Some of these grammar jokes, courtesy of Reader’s Digest, are actually fairly funny:
This was way back in the Pleistocene when I was in high school, but I remember to this day arguing with an English teacher over the pronunciation of the word clique. I said click; he said cleek.
There was no Internet back then. In fact, electricity itself was pretty new, so we grabbed our classroom dictionary (probably Webster’s, but who knows?), and sure enough, cleek was the only choice for pronunciation. I had lost our gentlemen’s bet.
My, how the times have changed. I just checked dictionary dot com and the pronunciations (now two) were given in this order: kleek, then klick.
Okay, so my “fake news” post bombed. Let’s move on to real grammatical issues.
Almost everyone I hear or read uses the phrase “as long as” in the conditional sense, as in, “as long as you don’t care, neither do I.” Wrong!
The phase “as long as” is a comparison of lengths. “That building is as long as three football fields” is one example of correct usage.
“So long as” is a conditional phrase, as in “so long as you don’t care, neither do I.”
Or can you?
A mysterious tweet by Donald Trump — “Despite the negative press covfefe” — went viral for about five-and-a-half hours earlier today, leading to all kinds of humor and speculation on the social media.
I sometimes end up making mysterious words and sentences when I put my cell phone in my pocket while it’s still on. Bodily movements and hand-in-pocket gyrations make for weird words and sentences, but this tweet seemed to start out straight and end with a new word.
Coming soon to a market near you, a new candy bar called Covfefe.
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.)
Hie wyrd forsweop on Grendles gryre.
(Fate sweeps them away into Grendel’s clutches.)
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.”
Let it be known that in modern American English usage, the so-called Oxford Comma (the last in a string and usually before the words and or or) is completely optional. You don’t need it.
That being noted, here’s a court in Maine that ruled against a company for its not using the Oxford Comma.
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.
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.
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:
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
K: Killing (with words or devices)
L: Love or loathing (is there a difference?)
P: Nah, I won’t use that one, so how about panic?
R: Reversal of fortune
S: Shit, however it manifests itself (another popular word these days)
U: Unloved, unwanted, unneeded — the unwashed
W: Women — oops, sounds sexist, huh? Instead, substitute worry
X: Xenophobia (prevalent among us Deplorables, according to Hillary)
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.