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.

‘Turning Up Like a Bad Penny’

During a meeting at work this morning, I was trying to describe a situation wherein a bad task that I had shaken off after years was returning to my job duties. In describing this, I was searching for an old saying I remembered from my youth about a “bad penny,” but it escaped me.

So, now at home, I researched the saying:

Basically, “Turning up like a bad penny” refers to someone — or in my case something — unwelcome returning to one’s life after a long absence. If a person, it could be someone who harmed you or took advantage of you in the past, or even a former lover in a relationship gone much too sour; if a thing, it could be old debts, old unpleasant situations, or in my case more specifically, old hated job duties.

Here is the best description I found:

…when the term ‘bad penny’ first appeared in the 18th century, pennies were serious money. This made them ripe targets for counterfeiters, and to reach into your pocket or purse and discover that you had ended up with such a counterfeit coin, a ‘bad’ penny, was a depressing and annoying experience…. Thus ‘bad penny’ became an idiom meaning ‘an unwanted thing that keeps showing up’.

Amen.

As Seen on ‘Silicon Valley’:
Less v. Fewer

When I watch television, especially the live sort where so-called educated people mangle the language daily, I find myself correcting people as they speak.

silicon-valley-tv-show-titleFor instance, if someone says, “If I was you,” I correct it in my mind to “If I were you,” using the proper plural (conditional) form of the verb.

It was interesting to see such correcting done on a TV series, the tongue-in-cheek (so to speak) “Silicon Valley,” which aired Sunday (April 29).

When Dinesh said something like, “My code had less errors than yours,” Gilfoyle corrected him, saying, “Fewer.” (Later, of course, in a reverse, Gilfoyle would use “less” incorrectly too.)

Look at up: Fewer refers to quantity, or number; less to weight or volume.

Now, if I was Dinesh…