Archive | mis-speak RSS feed for this section

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

Smack! Oh, My Akin Head. Smack, Smack!

27 Aug

by Roger White  


I make it a point never to get political in my missives to you, my brethren and sistren. In my book, all politicians of every stripe and polka-dot leave themselves wide open to much well-earned ridicule as long as their well-stuffed pockets continue to leak all those special-interest dollars. I aspire to run right down the skinny middle when it comes to any public comments regarding that muddy, treacherous, and ridiculous landscape we know as politics.

But dumb is dumb, OK, even among this population known for its monumental foul-ups.

I’m referring, of course, to one Todd Akin, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the great state of Missouri. Note how I did not mention Rep. Akin’s political affiliation. It may or may not be relevant, and frankly I don’t care if he’s a donkey, an elephant, or some creature in between. Because mainly what he is is a jackass. What we’re focusing on here are the actual, fantastical words that came from his actual, bombastical mouth recently. I am still, at this very moment, smacking myself upside the head with an open palm, trying to determine if I’m having a bad dream.

For those with short-term memory loss or who have been vacationing on Easter Island of late, here’s what the honorable Rep. Akin opined regarding a woman’s chances of getting pregnant because of rape: “From what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Smack, smack. Nope, I didn’t wake up. It must be real. Smack.

Now, I’m as flag-totin’, freedom-lovin’, and Ford-truck-commercial-watchin’ as the next American, but sweet ghosts of Gary Hart and Dan Quayle, we do not need any more help looking like nitwits to the rest of the civilized world.

Where to begin with the supreme idiocy and outrageous implications of this statement? First off, the very idea that women can just “shut that whole thing down” if they want to? Smack, smack. No, still real. As if there really needed to be research on this, a three-year study of American women was actually conducted in 1996 that found rape-related pregnancy occurred with “significant frequency”—with no fewer cases of pregnancy than from consensual sex. Besides, if women could simply “shut that whole thing down” (smack), don’t you think girls and women all over the world would be “shutting down” unwanted pregnancies on their own—just by sheer willpower?

Another thing about Akin’s declaration that is just as upsetting, not so much for the sheer stupidity but more for the casual implication, is the language he used regarding “legitimate rape.” You know what he’s saying here, of course. Was it really rape? Did she lead him on? The word “rape” needs no modifier. To imply otherwise is a slap in the face to rape victims everywhere.

Ah, but wait. There’s more. Here’s the topper: Akin is a (drumroll) member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, no less. Smack, smack, smack. Man, that’s beginning to hurt.

And guess what? Yours truly has done some digging. Hey, I was once an investigative journalist, ya know. Had the fedora with press credentials stuck in it and everything. Covered the city beat for the Cement, Texas, Greensheet. Anyway, I’ll bet you didn’t know some of the other cringeworthy things ol’ Rep. Akin has done and said. Take a gander:

  • In a speech delivered to the Research On Funding Limits for Matters Amoral & Objectionable (ROFLMAO) Institute, Akin proposed cutting funding for AIDS research, reasoning that, “Transmission of AIDS is rare in cases of legitimate male rape because the truly heterosexual male body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down back there.”
  • Akin was the author of the Sanitize Public Hot Tubs Now Bill, citing his belief that women have been known to get pregnant by merely sitting in a hot tub in which a male has “relieved himself.”
  • The Missouri representative also proposed NASA’s First Manned Mission to the Sun. “As sure as the Earth is flat, the Soviet Union or China will get there first if we don’t get on this,” Akin said at a press conference held at the Akin Phrenology Institute. “I want to see our flag on solar soil.”
  • Akin also sponsored House Resolution 6969, otherwise known as the Perpetual Motion Resolution. Wearing a dreamcatcher necklace made entirely of magnets at the press conference, Akin stated that “just because scientists say it violates fundamental laws of thermodynamics doesn’t mean we can’t try. Hey, this magnet thing really works,” Akin added. “Go ahead, see if you can push me over.”


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


We’re Takin’ ‘Em Three at a Time This Season, Men

13 Aug

by Roger White

All right, men. It’s almost September, and the strike’s been settled. Weekend warriors from Seattle to Miami are strapping on the armor, dabbing on the eyeblack, and otherwise girding their loins for battle. And that’s just the fans. The wife caught me girding my loins just the other day, and there was much explaining to do. But she knew; football season cometh.

Admit it, men. As much as we complain about today’s pampered, overpaid, under-mannered athletes, when football season rolls around, we’re all a little quicker to greet the day, a tad more sprightly in the step. Football season, boo-yah!

And as if the games themselves aren’t thrilling enough—the intricate strategy, the brutal trench warfare, all the butt-slapping by the assistant coaches—oddsmakers in Vegas give us sporting types a veritable cornucopia of gridiron gambling opportunities on which to wager the old homestead. Sweet ghost of Crazy Legs Hirsch, you can stake a bundle on just about anything—from who scores next-to-last when it’s a foggy Saturday night in Tampa to which AFC East kicker will be the first to get athlete’s foot during the season. (I’ve got a solid C note on the Dolphins’ Dan Carpenter. It’s moist in Miami, and my sources tell me his sock-washing habits are pretty lax.)

I am, however, disappointed to see that none of the big wagering houses are offering odds on one of the most time-honored traditions in all of football (and every sport, for that matter): athlete-speak. I guarantee you that Vegas could whip up huge money on which coach will be the first of the season to say, for example, “We take ’em one game at a time.”

Really, coach? Only one at a time? Just once, I’d love to hear some cliché-spouting knucklehead coach say: “Well, Verne, you know we take ’em three games at a time.”

Or how about this? “It is what it is.”

Now, just what in the name of George S. Halas does that mean? What if, just once, you heard this on the sideline:

“How about that loss, Coach Butterbean? That was a tough one.”

“Well, Troy, it isn’t what it is. What you saw out there was nothing like what really happened. That wasn’t at all what it was.”


Timeless clichés are just part of the wonderful world of athlete-speak, however. Let’s not forget about athlete mis-speak. Do you remember these classics?

Bill Peterson, coach of the NFL’s Houston Oilers just long enough to get a paycheck or two in 1972, told the team this: “Men, I want you just thinking one word all season. One word and one word only: Super Bowl.” Sidenote: The Oilers went 1-13 that season. Peterson was canned the next year when the Men of Oil went 1-13 again, still trying to determine if Super Bowl was one word or two.

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, when asked about his team’s tactics, once opined: “We’re not attempting to circumcise the rules.”

Or how about Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Gary Crowton, when asked to size up quarterback Cade McNown: “He’s the about the size of a lot of guys that size.”

One of my faves is from New York Jets running back Freeman McNeil, after the Jets thrashed the Cincinnati Bengals in a 1982 playoff game: “We showed the state of Cincinnati what we’re all about.” You sure did, Freeman.

Lest I be accused of picking on football types, here are some greats from other sports:

Chuck Lamar, general manager of major league baseball’s Tampa Bay Rays, defended his team once by saying: “The only thing that keeps this organization from being recognized as one of the finest in baseball is wins and losses at the major league level.” Indeed.

LA Dodgers ace Pedro Guerrero got famously ticked off at sportswriters once because “Sometimes they write what I say and not what I mean.”

From the world of basketball, North Carolina State alum Charles Shackleford may have bounced around among a handful of NBA teams in his career, but he will always be an all-star with this thoughtful quote: “Left hand, right hand. It doesn’t matter. I’m amphibious.”

Boxing trainer Lou Duva gave us this gem, when commenting on the training regimen of Andrew Golota in 1996: “He’s a guy who gets up at six o’clock in the morning regardless of what time it is.” Neat trick, that.

Hold on, golfers. I know you thought you got away cleanly here. Not quite; check out this little ditty from former golf pro and TV analyst Johnny Miller: “I don’t think anywhere is there a symbiotic relationship between caddie and player like there is in golf.”

That’s a sure bet, Johnny. Now, come on, men. Let’s get this season rolling. I’m like a time bomb, ready to erupt.

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