Tag Archives: travel

Sunny in Orlando

We know someone who tells people he meets that he’s from “Orlando, Florida.” I always wonder to myself why he doesn’t just say “Orlando.” I mean, are people going to think he’s from Orlando, Oklahoma? It turns out that they might. Or Orlando, Kentucky, or Orlando, West Virginia.

I snicker when I hear people—usually ones who don’t travel very much—refer to “Paris, France,” or “London, England,” or places where the country is implied. Everyone knows Paris is in France; you really don’t need to say it. Or do you? There are at least 10 cities in the United States called Paris.

I do travel a lot, and I consult Weather.com before I go anywhere. The Weather Channel’s website has an auto-search feature that, when the name of a city is typed in, offers a choice of the top cities bearing that name.

Going to Philadelphia? Don’t mis-click, or you’ll get the weather for Philadelphia, Missouri, or Mississippi or New York or Tennessee.

Just a little trivia for geography buffs from some of my recent searches (or perhaps geography buffs already know this):

Charlotte: In addition to North Carolina, Charlotte is in Arkansas, Vermont, Iowa, Michigan, New York, Tennessee and Texas.

Dallas: Georgia, Iowa, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia

Atlanta: Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and New York

Sacramento: Kentucky, New Mexico and Pennsylvania

Detroit: Alabama, Maine, Oregon and Texas

Phoenix: Maryland, New York and Oregon

Denver: Iowa, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, New York and Pennsylvania

Raleigh: Illinois, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia

Miami: Arizona, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia

Richmond: California, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan and Minnesota

Minneapolis: Kansas and North Carolina

Syracuse: North Dakota, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Utah

Well, I’d better go check the weather in San Antonio. Oops, not New Mexico.

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Filed under Technology and Social Media, Travel

Grammar on the Acela Express

Yesterday I was on an Amtrak train rolling along the East Coast. Compulsive public eavesdropper that I am, I tuned into a loud conversation among three gentlemen in the row in front of me. One, a well-groomed young man in a good suit, was obviously auditioning for the approval of the other two, perhaps as a job applicant or an eager salesman. He said, “Yeah, I coulda went to Boston University.” Then he proceeded to begin several sentences with “Me and him…”

I’ll never know the outcome of the meeting, as the gentlemen disembarked before I did.

Boarding the train and taking the place of the three gentlemen were two ladies. Neither was a native English-speaker, but one was a bit more fluent and confident than the other. However, in contrast to Sir Brags-a-lot, both women spoke impeccable English. One looked up at the sign above the seat and asked her friend, “how is that word pronounced?” I was impressed that she cared enough to ask. Her friend responded, “aisle,” like “‘I’ll,’ as in ‘I’ll be back in a moment.”’ There was conversation about not pronouncing the “s,” as with “island.” The woman more in the know assured her friend, “English can be confusing.” Her friend said, “Yes, but it is such a beautiful language.”

I’ve never thought of English as being a beautiful language necessarily. I find the romance languages more pleasing to the ear, even if I don’t understand everything. Perhaps the rhythms and intonations of a foreign language are what make it beautiful to our ears.

I do believe English is one of the most difficult languages to learn as second language, with all of its exceptions and varied pronunciations. English also poses challenges for us native speakers, which may be why I still enjoy studying it. That said, perhaps I should have been less judgmental of the fellow who could have went to BU.

Oh, whom am I kidding?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Travel

In a nutshell

If you could fit your outlook on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

That might be an unfair question, but it’s fun to think about. A living epitaph of sorts, or simply your message to the world behind you.

I enjoy reading bumper stickers. It’s fun to speed up and see how drivers match their sayings.

We spent the weekend visiting our son in Boone, North Carolina, a funky college town about which I’ve told you before. Friday we took a stroll down King Street, had lunch at Our Daily Bread and checked out some of our favorite shops.

My husband’s favorite stop-in is Dancing Moon, a 1960s-style book store, filled with incense, new age music and reading on all things spiritual and counter-cultural. Dancing Moon smells (and, to some degree, feels) just like my childhood.

During our voyages to the Dancing Moon, my husband browses the shelves and chats with the proprietor, aptly a cross between George Carlin and Jerry Garcia. I retreat to my favorite corner in the back, where the bumper stickers are displayed. I pretend I have to select one that represents who I am.

I don’t affix stickers to my bumper. The peace sign magnet I had there at one time had attracted such ire—as well as comments that it was unpatriotic—that I removed it for a while.

I can’t say I was able to select just one bumper sticker on this trip, but here are a few that struck my fancy:

“All the freaky people make beauty in the world”
“Medically speaking, what harm does medical marijuana do to terminally ill patients?”
“Imagination is more important than knowledge”
“Consciousness: that annoying time between naps”
“When in doubt, shut up”
“The truly educated never graduate”
“Peace is patriotic”

What words appear on your life’s bumper sticker?

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Quotes, Travel

A capital getaway

We just got in from a mini-getaway in our state capital of Annapolis, so close in distance from our home, yet so far away in atmosphere.

The occasion blended a rhythm and blues show, a friend’s birthday party and a gift certificate for a local bed and breakfast into a 16-hour vacation.

To sketch a picture of Annapolis for those who haven’t been there, it sits on the shore of the Chesapeake Bay and, in addition to being the state capital, it is home to the United States Naval Academy. Its narrow streets are lined with restaurants, crab houses, craft shops, taverns and trendy boutiques. It also hosts an impressive 500-seat music venue, the Ram’s Head Tavern, where we attended a superb performance by the Tom Principato Band.

Our base of operations for this 16-hour vacation was a local inn, sadly, the kind of place you want to stay for no longer than the time between putting your tired head on the pillow and going downstairs for breakfast. I don’t mean to be unkind, but camping might have been cleaner and more comfortable. There’s no lobby; you come in through the kitchen of the deli below, to the cash register, which serves as the front desk. If you come back after 11:30 p.m., which we did, you have to climb what is essentially their fire escape to the third floor.

The real treasure, however, was the deli, rather, delly, below the inn. It turns out that Chick & Ruth’s Delly is a well known, family-run Annapolis landmark that’s been in business 45 years. And, while it’s very much a local hangout, I now recall it was featured recently in The Washington Post magazine recently as a favorite for brunch.

“Here you go, sweetie pie,” was how my husband’s crab omelet was served. ‘Nuff said.

We bought fresh crab cakes to cook at home tonight, just to extend the delly experience. I just hope no one expects a side of “sweetie pie” with those.

Do take a minute to peruse their website. Who knows, you might be interested in one of their Colossal Challenges, involving a three-pound deli (er, delly) sandwich, a three-pound hamburger or a six-pound milkshake. Read about the family who started and still runs the place and how the kids got started serving behind the counter, standing on milk crates. And don’t miss the web page that highlights all the couples who got engaged at the Delly.

Best of all, go to Chick & Ruth’s at 8:30 a.m. on any weekday, 9:30 any weekend day, and join your fellow patrons in the Pledge of Allegiance.

God bless America, the great state of Maryland and Chick & Ruth’s Delly.

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Filed under Food, Music, Travel

Desperate times

I just activated my emergency Snickers bar.

You might be saying to yourself, I thought she was forced to give up chocolate. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures.

I made it through Halloween without a single piece of chocolate, which took great will power; but I was committed to good health and respectful of my dietary restrictions. However, I did stash one Snickers bar, perhaps as a measure of security, where I could get to it in an emergency.

Recently, some minor yet frustrating annoyances have graced our doorstep, which have called for generous amounts of patience and flexibility. The first was October’s fender bender and the various inconveniences that ensued.

I fully appreciate that the flies in my ointment are mere gnats compared to what the world’s poor, sick and homeless face every day. All the more reason to face one’s irritations with proper perspective.

So, as my gnats began to reproduce and mutate, I consulted my handy new manual, How to Say It, to be sure I addressed each inconvenience—and the person behind it—appropriately. Chapter 13 on Complaints offered a wealth of tips and techniques for airing one’s grievances, firmly but politely. I drew upon the insights offered in Chapter 13 to respond to statements like, We’re sorry, Mrs. Welch, but the rug you ordered in August, that was to be delivered in September, might (but we cannot offer any guarantee) be delivered in mid-January, and We’re sorry, Mrs. Welch, but the home project that was to be done in October is delayed indefinitely. We hope to start before Christmas (but we cannot offer any guarantee).

Chapter 13 gave me the right words but it provided no guarantee. Or result. I was on the edge.

With the ointment now full of horse flies, the only weapon I had left was an illegal, fun-sized Snickers bar.

Now, following a Snickers breakfast and paying the piper for it, I will leave  to catch an early flight with an impossibly tight connection. I will be optimistic about not hearing your flight is delayed, your flight has been cancelled or you missed your connection. (Heaven knows, the airlines offer no guarantee.)

Either way, I know the newsstand sells grown-up sized Snickers bars. And extra strength Tums.

Optimism aside, is it an omen that an enormous fly is buzzing overhead as I write this?

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Filed under Food, Health, Holidays, Rants and Raves, Reading, Travel

Empty phrases

Last spring, I wrote a couple of blog posts on useless words. One was on phrases that mean nothing in which I referenced a list of 10 Annoying Phrases That Serve No Purpose. The other was on verbal pauses, you know, words like, “you know” and “like.” Based on comments I received, I learned that some people have emotional or habitual attachments to certain phrases or verbal patterns and don’t share my opinion that, while some expressions may be clever upon their arrival on the language scene, it eventually becomes time to move on from them.

At the risk stepping out on another flimsy limb, I’d like to add two more to the list.

The first happens to occupy second place on the list of 10 Annoying Phrases That Serve No Purpose: “at the end of the day.”

I first took notice of “at the end of the day” in 1991. I was working with a Harvard-educated consultant who used it in just the perfect context:  when all is said and done, when everything else has been taken into consideration. I noted how descriptive—and original—it sounded. I may have even picked it up and used it a few times. Not too long after that, I heard about an industry executive from the Gulf Coast region who, when testifying on Capitol Hill, used the phrase to sum up his testimony. He had the creativity to follow it up with something even more descriptive:  “At the end of the day, when the gumbo boils down . . .”

Almost 20 years later, I believe “at the end of the day” has become stale and overused. It has lost its punch. Unless, of course, it is followed by a clever colloquialism.

The second phrase, while innocuous enough, has come to be spoken without thought. Still, it precedes a great preponderance of sentences these days. “You know what?” Pay attention and you will really begin to notice. Again, there’s technically nothing wrong with it, but it is way overused. “You know what? I am going to have eggs over easy.”

These two sayings hit me in the face yesterday morning as I watched former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater being interviewed on the major morning news programs—NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America and CBS’ The Early Show

As a refresher, Slater was the airline employee who had a colossal meltdown on a flight from Pittsburgh to New York, cursed out a plane full of passengers over the intercom and, when the plane landed at JFK, grabbed two beers, popped open the emergency exit door and slid down the escape ramp. He parted ways with JetBlue and pled guilty to two criminal charges.

In three network interviews, he told his side of the story, using “at the end of the day” and “you know what?” collectively at least 10 times. My favorite, though, was on GMA, when he was asked how his notoriety has affected him. He said, “At the end of the day, I still put my pants on one leg at a time.”

Don’t people usually take their pants off at the end of the day? Maybe he was referring to his PJs, in which he probably spends a lot of time these days.

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

Catch a wave?

It has been said that it’s the little things that bring happiness into our lives. Not to make this a glass-half-empty conversation, but isn’t it also the little things that drive us up the wall or at least make us shake our heads in perplexity?

I took a three-day road trip recently and noticed the striking disappearance of a little thing. So simple, but now, so gone.

I am talking about the thank-you wave.

Granted, I tend to overdo it. When someone is kind enough to let me cut over, I flail my hand back and forth for a good long time, just so the driver knows how grateful I am.

I also happen to be pretty darn generous with drivers who wish to cut in front of me—unless, of course, it’s some doofus who has flown down the shoulder and suddenly wants VIP treatment. But usually I allow one car. If each of us practiced this, traffic might just keep moving smoothly.

In the 500 miles I put in on the road last week, I’d say I let more than a dozen drivers slip into my lane ahead of me, just to be nice.

Not one thank-you wave came my way, in 500 miles.

What happened to this simple gesture of thanks? What made it extinct?

Others have noticed, I know, because mine isn’t the only commentary out there about it. I agree wholeheartedly with one woman who commented, “Let’s not let this gesture go the way of the R.S.V.P. or be piled on to the ‘that’s ol’ fashioned’ etiquette junk heap.” Another person started a blog entitled Thank-you Wave, in January 2009, but the blog is empty, in which case the wave has literally disappeared.

Part of me wants to be mature and not sweat the small stuff, while the other part wants to explode into a George Costanza-esque tirade and shout, “We’re LIVING in a SOCIETY…”

I’m sorry to be complaining so much this week. I don’t know what else to do, except perhaps keep on over-waving. And letting people in. And continuing to look for the best in my fellow motorists. Except that jerk riding the shoulder.

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Filed under Rants and Raves, Travel

Mind your manners

This may not come as much of a surprise, but I am kind of an etiquette geek.

I defer to conventions and rules established so long ago that, in modern times, they might seem outmoded.

While some rules of etiquette might seem superfluous, in my mind, most are in place for much the same reason Emily Post or Miss Manners might argue—that they preserve civilized co-existence with our fellow humans. My words, not theirs, but you get the gist.

One realm in which greater awareness of etiquette is sorely needed is air travel. A quick Internet search revealed more than a dozen sites addressing air travel etiquette, so people and institutions are definitely spreading the word.

Mostly these sites address the obvious:  don’t kick the seat in front of you, don’t throw trash on the floor of the plane, don’t try and repack your suitcase before hefting it into the overhead bin while 75 passengers wait in the aisle behind you.

As a seasoned business traveler, I do not intend to be a snob; in fact, I go out of my way to be helpful to those who aren’t so accustomed.

However, I do believe just a few simple acts of civility would ease an already tense process; or at least keep us from wanting to mutilate each other with the tweezers that eluded security.

  1. Please dress appropriately. Whether in the gate area or a cramped coach cabin, we can’t avoid extreme closeness. So we should not be forced to look at the bare-fleshed, hairy legs or the unpedicured toes of strangers. Ladies and gentlemen alike, when you sit down, your shorts ride up. Most of us were brought up to dress for travel; I’d wear white gloves if I could find them to fit my freakishly large hands. Please save the shorts and flip-flops for your beach destination.
  2. Walk as you would drive, on the right side of the concourse. If you feel the need to stop cold, please pull off to the side. You wouldn’t stop your car in the middle of the freeway without pulling over to the shoulder. The pedestrian behind you, trying to make it from Gate A2 to Gate E58 in 10 minutes’ time, may rear-end you right in the knees.
  3. Do you really need to bring your bed pillow? I understand if you have a small pillow for your orthopedic need or a support cushion around your neck. People have told me they take their own pillows when they travel because they don’t trust the cleanliness of hotel pillows. So now when you get to your hotel, your pillow will be encrusted in airplane cooties.  Plus, it makes you look like a goofball.
  4. The universal armrest rule:  the one on the right is yours.
  5. If you notice someone sleeping during the boarding announcements, please tap her on the shoulder.

Please note:  Word Nymph is currently combining business with pleasure. Her pleasure accommodations have technological limitations that may inhibit timely blogging. Perhaps there’s a local Panera.

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Filed under Rants and Raves, Travel

That’s incredible!

I knew what I was doing. I even paused, but I did it anyway. I used the word “brilliant.” Again.

Yesterday I applied it to Victor Borge, who undoubtedly deserves it. But I plead guilty of overusing “brilliant,” or using it to overstate when I don’t intend to overstate.

I admit, I am easily impressed, so I find a lot of people and ideas brilliant. However, if I keep flinging “brilliant” around, its significance will become diluted.

I think I picked up this habit when I was working internationally. The international crowd flings it around loosely.

I say, “How about we meet in the lobby at seven-thirty?”

Brilliant!” a chum responds.

“Then maybe we can get a coffee?” (Here we say “some” coffee; in Europe, it’s “a” coffee. When in Rome…)

Brilliant!”

Is it really brilliant to get coffee at 7:30 in the morning? Is there a Nobel Prize for such a breakthrough idea?

This makes me wonder what other adjectives overstate in everyday language.

I’ve heard such statements as “I went to the park today” answered with “That’s awesome!”

How about this one? “That bagel was amazing!” I’ve eaten thousands of bagels in my lifetime, most were tasty, many were delicious, but I can’t recall any as having been amazing, in the literal sense. What could a bagel do to amaze me? Spin around on its own? Stand on end while a caper is shot through its middle from across the deli?

I feel the same way about “incredible,” “countless,” maybe even “absolutely,” though I know  that’s an adverb.

I’m as guilty as anyone of overusing all of these adjectives, but I will try to use them a little more selectively in the future. Maybe you know of a few more and would like to join me in pulling back a bit.

But you have to admit, Victor Borge really is brilliant.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Travel

Plane folks

Do you think airlines intentionally seat well-known people beside people who don’t know them? Sometimes I wonder.

I don’t think this is the case with politicians. I’ve been seated beside former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, former Ohio Senator Howard Metzenbaum and current Texas Congressman Lamar Smith and I knew them all. There’ve been more, but these are the ones who made memorable impressions.

Many years ago, I was making chitchat with my neighbor on a flight from Dallas to Washington. We exchanged pleasantries and I asked what took him to Washington.

“I have some interviews,” he said.

I asked, “Job interviews?”

“Press interviews.” He went on, “I wrote a book.”

“Oh, what’s it called”?

Run, Bullet, Run.”

“What’s it about?”

‘It’s about football.”

When I got home I told my husband I met a man, and something about a football book, bullet something.

My husband gasped. “You met Bullet Bob Hayes?” Only a two-time Olympic Gold medalist, Super Bowl winner and once considered the fastest human being on the planet.

By the way, I still don’t know what hockey legend I met in an airport in April.

Now that I’m a more seasoned traveler, I rarely take airplane conversations past the hello half-smile as I am squeezing into the seat and reaching under my neighbor’s cheek for my seatbelt.

Yesterday I walked into it again. Just a little.

About midway into the flight, after she and I rolled our eyes at each other over some boisterous passengers behind us, my neighbor thanked me for having been quiet during the ride.

We started talking, I asked what took her to the cities she was visiting and she said she was a musician.

Later in the conversation (which she probably regretted starting), I mentioned I wrote a blog. She asked the usual, what do you write about, I said language and life, and then somewhere in there I said I enjoyed writing about song lyrics.

She said she enjoys writing song lyrics and she shared how she approaches putting her lyrics with the music she writes. She shared with me some of her language peeves and gave me some ideas for future blog posts.

She was lovely and I can’t remember when I’ve enjoyed a plane chat more. I hope she felt the same.

She gave me the name of her group and I gave her the name of my blog.

You may have noticed Word Nymph typically doesn’t mention people by name. I will say I had never heard of my neighbor and chances are you haven’t either. Maybe one day we all will. Perhaps she’ll read my blog and introduce herself by way of a comment.

Granted, in my opening I mentioned four people by name. That’s all right because they’re famous and three of them are dead.  Now if they comment…

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Filed under Foibles and Faux Pas, Music, Reading, Sports and Recreation, Technology and Social Media, Travel