Oxymorons

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.

—Anonymous

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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 
it?

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 
on.

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 
invisible.

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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:

SHE TOLD HIM THAT SHE LOVED HIM.

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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Oxymorons

found missing

open secret

small crowd

act naturally

clearly misunderstood

fully empty

pretty ugly

seriously funny

only choice

original copies

exact estimate

tragic comedy

original replica

foolish wisdom

liquid gas

social distancing

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It’s a Fact

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October 25, 2020 · 4:14 PM

It’s a Fact

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October 25, 2020 · 4:11 PM

Deep Thoughts

Maybe Rodin’s “Thinker” knows.

Ever wonder why the word funeral starts with FUN?  
  
How come lipstick doesn’t do what it says?  
  
If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?  
  
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?  
  
How do you get off a non-stop flight?  
  
Why are goods sent by ship called CARGO and those sent by truck a SHIPMENT?  
  
Why do we put cups in the dishwasher and the dishes in the cupboard?  
  
Why do doctors “practice” medicine? Are they having practice at the cost of the patients?  
  
Why is it called rush hour when traffic moves at its slowest then?  
  
Why do noses run and feet smell?  
  
Why do they call it a TV set when there is only one?  
  
What are you vacating when you go on a vacation?  
  
Did you know that if you replace W with T in What, Where and When, you get the answer to each of them?

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An English 101 Cheat Sheet

• An Oxford comma walks into a bar, where it spends the evening watching the television, getting drunk, and smoking cigars.


• A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.


• A bar was walked into by the passive voice.


• An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.


• Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”


• A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.


• Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.


• A question mark walks into a bar?


• A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.


• Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a bar. The bartender says, “Get out — we don’t serve your type.”


• A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.


• A comma splice walks into a bar, it has a drink and then leaves.


• Three intransitive verbs walk into a bar. They sit. They converse. They depart.


• A synonym strolls into a tavern.


• At the end of the day, a cliché walks into a bar — fresh as a daisy, cute as a button, and sharp as a tack.


• A run-on sentence walks into a bar it starts flirting. With a cute little sentence fragment.


• Falling slowly, softly falling, the chiasmus collapses to the bar floor.


• A figure of speech literally walks into a bar and ends up getting figuratively hammered.


• An allusion walks into a bar, despite the fact that alcohol is its Achilles heel.


• The subjunctive would have walked into a bar, had it only known.


• A misplaced modifier walks into a bar owned by a man with a glass eye named Ralph.


• The past, present, and future walked into a bar. It was tense.


• A dyslexic walks into a bra.


• A verb walks into a bar, sees a beautiful noun, and suggests they conjugate. The noun declines.


• A simile walks into a bar, as parched as a desert.


• A gerund and an infinitive walk into a bar, drinking to forget.

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Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Writing Advice

I wish I knew how to change this link to text, but a click from you should do it. If you can’t click on it, copy and paste. It’s worth it.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/ruth-bader-ginsburg-taught-a-law-clerk-the-secret-to-strong-writing/ar-BB19B96b?ocid=msedgdhp

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Danger: Confusing Words Ahead!

Many words are spelled very similarly and it’s easy to confuse them:

LOOSE (adj.) and LOSE (v.)

BREATH (n.), BREADTH (n.)  and BREATHE (v.)

BATH (n.) and BATHE (v.)

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Palindromes

Palindromes, as you probably know, are words or phrases spelled the same backward and forward. I can’t vouch that all of the following make sense. But think of how hard it must have been to make the latter ones qualify as palindromes. Otto and Anna, I’m talking to you.

racecar

Dammit, I’m mad.

Never odd or even

Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas.

Marge lets Norah see Sharon’s telegram.

Doc, note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod.

Dennis, Nell, Edna, Leon, Nedra, Anita, Rolf, Nora, Alice, Carol, Leo, Jane, Reed, Dena, Dale, Basil, Rae, Penny, Lana, Dave, Denny, Lena, Ida, Bernadette, Ben, Ray, Lila, Nina, Jo, Ira, Mara, Sara, Mario, Jan, Ina, Lily, Arne, Bette, Dan, Reba, Diane, Lynn, Ed, Eva, Dana, Lynne, Pearl, Isabel, Ada, Ned, Dee, Rena, Joel, Lora, Cecil, Aaron, Flora, Tina, Arden, Noel, and Ellen sinned.

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Weekend Groaners

Forgive me.

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.

A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Dijon vu – the same mustard as before.

Shotgun wedding – A case of wife or death.

A man needs a mistress just to break the monogamy.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Condoms should be used on every conceivable occasion.

Reading while sunbathing makes you, well, red.

When two egotists meet it’s an I for an I.

A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two tired.

In democracy your vote counts.

In feudalism your count votes.

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

If you don’t pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.

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

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is now fully recovered.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia – the LAN down under.

Every calendar’s days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted – taint yours and taint mine.

A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

Once you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.

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More Groaners

An invisible man married an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

I didn’t think the chiropractor would improve my posture. But I stand corrected.

I took my new girlfriend out on our first date to the ice rink, and entry was half price. She called me a cheap skate.

Studies show cows produce more milk when the farmer talks to them. It’s a case of in one ear and out the udder.

My wife claims I’m the cheapest person she’s ever met. I’m not buying it.

Did you know that a raven has 17 rigid feathers called pinions, while a crow only has 16?  The difference between a raven and a crow is just a matter of a pinion.

I told my carpenter I didn’t want carpeted steps. He gave me a blank stair.

What did the surgeon say to the patient who insisted on closing up his own incision?
Suture self.

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Public Signs Written in Correct English

Sent to me by Kathy Sandel. These are priceless.

Cocktail lounge, Norway: LADIES ARE REQUESTED NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN IN THE BAR.

Doctor’s office, Rome: SPECIALIST IN WOMEN AND OTHER DISEASES.

Dry cleaners, Bangkok: DROP YOUR TROUSERS HERE FOR THE BEST RESULTS.

In a Nairobi restaurant: CUSTOMERS WHO FIND OUR WAITRESSES RUDE, OUGHT TO SEE THE MANAGER.

On the main road to Mombasa, leaving Nairobi: TAKE NOTICE: WHEN THIS SIGN IS UNDER WATER, THIS ROAD IS IMPASSABLE.

On a poster at Kencom: ARE YOU AN ADULT THAT CANNOT READ? IF SO WE CAN HELP.

In a city restaurant: OPEN SEVEN DAYS A WEEK AND WEEKENDS.

In a Cemetery: PERSONS ARE PROHIBITED FROM PICKING FLOWERS FROM ANY BUT THEIR OWN GRAVES.

Tokyo hotel’s rules and regulations: GUESTS ARE REQUESTED NOT TO SMOKE, OR DO OTHER DISGUSTING BEHAVIORS IN BED.


On the menu of a Swiss Restaurant: OUR WINES LEAVE YOU NOTHING TO HOPE FOR.

In a Tokyo Bar: SPECIAL COCKTAILS FOR THE LADIES WITH NUTS.

Hotel, Yugoslavia: THE FLATTENING OF UNDERWEAR WITH PLEASURE, IS THE JOB OF THE CHAMBERMAID.

Hotel, Japan: YOU ARE INVITED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHAMBERMAID.

In the lobby of a Moscow Hotel, across from a Russian Orthodox Monastery: YOU ARE WELCOME TO VISIT THE CEMETERY, WHERE FAMOUS RUSSIAN AND SOVIET COMPOSERS, ARTISTS AND WRITERS ARE BURIED DAILY, EXCEPT THURSDAY. 

A sign posted in Germany’s Black Forest: IT IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN ON OUR BLACK FOREST CAMPING SITE, THAT PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT SEX, FOR INSTANCE, MEN AND WOMEN, LIVE TOGETHER IN ONE TENT, UNLESS THEY ARE MARRIED WITH EACH OTHER FOR THIS PURPOSE.

Hotel, Zurich: BECAUSE OF THE IMPROPRIETY OF ENTERTAINING GUESTS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE BEDROOM, IT IS SUGGESTED THAT THE LOBBY BE USED FOR THIS PURPOSE. 

Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand: WOULD YOU LIKE TO RIDE ON YOUR OWN ASS?

Airline ticket office, Copenhagen: WE TAKE YOUR BAGS AND SEND THEM IN ALL DIRECTIONS.

A Laundry in Rome: LADIES, LEAVE YOUR CLOTHES HERE AND THEN SPEND THE AFTERNOON HAVING A GOODTIME.

And finally – the all-time classic:

Seen in an Abu Dhabi Souk shop window: IF THE FRONT IS CLOSED PLEASE ENTER THROUGH MY BACKSIDE.

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Time to Groan

“Lexophile” describes those who have a love of words, especially in wordplay, such as, “To write with a broken pencil  is pointless.”

Supposedly, an annual competition is held in the New York Times to see who can create the best original example. I say supposedly because I’ve never seen this contest promoted. But here are some examples. Enjoy them: 

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.

Did you hear about the fellow whose entire left side was cut off? He’s all right now.

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? 

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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Terrifying!

The other day on the Next Door app, I came across an item for sale:

CALIFORNIA KING SLAY BED

 

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Mark Twain Said It First

Reader. suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

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Find the Error

This from the Los Angeles Times recently:

Throughout American history, incumbent presidents run for a second term by highlighting policy accomplishments. But President Trump is far from typical—uniquely disinterested in most policy matters and instead focused on personal grievances and political quarrels.

Did you spot the word that’s used incorrectly? It’s disinterested. That word most commonly means unbiased, having no preference one way or the other, open to all points of view. The correct word would be uninterested, displaying a lack of interest.

I do admit that disinterested is more and more often used as a synonym for uninterested; because languages are changed by their users, it will be a matter of time before the word on the street can claim victory.

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More From Cami!

I think I should just retire and let my friend Cami take over my blog. During these grim times–and before–she has provided me, and you, with so many lists to bring a smile to your faces. Here’s another:

Those who jump off a bridge in Paris are in Seine.

A man’s home is his castle, in a manor of speaking.

Dijon vu – The same mustard as before.

Practice safe eating – Always use condiments.

Shotgun wedding – A case of wife or death.

A man needs a mistress to break the monogamy.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Dancing cheek-to-cheek is really a form of floor play.

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

Reading while sunbathing makes you well red.

When two egotists meet, it’s an I for an I.

A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.

What’s the definition of a will? (It’s a dead giveaway.)

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

In democracy, your vote counts. In feudalism your count votes.

She was engaged to a boyfriend with a wooden leg but broke it off.

A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

If you don’t pay your exorcist, you get repossessed.

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

The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.

You feel stuck with your debt if you can’t budge it.

Local Area Network in Australia – the LAN down under.

Every calendar’s days are numbered.

A lot of money is tainted – Taint yours and taint mine.

A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.

He had a photographic memory that was never developed.

A midget fortune teller who escapes from prison is a small medium at large.

Once you’ve seen one shopping center, you’ve seen a mall.

Bakers trade bread recipes on a knead-to-know basis.

Santa’s helpers are subordinate clauses.

Acupuncture is a jab well done.

Thank you, Cami!

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It’s a Pundemic

Another from my friend Cami, who knows I love wordplay. I hope these bring you a smile during this stressful time.

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What a Misplaced Modifier!

 

download The other day I read an online piece of clickbait stating that “a man in Wisconsin was a suspected terrorist walking a dog wearing a KKK hood.”

For some reason I pictured a very small dog–a Pomeranian or a dachshund–completely covered by the hood.

The rule is to put the modifier right next to the person or object it is describing. Easy peasy. “A man in Wisconsin, wearing a KKK hood….”

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If You Love Wordplay…

…this is for you, from my friend Cami. So many made me smile.

1. The meaning of opaque is unclear.

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

3. Have you ever tried to eat a clock? It’s very time consuming.

4. A man tried to assault me with milk, cream and butter. How dairy!

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

6. If there was someone selling marijuana in our neighborhood, weed know about it.

7. It’s a lengthy article about ancient Japanese sword fighters but I can Sumurais it for you.

8. It’s not that the man couldn’t juggle, he just didn’t have the balls to do it.

9. So what if I don’t know the meaning of the word ‘apocalypse’? It’s not the end of the world.

10. Police were called to the daycare center. A 3-year old was resisting a rest.

11. The other day I held the door open for a clown. I thought it was a nice jester.

12. Need an ark to save two of every animal? I Noah guy.

13. Alternative facts are aversion of the truth.

14. I used to have a fear of hurdles, but I got over it.

15. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

16. Did you know they won’t be making yardsticks any longer?

17. I used to be addicted to soap but I’m clean now.

18. The patron saint of poverty is St. Nickeless.

19. What did the man say when the bridge fell on him? The suspension is killing me.

20. Do you have weight loss mantras? Fat chants!

21. My tailor is happy to make a new pair of pants for me. Or sew it seams.

22. What is a thesaurus’s favorite dessert? Synonym buns.

23. A relief map shows where the restrooms are.

24. There was a big paddle sale at the boat store. It was quite an oar deal.

25. How do they figure out the price of hammers? Per pound.

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Hanged vs. Hung

 

Hanged and hung are both past tenses of the verb to hang. You want to display some photographs on the wall. Which will it be? Would you say you hanged them or you hung them? I hope you hung them. Hanged is used to indicate death by suspension: The criminal was hanged at dawn. All other uses call for hung: you hung up the phone, you hung laundry out to dry, you hung out with your friends, you hung loose during the quarantine. Even to describe, ahem, male endowment, you’d use well hung.

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What is a Paraprosdokian?

A paraprosdokian is a long word to describe a short phrase that is familiar to most of us–but then it veers off into an unexpected conclusion. Here are some examples:

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.”

11. 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.

12. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.

13. I used to be indecisive, but now I’m not so sure.

14. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

15. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

16. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.

17. 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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For Want of a Comma, a Suitcase Got Ironed

You have probably learned that in addition to VP Pence’s exposure to a staff member who has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus (Steven Miller’s wife, by the way) (I still cannot believe someone agreed to marry him, but I digress), Trump’s personal valet has also tested positive. This is the valet who serves him all his meals. Apparently, Trump, who refuses to wear a mask for reasons of vanity, became livid when he heard the news.

This is how the incident was reported in the press:

At the residence, they [his three valets] do his laundry, iron and pack his suitcases, a former White House official said.

What fascinates me is that it might be necessary to iron one’s suitcases. What a difference a comma can make.

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Emigrate or Immigrate?

You often hear and see these two words used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference in their meanings. It depends on whether you are coming or going.

IMMIGRATE is the word to use when referring to people entering a new country: Canada has experienced great interest from people wanting to immigrate to that country from the United States.

EMIGRATE is used to refer to people leaving a country to take up residence elsewhere: Many people are considering emigrating from the United States to Canada .

Sadly, the US/ Canadian border has been closed because of the pandemic, so both words can be used only wishfully by some.

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Redundancies

I realize I’ve been absent for several weeks, but I hope you’ll understand. On March 8, my husband had a severe fall and we are still dealing with the repercussions. Our son and DIL are helping me out and we are eternally grateful for their love and support. I’ll update this blog when I have time. Hang with me. I wish ALL of you good health. Take every precaution and protect yourself and everyone else. We’re all in this together.

 

So many phrases we hear and read daily are redundant, but we rarely have the awareness to eliminate them; we have gotten used to them.  Are any of these your favorites?

Easter Sunday

The end result

A contributing factor

Face up to the problem

Suffocated to death

Modest about himself

Own her own home

Revert back

Shrug her shoulders, nod her head

New developments

Proceed onward

Jewish rabbi

Future plans

 

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Mark Twain on the French Language

Mark Twain traveled widely, both for pleasure and exploration and for delivering humorous speeches to welcoming audiences. Here is his take on French, both the people and their language.

“In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French. I never did succeed in making those idiots understand  their own language.”

 

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More Remarkable Names of Real People

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The Rosetta Stone, in the British Museum, which allowed the decoding of Egyptian hieroglyphics

 

From a book of remarkable names, compiled by John Train:

Cardinal Sin, of Manila   He was in the news not too long ago.

Reverend Christian Church of Florence, Italy, active in the recovery efforts after the devastating flood of 1966.

Cigar Stubbs, listed in the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics

Mrs. Belcher Wack Wack  Ms. Belcher married Mr.Wack and then married his brother

Silence Bellows, an editor at the Christian Science Monitor

and finally, Rosetta Stone, of New York City. I feel lucky because my unmarried name was Stone, and I could have ended up as another Rosetta.

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Mark Twain on Religion

Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, is one of my favorite authors. I particularly appreciate his cynicism. This quotation is from The Lowest Animal:

Man is the Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them.

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Mark Twain on Telling Lies

From Pudd’nhead Wilson:

“One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that a cat has only nine lives.”

Some politicians should think about this.

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A Word That Should Be Revived: Snollygoster

From Merriam-Webster:  Snollygoster, “a shrewd & unprincipled person, especially an unprincipled politician.” Just added it back. merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/ twitter.com/lowfatevil/sta

They had taken it out of the dictionary because it was rarely used any more, but as soon as Trump was elected, use of the word surged and M-W put it back in.

I came across snollygoster on a list of outdated words and immediately wanted to apply it to 99% of the Republican politicians in America today. There’s one in particular who stands far above the rest (or is it that he slinks far below the rest?), and I am running out of pejoratives to hurl at the television when  I see or hear him. For me, for this week at least, he will be the Snollygoster-in-Chief.

 

 

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A “Word” From Nikki Haley’s Advisor

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© Judi Birnberg 2020

I put “word” in quotation marks because I was struck by how unwordlike Ms. Haley’s advisor’s “word” was. See if you can spot it:

“She wants to stay out of politics for the next several years and make some money while maintaining optionality for ’24.”

I knew you’d spot it. It wasn’t difficult, was it? “Optionality.” I suppose it could be a word, but why bother? Why not say that she wants to maintain her options for ’24? Does “optionality” convey any information that “options” doesn’t?

Keep it simple. If a good word already exists, don’t try to impress your audience with a bunch of extra la-de-dah syllables that add nothing.

 

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Do You Misplace Your Modifiers?

Misplaced modifiers happen when a word or group of words ends up modifying (giving information about) another word in the sentence. Often, the results are very funny.

I found this in one of my favorite magazines, The Week, which is a digest of articles from around the world. In an article on street food, with an accompanying recipe for Dan Dan Noodles (too complicated for me), Kate Jacoby and Rich Landau, chefs at a Philadelphia restaurant, V Street, declare, “We want the stuff that a little old lady is frying up in her flip-flops….”

Where to begin? First of all, how does the little old lady stand the heat? How does the food stay on her flip-flops? And do we really want to eat food cooked on a shoe and redolent of the odor of the foot that recently occupied that flip-flop?

Hungry?

You need to know that a modifier needs to be placed next to the word about which it gives information. Here’s an example:

“I met Harry only once before.” How many times did you meet Harry? “Only” once.

But here’s the problem: most people would write (and say), “I only met Harry once.” However, you didn’t “only” meet. You did meet. “Only” tells you how many times you met him: Once.

“Only” is the most commonly misplaced modifier. Others to watch out for are “hardly,” “even,” “scarcely,” “nearly,” “almost” and “just.”

Fix the modifiers in the following sentences:

1. “I almost ate the whole pizza.”
2. “The sweater was what Anna had been looking for in the store window exactly.”
3. “Paul’s boss nearly decided to pay him $700 a week.”

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Where Are the Positives?

The other day I was thinking about words, as I often do, and came up with a few that are negative but have no positive: I thought of unbeknownst and unwieldy, wondering if something we are familiar with could be knownst, and if something easy to handle is wieldy.

I was mayed and jected by my conclusion, that indeed no positives exist for them.

In fact, I felt downright gruntled and consolate. But I was definitely hibited and decided to stage a promptu tryout of my new positive words. I was proud of how sipid they were. They were ane and challant! I was couraged as I approached strangers and began to talk in my most communicado manner. But how sad I soon became as these strangers held me in dain, trying to make me feel less ept. I had givings and found myself in a souciant mood, realizing I would have have to try another day to spread my new and enhanced vocabulary.

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