The English Is Clear,
But Are They Serious?

This is what I get for living in a city that rolls up its sidewalks at 7:30 a.m. every morning (after they unroll at 7:29) and that goes completely dark on Easter and Christmas (i.e., every bar and restaurant shuts down):

donut-bar-coming-to-riverside-ca
Really?

Driving around Riverside (Calif.) this Easter Sunday, I saw a temporary wall encircling a new establishment, with the announcement: “Rising Soon: Donut Bar,” so I figured it would be a donut shop,  you know, with coffee and stuff.

Then it hit me. At the very end of the wall was the photo shown here: A glass of beer with donuts! Are they serious? Are they onto something new, or just plain nuts?

Find out at donutbar.com. (And no, I’m not getting free fat pills to promote their new shop.)

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.”

v. versus v versus vs. versus vs

Like the subtitle to my site, “If it weren’t for the exceptions, English wouldn’t have any rules,” the abbreviation of versus is a wide open field, except maybe in legal terms. Even there, whereas v. is standard in American law, other countries that use English prefer v without the period.

gavel-grammarsource-blogThen, for those who prefer the vs. version, the period also appears to be optional, as does italicization.

When all is said and done, the most important point to remember is you probably don’t want any legal issues involving your name and either v or v.

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?

Schadenfreude:
What a Lovely Word
— and Emotion

Only in German could one come up with a concocted word packing so much meaning, and ultimately so much human frailty and reality: schadenfreude.

schadenfreude-a-lovely-wordSchaden means harm, and freude (repeated umpteen times in Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony”) means joy. Thus the word means “feeling joy at someone else’s misfortune.”

Fortunately, the word has been appropriated into English as well.

I usually reserve my innermost schadenfreude for sports teams, especially arrogant sports teams that think their detritus doesn’t stink anymore. I felt ultimate schadenfreude when the New England Patriots got their clocks handed to them this past Sunday.

But let’s face it: When someone has wronged or abused us, doesn’t it bring satisfaction, if not outright joy, when that person gets his comeuppance?

So, is it wrong to feel schadenfreude? Probably most religions would confine it to some dark side of the human experience and condemn it, but as for me, I love it.

Monkeys at Typewriters:
How Many Does It Take?

When I was in high school, computers didn’t exist, not the home version anyway. Typewriters abounded, however, and typing classes were pretty much required as you went through school.

Image by Oliver Hammond

In those low tech days,  a famous saying, with what seemed like endless variations, went something like this: “If you put a million monkeys in a room with a million typewriters, they’d eventually write the great books of the western world.”

There were/still are versions with 100 or 1,000 monkeys toiling away to recreate Shakespeare, or at least Hamlet.

Of course, all such outcomes are literally impossible. Or, as Glen Tickle calculated in 2014:

“The chances of monkeys typing Hamlet are one in infinity. Unless someone wants to multiply out 36169,541, that’s good enough for us.”

In the process of researching this saying (how many monkeys would it take if you gave them PCs?), I did discover a useful resource, wordcounter.net. Not only will the site tell you how many words are in your document, it will also check your grammar for you. Give it a try.

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:

Read more

‘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: