Music, as Conceived by Curmudgeons





From Jon Winokur’s book, The Portable Curmudgeon.

The chief objection to playing wind instruments is that it prolongs the life of the player.

— George Bernard Shaw

(I can’t find who said the following, but I concur: The reason bagpipe players walk while they play is to get away from the music.)

Of all noises, I think music is the least disagreeable. 

— Samuel Johnson


— Arturo Toscanini to his orchestra


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More From The Portable Curmudgeon (Jon Winokur)

Curmudgeons on LOVE:

Many a man has fallen in love with a girl in a light so dim he would not have chosen a suit by it.

—Maurice Chevalier

It’s possible to love a human being if you don’t know them too well.

—Charles Bukowski

When we want to read of the deeds that are done for love, whither do we turn? To the murder column.

—George Bernard Shaw

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

—H. L. Mencken

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How Did the Months Get Their Names?

Recently, I started getting emails from Word Genius, which gives a word-of-the-day and other tidbits. I thought you might find the origins of month names enlightening. This is what the Word Genius sent me:


January is Roman in origin, and it begins the calendar year because the Roman god Janus is the god of beginnings and endings. This makes perfect sense for a month that people see as an ending of the previous year and the troubles it may have brought, plus the beginning as people look forward to a fresh start to a whole new year. Visually, Janus is a perfect representation of the past and the future, because he has two faces. One looks backwards into the past and what was, while the other looks forward into the future and what it has to bring.


February is also from the Romans and it denotes that this month is when the Roman purification festival of Februa is held. Februa is on the 15th of the month, and it is all about cleansing. Maybe this is why it is the shortest month, because undertaking a cleanse of any type is hard to keep up with.


March does sound like Mars the planet, and that is why the month is so named. Festivals in Rome often took place in March because it was the soonest that it was warm enough to begin a war, and Mars is the Roman god of war. But Romans also messed with the calendar a few times before the Roman empire fell, because March was the first month in the calendar, initially, before it got stuck being the third month.


April also was a victim of calendar shifting by the Romans. April was supposed to be the second month on the calendar after March, because after all, Aprillis is a derivative of the Latin base word apero- which means second. April was celebrated as the second month of the year, whereas now it’s the fourth month and is seen as the real beginning of spring in the United States.


May is a very nurturing month, with mild temperatures that encourage people to enjoy the outdoors. The month name comes from a Greek goddess this time, Maia, the daughter of famous Greek god and goddess Atlas and Hermes.


June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth, which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.


July is the birth month of Julius Caesar, and that’s why the month was named after him. July is also the first month on the traditional calendar that isn’t named after a god or goddess of Roman or Greek origins, but is named after a real person.


August is also named after another real person — Augustus, who was the first emperor of Rome and also the nephew of Julius Caesar. The month was originally supposed to be the sixth month, not the eighth, and was called Sextillis to reflect that.

September, October, November and December

September, October, November and December are where the names that derive from gods and people end and numeric-naming conventions begin. Thanks to the Roman rearranging, the numeric names don’t correspond when the actual month appears on the calendar. Septem is Latin (septum) for seven, and it follows that Octo is eight, Novem is the ninth, and Decem the tenth month.

But in 46 B.C., the beginning of the Julian calendar bumped each of those months backward to create the calendar we all know and use today. Good thing the Roman empire fell so they could stop moving months around.

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Thoughts on Children



Again, these observations are taken from Jon Winokur’s book, The Portable Curmudgeon.

I love children, especially when they cry, for then someone takes them away.

—Nancy Mitford

Children should neither be seen nor heard from—ever again.          —W.C. Fields

There are three terrible ages of childhood—1 to 10, 10 to 20, and 20 to 30.

—Cleveland Amory


The secret of dealing successfully with a child is not to be its parent.   —Mell Lazarus

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant—and let the air out of the tires.                                                                                   —Dorothy Parker


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What’s Your Definition of a Politician?

From a little book I found, called The Portable Curmudgeon, compiled by Jon Winokur. Ignore that all politicians here are considered male.

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.  —H.L. Mencken

The secret of the demagogue is to make himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as clever as he. —Karl Krause

Anybody who wants the presidency so much that he’ll spend two years organizing and campaigning for it is not to be trusted with the office.

—David Broder

A politician  is a person with whose politics you don’t agree; if you agree with him he is a statesman. —David Lloyd George

I once said of a politician, “He’ll double-cross that bridge when he comes to it.”  —Oscar Levant

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Some Thoughts on History

Enjoy (or not) these musings by famous people on the topic of history:

HISTORY, n. An account mostly false, of events unimportant, which are brought about by rulers mostly knaves, and soldiers mostly fools.                 — Ambrose Bierce, from The Devil’s Dictionary

History is a set of lies agreed upon.     —Napoleon Bonaparte

History is bunk.  —Henry Ford

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.  —George Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel

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

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



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An Important Distinction

I was driving next to a truck on the infamous 405 freeway.  The company installs audio and visual components and proudly displayed its name in various places on the truck: SIMPLISTIC SOLUTIONS. I was in no danger of driving off the freeway since my maximum speed at the time ranged from 5-10 mph. But I did swallow my gum.

Being the crank that I am, I sent the company an e-mail:

To Simplistic Solutions:

 I saw one of your trucks on the 405 and almost croaked. It appears you do not realize that “simplistic” and “simple” are not synonyms.  You know what “simple” means; “simplistic” means overly simple, too simple—it is most definitely a NEGATIVE.  I am certain that is not the idea you want potential customers to have about your company.

 Cheers anyway—

 Judi Birnberg

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