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Lit Lovers Rejoice! Sir Archie Ferndoodle Rides Again.

28 Mar

by Roger White                                                                              

 

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a coffee can full of dung beetles to announce the return of my dear friend, back-porch expectorational master, and legendary raconteur of the obsequious and purulent, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Dr. Ferndoodle 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?,” and possibly his greatest epic, “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today.”

Sir Archie has a rare treat for us in this installment. In his inimitable style, the Fernman has taken several classic tunes from the songbook of popular culture and rendered them as his own, with updated, shall we say, acerbic lyrics so pertinent to today’s manic milieu. Or something.

Disclaimer: The Spouseman—and the newspaper/periodical/bathroom wall compendium in which this diatribe appears—doesn’t necessarily agree with the views and opinions of Sir Archie. He is his own woman, and we bear no responsibility or legal burden for his espousings. So there.

With this heartfelt caveat (and sincere attempt to head off legal action), I give you Sir Archie’s renderings. By the way, it’s important to keep the tune of Archie’s specific song choice in your head for these to make any sense whatsoever. If that is, indeed, possible. So. Archie’s first offering is called “Ivanka in the White House”:

 

Ivanka in the White House

(to the tune of “Drive My Car” by The Beatles)

(verse 1)

“I asked my girl where she wanted to be,

In New York City or in D.C.,

She said Daddy, I wanna be near you,

In the White House with Jared the Jew.”

 

(chorus)

“Ivanka, you can have the West Wing,

We’ll set you up with all of your bling,

You can sell your furs and your rings,

And Dad will tweet for you.”

 

(verse 2)

“Barron’s got a floor to himself,

With a team of counselors for his mental health,

But Melania and I aren’t sharin’ a bed,

So you could move in with me instead.”

 

(chorus)

“Ivanka, you can have the West Wing,

Or you-know-where, I won’t say a thing,

Damn, it’s so good to be the king,

And Putin, I owe you.”

 

“Tweet, tweet n tweet, tweet, yeah!”

 

Um, ok. For his second favoring, the Fernman has rendered this ditty entitled “Perry in Charge”:

 

Perry in Charge

(to the tune of Tom Jones’ “She’s a Lady”)

(verse 1)

“Well, I’m the Energy Top Dude,

And now solar power’s screwed ’cause oil’s my cash cow,

Yeah, I ran for president,

I told Donald to get bent, but that’s all past now.”

 

(chorus)

“I’m Rick Perry, woah, woah, woah,

I’m Rick Perry,

Those rumors are false, ’cause I’m no fairy,

And I’m towin’ the Trump line.”

 

(verse 2)

“Well, I’m not sure what I do,

But I think I make the rules on nukular weapons,

But this can’t be as hard

As Dancing with the Stars, man, I was steppin’,”

 

(chorus)

“I’m Rick Perry, woah, woah, woah,

I’m Rick Perry,

Renewable power’s our adversary,

Let’s build that pipeline.”

 

And last, and surely least, Ferndude gives us “Lysergic Wood,” which he says is his ode to psychedelic substances:

 

Lysergic Wood, An Ode to LSD

(to the tune of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”)

(verse 1)

“I once ate a squirrel,

Or should I say the squirrel ate me,

He showed me his brain,

We baked it into a nice quiche lorraine.”

 

(chorus)

“We smoked purple crayons,

As the walls melted into the sea,

Then Timothy Leary appeared

And said why’d you take three?”

 

(verse 2)

“I played canasta with Jesus,

His Holiness beat me two games out of threezus,

Then me and the squirrel flew to Mars,

But squirrel wasn’t squirrel, he was Pat Benatar.”

 

(chorus)

“We smoked purple crayons

As robots made love to the cow,

Then Hunter S. Thompson said man you’re in big trouble now.”

 

(verse 3)

“And when I awoke,

I was in a cell with a large man named Mel.

He kept pinching my ass,

Dear God from now on, I’m sticking with grass.”

 

Roger White Sir Archie Ferndoodle holds an associate’s degree in comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College. Sir Archie’s classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” and perhaps his greatest epic, “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

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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.

Life, Death, and the Importance of the Hyphen

17 Feb

by Roger White

Pardon me while I slowly lose my mind.

You’ve heard of the axiom regarding higher learning: It’s the pursuit of learning more and more about less and less until you know absolutely everything about nothing. It’s an ivory tower conundrum. Academic types, in the never-ending quest to gain all the knowledge they can on a particular subject—say, the reproduction rituals of the sub-Saharan aardvark—eventually become self-professed experts in this one tiny field of endeavor, often to a maddening nth degree and to the exclusion of everything else, including, sadly, common sense.

You’ve witnessed this.

You at cocktail party: “So you’re a professor?”

Academic type: “I’m a Ph.D., yes. Also Ed.D., M.e.D., M.B. B., B.B.S., and M.Ou.S.E. By the way, did you know that the anal glands of the bushland aardvark actually lure members of the opposite sex? I have photos.”

You: “Oh, look at the time.”

Graphically, this phenomenon can be represented as a triangle with a nice, fat base at the bottom and a teensy-weensy point at the top that goes infinitely on up into nothingness. Poof! Gone. Bye bye!

This gives me a mental image of a vanishing point, which stirs my addled mind to remember the movie Vanishing Point, in which a guy named Kowalski is hired to deliver a 1970 Dodge Challenger to another guy in San Francisco, who bets Kowalski that he can’t get the car from Colorado to California in less than 15 hours. It’s a nice cult movie from the ’70s, and you should rent it, but I don’t know why I’m mentioning it now.

Um. Where were we? Ah, yes. Here’s what I’m getting at. My own, little personal ivory tower hell, which is currently gnawing my intestines into mush, is all about words. You see, I work as an editor in a quasi-large association here in association land (don’t get me started), and I work with other editor types in this whisper-quiet stable crammed with dozens of little, square cubicles. I feel like one of those cows they raise for veal. Just sitting here. All day. Clacking away. Waiting for the eventual slaughter. Moo. Clack. Sip. Burp. Moo. Clack. Lunch! Moo. Clack. Sip. Burp.

Anyway, after oh, about 25 years of doing this, my daily goal has become simply this: do my job, write my stories, drink my 18 cups of coffee, moo, try to make as little fuss as possible, and oh, so thankfully go home. But it doesn’t work that way. Moo.

We have to have meetings. About things such as the hyphen. And we have to have meetings about having meetings about the hyphen. When should we use the hyphen? Will there be trouble if the hyphen is misused in this instance? Should we establish a hyphen resource center? What size hyphen should we use?

You get my drift. I suppose I should be more passionate about my craft. Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself a pretty decent writer/editor, and I think I do my job well, but some of the things that stir up the dust around here are making my left eyelid twitch. It could be the java, but I don’t think so. I mean, who besides the editor types sitting around me really cares if “decision making” is hyphenated or not? Moo!

It’s not that I don’t care, but as a now-deceased colleague once opined, “I’ve seen life and death, and this ain’t it.” This guy was once the executive director of my quasi-large association, and a wise man he was. His many life experiences included a military stint in Vietnam, so I embrace his take on the big picture—which is basically this: The fervent dispute that’s twisting your guts into salt-water taffy usually doesn’t really mean that much in the larger scope of things, so relax. I know from whence I speak, as well. I was an air traffic controller long ago, before my venture into the world of words, and I’m here to tell you that hundreds of people won’t die if we can’t come to agreement on this hyphen.

I’m sure people in other professions have the same problem. Passionate arguments, dust-ups, and angry looks arise from what in reality is the tiniest minutiae. You want to scream “Get a life! Please. Moo!”

But you don’t. You nod, you agree to the latest treatise on the hyphen, which becomes Association Communications Policy Number A-165, and you quietly pray for a stray meteor. Ah, well. At least I have my health. Ooh, what is that rash on my leg…

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.

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.