attempt “jevah,” they are obviously from a lower class and should not be trusted, particularly when speaking of birds.

Ah well, back to the padded cell.

Read Full Post »

This is the time of year for inaugurations, state of the states, state of the union, town meetings, and, of course, the Grammy Awards. It’s that period where we take stock of what we have or haven’t, how we’ve done during the past year, and what bullshit we will perpetuate or inaugurate on the unsuspecting public during the next year. Therefore, in keeping with this time-honored and non-sensible performance, I shall present my own state of the mind for the upcoming year and for time in perpetuity, a.k.a. Bishop’s banal diatribe….

…My fellow Americans, illegal immigrants, alien terrorists on US soil, and children of all ages…to put things mildly, the Union is not in very good shape. There is too much violence in our own nation, whether on our college and university campuses, our local schools, our shopping malls throughout the land, the streets of our inner cities and – more and more – in neighborhoods where violence has not existed before. This is both unacceptable and intolerable.

After months of discussions with the FBI, CIA, NSA, DOD, PTA, DARPA, CASE, CUPA, NRA, BSA, GSA, 4-H, ICOP, and several private contracting firms, we have reached agreement that, beginning, immediately…that means tomorrow for those of you nodding off…American soldiers and sailors, in pairs will begin patrolling every avenue, street, road, and drive in every city and town with a population of more than 500 people. Schools, from kindergarten to high school will have a pair of armed military in each and every classroom. Writ of habeas corpus is immediately suspended for the foreseeable future, and the penalty for any crime which inflicts any kind of harm on any American citizen will be punishable by immediate death. I have been reading, watching, and being told of too many crimes and I’m sick to death of it. We have ‘deevolutionated’ – okay, I made it up – back to cave man tactics as a society and, therefore, those who wish to act like Neanderthals shall be treated as they were back in the Neanderthal period. When the nation evolves back into a 21st Century society, with the mores expected of 21st Century men, women, and children, we will…slowly at first…begin to eliminate our police state.

Our plan calls for the withdrawal of all American armed forces from all bases throughout the world. I am sick to death of watching planes land at Andrews Air Force base to unload the coffins of young Americans who have died on foreign soil for no particular reason other than to make a small group of fat cats in our own nation get fatter. Just as we never see John Boehner smoking or drinking, so now, we will never see military caskets being brought home from foreign lands. In addition, we will not tolerate any attempt by any nation or combination of nations to invade – overtly or covertly – our land. We are open to free trade between our nation and others. However, the days of the US as world cop are over. If nations wish to make war among themselves or with other nations, have fun. If any nation should consider the use of nuclear weapons as acceptable, then and only then, will the United States turn the offending nation to glass. Granted, this will end the world as we know it, but what the hell, you started it, and we are fully prepared to end it.

Our native form of speech is American. While it was English for a while, it has been bastardized by various groups who now use such words as “whatevah,” “selfies,” “hinky,” and other bullshit words which have no place in a civilized society. Students using any slang in the classroom may be immediately bitch-slapped by a teacher or either of the two military peace keepers in the classroom…or all three. We will return to speaking a combination of correct English and American beginning tomorrow. Before immigrating to this country, those from other nations must demonstrate a proficiency in the English/American language that is free from native accent.

Beginning tomorrow, all citizens with assets of over five billion dollars will be required to establish foundations to benefit the less fortunate. The initial investment will consist of one billion dollars. I have requested and received consent from Messrs. Warren Buffet, William and Melissa Gates, Harry Reid, and Eric Cantor to select a board of no more than fifteen people of their choosing to administer this fund.

Beginning tomorrow, welfare families will be required to perform twenty hours of community service to be eligible for benefits. Babysitting services for children under the age of six will be provided by the National Board of Children’s Services. All adults over the age of 18 who are not attending school or college and who are unemployed will be required to participate in this Civilian Community Service Program. Those who refuse will be shot.

I could go on, but if you believe this sounds dictatorial and impossible, you’re right. That’s not the way America operates. Would we like to see our children and grandchildren more protected in our schools than they have been over the past half century? Of course we would. Does that mean patrolling the corridors of our classrooms with armed members of the military? No, not in this country…not yet… not anymore than we consider having our military patrol our streets.

Can we demand that people speak English? No, we can’t demand this. In American schools, English is the language of choice. Those unable to grasp this concept should either learn our language or return to where they won’t be burdened with having to learn it. I have always been embarrassed when I’m in Canada, not to be able to speak French, and I generally apologize for my inability to do so.

Can we demand that our billionaires use their monies to help others who haven’t been as fortunate? Of course we can’t. People like Mr. Buffet and Mr. and Mrs. Gates, just to name a few, are already doing more than their fair share to help others. As far as Harry Reid and Eric Cantor are concerned, well, you take your pick as to which one is the greater idiot.

No, I can’t give a state of the union address. We have checks and balances in this nation that protects the general public from the manner in which I sometimes express myself. But…we have many problems in this country that do need to be addressed. We seem to pay lip service and crocodile tears when a shooting occurs at an elementary or high school, a college or university, a theater or a mall, or on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Detroit. In reality, we haven’t done a damned thing to prevent similar tragedies. We put thousands of troops into Iraq and Afghanistan, but I don’t see the same effort being put into eliminating the cartels in Central and South America, and they are killing probably more Americans daily than are being killed on the sands in the Middle East. Our problems are myriad and many, and rather than face them head-on, we quibble; we squabble; we have elected officials who are more interested in loyalty to party than they are in loyalty to America. These are our real terrorists because they refuse to let the nation move forward. As the late Thomas P. O’Neill, former speaker of the House of Representatives, said, “Country first; state second; party third. Or, if you prefer, how about Rodney King’s, “Why can’t we all just get along?” Take your pick…either one works for me.

Read Full Post »

David is someone I have never met.  The chances are pretty good that I will never meet him. That’s really not to the particular liking of either one of us; it’s just the way things are organized. You see, David is the brother of my significant other – ooh, nice ring to that, eh –and as such, lives as far from his sister as he possibly can! No, that’s not fair; it’s just that he prefers the sunshine and earthquakes of California to his sister’s “preference” for the blizzards, hurricanes, tornadoes, and “whatevah” of New England. She likes a challenge; he prefers sameness. What can I tell you?

Distance, however, as we are all too well aware, is no long a problem in terms of communication. David and I have exchanged numerous e-mails. Among his most recent communications was one dealing with the etymology of words. Where did a particular word originate? From the time of our simple, “Ugh’s”  and “Ah’s,” How and where were  today’s ‘born?’ Take the word, “originate.” It could be French or Latin, but according the etymology dictionary, it didn’t appear in use until and around 1650.

David, with his usual dry, sarcastic wit and warped sense of humor pondered the meaning of such words as ‘expert,’ ‘consultant,’ ‘analyst,’ or even the phrase ‘expert consulting analyst’ might mean in today’s vernacular. To quote my distant contributor…”EX means to be a former person of the word, such as an ex football player or an ex President. Pert is short for the word, pertinent, – in combination with our ex – someone at some point in their life had a unique point of view, but just for that period of time that they were performing the task or doing the job.

“So, we now know that an ex pert is someone who at one point in time in their life was an important person or knowledgeable of the task at hand but only for that brief period of time that has since past, so now they are an expert.”

My own definition of that very word is somewhat less complicated. I choose to shorten the ex to simply ‘x,’ and as we all know from our algebra – an undergarment worn by mermaids – x is an unknown quantity. If we add the x to the pert, we arrived at a new word ‘xpert,’ pronounced ‘spurt,’ which is nothing more than a drip under pressure; as a consequence, my ‘expert’ is a drip under pressure who knows nothing. A ‘consulting expert’ is one who arrives at your company, tells you what you already know and gets paid big bucks for doing so. From my friends in the business world, it would appear that these consulting experts are more of a phenomenon in higher education where one might believe exists an entire faculty of consulting experts. I should note that faculty consulting experts are much too intelligent to consult in higher education; after all, the big money is elsewhere. Where “elsewhere” is, is a highly guarded secret.

As for ‘consulting,’ David believes the word “…is derived from two words [the first being] to “con” or to convince you of something that may or may not be true, but if you believe them then that is what they want you to do as the ‘con’ is their version of what occurred [or what should occur]. Personally, I’ve always looked at ‘con’ as being negative and the opposite of ‘pro’ or positive. You know as in ‘progress’  or moving along quickly toward the achievement of goals versus ‘Congress’ or attempting to find as many negative things as possible to keep everyone from achieving any goals.

Ah, but what about our third word, the almighty “analyst.” In the world according to David, the analyst is just what it sounds like…someone that has become anal or referring to your ass [and] a “yst” which is short for cyst,” so the analyst is “…like a cyst on your ass or a pain in the ass.” Ass, as we are all well aware, goes back to Biblical times; however, in those cases, it was referring to an onager or a donkey, and despite the number of puns that could be made here, David and I will both refrain.

Now, dear reader, you should, quite obviously, be aware that what you have just read is presented to you as the facts…or a fictional account credited to someone. Today, however, we think of a fact as something that is known to be true. Therefore, having been viewed in the past by some [very few, actually] as an ‘expert consultant and analyst, I think I’ll cast the entire blame for this article on my co-author, David and let the chips fall where they may…I wonder if that means cow chips, wood chips, or Chip & Dale, hmm?

Read Full Post »

At one point, Sarah Palin was looked on as worthy of becoming a heartbeat away from becoming the Commander-in-Chief of the United States military. She could have become the person for whom the “football” was carried; you know, the one containing the launch codes to start WWIII. The summer White House could have been in Anchorage or Fairbanks or Juneau. She could have invited the Russian Prime Minister to walk over for dinner; a little boat ride; a little salmon appetizer; a little elk for dinner; a little yellow snow cone for dessert. Then, perhaps, some late evening banter about foreign policy and how the kids were doing.

With President Sarah in charge, the South lawn of the Washington White House would probably become a skeet shooting range so that she could keep up with her aim. Never know when ya might have to fight off some of the wolves that could invade Washington.`

As President, Leader Palin would tell us, at last, what newspapers she reads on a daily basis, after, of course, she reads the daily briefing pile that she’ll find on her desk each morning, every one of which will require a response or a reaction from the leader of the free world. It’s quite a responsibility, but when queried about whether she felt qualified for the position, I’m quite certain her answer would have been, “You betcha!”

Any number of U.S. Senators, Representatives, governors, former governors, and other political crazies dip their toes in the presidential holy water every four years. Many are highly qualified to hold the office. They find the water enthralling, refreshing, much to their personal liking and form committees. They become actively involved in achieving the lofty goal.  Others dip their toes in and find the water either boiling hot or ice cold and withdraw as quickly as possible lest presidential madness invade their collective souls.

It seems that Sarah is content to ride her Harley, hop aboard the Tea Party Express, attend any number of rallies where announced candidates are speaking, but is terrified to say whether or not she would, this time, avoid second place and move right to the top spot. “Is she or isn’t she” isn’t really about whether this Sarah Palin is Tina Fey pulling a colossal joke on all of us. It’s about whether or not the real Sarah Palin has the courage to jump into the political fray. While she may “refudiate” it, my take on it is that Sarah is afraid; not afraid of going after the Presidency. Sarah is afraid of committing because if she does, she’ll have to “wee-wee up,” and “misunderestimate” and create an entire new vocabulary which will only confuse the hell of people who are trying to understand what she’s talking about. Please don’t misunderstand; there is that possibility that Sarah as received some tutoring over the past three years and now knows that Kodiak is not the largest island in the United States. She may understand also that North Korea really isn’t an ally of ours and that using the ‘N’ word is just plain unacceptable.

It’s very easy to say that people change; that they attempt to learn from past mistakes in order that they not repeat them. I learned too late that being a hawk on the war in Vietnam was a mistake; (a) we shouldn’t have been there in the first place; (b) the men and women who fought and died in that war were just as patriotic as those who fought in every preceding war and should have been celebrated just as much, and; (c) every war in which we’ve found ourselves since has been through the stupidity of the people in control of our government at the time.

Sarah Palin has not changed. She is still the ambitious, naïve, small town politician she was when she was elected to the Wasilla, Alaska city council in 1992. She appears to believe that when you elected number on, whether it’s as mayor, governor, and perhaps even as president, you have the power to do any damned thing you like. As a few examples, I would cite that as mayor of Wasilla, she issued a gag order on all city employees, requiring them to clear any interview requests with her office before speaking to the media. While touting herself as a fiscal conservative, she instituted a policy of yearly visits to Washington to request federal help for various projects, including a commuter rail line.

Why am I taking these shots at Sarah Palin? There really isn’t anything personal about it. Sarah is a phenomenon on the political landscape of the 21st Century. Many people underestimate their ability; Sarah overestimates what she can do. As large as it may be, the State of Alaska is not the United States of America. Having knowledge of foreign policy is not the same as being able to see Russia from your front porch. Not being able to cite the newspapers that you read on a daily basis is demonstrating your lack of interest in current events; not an admirable quality for a vice presidential candidate and certainly not a quality to be admired in someone in the top office. The misquotes and gaffe’s that Sarah has made and continues to make are frightening. She claims to be supportive of women and is pro-life. She claims to have a degree in journalism but has difficulty stringing words together to answer basic questions.

Mrs. Palin is probably a lovely person. She may even be a good leader in certain situations. Her history in politics, however, is tarnished by scandal. On many occasions, she speaks one thing but history proves that her words are just that…words, and her deeds show an entirely different side.

Since several politicians are fond of quoting movies, let me add one more quotation. It’s from, The Hunt for Red October, and is delivered by the President’s Chief of Staff to the lead character. He says, “Look, Jack, I’m a politician, which means I’m a liar and a thief. That means that when I’m not kissing babies, I’m stealing their candy.” It’s how I feel about many of our politicians today, but it’s doubly how I feel when I watch Sarah Palin in action.

Read Full Post »

If it is what it is, that must mean that it was what it was but now, could be was what it is or perhaps it is what it was. Is this a conundrum? Is it a Catch-22? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s meant to confuse the hell out of you.

The nonsensical grammatical rule that says sentences can’t end with a preposition, although a proposition would probably be alright, is just the sort of tripe that high school English teachers seem to thrive on (gotcha).  While there is probably no truth to the story, it’s often quoted that an editor attempted to change one of Prime Minister Winston’s sentences because it violated the prepositional ruling. Churchill supposedly replied, “This is exactly the kind of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” Way to go, Winnie…kick ass and take names!

“Never begin a sentence with a conjunction,” the grammarians tell us. What utter hogwash! That rule, I believe, went out well before high-buttoned shoes. According to The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, “There is a persistent belief that it is improper to begin a sentence with And, but this prohibition has been cheerfully ignored by standard authors from Anglo-Saxon times onwards. An initial And is a useful aid to writers as the narrative continues.” And I’m quite certain that journalists and authors today pay little attention to it. Nor do I believe that today’s high school teachers attempt to correct the use of a conjunction at the beginning of a sentence. Unfortunately, my senior English faculty member neither “cheerfully ignored” nor “paid little attention to it.” You might get the impression that I didn’t like her when I was her student, and this is true.  But, I learned to like her even less when we became colleagues.

I have to admit that too many people don’t know the difference. Two of my friends are constantly screwing it up…oops, another violation. I have great empathy for an immigrant landing on our shores and wishing to speak English. Hell, Americans don’t speak English; they speak whichever variation of Americanese that happens to suit their area of the country…”Ya’ll hey moor cow fee?” If you are having breakfast in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, I can almost guarantee you will hear those words. You laugh, but come on up, down, or east to New England, you’re likely to hear that same phrase as, “Cha, wan, moah caw fee.” Sometimes, it’s shortened as a tilted pot is held over your cup with the single word, “Moah?”

One really has to look no further than the simple word, “donut,” to see how different Americans view things. There is a wonderful dialect map and explanation on http://robertspage.com/dialects.html. On this wonderful site, you will learn that what may be a donut in Massachusetts and much of New England is a cruller or olycook in the Hudson Valley. In the Rocky Mountains, they call a jelly doughnut a bismark, while in Alaska, they call them “betchas,” as in “you betcha;” just kidding.

We have synonyms and homonyms, heteronyms and antonyms; we have telephones and homophones; homographs, and telegraphs. Our “English” has no possible connection to England, and our Americanese is a hodgepodge of so many languages that no one from the South can possibly understand anyone from the North, and people from the West Coast often have difficulty understanding one another.

Somehow, we have managed to violate every grammatical rule ever invented. Yet (ah, another one), we are capable of communicating one thing very, very clearly: We are all Americans; Black, White, Red, Yellow, and every shade of color in between. Our young men and women have bled the same color red on battlefields at home and in too many countries abroad. It doesn’t matter what we say or how we say it, we are one people “under God,” however we may call our Deity. So have fun with words. Don’t laugh at people who say things differently; tell them why you’re laughing so that they may laugh right back at you. Life will be a lot happier for you both and who knows, you might just be able to learn from one another.

Read Full Post »

            I like to think that I’m not easily surprised, but this morning takes the cake. As I was driving down the expressway, I passed a truck with a sign that read “Virgin Cleaning Solvent” with a line below that read “100% pure.” It occurred to me that virgins have taken over everything, so much so that I’m beginning to doubt whether or not the word has much true meaning left to it.

            Think about this for a moment; first on the merchandising front, we had virgin olive oil, which, of course, was followed by extra virgin olive oil. Long before the oils, however, we had the vestal virgins and the Virgin Mother. It was probably later when someone decided that virgin snow was an appropriate name  for a newly fallen winter covering, although the pundits killed that one pretty quickly when they added, “Yeah, never been plowed.”  Sounds about right to me.

            Richard “Sir Dick” Branson decided to call his record company Virgin Records, his airline Virgin Airways, and I shudder to think what would have happened had he decided to open a line of condoms. The advertising slogans are just too hilarious to contemplate.

            There are the Virgin Islands, the “Forty Year  Old Virgin” of movie fame, Kumari the virgin goddess, virgin comics, virgin clothing, a virgin festival, virgin river, people named Virgin, and, believe it or not, virgin coconut oil. Seems to me that, by the very manner in which it’s used, the virgin has lost its purity. After all, even Madonna had the decency to claim that she was “like a virgin,” although isn’t that akin to being “like pregnant.” I always thought that was a “you are or you aren’t” situation…and the same would appear to be true for a virgin…whatever.

            “What is the true meaning of virgin?” I pondered. Since the Internet seems to have superseded the dictionary as the source of all knowledge, including word definitions, I immediately Googled – what else – virgin. Let me tell you something about Googling; if you’re looking for a simple, uncomplicated, to-the-point answer or definition, don’t Google. Instead, go ask Uncle Henry or Auntie Liz. It may not be the answer you’re looking for, but it will be a hell of a lot less complicated.

            It appears that all sources that were Googled plagiarized from one another. However, it all comes down to this: When used as a noun, virgin means (a) a person who has not experienced sexual intercourse; (b) a chaste or unmarried woman; a maiden [Hey, what about a chaste or unmarried man…even if not for want of trying?]; (c) an unmarried woman who has taken religious vows of chastity; (d) the Virgin Mary, and/or; (e) a female insect or arthropod that produces fertile eggs without copulating. So, what they’re telling me is that the word, ‘virgin,’ is associated with sex. If I say, for example, that a person is virginal, why can’t it just mean that they’re pure of thought and deed? Does having sex make one impure, and if it does, why? Who made this rule? Does this mean that sex or sexual intercourse disqualifies someone, anyone, from having purity? I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy into that concept. Perhaps there is a relationship between virginity and hypocrisy after all.

            To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, let’s talk about a ‘virgin house.’ A lot is cleared; the lumber has never been used to build another house, and; all of the fixtures are brand new. This is a virgin house, pure as it can be. Now, comes the tragedy. An interior decorator arrives and selects paint, paper, drapes and carpet. She – I’m being sexist here – also picks the tile for the bathrooms. So what happens here is that the walls have a roll with the paint and get brushed up and down, the paper and drapes are well hung, and the carpet and tile get laid. Voila, the house is no longer a virgin. Hell, for all we know, the decorator might even have had a dalliance with the contractor on the newly laid carpet and that just compounds the problem.  More’s the pity because I really wanted a virgin house.

            These are the vagaries of our descriptors. When is a virgin not a virgin? According to the Google sources, it’s when sex is involved. According to the cleaning truck and the manufacturers of olive oil, it is when their product is pure, and besides, who ever heard of an olive having sex…don’t you even dare go there! 

            The real tragedy of this entire mess is that I have lost my faith in virginity and its meaning. I will never again look at a cleaning solvent, comic book, or jar of coconut oil without silently questioning, “Are you really a virgin?”

Read Full Post »

George Khiralla – rhymes with cruller – was a wonderful English teacher…in many ways. He expected that if you graduated from high school, you were capable of putting together a coherent sentence. He believed, and probably with some degree of justification, that a freshman in college would understand the difference between a noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective and all of those other “Englishy” things that one is supposed to have learned along the road to higher education. As a consequence, George spent much of his class time teaching English Literature. It was something in the nature of, “I’m going to bring you up to my level and open whole new vistas for your edification and education.The time eventually came when Professor Khiralla – full professor, complete with Ph.D., tenure, and years of ‘experience’ – gave our class a writing assignment.

I forget precisely the assignment. I have not forgotten the results, nor, I am quite certain, has the majority of that freshman class those many years ago. As the papers were returned without the usual friendly chatter of our beloved professor; without his wide smile behind those thick black-rimmed glasses, with only a flick of the wrist as our treatises landed smack dab in the center of our desks, only then did we realize just how much of the English language and its usage we had forgotten between the June of our graduation from high school and the September of our freshman year in college. Bluntly put, we were “khirallaed,” dipped into a scalding brew of George’s own making and eaten alive by the man we thought was such a nice guy. Skewered, stabbed, stuck, pierced, pricked, or perforated would be the polite words for what was done to our papers, our treasured masterpieces. As the old Brooklyn Dodger baseball players were fond of saying, “We wuz robbed!”  I don’t recall receiving as many insulting remarks from one single person ever before or since, at least not any that hadn’t resulted in punches being thrown.

I tell you this story because it pleases me to know that George Khiralla has gone to his great reward. No, I’m not happy that the man is dead, far from it. He later became a valued colleague a trusted friend with whom I spent nearly two decades at Northeastern University and from whom I learned a great deal. No, I’m pleased that George is not here because he would tremble at today’s writing…supposedly by well educated men and women. When I read, for example, that someone was “beat out” in a race or for a position, my stomach does a few flips, not so much for me, but for the George Khiralls’s of yesteryear, the master wordsmiths who would never tolerate such cruel treatment of the English language. When “Me and you,” is acceptable from radio and television commentators; when “gone” and “went” are used interchangeably and in error, I want to weep for the faculty who are still alive and who may have suffered as their former students pulverize the English language.

Americans actually do not speak the English language. I do not speak English; I speak American. It is somewhat bastardized forms of an ancient language that I rather doubt even the English speak correctly today. In this age of rush, rush, rush, I suppose that “Sup” can serve as an all-encompassing meaning for, “How are you; what’s going on; what are you doing,” or longer, more intelligible sentences regarding what might be happening in one’s life. If the questioner pays as much attention to the answer as he or she does to his or her own question, no wonder we have such a breakdown in communications.

Recently, I saw a headline that read, “Westwood girls get Oxford in a pickle.”  It’s rather cute for those who are aware of Oxford pickles, but rather confusing if you don’t know that a ‘pickle’ is also an athletic term in which a base runner in softball or baseball is caught between two bases and runs back and forth between two opponents until she or he is either tagged out or runs safely to a base. It’s a good thing the paper wasn’t being published in St. Louis. It would have read, “Westwood girls get Oxford in a hotbox.” That’s right, in the city that formerly owned Anheuser Busch – bye, bye Bud – and boasts the Cardinals baseball team, the expression is “caught in a hotbox,” Ah the joys of language. Today, being caught in a pickle can mean anything from baseball to business, from politics to politicians, and from what I’ve seen, it can even mean that a country can be in a pickle and pickle is just another word for trouble; you know, things like gas prices, house foreclosures, an economy that is definitely recessive, and an administration that couldn’t care less. I guess I’d call that being in a pickle.

It seems to me that whether it’s “Sup” or “Whazzup,” “TMI” or “LOL,” we are making a mockery of language and for those of us who are purists – at least of one kind or another – we find it offensive. Some have told me that I have an obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to language. Even there, I must correct them; it’s actually called a “compulsive disorder, obsessive.” After all, if we’re going to alphabetize, let’s do it correctly. And that, my friends, was when I knew I was in a pickle.

Read Full Post »