“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.”
~ MARK TWAIN
Before I get started on today’s post, I have a bit of news to offer: I have invested some time, effort, and coin in the pursuit of being professional… or at least looking professional. I have bought my domain name, and can now be found at simply blimprider.com. No Blogspot, Weebly, WordPress, or anything else, just purely me. Don’t worry, though, your old bookmarks will still work. This is a substantial outlay for a guy on a fixed income, but I do have a small recreational allowance, and this is how I chose to spend it. And what brought this about, you ask?
My dearly beloved has macular degeneration, and last week I drove her to her treatment, which involves having her pupils dilated, then a hypodermic injection into her eyeball! It doesn’t seem to bother her much, but it freaks the hell out of me every time. Anyway, this leaves her eyes hypersensitive to light for a few hours after, and ordinary shades don’t seem to help it much, so last visit, I told her that I’d wear my steampunk goggles on my patrol cap, and after her treatment, she could put them on.
She did, and they worked great, but that isn’t the story. All the time I was walking around the hospital in these, I was getting favorable comments and questions about them. It felt like I could have moved a stack of books had I had some with me, and that gave me the idea to print up some business cards promoting this website. If I wear this hat everywhere, and hand out cards to anyone who expresses an interest, I should generate at least some local sales, right? Yeah, that’s not going to work, but I’ll sure have some fun while I’m doing it!
[For those who might want to try their own luck with this, the company is VistaPrint. They offer cards, coffee mugs, hats, shirts, and a dozen or so other ways to promote your own activity. Their prices are reasonable, and they offer a substantial first-order discount. Very much worth a look if you’re looking for something to hand out at cons, etc.]
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In my last post I touted the wonders of a European website called Irevuo. I stand by that glowing appraisal, as it really is a site based on high-quality content. The thing is, Cristian’s computer has gone belly-up, and until he can replace it, he is limited to working with his phone, which is okay for some things, but not so hot for the wonderful graphics he’s known for. You can read the disheartening story here. Included in the story is a PayPal request he has initiated to try to get back in business. I have a simple request to make of my readers, that you visit his site, read his work, and if you find it worth supporting and you can afford it, send him a few bucks. Nothing you can’t spare, but if a lot of us each send him a modest donation, it could return him to operation much more quickly than he can get there himself.
During our conversation, he mentioned that he is in Romania, and that English is not his first language. You’d never know it to read his posts; he handles what may be the most convoluted language on earth with the grace of a native speaker. Inspired by his facility, I’m reposting an old article that I put together for writing.com a year or so ago. I found it to be great fun. I hope you will, too!
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Have you ever wondered at what a wonderful language English is? Within its quarter-million words can be found reasonable ways to describe black as white, and up as down. This comes largely from its proclivity to “borrow” useful words and terms from foreign tongues, and sometimes the rules that go with them. We’ve all heard that old saw, “Why do we drive on a parkway, but park in a driveway?” I always thought that was pretty funny, but then one day I heard, “Why isn’t Great Britain known as the United Queendom?” and I realized that, far from being the exception, these things must be as common as air! I went on a quest to collect them during the early 90s, and cleaning out a box of old papers recently, I found a couple of sheets where I had gathered a good number of them in one place. So, for those who enjoy this kind of thing, here are the oddisms that I’d gathered by the time I lost interest around twenty years ago.
~ Why do privates eat in the general mess, and generals eat in the private mess?
~ How is it that darkrooms can be lit?
~ Nightmares can take place in broad daylight while morning sickness and daydreaming can happen at night.
~ Hours, especially happy hours and rush hours, often last longer than sixty minutes, and others, especially lunch hours, can be far less.
~ Why is it that a woman can man a station, but a man can’t woman one? For that matter, how can a man father a movement, but a woman can’t mother one?
~ Why isn’t phonetic spelled phonetically?
~ Why is there no synonym for synonym or thesaurus?
~ If adults commit adultery, do infants commit infantry?
~ If the plural of tooth is teeth, is the plural of booth beeth?
~ If a person wrote a letter, is it not possible that he bote his tongue during the process?
~ We conceive at a conception, and receive at a reception. Does it not follow that we should grieve at a greption and believe a beleption?
~ How are a caregiver and a caretaker the same thing? How about sharp speech and blunt speech?
~ If bad and good, hard and soft, and up and down are opposites, how is it that badly and goodly, hardly and softly, and upright and downright aren’t?
~ Why are pertinent and impertinent, canny and uncanny, and famous and infamous neither opposites nor the same?
~ Why does night fall but never break, and day break but never fall?
~ Why do we pack suits in a garment bag and garments in a suitcase?
~ Is it still homework if you do it in school?
~ Does anyone remember why push-button telephones are dialed?
~ Why are they called apartments when they’re all together?
~ Why is the word abbreviation so long?
~ If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian consume?
~ If people ring a bell today, and rang a bell yesterday, why don’t we say they flang a ball?
~ If a horsehair mat is made from the hair of horses, what is a mohair coat made out of?
~ A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, but a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.
~ Appropriate and inappropriate are opposites, yet flammable and inflammable are the same.
~ Why do we play at a recital, and recite at a play?
~ How is that your nose runs, and your feet smell?
~ Hot dogs can be cold.
~ Boxing rings are square.
~ Why do they sell you a TV set, then only give you one?
~ Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?
~ Why doesn’t onomatopoeia sound like what it is?
~ If olive oil is made from olives, then what, pray tell, is baby oil made from?
~ A writer is someone who writes, and a stinger is something that stings, yet fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham. Nor, for that matter, do humdingers humding.
~ How is it that I flew out to see a World Series game in which my favorite player flied out?
~ How can the weather be hot as hell one day, and cold as hell the next?
~ If harmless and harmful are opposites, why aren’t shameless and shameful?
~ If passable and impassable roads are opposites, why are passive and impassive people the same?
~ Why is it that when the sun, moon, or stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they aren’t?
~ When I clip a coupon from a newspaper, I separate it, but when I clip a coupon to a newspaper, I fasten it.
~ Why is it that when we transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when we transport something by ship, it’s cargo?
~ Tablecloths can be made of paper, and what, exactly, is plastic silverware?
~ Why is diminutive so undiminutive?
~ One goose, two geese, so one moose, two meese?
~ If the teacher taught, why then hasn’t the preacher praught?
~ Last time I went swimming, I treaded water, then trod on the beach.
~ How is it that pricey objects are less expensive than priceless ones?
~ Tomboys are always girls, but midwives can be men.
~ Quicksand works very slowly.
~ Fact: The majority of bathrooms contain no bath. And isn’t it just a bit odd that we go to the bathroom in order to go to the bathroom?
~ Why does the word monosyllabic contain five syllables?
~ If button and unbutton, and tie and untie are opposites, why then are loosen and unloosen, and ravel and unravel the same?
~ Why does a man get a hernia, but a woman gets a hysterectomy?
~ If pro is the opposite of con, is congress the opposite of progress?
~ Why do we call people who ride motorcycles “bikers” while those who ride bikes are called “cyclists?”
~ By what logic does “lisp” have an S in it?
~ Quite a lot and quite a few are the same, but overlook and oversee are opposites.
~ How can raise and raze, and reckless and wreckless be opposites when each pair contains the same sound?
~ In what other language is the third hand on a clock called the second hand?
~ If a firefighter fights fire, what does a freedom fighter fight?
~ Why do we call it newsprint when it contains no printing, but after we print on it, it becomes a newspaper?
~ Why is it the sun shone yesterday while I shined my shoes?
~ Why is it that when I wind up my watch, I’m starting it, but when I wind up this blog, I’m stopping it?
I hope you had fun with these. I must hasten to point out that the majority of them came from the years I spent working alone on many weekends. I would turn on the radio to keep me company, and a regular stop was a PBS show called A Way With Words, hosted by Richard Lederer. He had a series of co-hosts, and they often trotted these things out. There were other sources, magazine articles, TV shows, and things I heard in conversations, and I diligently took note of them, thinking they might help some day in my writing career. I guess I was right; twenty years on, I got a blog post out of it!