Category Archives: News

Into the ears of babes

The question of the day: Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?

Perhaps more important, what did it mean to you at the time? For me, it all boils down to one word.

On November 22, 1963, I was three weeks away from turning four years old. As young as I was, I can still remember it well. It was late afternoon, getting dark, and I was playing on a swing set with a neighbor boy across the street. His older brother came out of the house and yelled, “The president was shot!” My playmate responded with something like “Oh, no; that’s terrible!” We all ran inside to find their mother in front of the television, hysterical.

Without paying much attention to the TV news story, I probably toddled home for dinner as almost-four-year-olds did in early-1960s suburbia.

I hadn’t grasped what had just happened; still, I was upset. There was only one meaning of “shot” in my young consciousness. And it was indeed horrific.

For me, “shot” was what the nurse gave you when you were sick. On every drive to my pediatrician, Dr. Bunce, I’d ask my mother, “Will I have to get a shot?” I’d tremble with fear and anxiety until the appointment was finished and I was sucking on my good-job-being-brave lollipop. Getting a shot was the worst possible thing to come from a doctor visit (next to spending Christmas in the hospital, which is what I did later that year, but that’s a story for another day).

So, on November 22, as far as I was concerned, the anguish I witnessed in the neighbor’s back yard, in their living room and, most likely, in my own house was a result of the President of the United States being injected with a needle. I probably wondered if he got a lollipop.

Yesterday’s Washington Post ran an article on how parents can help their young children understand clips of Abraham Zapruder’s footage they’d see in the news coverage of today’s 50th anniversary. Sadly, gunfire isn’t new to today’s youngsters. I’m just glad I made it almost to age four oblivious to anyone being killed with a gun.

On a brighter note, I’m reminded of a scene in the 1989 movie, When Harry Met Sally in which Harry is out with a much younger woman. Attempting to make conversation, he asked her where she was when Kennedy was shot. The date replied, “Ted Kennedy was shot?” Out of the mouths of bimbos.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Health, News, Politics

So tarred

Nothing wakes me up like a good mixed metaphor. But you already know that; they’re honored all over this place.

This morning, still sleepy, I filled my morning mug while listening to Today’s Professionals, the mildly lame Today show panel of  so-called “professionals,” consisting of a doctor, a lawyer and a PR exec who expound on issues of the day to the benefit of, well, no one really, in my humble opinion.

The topic of the day was Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), and his recent comments about “legitimate rape” not causing pregnancy.

After Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman rebuffed the congressman’s theory, the panel’s legal analyst, Star Jones, cautioned that the congressman’s gaffe could harm GOP candidate Mitt Romney, whose campaign could be “tarred with the same feather.”

Did you notice this?

We don’t see much tarrin’ and featherin’ going on these days; thankfully, the hot and sticky mode of torture went out with the horse and buggy.

However, we do see people and things and causes being tarred with the same brush as others, the image being that using a brush to spread tar on something could dirty another object if the same brush were used.

It is said that the expression “tarred with the same brush” refers to the tarring of sheep as a method of branding, in which owners of a flock of sheep marked their wool in the same place with a brush dipped in tar to distinguish them from other flocks. I’m sure there are other theories.

Nevertheless, I envisioned someone trying to spread tar—on anything—with a feather. If Ms. Jones’ words are true, then the Romney campaign is going to be just fine.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics

Extreme Fletchercise

As Americans learned more about vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan over the weekend, it was most likely intended that we each find something about the man we could relate to. I know I did.

Yesterday’s Washington Post reported:

“In his private life, Ryan pursues the hobbies of an everyman with an overachiever’s zeal. He sweats through grueling ‘P90x’ workouts in the House gym. He beats other legislators in contests to recite the most lines from ‘Fletch.’ And he fishes for catfish – with his bare hands.”

I’d take him. In a Fletch-off, that is. I’m not proud of this, but I’ve got the whole movie memorized. I even have an autograph that Chevy Chase wrote to me in 1988, suggesting I name my unborn baby Fletch. No kidding.

Well, good as Paul Ryan may be, I can’t imagine him and his fellow legislators vying for such a distinction as reciting the most lines from this zany movie. Or maybe I can.

Call me crazy, but this might just unlock the secret to bipartisan civility. Visualize House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, sitting with the Committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, in the Members’ Dining Room.

Ryan: I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich, and a steak sandwich.
Van Hollen: Just get me a glass of hot fat. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia.

The two finish lunch and part with a tee-hee about Dr. Rosenpenis in the Records Room.

I dare Congressman Ryan to work a line into his acceptance speech at the GOP convention, or maybe in his debate against Vice President Biden. Perhaps, if backed into a corner on how he’d pay for further tax cuts, he can reply simply, “Put it on the Underhills’ bill.”

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Filed under Movies, Television and Radio, News, Politics

Reign maker

Thank you, Mitt Romney, for raining on my wilting blog.

If you hadn’t noticed, the Word Nymph’s crop of lexicological sustenance has been as dry as the American plains. Until today.

The presumptive GOP nominee has given us occasion for instruction on a homonym we haven’t addressed in this place. In announcing his selection of a running mate, Romney’s press release said of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.):

“He is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, where he has worked tirelessly leading the effort to reign in federal spending and increase accountability to taxpayers.”

Did you spot it?

Reign in federal spending. Wrong. It’s rein. As in a strap controlling an animal.

Perhaps Mitt was going for the pun. Or maybe his error was hopeful of his intent to reign in the new year. That’s reign, as royalty on a throne.

We see the spellings of these often confused.

It’s rote to me, but here’s a little clue to help get it straight:

Rein – think of Rudolph the Red-nosed reindeer

Reign – pertains sovereign occupation of the throne. Sovereign has a g in it; so does reign.

Keep ‘em coming, Mitt. It’s been a long drought.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News, Politics

Drawl come back now

Having written a fair number of executive briefing books in my career, it’s hard for me to resist drafting briefing notes for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney as he faces important primaries in the South in a few days.

I trust he has taken a regimen of prophylactic Mylanta to secure his sensitive system from the plattersful of barbeque and hush puppies he’ll gobble along the campaign trails of Mississippi and Alabama this weekend.

He has already bragged about eating “a biscuit” and liking grits, believing this will endear him to Dixie delegates he seeks. At least he used grits, plural, after having professed his love of “sport” in Daytona, at the risk of defeating the purpose of yukking it up with the NASCAR crowd.

Romney boasted about having mastered “y’all,” as if contracting a second person plural were colloquial rocket science.

I informally canvassed cohorts in the southern states to learn what they might contribute to my fictitious briefing book. What terms must the candidate master to prove he’s southern-savvy?

One person cautioned Mr. Romney to stay far away from the Paula Deen method. Simply inserting extra syllables is only patronizing and insulting.

Some suggestions came in under what I believe is an erroneous assumption that good grammar doesn’t matter in the South:  “We’re gonna win this thing, Good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” and “I need me some red eye gravy or my grits just ain’t right.” If Candidate Romney buys into these in next week’s primary elections, he might as well not come back for the general.

Some submissions I received were right out of the stereotypical Paula Deen phrase book: “I’m plumb tuckered out,” “I’m fixin’ too go down the road a piece” and “Oh my Lorward.” Most came from people who might delight in poor ol’ Mr. Romney’s taking bad advice.

When I sent out my solicitations yesterday, I was hoping to get a more esoteric glossary, containing a few of the words and phrases—actual, not stereotypical—I had to learn upon marrying into a Southern family. This page from my briefing book will help the southern gentleman from Massachusetts fit in with voters in Miss-sippi and Alabama without a single y’all.

Romney-speak:  I beg your pardon?
Translation:  Do what?

Romney:  When you enter the voting booth on Tuesday, be sure to press the button for Mitt Romney.
Translation:  When you enter the voting booth on Tuesday, be sure to mash the button for Mitt Romney.

Romney:  It appears that would be so.
Translation:  I reckon.

Romney:  In the debates, the other candidates and I took turns addressing the issues.
Translation:  In the debates, the other candidates and I took time about addressing the issues.

Romney:  I’m spending my own money, so put your checkbook away.
Translation:  I’m spending my own money, so put your checkbook up.

Ten thousand bucks you can come up with more?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News, Politics

Inspiration

In a concert Mary Chapin Carpenter once introduced her song, “The Last Word,” as many songwriters do, by telling the audience what inspired her to write it. She observed that often writers are inspired by the beauty of nature or an overwhelming feeling of love. “I wrote this one,” she said, “because I was pissed off.”

Today, all mankind is on my nerves.

Years ago, a loved one made me laugh when she shouted, very seriously, “What is everybody’s problem?” Today I can relate. Surely it isn’t me. (I know, it’s I.)

The experts say that making a list can be a good first step in addressing the source of one’s anger. So here goes.

  1. When people who borrow my books write in them
  2. When texters walk in front of moving cars
  3. Rush Limbaugh
  4. Rush Limbaugh
  5. Rush Limbaugh
  6. When people expect the Earth to revolve around them
  7. When people over-post on Facebook
  8. When people spew venom on Facebook
  9. Facebook
  10. When The Washington Post doesn’t know who from whom
  11. Me, for over-consuming and under-producing — and getting pissed off.

Thanks. I feel better.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Music, News, Politics, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

A mighty near mis-fire

It’s good thing I stopped myself before I acted irrationally and fired off another letter to the editor of The Washington Post. Instead I thought twice and had a good laugh at my own expense.

You might remember that some time back I wrote the Post, highlighting a grammatical error in one of the paper’s editorial page headlines. They didn’t find my letter fit to print and I didn’t hear a thing from anyone except my faithful blog readers. (I still owe Craig Dees a prize for best suggested follow-up).

Let me set the stage.

The summer before I started college, I worked in Georgetown with a woman from Charlotte. I’m not sure I’d ever met anyone from North Carolina before, and I found charm in her manner of speech.

Once, in conversation, a phrase she used caught my ear:  “Debbie said I might could borrow her car.” Might could.

I understood that what she meant was might be able to, although I actually thought she was joking when she said it.

As you know, I’ve since met dozens, if not hundreds, of North Carolinians, and have come to enjoy their colloquialisms. Might could is one I still hear a lot but, as many Southerners as I know, I don’t recall ever hearing it from anyone from South Carolina or Tennessee or Georgia or Arkansas or Alabama. No matter.

You’ll find no shortage of online dialogue about might could if you’re inclined to look it up. I learned there’s a Southern rock band called Might Could. Cute.

I also learned that might could is a “double modal,” and is as frowned upon as a double negative. Even so, the phrase, while structurally incorrect, has gained acceptance as a mere regional lapse. Frankly, I’ve heard it so many times over the past three decades that, when I do, only one hair stands up on the back of my neck.

But to read it in the paper, that’s a whole different grind of grits.

Yesterday the Post ran an opinion piece by leading foreign policy expert Robert Kagan, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. His piece was entitled: “Powering down: A decline in U.S. military might could upend the world order.”

I was outraged. Shame on Dr. Kagan for this sloppy title, if he indeed wrote it, and shame on the Post if they did. I drafted an angry letter in my head as I re-read the header over and over.

Then I realized – that the subject in the sentence was “a decline in military might.” Might. As in strength. Force. Power. The decline [in military might] could upend the world order. Duh.

I was reading it as though a decline in U.S. military might could upend the world order.

Maybe now I can calm down and read Dr. Kagan’s piece.

And maybe my readers from the lovely Tar Heel state, bless their hearts, might could forgive me for the snap.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, News