Complete And Correct

Calipers

Used properly, the English language is one of nuance and precision.  Used as many of the great unwashed do….it’s a wonder that even the pizza order is correct.

I have quoted Mark Twain’s admonition that “There’s a mighty difference between lightning, and a lightning bug.”

I recently stumbled across a blog post about euphemisms;

Euphemisms are generally used to change something icky into something more palatable. As George Carlin said, “Sometime in my life—no one asked me about this—toilet paper became bathroom tissue. The dump became the landfill. And partly cloudy became partly sunny.”

I heard Carlin’s debut album, shortly after it came out.  It was funny.  His later work – not so much.  It’s difficult to be funny for 40 years.  He began to make fun of the English language.  I didn’t find it terribly funny, because it was neither complete nor correct.

None of the above are euphemisms.  Early toilet paper was paper….like pages from a Sears catalog.  It beat using a corn cob. Soon, it was transformed into soft, absorbent tissue, used all through the bathroom, for applying skin cream, removing makeup, blotting lipstick, (a single square is faster and cheaper than an entire Kleenex) blowing your nose, or as emergency feminine hygiene material.  It is no longer paper, used only on the toilet.

We used to just dump and abandon garbage – hence, DUMP.  Nowadays, waste is shredded, some is incinerated, compost starter and soil is added and mixed, and the lot is bulldozed and landscaped into a re-usable landfill.

Media weather language is precise.  There are seven words to describe skies – from overcast, to cloudy, to partly sunny, to scattered (clouds), to partly cloudy, to sunny, to clear.  Partly sunny is 10% open sky.  Partly cloudy is 10% cloud.  They are not even vaguely the same.  One did not turn into the other, no matter what George falsely claims.

George lost me as a customer when he claimed that there were 3 words – flammable, inflammable, and non-flammable.  “Why 3??  Either it flams, or it doesn’t flam.”  Just a minute George, flammable means that something will burn.  Inflammable means that it will immediately, vigorously burst into flame.  A block of wood is flammable.  An open pail of gasoline is inflammable, so, there are 4 words, flammable – non-flammable, inflammable – non-inflammable.  If you’re going to bitch about something, even for comedy, it really helps your credibility if you know what you’re talking about.

I was in a medical center the other day, where an information station was set up under an umbrella. Emblazoned on the umbrella were the words SERVICE AMBASSADOR. I find nothing distasteful about the word INFORMATION, but I am entertained by the thought of a group meeting to find a supposedly better (and definitely more pompous) description of the services offered under that umbrella. SERVICE AMBASSADOR: Do you suppose the, ahem, ambassadors who staff that desk need congressional confirmation?

Like ‘toilet paper’, above, ‘Information desks’ have developed to provide far more services than mere information.  Every English-speaking country in the world has Ambassadors.  I can only hope that it was a vain attempt at humor, and not narrow-minded American provincialism that she felt any of them require U S Congressional confirmation.

Loblaw’s food chain came forward, and admitted to price-fixing on bread.  A letter to a newspaper complained that their fraud conviction was ironic.  1 – By voluntarily admitting wrong-doing, they received immunity from prosecution – so, no conviction.  2 – The bread was exactly as advertised, just too expensive.  What they did, was price-fixing, not fraud.  3 – What is ironic, is that the guy who complained, hasn’t got a clue what he’s talking about.

Come on people, Stop, Think, Understand!  English is a beautiful, accurate, expressive language.  Please learn to use it correctly.  That’s what I ask for.  What I’ll probably get….is that guy’s Hawaiian pizza.  😯

Advertisements

HOT-DAMN HOT ROD

Mustang

Once upon a long time ago, shortly after the invention of the wheel….

One day I had to take my car in to a garage to have some work done. Back when ‘Customer Service’ was still a proven fact, and not a forgotten myth, the apprentice mechanic drove me to work and took my car back to the shop.  He, or someone else, was supposed to pick me up at 5:00 PM, when both our firms were finished for the day.

About 3 o’clock, my phone rang. They had dismantled the car, but a couple of necessary parts wouldn’t arrive till early the next morning.  I would have to leave it overnight, and find a way home and back in the next morning.

Home was almost 10 miles across town on a hot August afternoon. Walking was unthinkable.  Transit would mean over an hour, three buses, and still a good walk to the house.  I approached DORIS, a ditzy clerk, old enough to be my mother.  She lived on the same side of town, but normally took a road parallel to mine.

Sure! She could drive me home.  She was also taking Ethel, who lives near me.  At 5:00, we all left the office, and headed for the parking lot.  Doris handed me a key chain, and said, “When I’m in the car with a man, he drives.”  A little strange, but, Okay.

I know she drives a crappy Dodge Dart. The keychain she handed me was quite masculine – a blue rabbit’s foot, one die (dice), and a Ford key.  She saw me looking at it questioningly, and said, “I had to take my car in too.  I’m driving the son’s car.”

When we got to her spot, there was a new(ish) Mustang. I climbed in and fired it up, and saw a couple of reasons why she wanted me to drive.  Gearhead son bought the ‘Tang with the stock 283 cubic inch motor, but had got ahold of, and shoehorned in, a gigantic seven liter (427 C.I.) engine with 4-on-the-floor transmission.  I was raised on standards, so I was good to go.

As I backed up and pulled out, I found yet another reason. While son had installed the big motor and tranny, he hadn’t (yet) put in power steering or heavy-duty front suspension.  Here was an engine as big as Mount Rushmore, sitting over extra-wide front tires. It was like trying to steer the Titanic with a canoe paddle.

Once I got it going more or less straight, on the road home, the conversation turned to language. How could it not? I was in the car.  I mentioned that the first thing I had learned about German when I arrived, was that there are no silent letters.

I had asked a German-speaker about an Amish dish called ‘schnitz und knepp.’ I confused her by pronouncing it ‘nepp.’  This is when she told me it should be ‘kenepp.’  We had recently hired a new, young engineer, named George Kniseley.  When he came around to introduce himself, he pronounced it ‘nizely.’  I told them that, properly, it should be pronounced ‘kenizely.’

Doris said, “Who??”
“George Kniseley!”
“Who??!”
“The young engineer we just hired.  He sits upstairs, across from Bill, our chief engineer.”
“Oh, him!?  I’ve been calling him Kinsley (kins-lee) for six months, and nobody’s said a thing.”

That’s okay, Boris….uh, Doris, I’m sure he doesn’t mind.   😕