‘If I Were They’

It’s rare that I come across someone in life who knows how to correctly form a conditional “if” clause. You often hear, “If I was rich (or fill in the blank),” uttered without a clue to the grammatical mistake they just made.

mo-ne-davisConditional “if” clauses always take the plural form. (I know, some jackass out there will find some web reference disputing this, but he, she, it and they will be wrong.)

Thay’s why, tonight while I was watching the “KIDSCAST” of the Little League World Series Hawaii-vs.-Virginia game, I was surprised to hear Mo’ne Davis — the designated ESPN “analyst” — say, “If I were they,”  using the conditional perfectly.

I say “surprised” only because I hear people in all walks of life — high, low, medium — butcher the conditional so regularly. Most people would probably have quipped, “If I was them,” or inching closer to correct usage, “If I were them.” The problem is them. Was/were is not an action verb and doesn’t take the objective (them) but retains the subjective usage (they).

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Put Bill Buckner in the Hall of Fame

This has nothing to do with English or grammar, but with justice and dignity.

bill-buckner-should-be-in-the-hall-of-fameThere’s no reason Bill Buckner, baseball great who died today from the ravages of dementia, isn’t in the Baseball Hall of Fame other than that first-base error in the 1986 World Series.

May he rest in peace, and may the gods of baseball justice put him in the Hall of Fame, to rest forever for the talent, strength and dignity he displayed in a 22-year career and afterwards.

Come on, .262-average Ozzie Smith is in the HOF for backflips, and Bill Buckner is denied for one error. Time for justice.

What Is a Shibboleth?

By most accounts, shibboleth is an interesting word, whose concept seems to cross most, if not all, cultures.

dictionary-for-shibbolethAccording to Wikipedia, a shibboleth is “any custom or tradition, usually a choice of phrasing or even a single word, that distinguishes one group of people from another. Shibboleths have been used throughout history in many societies as passwords, simple ways of self-identification, signaling loyalty and affinity, maintaining traditional segregation, or protecting from real or perceived threats.”

However, the best take on this biblical word comes courtesy of Jonah Goldberg in his National Review column, “Shibboleth Is a Fun Word.”

A Donkey by Any Other Name…

As I sat upon my sledge and watched “Pardon the Interruption” this afternoon, somehow the subject of donkeys came up — can’t remember the context.

But I can remember the pronunciation. Mike Wilbon started off by pronouncing the singular animal’s name “dunk-key.”

Seconds later, Tony Kornheiser added depth of some sort to the discussion but still pronounced the animal as a “dunk-key.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always said “dawn-key.”

Maybe this is an east-of-the-Mississippi or just plain East Coast thing, but you dunk donuts, not animals.

Can anyone enlighten me?

There’s No ‘Jerry’ in ‘Gerrymander’ (Try ‘Gary’ Instead)

The term gerrymander, commonly used as in “gerrymandering a Congressional or other electoral unit to the benefit of one political party or the other,” should not be pronounced with a soft “g “resembling a “j.”

Elbridge Jerry, pronounced with a hard ‘g’

So say the good folks of Marblehead, Mass., once home to Elbridge Gerry (hard “g”), a governor of the fine state and also a U.S. vice president, after whom the term gerrymander was coined.

The Selectmen of Marblehead (kind of like supervisors and city councilpersons, one would assume) even fired off a letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to inquire of how he pronounced the word.

Jeffrey P. Minear, counselor to the chief justice, wrote back:

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‘The Shadow Knows’

Precisely, The Shadow knows “What evil lurks in the hearts of men.”

I can’t believe this was a radio show. I would’ve sworn “The Shadow” was a television vehicle when I was growing up back in The American Pleistocene (what a book title!).

Alas, it was a radio show, dating me beyond what I even remember.

As for The Shadow, he was played by Orson Welles and others, but here goes — and I beg you to prove that evil doesn’t lurk within all of us, maybe nascent but there nonetheless:

The Wisdom of Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton, whatever she does these days to earn a living is beyond me, demanded on Twitter, “Tell me something I don’t know.” I found three of the answers to be relevant to my pursuit here:

 

IHOb: International House of BS?

We’re all waiting for Monday to arrive to see what transpires in Singapore in a dramatic upcoming summit between North Korea and the U.S., right?

Wrong. We’re waiting for the owners of the International House of Pancakes (IHOP, an abbreviation well known for 60 years) to tell us what the b in its new acronym IHOb means.

Questions abound: As for the meaning of the b, some have said breakfast, others burgers. I’m setting on bullshit (bs, or b for short).

Also, why is the b lower case and IHO upper case?

What a grand way to ruin a brand.

Anyway, I guess I have to call in sick Monday to await with bated breath what the b stands for.

POSTSCRIPT: Now that Monday is here, we all know (if we care to know) that the name change is only temporary so the company can promote its new line of “Ultimate Steakburgers.”

Spelling Bee More Compelling Than NBA Finals

I had ESPN on as a prelude to the NBA Finals, featuring the highly favored Golden State Warriors against the undermanned-except-Lebron-James Cleveland Cavaliers in what will probably be a snorer, when all of a sudden the National Spelling Bee came on.

Vanya Shivashankar

First off, I was impressed by the sheer verbal genius of these kids (teenagers for the most part in the latter rounds), and second, by the sheer number of South Asian natives — whose Queen’s English seems to serve them admirably.

I was even more impressed when the 2015 Co-Champion, Vanya Shivashankar, now 16 maybe, did a roving interview asking luckless people on the street if they could spell the word by which she co-won — to wit, scherenschnitte, whatever that means. Looks German anyway.

Ms. Shivashankar, who seems to be a natural for TV and probably every other pursuit in life, concluded that a dog she asked for the spelling came the closest.

I agree. My dogs are always smarter than I am. Which probably ain’t saying much.

You go, Vanya. Set the world on fire.