A Few Giggles

◾I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic.  It’s syncing now.

◾England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.

◾Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.

◾This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore.

◾I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time.

◾A thief who stole a calendar got twelve months.

◾When the smog lifts in Los Angeles, U.C.L.A.

◾I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

◾A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail.

◾A will is a dead giveaway.

◾With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.

◾Police were summoned to a daycare center where a three-year-old was resisting a rest.

◾A bicycle can’t stand alone; it’s just two tired.

◾The guy who fell onto an upholstery machine last week is now fully recovered.

◾He had a photographic memory, but it was never fully developed.

◾When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

◾Acupuncture is a jab well done. That’s the point of it.

◾I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

◾Did you hear about the crossed-eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils?

◾When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.

◾When chemists die, they barium.

◾I stayed up all night to see where the sun went, and then it dawned on me.

◾I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.


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Remember Paraprosdokians?

Once upon a time, I sent you a list of paraprosdokians, sentences or statements that have unexpected endings. It means “against expectations” in Greek. Here are some that were new to me:

Will glass coffins be a success?  Remains to be seen.

What’s the difference between a hippo and a zippo?  One is really heavy and the other is a little lighter.

I went to buy some camouflage trousers yesterday, but couldn’t find any.

What do you call a bee that can’t make up its mind? A maybe.

I tried to sue the airline for losing my luggage. I lost my case.

Is it ignorance or apathy that’s destroying the world today?  I don’t know and don’t really care.

I wasn’t originally going to get a brain transplant, but then I changed my mind.

Which country’s capital has the fastest-growing population?  Ireland. Every day it’s Dublin.

I saw an ad for burial plots, and I thought: “That’s the last thing I need!

”You’re not completely useless; you can always serve as a bad example.

I broke my finger last week. On the other hand, I’m okay.

Don’t spell part backwards. It’s a trap.

Did you hear about the guy who got hit in the head with a can of soda?  He was lucky it was a soft drink.

To the mathematician who thought of the idea of zero. Thanks for nothing!

Son: “Dad, can you tell me what a solar eclipse is?” Dad: “No sun.”

You may now groan. You’re welcome.

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Some Books I’m Recommending

“How to Write Big Books,” by Warren Peace

“The Lion Attacked,” by Claude Yarmoff

“The Art of Archery,” by Beau N. Arrow

“Songs for Children,” by Barbara Blacksheep

“Irish Heart Surgery,” by Angie O Plasty

“Desert Crossing,” by I. Rhoda Camel

“School Truancy,” by Marcus Absent

“I Was a Cloakroom Attendant,” by Mahatma Coate

“I Lost My Balance,” by Eileen Dover and Phil Down

“Positive Reinforcement,” by Wade Ago

“Shhh!” by Danielle Soloud

“The Philippine Post Office,” by Imelda Letter

“Stop Arguing,” by Xavier Breath

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Clever Poem by Anonymous

*The Mysteries of Anatomy*

Where can a man buy a cap for his knee,

Or the key to a lock of his hair?

Can his eyes be called an academy

Because there are pupils there?

In the crown of your head can jewels be found?

Who crosses the bridge of your nose?

If you wanted to shingle the roof of your mouth,

Would you use the nails on your toes?

Can you sit in the shade of the palm of your hand,

Or beat on the drum of your ear?

Can the calf in your leg eat the corn off your toe?

Then why not grow corn on the ear?

Can the crook in your elbow be sent to jail?

If so, just what did he do?

How can you sharpen your shoulder blades?

I’ll be darned if I know.

Do you?

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Punctuation Advice From Dave Barry

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April 30, 2022 · 3:55 PM

About a Nerd

How about a dweeb, a dork, a geek? I was wondering where nerds came from, i.e., when the word first appeared. Although Fonzie used it frequently in “Happy Days,” it can be traced to Dr. Seuss’ book, written in 1950, If I Ran the Zoo:

And then just to show them, I’ll sail to Ka-Troo/ And bring back a Nerkle, a Nerd, and a Seersucker too!

So it’s just a nonsense word, made up by Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. But it certainly has had staying power.

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Watch Out for IVS

Does your spellchecker have IVS (Irritable Vowel Syndrome)? Breaking news! The inventor of the spellchecker has died. His funnel will be held tomato.

Thanks to Richard Lederer, who has written several gazillion books on language, humor, and history.

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And Furthermore…

Adding to my pet peeves (language variety), why do people refer to “walking on eggshells”? Those eggs are already broken. The expression should be “walking on eggs.”

And why must it always be a “price point”? It’s a price. The point doesn’t ease the financial burden.

Please send me words and phrases that make your skin crawl. Thank you.

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A Few of My Pet Language Peeves

I say, “a few” because we don’t have time to go over all of them.

  1. Like when like some people say “like” before like every other like word.
  2. Irregardless is not a word. Yet. Languages change, and if enough people use it, it will become standard. I can wait.
  3. I could care less. That means you do care. You mean you couldn’t care less.
  4. It’s means it is or it has. Its shows ownership.
  5. Loose and lose are two different words with different meanings.
  6. Your and you’re cannot be used interchangeably. They are two different words.
  7. Saying “You know what I mean?” after you’ve just spoken is unnecessary if you’ve been clear.
  8. Thinking I is a classier pronoun than me. It isn’t. I is used as a subject and me is an object.
  9. Thinking myself is OK when you don’t know whether to use I or me. Learn when to use I and me. Use myself only when you’ve already referred to yourself: “I wrote that article myself.”
  10. Impactful grates. Use makes an impact or has an effect instead.
  11. With regards to is wrong. It’s with regard to. Give your regards to Broadway.
  12. Literally means something actually happened. Your socks were not literally blown off.
  13. Bonus peeve: Not proofreading before sending. Don’t trust autocorrect. Read what you’ve written — out loud and slowly — to make sure you’ve written what you thought you wrote. Then you won’t lose sleep over loose writing.

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What’s a Contronym?

Here are 25 of them: Words that have one spelling but opposite meanings. This article is British, but in this case we are not two countries divided by a common language.

25 Words That Are Their Own Opposites

  • Judith Herman
  • Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, “Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression,” or does it mean “Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default”? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of contronyms—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean “give official permission or approval for (an action)” or conversely, “impose a penalty on.”

2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” Oversee, from Old English ofersēon (“look at from above”) means “supervise” (medieval Latin for the same thing: super-, “over” plus videre, “to see.”) Overlook usually means the opposite: “to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.”

3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)

4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.

6. Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).

7. Trim as a verb predates the noun, but it can also mean either adding or taking away. Arising from an Old English word meaning “to make firm or strong; to settle, arrange,” trim came to mean “to prepare, make ready.” Depending on who or what was being readied, it could mean either of two contradictory things: “to decorate something with ribbons, laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance” or “to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities of.” And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?

8. Cleave can be cleaved into two homographs, words with different origins that end up spelled the same. Cleave, meaning “to cling to or adhere,” comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfanCleave, with the contrary meaning “to split or sever (something)”—as you might do with a cleaver—comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: cloven, which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in a “cleft palate” or “cleaved.”

9. Resign works as a contronym in writing. This time we have homographs, but not homophones. Resign, meaning “to quit,” is spelled the same as resign, meaning “to sign up again,” but it’s pronounced differently.

10. Fast can mean “moving rapidly,” as in running fast, or “fixed, unmoving,” as in holding fast. If colors are fast they will not run. The meaning “firm, steadfast” came first; the adverb took on the sense “strongly, vigorously,” which evolved into “quickly,” a meaning that spread to the adjective.

11. Off means “deactivated,” as in to turn off, but also “activated,” as in the alarm went off.

12. Weather can mean “to withstand or come safely through” (as in the company weathered the recession) or it can mean “to be worn away” (the rock was weathered).

13. Screen can mean to show (a movie) or to hide (an unsightly view).

14. Help means “assist,” unless you can’t help doing something, when it means “prevent.”

15. Clip can mean “to bind together” or “to separate.” You clip sheets of paper to together or separate part of a page by clipping something out. Clip is a pair of homographs, words with different origins spelled the same. Old English clyppan, which means “to clasp with the arms, embrace, hug,” led to our current meaning, “to hold together with a clasp.” The other clip, “to cut or snip (a part) away,” is from Old Norse klippa, which may come from the sound of a shears.

16. Continue usually means to persist in doing something, but as a legal term it means stop a proceeding temporarily.

17. Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean “They argued,” “They served together in the war,” or “He used the old battle-ax as a weapon.” (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.)

18. Flog, meaning “to punish by caning or whipping,” shows up in school slang of the 17th century, but now it can have the contrary meaning, “to promote persistently,” as in “flogging a new book.” Perhaps that meaning arose from the sense “to urge (a horse, etc.) forward by whipping,” which grew out of the earliest meaning.

19. Go means “to proceed,” but also “give out or fail,” i.e., “This car could really go until it started to go.”

20. Hold up can mean “to support” or “to hinder”: “What a friend! When I’m struggling to get on my feet, he’s always there to hold me up.”

21. Out can mean “visible” or “invisible.” For example, “It’s a good thing the full moon was out when the lights went out.”

22. Out of means “outside” or “inside”: “I hardly get out of the house because I work out of my home.”

23. B**ch can derisively refer to a woman who is considered overly aggressive or domineering, or it can refer to someone passive or submissive.

24. Peer is a person of equal status (as in a jury of one’s peers), but some peers are more equal than others, like the members of the peerage, the British or Irish nobility.

25. Toss out could be either “to suggest” or “to discard”: “I decided to toss out the idea.”

The contronym (also spelled “contranym”) goes by many names, including auto-antonym, antagonym, enantiodrome, self-antonym, antilogy and Janus word (from the Roman god of beginnings and endings, often depicted with two faces looking in opposite directions). Can’t get enough of them? The folks at Daily Writing Tips have rounded up even more

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Fact or Factoid?

Despite what you may believe to be true, if you use American English grammar and punctuation rules, this is a fact:

PERIODS and COMMAS always go inside quotation marks. No exceptions. (If you use British rules, outside the quotation marks is correct.)

You’re welcome.

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If You Bought Holiday Cards

If you chose to send a card that says SEASON’S GREETINGS, I hope you checked the card to make certain that apostrophe is in its rightful place. The greetings belong to the season—one season. I have seen cards printed with no apostrophe and others printed with an apostrophe after the final S in SEASONS. You are not sending greetings for multiple seasons.

People go crazy with apostrophes. When they see a final S, they reach into their bulging apostrophe pocket and hurl one at the word. That’s why you will see signs in grocery stores telling you to buy APPLE’S, RADISHES’ AND PASTA’S. None of those words is possessive; they are merely plurals. I saw a sign painted on the side of a truck, bragging the company had “The Best Plumber’s in Town.”

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Shall I or Will I?

Do you have memories of stewing over whether to use shall or will in a sentence? You can stop stewing: except for one exception that I can think of, use will. Shall was traditionally used with the first person, singular and plural, I and we. I believe the Brits still favor the use of shall. But here in more casual America, go with will.

Here’s the exception. Look at these two sentences:

  1. The demonstrators will not show up before 8 a.m.
  2. The demonstrators shall not show up before 8 a.m.

The first sentence implies that the demonstrators are not planning to assemble before 8 a.m.

The second sentence is a stern admonition, warning the demonstrators not to assemble before the stated time.

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An Everyday Occurrence

I get the feeling people think everyday and every day are interchangeable. Sorry, they’re not.

Everyday comes before the noun it’s giving information about:

Traffic jams are an everyday occurrence in Los Angeles. Occurrence is a noun; it’s something that happens, and is preceded by the adjective everyday.

But wait! When do those traffic jams occur? They happen every day.

Whoever said English was logical or consistent? Not I.

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Some Interview Advice

If you were planning on interviewing for a job in Georgia, you missed hearing some tips. This is what I came across recently:

Jason Clark with Southeastern Reptile Rescue discussed how to identify and avoid being bitten by venomous snakes during an interview Thursday, August 19, 2021, in Dublin, Georgia.

That, my friends, is a misplaced modifier. I suggest proofreading out loud to catch glitches like this if you don’t want your readers laughing at your inadvertent .

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Sic, Sic, Sic

In Latin, “sic” means “thus” or “so.” Use it in brackets [ ] after an error, usually in spelling or as a misuse, in something you are quoting. It’s your way of letting the reader know, “I didn’t make this egregious error. Don’t blame me!”

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Some famous people’s takes on history:

Henry Ford: History is bunk.

Napoleon: History is a set of lies agreed upon.

Tolstoy: History is nothing but a collection of fables and useless trifles, cluttered up with a mass of unnecessary figures and proper names.

Tolstoy again: History would be a wonderful thing — if it were only true.

Clarence Darrow: History repeats itself; that’s one of the things that’s wrong with history.

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I Hope You Laugh, Too. And I Hope I Don’t Get Thrown Off FB.

The Washington Post‘s Mensa Invitational once again invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.Here are the winners: 

1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus: A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high. 

8. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.

9. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafhalon (n): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The colour you turn when you discover half a worm in the fruit you’re eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. And the winners are:

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj. Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8. Gargoyle, n. Olive-flavored mouthwash.

9. Flatulence, n. Emergency vehicle that picks up someone who has been run over by a steamroller.

10. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

11. Testicle, n A humorous question on an exam.

12. Rectitude, n. The formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.

13. Pokemon, n. A Rastafarian proctologist.

14. Oyster, n. A person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.

15. Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

16. Circumvent, n. An opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.

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Crazy English

From various anonymous sources. I can relate:

The fact that Kansas and Arkansas are pronounced differently bothers me a lot more than it should.

Pronoucing words that end in ough makes me wonder how anyone learns to read English: cough, tough, dough, through and though.

Which is silent, the S or the C in scene?

Why does fridge have a D in it but refrigerator doesn’t?

Why are Zoey and Zoe pronounced the same but Joey and Joe aren’t?

You can drink a drink but you can’t food a food.

The word queue is just a Q followed by four silent letters.

Why is w called a double u when it’s obviously a double v?

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Order in the Court

One chunk of words that annoys me is in order to:

Stella arranged the seats in order to give everyone a good view of the screen. In order to do this, she asked a student to help her.

It’s verbose. Just use to. It doesn’t change the meaning one bit.

Court is adjourned. Thank you.

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Definition of Television

I have a little book, The Portable Curmudgeon, edited by Jon Winokur. Under various topics are quotations from critics old and new, dead and alive, from all walks of life. Although much of television programming is wonderful (I just rewatched Ken Burns’ “Baseball” and “The Roosevelts”), garbage still abounds.

Here’s what David Frost had to say about the medium:

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn’t have in your house.”

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Yogi Berra-isms

Yogi Berra, Yankee catcher, was notable for his baseball talent as well as for his use of the English language. The words are definitely English, but somehow the logic went astray. Here are a few of his proclamations:

1. When you come to a fork in the road, take it.

2. You can observe a lot by just watching.

3. It ain’t over till it’s over.

4. It’s like déjà vu all over again.

5. No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.

6. Baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical.

7. A nickel ain’t worth a dime anymore.

8. Always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.

9. We made too many wrong mistakes.

10. Congratulations. I knew the record would stand until it was broken.

11. You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.

12. You wouldn’t have won if we’d beaten you.

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Another: Can You Think of Any Others?

“Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt.”

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Can You Think of Any Others?

There are only four words in the English language which end in “dous”: tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

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Perhaps You’re a Poet

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.

But perhaps you can think of a rhyme for one or more of them. Purple, burple?

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To Rest Your Tired Typing Hands

If your hands get tired from all the typing you’re doing, you can give them a temporary rest: If your right hand is tired, know that stewardesses is the longest word you can type with your left hand. And to give that hand a rest, lollipop is the longest word you can type with just your right hand.

Don’t tell me this blog isn’t helpful!

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Me, Me, Me, Me, Me!

So many people think “I” is a classier pronoun than “me.” It isn’t. Both are equally weighted in the World of Pronouns. If you have used a preposition, you need to follow it with an object pronoun, which is what “me” is.

You wouldn’t say or write, “Janie sent an email to I,” would you? See that “to”? It’s a preposition, and therefore needs to be followed by an object pronoun: She sent the email to ME.

“Between” is also a preposition. I cringe when I see or hear “Between you and I.” Again, it’s ME. Here’s a list of some other common prepositions: for, from, above, under, below, beneath, underneath, near, next to, along, about, down, up, across….You see they indicate location or direction.

Here are other object pronouns: Her, him, us, them. Whenever you use a preposition, you’ll need one of these pronouns. Don’t say or write, “Between Bob and he.” It’s “Between Bob and him.” 

If you use “I” or another subject pronoun, such as she, he, we, they, people are going to shudder. You don’t want that to happen. Use your object pronouns proudly.


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Misheard Song Lyrics

When people hear words incorrectly, whether in a song or elsewhere, those words have come to be known as mondegreens. Yes, mondegreens, from the child whose mother used to read her British poetry and who misunderstood the line from the Scottish poem “Barbara Allen”: “They have slain the Earl Amurray/ And laid him on the green.” Not only did the child, Sylvia Wright, think the Lord of Murray was laid on the green but also Lady Mondegreen. Makes sense to me. In 1954, Ms. Wright wrote an article in Harper’s explaining her error and coining the word mondegreen. It stuck.

Sometimes mondegreens arise because singers don’t always enunciate clearly. People hear what is familiar to them. See for yourselves:

Misheard: Alex the seal Correct: Our lips are sealed (The Go-Go’s)

Misheard: Like a virgin, touched for the thirty-first time Correct: … touched for the very first time (Madonna)

Misheard: The girl with colitis goes by Correct: The girl with kaleidoscope eyes (Beatles)

Misheard: There’s a bathroom on the right. Correct: There’s a bad moon on the rise (Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Misheard: I got my first real sex dream Correct: I got my first real six-string (Bryon Adams)

Misheard: It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not Correct: It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not (Bon Jovi)

Misheard: A year has passed since I broke my nose Correct: A year has passed since I wrote my note (The Police)

Are you the inventor of any mondegreens? I am. As a child I misheard the words from “Cross Over the Bridge,” (Patti Page) “Leave your fickle past behind you,” as “Leave your pickle pats behind you.” I’m still trying to figure out what I thought pickle pats were.

Write and tell me what you’ve misheard.


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Why? Why? Why?

Why are people unable to control themselve’s when they see a word ending in S and dig into their bulging, bottomless sack of apostrophe’s and throw them about with gay abandon? Do you see what I mean? I’m hoping you cringed at those two errors I deliberately wrote.

How about

• Those yard signs telling you the Anderson’s live there?

• Those grocery store signs advertising carrot’s? (The Brits actually call those “grocers’ apostrophes.”)

• Otherwise intelligent people with advanced degrees writing about the Nobel’s and the Pulitzer’s?

Many, many words ending in S are merely plural. No ownership is involved. Before you throw in an apostrophe, look to see if there is an owner. If not, zip up that bag. Please.

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Order in the Court


These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and published by court reporters’ wholesale testimony; they had the torment of staying calm while the exchanges were taking place.

ATTORNEY: What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?

WITNESS: He said, ‘Where am I, Cathy?’

ATTORNEY: And why did that upset you?

WITNESS: My name is Susan!


ATTORNEY: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?

WITNESS: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.


ATTORNEY: Are you sexually active?

WITNESS: No, I just lie there.


ATTORNEY: What is your date of birth?

WITNESS: July 18th.

ATTORNEY: What year?

WITNESS: Every year.


ATTORNEY: How old is your son, the one living with you?

WITNESS: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.

ATTORNEY: How long has he lived with you?

WITNESS: Forty-five years.


ATTORNEY: This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?


ATTORNEY: And in what ways does it affect your memory?

WITNESS: I forget..

ATTORNEY: You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?


ATTORNEY: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?

WITNESS: Did you actually pass the bar exam?


ATTORNEY: The youngest son, the 20-year-old, how old is he?

WITNESS: He’s 20, much like your IQ.


ATTORNEY: Were you present when your picture was taken?

WITNESS: Are you shitting me?


ATTORNEY: So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?


ATTORNEY: And what were you doing at that time?

WITNESS: Getting laid


ATTORNEY: She had three children , right?


ATTORNEY: How many were boys?


ATTORNEY: Were there any girls?

WITNESS: Your Honor, I think I need a different attorney. Can I get a new attorney?


ATTORNEY: How was your first marriage terminated?

WITNESS: By death..

ATTORNEY: And by whose death was it terminated?

WITNESS: Take a guess.


ATTORNEY: Can you describe the individual?

WITNESS: He was about medium height and had a beard

ATTORNEY: Was this a male or a female?

WITNESS: Unless the Circus was in town I’m going with male.


ATTORNEY: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?

WITNESS: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.


ATTORNEY: Doctor , how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?

WITNESS: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.


ATTORNEY: ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school did you go to?



ATTORNEY: Do you recall the time that you examined the body?

WITNESS: The autopsy started around 8:30 PM

ATTORNEY: And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?

WITNESS: If not, he was by the time I finished.


ATTORNEY: Are you qualified to give a urine sample?

WITNESS: Are you qualified to ask that question?


And last:

ATTORNEY: Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for blood pressure?


ATTORNEY: Did you check for breathing?


ATTORNEY: So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?


ATTORNEY: How can you be so sure, Doctor?

WITNESS: Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.

ATTORNEY: I see, but could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?

WITNESS: Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

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Shakespeare’s Oxymorons

I recently listed common oxymorons, e.g., now then, jumbo shrimp, original replica. In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare wrote the following:

O heavy lightness, serious vanity

Misshapen chaos of well-seeming forms!

Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health,

Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!

This love feel I, that feel no love in this.”

Poor Romeo.

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HowDo You Pronounce…?

Depending on where you or your parents grew up will determine, to a large extent, how you pronounce the following words. I learned to speak in suburban New York City; my parents grew up in the city.


I say CRAY on, the most common pronunciation on the East Coast.

Mainers prefer CRAY awn.

Midwesterners give it just one syllable: CRAN.


I go for all three syllables. That’s the East Coast way. But in the Midwest and West, CAR mel prevails.


Most people say LOY er, but in the Southeast, they consult LAW yers.


In the West and Central Northwest-ish (think the Dakotas, Minnesota), they spread MAN aze on their sandwiches. But East Coasters use all three syllables: MAY uh naze.


If you’re from the South, it’s Y’all. (The plural, obviously, is ALL y’all.) The rest of the United States refers to YOU guys, whether male or female.

Do these pronunciations fit with where you grew up?

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In addition to:

Giant shrimp

Military intelligence

Found missing

Adult children

Definite maybe

Plastic glasses

Pretty ugly

Now then

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Are You Guilty?

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April 12, 2021 · 2:17 PM

Words to Live By

An unattributed quotation I recently read:

“Reading can seriously damage your ignorance.”

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Have You Ever Seen a Palimpsest?

You’re looking at a palimpsest.

Although it’s not a word one hears or reads every day (it’s more like twice a year), I love the sound of the word “palimpsest.” It refers to a manuscript (literally, something written by hand) that has been written over with a new text.

A thousand and more years ago when monks wrote on parchment, it was difficult and laborious to prepare the animal skins, and they often ran out. The monks then had to use a piece of parchment again. They would either write between the existing lines or turn the parchment at right angles from the original and write the new text directly over the old. The sad part is that so many times the original text became undecipherable and lost to history. But I still love the sound of the word.

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More Paraprosdokians

  1. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.
  2. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  3. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure
  4. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  5. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  6. I’m supposed to respect my elders, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to find someone older than me .

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Remember Paraprosdokians?

Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected and is frequently humorous. Here is a batch of them; more to follow. Feel free to groan.

1. Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you…but it’s still on my list.
3. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up — we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right, only who is left.
7. Knowledge, is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
9. I didn’t say it was your fault; I said I was blaming you.
10 In filling out an application, where it says “In case of an emergency, notify…” I answered, “a doctor.

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My Favorite Book on English

I originally wrote this post three years and one day ago. This book was then and still is my favorite on writing. O’Conner has a wicked sense of humor and is an adept and uncomplicated writer. The best of the best. Available in paperback. (I have no vested interest in the book.)

Patricia O’Conner has done it again: she has updated and revised her classic book on writing and English usage, Woe Is I. I can hardly tell you how much I love this book. Before you stop reading, let me tell you that you will laugh out loud on just about every page. OK, read on. O’Conner realizes how all languages change over time, which is why she revised this classic book to fit with current and accepted usage. This is the fourth edition and, as English changes, there will be a fifth and a sixth and a twentieth.

O’Conner writes in everyday English. Here are a few chapter titles:

PLURALS BEFORE SWINE  Blunders with Numbers

YOURS TRULY  The Possessive and the Possessed

COMMA SUTRA  The Joy of Punctuation

DEATH SENTENCE   Do Clichés Deserve to Die?

THE LIVING DEAD    Let Bygone Rules Be Gone

Here’s an explanation about subject-verb agreement: “A substance was stuck to Sam’s shoe.”  Or  “A green, slimy, and foul-smelling substance was stuck to Sam’s shoe.” O’Conner adds, “The subject is substance and it stays singular no matter how many disgusting adjectives you pile on.”

See? Not your typical book about English and writing. This one is Wonderful. Entertaining. Fun. Comprehensible. Helpful. Essential.

O’Conner also has a blog to which she posts almost every day, giving explanations about questions people (including me) have submitted. If you subscribe, you’ll get it in your inbox. It’s definitely not boring! http://www.grammarphobia.com

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Shakespeare’s Pencil

I have a a pencil owned by William Shakespeare. However, he chewed on it, and now I can’t tell if it’s 2B or not 2B.


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More Crazy English

From my English-American friend Nicki:

Why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers 
don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of 
tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? 
One goose, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two 
indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends 
but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends 
and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call 

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian 
eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes 
I think all English speakers should be committed to 
an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do 
people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by 
truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and 
feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise 
man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at 
the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can 
burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by 
filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going 

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the 
creativity of the human race, which is not a 
race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they 
are visible, but when the lights are out, they are 

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You Think English is Easy?

From my English-American friend, Nicki

These examples are called homographs, words spelled the same but pronounced differently and having different meanings.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object..

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

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Words You Might Not Have Known a Year Ago

An article in today’s Los Angeles Times got my attention. It highlighted many words and phrases that are commonplace today but only one year ago we might well have been stymied by some.

Social distancing today is easily understood as keeping six feet apart from others and not sharing food or drink. But last December? Who knew? I remember Dr. Anthony Fauci urging us to take steps to flatten the curve, but he had to demonstrate what that term meant. PPE? We had no clue a year ago. And Zoom! I Zoom, you Zoom, everyone Zooms. Zoom has altered the workplace and likely will be around until something shinier comes to take its place. You’re muted is a common sentence heard when on Zoom.

Covid fatigue has been blamed for people taking fewer precautions to safeguard their health. Covid itself is variously written as Covid-19 or COVID-19, depending on the news source. The World Health Organization prefers the latter form and explains that it stands for COronaVIrusDisease-2019, the year it first reared its terrifying head. (People who flagrantly flaut warnings are often labeled covidiots.) Not only peas but humans have pods, safe people they can interact with at home. Pods are called bubbles in the UK. Addicted to finding the most recent political or medical news? You’re doomscrolling; that’s been around for two years, but now is commonplace.

Recently, more than 300 members of the American Dialect Society got together to choose their Word of the Year. Any guesses? Yep, it’s Covid.

Stay safe!

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Beside or Besides?

When you’re angry or frustrated, are you beside yourself or besides yourself? Here’s the difference:

BESIDES means in addition to.
Besides me, only three people showed up at the meeting.

BESIDE means next to, alongside.
At the meeting, I sat beside a woman I had never met before.

The expression beside myself (with frustration, for example) strikes me as odd. Obviously, it’s idiomatic; you can’t physically get next to yourself, no matter how hard you try. But if you are sufficiently frustrated, you might feel as if you have been torn into two people. I’m just guessing here.

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Think About It

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

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Every Day or Everyday?

The mixup of these words yanks my chain. It’s a common mistake in print advertising, but I also see it very often in personal contexts. Here’s a simple explanation of the difference between them:

I brush my teeth at least twice every day.

In this sentence, every is an adjective modifying day. When do I brush my teeth? Every day.

For me, brushing my teeth is an everyday occurrence. Here, everyday is an adjective telling what kind of an occurrence my toothbrushing routine is.

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A Powerful Word

Look what “only” can do:


Only she told him that she loved him. (No one else did.)

She only told him that she loved him. (But she didn’t show him she did.)

She told only him that she loved him. (She didn’t tell that to anyone else.)

She told him only that she loved him. (She didn’t tell him anything else.)

She told him that only she loved him. (No one else loves him.)

She told him that she only loved him. (But she didn’t like or admire him.)

She told him that she loved only him. (She loves no one else.)

She told him that she loved him only. (Again, she loves no one else.)

ONLY is a modifier. That means it gives information about another part of the sentence. Modifiers may be one word or a group of words. They should be placed right next to the word you want to change. If you put modifiers in the wrong place, you are creating, yes, misplaced modifiers. At times that will lead to embarrassing or awkward situations like these:

Be certain to buy enough yarn to finish your mittens before you start.

Wearing a red nose and a floppy hat,we laughed at the clown.

For sale: mixing bowl set for chef with round bottom for efficient beating.


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Church Ladies With Typewriters

Here are some laughs for the day. Allegedly, these were written before computers and spellcheck.

The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.  

Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children. 

The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’  The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for Jesus.’ 

Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale.  It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house.  Bring your husbands.

Don’t let worry kill you off — let the Church help.  

Miss Charlene Mason sang ‘I will not pass this way again,’ giving obvious pleasure to the congregation. 

For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.  

Next Thursday there will be try-outs for the choir.  They need all the help they can get. 

Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church.  So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow. 

At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be ‘What Is Hell?’  Come early and listen to our choir practice. 

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Questions to Ponder

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November 3, 2020 · 1:50 PM

A Few Smiles to Calm Your Nerves

I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

 England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool. 

Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes. 

This girl today said she recognized me from the Vegetarians Club, but I’d swear I’ve never met herbivore. 

I know a guy who’s addicted to drinking brake fluid, but he says he can stop any time. 

I got some batteries that were given out free of charge.

A dentist and a manicurist married. They fought tooth and nail. 

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