Tag Archives: Words

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.


Breaking News: Reader Response Goes Way Beyond Whelming

7 Jul


by Roger White


Well, if I’d known this many of you guys were into words and word games, I would have long ago stopped trying to entertain and enlighten you with tales of the excruciating silliness that are my family’s domestic adventures and simply offered you word puzzles with every installment. Or maybe you just like bumper stickers and other freebies. That being the case, I have a sensational idea for ramping up free free freereadership. I’ll just run a standing headline: “Read This Column and I’ll Send You $5*” (*void where prohibited cash redeemable through Bulgarian wire transfers only in either Greek drachmas and/or S&H Green Stamps valid on third Thursdays in odd-year Februarys must be 88 years of age or older violators will be prosecuted prosecutors will be violated). Or something.

Regardless, your response to the Third Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC) went way beyond whelming—right up to the brink of overwhelming. My whelms runneth over. It occurs to me that I either have to raise the difficulty factor substantially in these here contests or stop being such a sucker when it comes to doling out prizes. You guys take advantage, I swear. Often my therapist has told me I have to quit being such a pushover. So starting next contest, only three winners. You read me? No more Mr. Nice Guy! My tongue is still gummy from licking all the stamps and envelopes.lick lick lick

Anyway. So many of you golddig—I mean, wonderful and loyal readers—chimed in with the correct answers that we set an Oldspouse record for bumper sticker giveaways. I think I can get some sort of tax writeoff for this. So, congrats and sumptuous salutations to (drumroll): Jane, Brenda, Matt, Mary Jane, Laura, Catherine, Rona, Jon, Cynthia, Tim, Page, Woot, Margie, and the entire Wray family—the Wray family being Steven, Sonya, Adam, Erin, and last but not least, Jenna. I was waiting for the Wray family to include Fay, but alas, no Fay Wray.

For those of you playing along at home, here are the answers to the Third Biennial Oldspouse Familiar Phrase Contest (OFPhC) 20 familiar phrase questions. For those of you who are first-time readers of This Old Spouse—or if you either didn’t read our last installment or did read it and forgot all about it—this entire column makes absolutely no sense to you and you’ve likely stopped reading by now. So never mind. Ah, yes, the answers:

  1. She drives me to drink.
  2. There’s a sucker born every minute.
  3. Dead men tell no tales.
  4. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.
  5. Some Like it Hot.
  6. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.
  7. A face only a mother could love.
  8. Let sleeping dogs lie.
  9. Luck Be a Lady Tonight.
  10. Behind every great man you’ll find a woman.
  11. Fool’s gold.
  12. Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.
  13. The Age of Aquarius.
  14. A Tale of Two Cities.
  15. Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys.
  16. Stand By Your Man.
  17. The devil made me do it.
  18. If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times.
  19. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.
  20. The world is your oyster.


You have Spouseman’s sincere oyster-like apologies if you’ve read this far and still oyster manhave no inkling about what’s going on. I often feel the same way. Tune in later and all will be revealed. Spoiler alert: To create the effect of sandstorms in the narrated desert sequence as Moses escaped Egypt, Cecil B. DeMille used the engine blast from tied-down Egyptian Air Force planes. Ingenious, huh?

If and when the meds kick in, I’ll be more cogent and on point next time out. Promise. Nik. Nik nik nik.


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


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.