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OK, Cowpokes, Time for the Fifth Biennial OFPhC

16 Nov

by Roger White

 

I know what half of you are saying: You’re saying, “Well, there it is. He’s run out of material again. Despite the ridiculous wealth of silliness, brain-scrambling absurdities, and downright knuckle-dragging stupidity in today’s world, the Spouseman can’t think of one funny thing to say in this installment. He’s washed up, burned out, run dry, come up empty, on fumes, bit the dust, hit the wall, thrown in the towel, given up the ghost, run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible—in other words, he’s kaput.”

 

And the other half, in a rejoicing and ebullient tone, are exclaiming, “Huzzah! The Great and Glorious Spousemaster has heard our pleas and decided to favor us with yet another of his brilliant contests! Another opportunity for mind-expanding fun, mirthful frivolity, and a chance for free stuff! What a kind, thoughtful, and oh-so-creative wordsmith we have in our midst!”

 

And yet the third half of you are still scratching your pants and wondering just what in the hell “run down the curtain and joined the choir invisible” really means. Well, that takes some doing, but here goes: The term to “join the choir invisible” is George Eliot sort ofin reference to the poem penned by George Eliot in 1867 entitled “O May I Join the Choir Invisible” in which the author longs for the afterlife in which he can spend eternity singing hymns “whose music is the gladness of the world.” To be precise, however, George Eliot was the nom de plume of poet Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), who used a male pen name to ensure that her works would be taken seriously, seeing as how female authors of Evans’ time were stereotyped as writing only lighthearted romances.

 

Now, to be even more precise, this term “join the choir invisible” was referenced in a Monty Python skit entitled “Dead Parrot Sketch” (originally aired 7 December 1969) in which John Cleese wishes to return a Norwegian Blue parrot he purchased
Hello POLLYfrom Michael Palin because the unfortunate bird is “bleeding demised, passed on, no more, ceased to be, expired and gone to meet its maker—a late parrot!” Despite Palin’s assurances that the poor parrot is merely “pining for the fjords,” it’s quite obvious this is an ex-parrot.

 

Anyway. For the second half of you, leaning forward in your La-Z-Boys with anticipation, be comforted, for here I bring you the Fifth Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC). For the first and third halves of you, feel free to skip over to Mike Jasper’s column. He usually has coupons for free beer at Boomerz for those who read to the end. And yes, I have received yet another supply of premium glossy bumper stickers as prizes. For those too young, old, sensible, or deciduous to remember, the OFPhC involves a pile of phrases, quotes, movie lines, book titles, common sayings, utterances, and/or bodily function noises that I’ve rendered in a somewhat obscure manner. Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with the more common version of said utterances. For example, say I give you the phrase “Croaking before disgrace!” You say, “Death before dishonor!” Get it? See how easy?

 

First three people (I will accept dogs and possums, too) to respond at roger.white@tasb.org with the correct answers each wins a premium glossy bumper sticker (sorry, the “Keep Oak Hill Obtuse” ones are all gone—you get “Jesus is Coming. Hide the Bong”). And you get your name in the newspaper! Pseudonyms are fine.

Exciting, huh?

 

OK, ready and. Go. What are the more well-known versions of these sayings:

  1. In my dad’s home, there are lots of ritzy estates.
  2. You’re not anything except a canine used primarily for tracking.
  3. Birthed Untamed.
  4. A brain is an awful item to throw away.
  5. If glares could commit homicide.
  6. Cease the printing machines!
  7. Blood-pumping muscle to blood-pumping muscle.
  8. Nancy!These cowboy shoes are manufactured for treading.
  9. Subsistence of those in the best physical shape.
  10. Escort me out to the baseball contest.
  11. The evidence is within the dessert.
  12. An opening in 748 divided by 748.
  13. Squatting on the summit of the earth.
  14. Existence is a female dog.
  15. The lively Irish dance is not down.
  16. Four letters after T denotes the location.
  17. I’m as satisfied as a liquid party refreshment.
  18. Here we circumnavigate the perimeter of the plant bearing mulberries.
  19. Twelve a.m. cowpoke.
  20. She spews expletives with as much proficiency as a member of the navy.

 

Roger White is a freelance cowpoke living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely female spouse, two precocious offspring units, a very obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

This Installment Should Wet Your Appetite. Literally.

7 Oct

by Roger White

“It’s only words…”

True, Messrs. Gibb. But then words are all we have, in a sense.

I can understand when my daughter bursts in the front door, famished from her school day, and exclaims, “I could literally eat a horse.” I get it when an irate Facebook poster pronounces that the myriad evil-doings of the Obama Administration should be “nipped in eaty horsythe butt.” I realize that my kiddo could not sit at the table and consume an entire equine, and I know that the angry online Limbaugh actually wants to nip our dear POTUS in the bud, not in the posterior. I’m hoping on this one.

But when I read in a local newspaper’s restaurant review how the delightful menu of a new downtown eatery will “certainly wet my appetite,” then I start to lose hope. I do enjoy having my appetite whetted, but I’ve never savored the notion of having my appetite drowned.

This wasn’t in the Gazette, Will, so worry not.

Weekly, it seems, adherence to standards of correct grammar slips and slides down the well-greased slope of sloppy English employed by not only everyday people, ersatz authors, cashiers and bosses, and television snake-oil salesmen, but also civic leaders, teachers, and professional journalists—the very enlightened ones who should know better. Surely it’s not coincidence that the graph of language correctness falls in direct proportion to the rise of communications technology. In the days of instant messaging, pondering the spelling of a possessive proper noun just seems old-fashioned, I guess.

For that matter, who’s to say that this migration away from hard and fast rules is necessarily wrong? It may well be simply the natural order—a Darwinistic evolution of our native tongue, hastened by smartphones and Youtube. Rules of punctuation, letter-writing etiquette, cursive penmanship may all be truly obsolete. “I before e except after c” may go the way of the dodo.

Da Dodo

However, for this installation, kids, I’m calling out the lazy operators of our lexicon. Relaxed rules and metamorphosed language aside, a blooper is still a blooper. Case in point: misused and mangled common sayings. And it’s not “case and point,” by the way. Here are some more colloquial clunkers:

  • Should of. As in, “I should of slowed down before the cop started shooting at my tires.” It may sound like should of, but no. It’s “should have.”

 

  • Free reign. I see this one a lot, and it’s easy to slip up here. But the saying doesn’t mean “free rule.” It comes from the days of horsemanship. To give your horse “free rein” was to loosen your hold on the reins to allow your steed more freedom of movement. Hopefully, your daughter didn’t come home afterward and literally eat your horse.
  • Hunger pains. That same daughter who wants to devour your herbivorous quadruped is suffering not from “hunger pains” but hunger pangs. Pangs, my friend, not pains. It pains me to have to point this out to you.
  • Peak your interest. This should actually be clumped together with “wet your appetite,” but I’m too lazy to box up this paragraph and move it. But anyway, it’s “pique your interest”—to stimulate, not unlike to whet or sharpen. I pique, you pique, she piques.
  • A mute point. Please. It’s not a point that lacks the ability to speak. It’s a moot point. Am I tilting at windmills here?
  • whatPour over. Librarians would really hate it if people poured over their documents. You pore over documents. Not unlike “wetting an appetite,” pouring over a document would get downright messy. Those poor documents.

 

  • Extract revenge. This could get ugly, too. If you’re looking to “extract revenge,” it likely involves pulling something out of your intended victim. Yuck. What you want to do, then, is exact revenge. No extractions, please.
  • He did a complete 360 and reversed course. No he didn’t. He did a 180. If the guy did a 360, he turned a silly circle and ended up facing the exact same way he started. Shee.

That’s all I can bring to mind now. We’ll revisit, perhaps with nice scones and tea next time. I know there are many more misused and abused terms in my language suppository; I’ll drudge them up soon. I’m sure your waiting with baited breath. Irregardless, I know many of you could care less. Literally.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Austin, I Love Ya–But Enough with the Festivals Already

12 Mar

by Roger White

 

Enough. I’m festivaled out. I can’t muster the strength to attach one more day-glo wristband to my tired, old wrist.

 

Don’t get me wrong—I love Austin. I really do. I love the laid-back jeans-and-sneakers milieu; I love the true Tex-Mex food and killer margaritas; I love the endless live-music yummmselections; I love the weather (except for the kiln-like days of July and August); and I do relish the fact that li’l ol’ Austin is the one blue-tinted bastion of rational thought and human compassion amid a red sea of fear mongering and “I got mine—git yers, dammit” mentality.

 

But Austin, enough with the festivals already. As I write this, we’re deep in the throes of South by Southwest (SXSW to you hipsters), an extended music party that runs pretty much all of March. It used to be mainly a music thing, but now SXSW includes films, speeches, hipster nerd gatherings, and all sorts of interactive events, whatever that really means. Seriously, what constitutes an “interactive event”? If I get up from my desk to get coffee, and I bump into Larry at the coffee machine, and Larry says “Hi, Rog, how ’bout them Cowboys? Ha, ha, ha,” and I tell Larry to clam up, doesn’t that qualify as an interactive event? Didn’t we just interact back there? I hate Larry.

 

Anyway, this here SXSIXWI thing sucks in about 18 million people from all over the planet, and it makes getting around town a royal pain in my interactive regions. There is no place to park; every downtown bar suddenly charges ten bucks for a beer; and there are some mighty weird-looking people roaming around. Lots of them. I’m talking weird for Austin. That, my friends, is nuclear weird.

 

The one thing I do enjoy about mega-fests such as XXSWXSIW is perusing the band names. Here are a few of the outfits performing this year, I kiddeth you not: The Airborne Death by Death or somethingToxic Event, BadBadNotGood, Bass Drum of Death, Bloody Knives, Bombay Show Pig, The Creepy Creeps, Diarrhea Planet, Flosstradamus, Gringo Star, Idiot Glee, Marijuana Deathsquads, Mutilation Rites, Thousand Foot Whale Claw, Two Cow Garage, Warm Soda, The Wet Nuns, and, of course, Zorch.

 

Somehow I envision Two Cow Garage and Diarrhea Planet on the same bill, don’t ask me why.

 

However, my gentle flock, I’m not here to rail merely against SXSKXIW, but the perplexing proliferation of all these pagan parties all over my picturesque place. Man, Austin is averaging almost a festival a week, I’m telling ya. In addition to SXSW, we have the Austin City Limits Festival, the Annual Kite Festival, Star of Texas Rodeo, Circuit of ACL Dudethe Americas Formula 1 Race, the Annual Bun Run, Austin Marathon, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, Pecan Street Festival, that X-rated Carnaval Skin Thing, the Fun Fun Fun Fest, Austin Film Festival, Armadillo Christmas Bazaar, and a ton of others I’m forgetting at the moment.

 

Call me old, call me fuddy, call me duddy even, but enough with the glow sticks and the turkey legs and roasted corn and too much cleavage all over the place and waiting in line for an hour to use a porta-potty that smells like a Two Cow Garage. Sheesh. Now, I know what you’re saying. You’re saying, “Well, if you don’t like the festivals, you don’t have to go, you old coot.” Right you are, but wifey and I have two teenage daughters—two teenage daughters who feel it is their duty to attend every single cotton-pickin’ happening that happens through town.

 

So guess who’s driving in the middle of all this mess, so these daughters don’t suffer the gobbler leglife-altering trauma of missing out on Diarrhea Planet or The Airborne Toxic Event, hmm? That’s right, my wife. Hey, honey, can you pick up a turkey leg while you’re there?

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

‘Stepped on a Pop Top, Cut my…’ Stepped on a What?

28 Feb

by Roger White

 

There is a narrow greenbelt that runs behind our back yard, and in my meager efforts to keep fit—which involve a weekly tennis match followed immediately by heavy beer intake—I must cross this swath of forest to gain access to our neighborhood tennis courts. In one of my recent forays into the foliage I kicked over a large rock by accident and promptly fell on my keister. Whilst sitting upon my keister there in the wilds, I noticed something shiny and silver glinting from where the rock had been stealthily perched. Ho, I thought, buried treasure perhaps. Have I oafishly unearthed ancient coinage, precious metals, or long-lost jewelry? No? Yes? No?

No. No such luck. It was a pop top.

ye olde poppe toppeBut as I sat there, still on my ample keister, I contemplated this little doohickey. I realized this was buried treasure, in a demented time-capsule sort of way. A pop top! When was the last time you saw a genuine, throw-away pop top? In fact, I’ll bet you that 99.34 percent of the people born after 1980 don’t even know what a pop top is.

Called a “pull tab” by the beverage can industry, the pop top, for you whippersnappers, was how we opened our cans in ye olden days. You pulled the ring, the pop top opened the top of the can, and you promptly tossed the pop top on the ground. I don’t think that’s what the inventor had in mind, but we all did it. Did you know that if you google “beverage can history,” you’ll find that one Ermal Fraze invented the pop top in 1959? You can google just about anything, I believe. Anyway, I should sue Mr. Fraze for damage to my foot—and mental anguish.

Yep, just like the pirate himself sings, “stepped on a pop top, cut my heel etc. etc.,” I did the same as Jimmy Buffet out at Lake Benbrook when I was a teenager in the ’70s. Those little damn things were everywhere, and, yes, if you stepped on one just the right way, it would slice through your bare foot like an angry weasel. Had to have stitches and everything.

Now, it is at this point in my musings that I must make a choice. Do I ramble on about pop tops and my misspent youth, or do I take the course less traveled and hold court about outdated lyrics? Or do I abandon this train of thought altogether and snag a cold Shiner?

Decisions. Let’s go with lyrics that don’t make much sense these days. We’ll liken it unto a symposium for the youngsters who actually enjoy old songs but don’t always understand them. Here’s one, for example:

In the song “Happy Together” by the Turtles, they opine, “If I should call you up, invest a dime…” Yes, kids, it’s true. There used to be things such as pay phones, and they did, long ago, cost only a dime to use. Jim Croce also attests to this in “Operator,” a song whose title also harkens to the ancient past, when actual, real-live people, called “operators,” helped you—in English—to place your call. Anyhow, Jim tells the operator, “you can keep the dime” in his tale of unrequited love. Similarly, Joan Jett belts out, “Put another dime in the jukebox, baby” in “I Love Rock and Roll,” reminding us that you once could use dimes for many purposes other than collecting them in old mayonnaise jars.

ye olde pinne balleThen there’s this from The Who: “That deaf, dumb, and blind kid sure plays a mean pinball…” Plays a mean what? Pinball! “Pinball Wizard!” The Dairy Twin in Burleson had a great pinball game, Bobby Bewley was killer at it, and we were in middle school. It didn’t involve a video screen, or blasting mutant zombies—the entire game revolved around keeping a very cool, very real metal ball from rolling past your flippers. There was much tilting, and there was much being yelled at by the Dairy Twin manager.

In “Sweet Emotion,” Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler hightails it out of town because “the rabbit done died.” Yes, it did. Ya see, they didn’t have reliable EPT tests then. A poor widdle wabbit had to give his life to see if your girl had a bun in the oven. So to speak.

How ’bout this: Do you remember the Five Americans? “Western Union”? Dah-da-dah-da-dah-da-dah…. No? They complained about having to fork over “fifteen cents a word to read a telegram I didn’t need…” Man, I loved that song. Still do. See, the guy in the song ye olde telegrammejust received a telegram (again, a communications method from the dark ages) informing him that his girl has dumped him. Again, a dumping song. It was a double whammy because not only did he get bum news, he had to pay the guy who delivered it.

And, of course, you have Paul Simon noting how “Kodachrome gives the night bright colors…” Ya see, kids, cameras used to have what we call “film.” And this film had to be (air quotes here) “de-vel-oped.” Digital cameras were not built into our foreheads then.

There’s plenty more, I’m sure. If you can think of any, write me at rogdude@mail.com , and I’ll send you a pop top. Or maybe a Mercury dime.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.

 

Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle

 

Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near

Flagstaff.

 

Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick

Again.

Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.

 

Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s

Mortgage.

 

 

 

Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four

Hundred.

 

Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and

Sorrow.

Dear Julia. I’m trading it

In.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Never Won Anything in Your Life? Now’s Your Chance, Nancy

18 Oct

by Roger White

 Ah, my fellow life travelers, sometimes the gods smile. Sometimes they merely grin. Other times they smirk or give you that suspicious kind of offhand stare that makes you think you really messed up this time. Here’s a tip: When the gods stare at you like that, just act like you know what you’re doing. Laugh it up, even. This confuses them.

Well, I must say that the gods are grinning right about now because I believe it was more than simple serendipity that I happened upon a fantastic cache of tiny little college football helmets at the exact moment I realized it was time once again for another interactive column. Huzzah! And Boing, even!

You see, the last time we did this, all I had to offer as prize-ola was my handy little stash of tiny little National Football League helmets. This go-round, however, we include the college ranks. So that means that yes, you, Nancy Arbuckle of Stink Holler, North Carolina, could own your very own tiny little University of North Carolina football helmet if you are our lucky winner.

We’re upping the ante. Can you feel the tension?

If you understand none of this so far, you are perfectly normal. Do not adjust your set.

All of this pabulum and hoo-hah is merely to announce the coming of the Second Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest. Yea! Clang the clangers! Watch it, move aside for the marching band. Man, those elephants need a bath, yow. Gotta love a parade, though.

So here ya are. What we have here are 30 (count ’em, 30) phrases that just aren’t quite right somehow. It is your job to decipher, decode, and determine the more popular versions of these sayings. Get it?

First three humans (I will accept cats, also) to respond with the correct answers win a tiny little college football helmet of your choice! Hot dog! I mean, cat! This is more exciting than the time my sister got kicked in the mouth during a cheerleading contest at SMU and we all had to go to Parkland Hospital!

Good luck, players:

1. I got here, I looked around, I kicked some tail.

2. This is not completed until such time as the rather obese female vocalizes harmoniously.

3. What is the latest information, feline?

4. An official state of hostility between nations equals Hades.

5. Don’t mooch things off other people and don’t loan out your stuff, either.

6. Each visible atmospheric body of fine water particles contains a sterling hem.

7. Being dumb is tantamount to ecstasy.

8. I’ll take freedom or croaking.

9. I am currently wedged amidst a naturally formed mass of mineral and an area that would not qualify as soft.

10. From the surface of a shallow cooking utensil to the rapid, persistent chemical reaction that releases heat and light.

11. The domicile of a male homosapien equals that male homosapien’s fortified feudal stronghold.

12. Bequeath unto him a twelfth of a foot, and he will acquire 5,280 feet.

13. In what manners do I really, really like you? Where’s the calculator?

14. Like a cold-blooded aquatic vertebrate of the pisces class nowhere near the H20.

15. The puny, soft-spoken guys will get the third planet from the sun.

16. A threaded knot at the appropriate interval precludes the necessity for three squared.

17. There is no sense in lacrimation concerning lost liquid produced by the mammary glands.

18. A state of mutual affection equals not apologizing.

19. This 24-hour period is the initial 24-hour period of the remainder of your physical existence.

20. Hades doesn’t get as angry as an irate female.

21. The arena of public office-holding creates weird bunkies.

22. Mammalian vital fluid is more viscous than melted ice.

23. The atmosphere is the boundary.

24. Amalgamated, our posture is upright; split apart, we hit the floor.

25. The precipitation in the northern Iberian Peninsula comes down principally on the flatlands.

26. Messing up is a homosapien trait; pardoning the mess-up is godlike.

27. Devotion has no eyesight.

28. Consume, imbibe, and laugh it up, because two days after yesterday we could kick the bucket.

29. Everything being labor and nothing being recreation forces Jill’s boyfriend to become an unexciting young male.

30. Being really smug and happy with yourself precedes a sudden drop.

Ah, yes, my dear friend Ingrid informed me that I didn’t tell you how to respond.  Silly details. You can e-mail me at rogdude@mail.com. Or you can hand deliver your answers on an ungreased baking pan to 16 Shropshire Lane, Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean OL557.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Is the Golden Era of Literacy, Like, Dead?

23 Jul

by Roger White

“There’s something happening here.

What it is ain’t exactly clear…”

I’m fairly certain Stephen Stills didn’t have the devolution of the English language in mind when he penned those lyrics, but they fit my purposes nicely, so I’m kidnapping them. And ol’ Stephen’s use of the word “ain’t” adds a touch of irony to the whole milieu, so now I’m tickled.

What’s happening here, my fellow life travelers, is that as the line on the chart of our technological progress and e-prowess shoots ever upward, the trend on our use and proper command of our mother tongue plummets like a vintage 2008 Dow Jones stock report.

In other words, as far as speaking and writing English are concerned, we’re becoming as dumb as rocks (no offense to my igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic pals).

Call me a stickler if you must; I’ve been called worse. But it truly curdles my cream to see truckloads of unnecessary apostrophes, forests of overused commas, spelling mistakes that would make Rocky Balboa cringe, and subjects and verbs so disagreeable that they shouldn’t even be in the same room—let alone the same sentence. And I’m just referring to the newspapers, TV, and the web here; don’t get me started on average, everyday occurrences.

I’m sure you’ve seen an ad similar to this: “Your guaranteed to get the best deal in town at Honest Eddies Tire’s. Every vehicle needs it’s tire’s roatated on a regular bases. So, come on down to Eddies’ Tire’s. Their sure to treat you, right.”

Pathetic, right? Maybe not.

Perhaps this is all simply the natural selection process of human language. Communication is instantaneous today; we don’t have time to reflect on ethereal matters such as thoughtful prose, correct syntax, spelling, and all that. If this is the way of things, then I guess I need to stop stubbornly clinging to outmoded rules of the past, yes? I should go with the flow and accept this era of “linguistic whateverism,” as a colleague so eloquently termed it. Yet if this is the case, then these new forms and their rules (or lack thereof) should be spelled out—no pun intended. For example, various grammar moods you may recall from eighth-grade composition include subjunctive, indicative, imperative, and the like. I say we should now add a webjunctive mood to today’s rules of English grammar.

So the above ad in webjunctive mood would read something like: “OMG! FYI, GR8 Deelz @ ETires, IMHO. B4N!” Or something like that.

I suppose I do understand, though not necessarily condone, this relaxation of language. I mean, the Oxford English Dictionary recently approved the addition of such web lingo as OMG, LOL, IMHO, BFF, and other shorthand as official words in our ever-changing lexicon. In what was surely another comment on the human condition today, the dictionary also accepted “muffin top” as a “protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers.”

However, if we are indeed witnessing not the demise of literacy but the advent of more efficient, dare I say creative, modes of communication, then I now consider myself in mourning for the era of beautiful prose. One of the saddest casualties, in my opinion, is the death of letter writing. I honestly believe the average foot soldier in the Civil War wrote a more magnificent letter than many contemporary scribes (myself included). Consider this letter excerpt from a member of the 11th New York Battery, dated February 9, 1864:

“Dear Hattie,

“Pardon the affectionate familiarity, but you know it is all in fun. Your charming little epistle has just reached me, and I do myself the honor to answer it immediately, thus complying with your request to write soon.

“Before proceeding further, truth and candor compel me to acknowledge that a little deception was used in the advertisement in the Waverly. In other words, my true description differs materially from the one therein set forth and may not please you as well as the one ‘fancy painted,’ but I thought it was all for fun; therefore, I gave a fictitious description as well as cognomen. Be it known unto you then, this individual is twenty-nine years of age, five feet and eleven inches high, dark blue eyes, brown hair, and light (ruddy) complexion. There you have it. How do you like the description? Methinks I hear you answer, ‘I don’t like it so well as the advertised description.’ Well! I’ll admit it is not quite so fascinating to a young lady as the fictitious one, but it is a fixed fact, ‘like the laws of the Medes and Persians,’ which altereth not. But enough of that topic for the present.”

Like, wow. And this is language of the average 19th-century Joe. Again, my curmudgeonly forehead vein is surely showing, but it seems only fitting that as this slower, more deliberate means of expression dies away, dying with it, apparently, is the art of cursive writing. As we breathe, 41 states have adopted what is known as the Common Core curriculum, a tenet of which is the phasing out of cursive writing in the classroom in favor of teaching more digital skills. The reasoning is that cursive is unnecessary and time-consuming, and that classroom time would be better spent on keyboard skills.

Cursive writing gone the way of the dodo. Obsolete. Extinct. How do you like that? Oh, well, I guess there will still be bastions of exemplary writing here and there, irregardless. LOL.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Rolling the Jargon Dice

21 Feb

by Roger White

Understand as I launch into this column that I work for an education association. And I have worked for this education association for a long, long time. In my long, long time with this education association, I’ve learned many things. However, I think the main thing I’ve learned is that people in the education world speak a language that is very different from normal humans. (Now, let me tell you that I’m talking management types here—you know, campus administrators and on up. If actual teachers talked this way, all of America’s children would be wandering about, zombie-like and unblinking. Like Joaquin Phoenix.)

Anyway, in my tenure here, I have come not only to understand education jargon, I have learned to embrace it. Therefore, I founded EJUCIMUSE.

And here at the EJUCIMUSE Headquarters (EJUCIMUSE being an acronym for Education Jargon Use Cause It Makes Us Sound Elite, of course), in our ever-vigilant attempts to utilize jargon, gibberish, and edu-speak whenever possible, we are proud to announce the creation of the MANURE Generator.

MANURE (Mechanism to Advance New Understanding for Renewal in Education) is the brainchild of Jerry Taylor, educational technology director for Arcadia Middle School in Greece, New York. Taylor unveiled the MANURE Generator not long ago in the National School Boards Association’s School Board News newsletter, and it has been getting rave reviews . . . I mean, its outcomes-based approach dynamic has received initial focus-group consensus.

Here’s how MANURE was formed: According to Taylor, throughout his 30-year career as a teacher (also known in some circles as transitive knowledge facilitator), he noticed that many teach–, sorry, many transitive knowledge facilitators and knowledge transfer management personnel (administrators) sometimes fall behind in their utilization of proper edu-speak. So Taylor made MANURE. This fascinating device not only can keep edu-speak proponents up-to-the-minute, it makes a great party game and a nice dessert topping.

Now here’s how MANURE works: If you are ever caught at a meeting, focus group, performance evaluation, or happy hour shop talk without the latest edu-speak term or phrase, simply whip out your pocket-sized MANURE Generator and a pair of dice. You’ll soon be spouting the most eloquent of nonsensical jargon.

The MANURE Generator consists of three columns of words. These could be called Column A, B, and C. But for our purposes, we’ll call them Initializing Column I(a), Activating Column II(b), and Terminus Column III(c).

And here they are:

Initializing Column          Activating Column        Terminus Column

2.         Integrated                                 Behavioral                                Strategies

3.         Individualized                         Relevant                                    Methodology

4.         Criteria                                       Assessment                              Cooperative

5.         Flexible                                      Prescriptive                              Analysis

6.         Authentic                                  Perceptual                                Learning

7.         Facilitated                                Interaction                               Functions

8.         Responsive                               Modular                                   Objectives

9.         Alternative                               Diagnostic                                Concept

10.       Performance                            Structured                               Recovery

11.       Cognitive                                   Situational                                Management

12.       Systemic                                   Evaluative                                 Reform

Simply roll the dice (otherwise known as the MANURE Generator Activation Modules) to select a word from the Initializing Column, a word from the Activating Column, and one from the Terminus Column. Do you want fried or steamed rice with that? Note that since you can’t roll a 1, the columns start at No. 2, Einstein. Voila! It’s that easy.

You’ll have your colleagues wanting desperately to know more about Facilitated Situational Objectives with quick rolls of 7, 11, and 8. Land on 11, 2, 6 and you have created the Cognitive Behavioral Learning school of thought.

The great thing is, you don’t necessarily have to work in the education world to avail yourself of this sensational tool. A tinker here and there to the columns as necessary can produce a powerful jargon generator for any business. In other words, put your hands in the MANURE, work it around a bit, and you can easily shape it to your liking.

Then I believe you should wash your hands.

I must say that we here at EJUCIMUSE have been so impressed by Taylor’s MANURE that we unanimously voted him Edu-Speak Vociferator of the Biennium. We got a plaque for him and everything, but Taylor couldn’t make the awards ceremony. He was giving a lecture in Washington, D.C., on Alternative Diagnostic Recovery.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.