April 6

How Weird, or Wyrd, Your Fate

As I watched one of my favorite TV shows the other night — “Imposters” — one of the characters mentioned that the word weird originally meant destiny.

I thought that was a bit weird and worth researching, and guess what? That was the exact meaning of the Old English word wyrd — fate or destiny.

It seems that Shakespeare started, or accelerated, the modern interpretation (with the help of the Scotch earlier), when he described the witches in Macbeth as weird.

Original usage of wyrd, however, was as a note, as wordorigins.com notes:

Weird is found in Beowulf (spelled wyrd) as a noun meaning fate or destiny:

Gæð a wyrd swa hio scel.
(Fate goes ever as fate must.)

and

Hie wyrd forsweop on Grendles gryre.
(Fate sweeps them away into Grendel’s clutches.)

March 20

‘Penultimate’ versus ‘Ultimate’

Here’s where people can show some real stupidity, but let me give some background first.

I was just watching the World Baseball Classic on TV when an announcer, discussing the anniversary of outfielder Roberto Clemente’s elevation to the Hall of Fame in 1973, referred to him as “the penultimate Puerto Rican baseball player.”

I’m sure he thought penultimate meant beyond ultimate.

Egads, folks, penultimate means “next to last,” while ultimate means “beyond, tops.”

In origin, penultimate comes from the Latin paene, meaning “almost,’ plus ultimas “last.” So penultimate means literally “almost last.”

Unfortunately, in modern vernacular to many non-discriminating speakers and writers, penultimate has taken on the meaning of “beyond ultimate.”

January 8

Is It Possible to Be ‘Combobulated’?

A mitigated disaster doesn’t exist evidently, though unmitigated ones do, according to talk show hosts and other nonsense deliverers. So if you can be discombobulated, can you be also be combobulated?

I bring this up because today, as I was driving to buy dog food, I felt discombobulated due to a terrifying, mystical incident I experienced on Friday night.

Without going into details, let me affirm that, as the saying goes, life can indeed “flash before your eyes,” but you don’t even have to be dead or dying. I experienced it on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, and it left me transformed, and yes, discombobulated.

The answer to my initial question about being combobulated is no. The word discombobulated is slang, with no derivation from combobulate or combobulation.

There you go. And let me warn you: when your life flashes before you, you will never be the same.

December 26

‘Network’ Revisited: Angst Trumps the Season

What with one daughter in Israel and the other in China, acquainting themselves with their (respective) mothers’ roots, “’twas the season” for me to rewatch 1976’s “Network,” with its Oscar-winning performance by Peter Finch, who didn’t live long enough to accept the statue but who was able to singlehandedly make America “mad as hell” and elect Ronald Reagan four years later to relieve the social angst.

Sound familiar? But for 2016 (40 years later!), there was no Howard Beale to make us “mad” enough to elect Donald Trump. There was, however, Twitter and the social media, which made Howard Beales out of all of us.

In watching “Network” for the first time in decades, I was struck by several realizations.

First, Beale (Finch) urged everyone to open their (okay, his/her) window and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Cut to people shouting out their windows and the first “as” has been eliminated: “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Second, the vocabulary: When was the last time you heard the word “adamantine” used in a movie? Probably never, and that’s just one example of the million-dollar words screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky threw in.

(How about a reference between husband and wife during an argument to Anna Karenina and Count Vronsky? Would anybody understand that today?)

Third, the movie exposes the communism in capitalism and the capitalism in communism, labeling everything as “one system.” How true, and isn’t this what Bernie and Trump were railing about throughout their campaigns?

Finally, but not exhaustively, the acting: Wow, was this thing overacted. If actors are too subtle today, in 1976 they must’ve thought they were on the stage and had to gyrate and shout to an audience to be seen and heard.

That being said, in Finch’s case, he had to overact. There was no excuse for Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway and William Holden, however.

Shouting is now better left to the politicians. My, how the world turns.

December 7

Fuck Is a 26-Letter Word

I‘ve been bingeing a lot lately. No, not on the stuff in the bottle or can, but on cable TV offerings, and the one thing I’ve noticed is the use and overuse of the word fuck, even in British and European productions in which English is spoken.

(Actually, this one trend morphs into two with the proliferation of scenes of naked sex and the gratuitous scattering of nude bodies and appendages everywhere on cable TV offerings.)

Now most of us grew up learning through social osmosis the pristine meaning of the F word, which is to have sexual intercourse. Since then, however, the word has taken on a meaning and a power of its own, and is used as emphasis, insult or threat, and in negotiation, seduction, jest, violence, as well as .. well, the list goes on.

I have no way of gauging this next assertion — but fuck may be the most used word in the English language when someone wants to make an impactful point — so long as he or she is not on live TV.

Let’s examine the 26 words, combinations and accompanying situations for which fuck is the most natural and logical way of expressing oneself with verve:

A: Anxiety

B: Bitterness

C: Contentiousness

D: Divorce

E: Exasperation

F: Fatuousness (formerly family, but I guess people didn’t connect with “Ray Donovan”)

G: Guys and gals who won’t (or will)

H: Hell, however it reveals itself

I: Irritation

J: Jealousy

K: Killing (with words or devices)

L: Love or loathing (is there a difference?)

M: Marriage

N: Nastiness

O: Opposition

P: Nah, I won’t use that one, so how about panic?

Q: Quarreling

R: Reversal of fortune

S: Shit, however it manifests itself (another popular word these days)

T: Temper

U: Unloved, unwanted, unneeded — the unwashed

V: Violence

W: Women — oops, sounds sexist, huh? Instead, substitute worry

X: Xenophobia (prevalent among us Deplorables, according to Hillary)

Y: Yearning

Z: Zealotry

This list is not exhaustive. If you have alternatives, please let me know. You’ll soon find how ubiquitous and adaptable the word is.

LATE NOTE: I just watched an episode of “The Leftovers,” and I realized that I forgot to mention the use and overuse of the progressive form of the verb — fucking — which is also a heavy favorite among screenwriters for cable these days. Of course, there’s also the expletive form of fuck, as in “Oh, fuck!” and “Fuck no!”, which in turn relies on the noun form of the F word. You see how deliciously complex this gets. You can actually learn parts of English grammar just by being so f–ked up, you have to swear a lot to survive these turbulent times.

December 3

‘Be Polite, Be Professional, But…’

You gotta love a public servant with the savoir faire to be famous for this saying: “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”

Meet James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the four-star retired general whom Donald Trump has chosen to be his secretary of defense, God, Hillary and Harry Reid permitting.

(Oops, I almost forgot, but for years the latter two were the first. Nietzsche has finally been proven correct: “God is dead.” Long live the Deplorables, me included.)

I assume Mad Dog means his “kill everyone” aphorism both literally and figuratively. Kind of like “take no prisoners.”

While we’re at it, let’s play “Taps” for political correctness. Long may it rest in the dustbin of history.

 

November 10

Their Finest Hours Came at the End

Goodbye, and many would say good riddance, to Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, victims of billionaire groper (if you follow the liberal media’s assessment of his only qualities) Donald J. Trump, who’s now been elevated to the exalted position they both craved for reasons that made no sense to anyone but themselves and their cronies.

The thing that struck me the most was that neither sounded the least bit presidential until they were forced to throw in the towel at Trump’s hands.

Jeb, of course, was dubbed “low energy” by Trump, and he went out of his way to live up to the moniker throughout his $100-million primary campaign.

Hillary (or Billary, as the result would have been) didn’t have to do much after 30 years in the public eye to prove Trump’s characterization of her as “crooked.” But one would’ve expected her to at least put forth a reason to get elected president other than she a) wasn’t Trump and b) would be the first female president.

Jeb, of course, like Hillary, failed to produce a single valid reason, other than (again) not being Trump, for voters to elect him.

Oh, but I almost forgot the most important point: They both suffered from the notion of noblesse oblige — “Folks, this office is mine by dint of Royal Birth.”

Then came the relief, and realization, of defeat: Both Low Energy and Crooked One finally sounded presidential when it no longer mattered: for Jeb, when his overpriced primary bid came crashing down, and for Hillary when the electoral college said “only New York and California want you.”

See and hear for yourself:

JEB BUSH THROWS IN THE TOWEL

HILLARY FACES REALTIY

Had those two people shown up when it mattered, one of them might now be president-elect.

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October 17

Bingeism: The Netflix Disease Sweeping the World

Father forgive me, but I’ve become addicted: Addicted to TV series that you consume in one, two or three days of bingeing, all 10, 12, 13 or 18 episodes (even more!).

I’ve done “Narcos” this way, also “The Night Manager,” recently “Versailles” and “Goliath.” How about five seasons of “Person of Interest”?

I have so many empty celluloid bottles strewn around my house that this affliction resembles alcoholism, except that it’s the newest disease of modern humanity, this one borne by Netflix (and Amazon and video pirates), which I’m labeling “bingeism.”

We need a Binge-ers Anonymous, and I came up with a preliminary 12-Step Program this morning before departing for work and tearing myself away from yet another electronic device that has come to dominate my life, my PC. Here goes:

The 12-Step Binge-ism Recovery Program
1) Admit that video is not God
2) Turn off the boob tube and breathe again
3) Put all cellphones, tablets and computers on lockdown, to be used only for emergencies
4) If you have a family, reacquaint yourself
5) If you have pets, recognize their existence again
6) If you have a job, try going five days without calling in sick to finish a binge
7) If retired, volunteer on skid row
8) If wealthy, move to Uganda and join the Ebola fight
9) If a politician, admit your’re a lying piece of shit and resign (how’d that get in here?)
10) Take two aspirin and go to bed rather than turn on any electronic device
11) Go on a starvation diet so you have no energy left for any addiction
12) Prostrate yourself before the image of Steve Jobs and promise that you’ll use your iPhone only to download Apple music