usingtherightwords

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A Cop Bought the Farm during the Dog Days


Many of my friends and associates know what I do with words, and so they often send me photos or passages demonstrating words being used correctly or, more often, incorrectly.

But one friend sent me a book. It’s a 2005 book by Charles Harrington Elster called “What in the Word? Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to Your Peskiest Questions about Language.” According to Wikipedia, Elster has written many books about language.

In the first part of the book, people ask questions about where phrases’ origins. Here are some.

Bought the farm — When a pilot crashed in a rural area, the owner often sued the government and got enough money to pay off the mortgage and own the farm outright.

Cop — Police are called this because in northern England, to cop meant “to capture, catch, lay hold of,” and that’s part of the job description.

Decked out — “Deck” is a verb meaning “to clothe” and “to adorn.” This is why we “deck the halls with boughs of holly.”

Dog days — In Roman times, the hottest days of summer were called caniculares dies because they believed the dog star (Sirius), when it rose with the sun, added heat.

German chocolate cake — “German” actually is Samuel German, who developed the recipe.

Green room — Elster says this term goes at least back to a 1701 play. It probably has to do with the rooms had walls painted green to give the eyes some welcome contrast to the bright lights they experienced on stage. “Probably” because no one is completely sure, Elster says.

Pinkie/Pinky finger — From the Dutch pinkje, the diminutive form of “pink.” But Elster can’t explain why the Dutch used that word to describe the little finger.

Pushing the envelope — “Envelope” refers to an aircraft’s performance limits, so when a pilot tries to do that (see: Tom Cruise’s character in “Top Gun”), he’s pushing the envelope.

Santa Ana wind — This hot wind is named for the large flow of gasses that comes out of the Santa Ana Mountains.

What the dickens/deuce — A euphemism for “what the devil.”

Thanks to Warren S. for the book.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

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July 19, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Proper Term for Deciding a World Cup Match


I love the World Cup. Every four years, nations come together for a truly global sporting event. Since billions of people follow the sport, it truly is a world series, and the winning nation can rightfully be called “world champion” (even if it was France).

How many other sports can be credited with starting a war (between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969) and achieving peace (Ivory Coast’s civil war in 2006)? Few others.

In this tournament, I feel very smart because anybody who asked me during the knockout phase who I liked, I told them Croatia. Luka Modric was a revelation — although if I followed European football a little closer, I would have known about him since he plays for Real Madrid, which just won the UEFA Champions League.

Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the tournament, even getting up early to watch those early-morning matches. The one thing I didn’t enjoy — and never do — is the tiebreak procedure.

I believe the format should follow hockey. If there is a tie after regulation, take your usual 15-minute break, then play 45 more minutes until somebody scores (you can add substitutions if you’d like). Keep doing this until somebody scores, as many 45-minute periods as it takes.

But if you’re going to use the current format, at least call it by its correct name: “Kicks from the Mark.”

The FIFA Laws of the Game make it very clear that is what the procedure is called. It is not called a “shootout” or a “penalty shootout,” as I heard Fox announcers call them over and over again. Only once did I hear somebody say it correctly (I think it was Rob Stone, but I’m not certain).

First, a “penalty kick” is only awarded if a foul punished with a direct free kick occurs in the penalty area. As the tiebreak procedure happens after play concludes, there are no fouls. The word “shootout” does not appear anywhere in the Laws of the Game.

However, players are taking kicks, and they are taking them from that mark 12 yards from the goal line. Hence, kicks from the mark.

The next World Cup is November 2022 in Qatar. Plenty of time to get it right next time.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

July 17, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Taco Cart, Thank You and Other Networking “Gems”


My pointing out the foibles of language returns with these “gems” I heard at networking functions:

We have the delicious taco cart — I suspect the cart itself isn’t delicious, being made of metal and all. But I bet the tacos are.

She got me a great basket of thank you — What does “a basket of thank you” look like? For that matter, what does a “thank you” look like?

I’ve gone online and seen many baskets of flowers and products and goodies meant to say “thank you.” But I don’t know what a thank you looks like.

We got a new body shop coming in — I don’t think there’s enough room at the networking meeting for an entire body shop to come in. But I bet there’s room for a person representing a body shop.

His partner is another person — Obviously.

And before anybody thinks that a pet can be a partner, read the column here about a pet coming between you and your (human) partner. It’s on a website affiliated with Cesar Millan, the so-called “Dog Whisperer.”

To sum up, a survey revealed 14 percent of people would choose their pet over their significant other.

“Unfortunately, the survey isn’t asking the right question,” the author wrote. “It’s not ‘who would you choose?’ but rather ‘how in the world did it get to that point?’ ”

He can’t come in today. He’s under the weather — Since most weather occurs in the troposphere, which is basically from the ground to about 12 miles up, aren’t most of us always under the weather?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

June 7, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proof that Brains and Brawn Don’t Mix


While working out in my gym, I saw this sign posted:

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I have written in the past about the intelligence of gym managers and general managers. This reinforces what I’ve long known.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

June 5, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Theatrical Performance about Puns: A Play on Words


Good writing can be many things: intelligent, thought-provoking, insightful, controversial, humorous, political and clever, to name seven.

It also can be punny, as the following examples I received from a reader show. I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some of these groan-inducing.

Venison for dinner again? Oh deer!

England has no kidney bank, but it has a Liverpool.

I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.

Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.

I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid, but he says he can stop at any time.

This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I’d never seen herbivore.

I stayed up all night to see where the sun set, and then it dawned on me.

The Native Americans were here first because they had reservations.

I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.

The cross-eyed teacher lost her job because she couldn’t control her pupils.

When you get bladder infections, urine trouble.

Broken pencils are pointless.

I got a job at the bakery because I kneaded dough.

A dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary is a thesaurus.

Velcro: What a rip-off!

Thanks to Linda S. for the puns.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

May 25, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A “Fake Imitation” is Real


Below is a photo I received from a fan. His comment to me: “So does this mean
the imitation is fake? Which taken to its logical conclusion, would mean that it’s
real, right?”

Yes.

Thanks to Richard C. for the photo.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

Fake imitation

May 22, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Brilliance from The Bard


As a writer, I can only wish my words would live on 400 years after I die. It won’t happen, probably because I’m not as brilliant as William Shakespeare. After all, if he invented all of the following, what hope is there for me?

All that glitters is not gold from “The Merchant of Venice” (originally: “all that glisters”)

All’s Well That Ends Well

As You Like It

Faint hearted from “Henry VI, Part 1”

Fancy-free from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Foregone conclusion from “Othello”

Full circle from “King Lear”

Give the devil his due from “Henry IV, Part 1”

Good-night, sweet prince from “Hamlet”

I have not slept one wink from “Cymbeline”

In my heart of hearts from “Hamlet”

In my mind’s eye from “Hamlet”

Laughing stock from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

Let’s kill all the lawyers from “Henry VI, Part 2”

One fell swoop from “Macbeth”

Play fast and loose from “King John”

Salad days from “Antony and Cleopatra”

Sweets to the sweet from “Hamlet”

The better part of valor is discretion from “Henry IV, Part 1”

The Comedy of Errors

The short and long of it from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

The world’s mine oyster from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

Tis neither here nor there from “Othello”

Wear my heart upon my sleeve from “Othello”

What’s past is prologue from “The Tempest”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 24, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If You Consider Shakespeare a Genius, Read On


My favorite Shakespeare comedy is “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.” I bring this up because my daughter will soon perform the role of Olivia in a production of it. She and I have had many conversations about the play, most stemming from my love of the character Malvolio and who should play it in the production she’s in.

There’s also our disagreement of what is the most famous line from the play. I firmly believe it is “Some are born great, some achieve greatness and others have greatness thrust upon them.” She thinks it’s the first line: “If music be the food of love, play on.” We also disagree on whether the “some are born great” line actually originates from “Twelfth Night” or if it’s in another play. She insists it’s from somewhere else; I can’t find any reference to any other work.

Regardless, we know Shakespeare has so permeated our language. We know many famous quotes: To be or not to be, wherefore art thou, what fools these mortals be, something wicked this way comes, to thine own self be true, full of sound and fury signifying nothing, et tu Brute, the fault is not in our stars, there are more things in heaven and earth, and so on, and so on, and so on.

But I wanted to go beyond the most famous. I wanted to see how mundane I could get. As today is the 402nd anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, just for fun I searched “quotes you know that come from Shakespeare” to see what would come up. Imagine my surprise to learn all of the following are from the Bard.

As good luck would have it from “The Merry Wives of Windsor”

Bated breath from “The Merchant of Venice”

Brave new world from “The Tempest”

Cold comfort from “King John”

Dead as a doornail from “Henry VI, Part 2”

Devil incarnate from “Titus Andronicus”

Eaten me out of house and home from “Henry IV, Part”

For goodness’ sake from “Henry VIII”

Forever and a day from “As You Like It”

Good riddance from “Troilus and Cressida”

Green-eyed monster from “Othello”

Heart of gold from “Henry V”

It’s Greek to me from “Julius Caesar”

Knock knock! Who’s there from “Macbeth”

Let slip the dogs of war from “Julius Caesar”

Off with his head from “Richard III”

Refuse to budge an inch from “The Taming of the Shrew”

Seen better days from “As You Like It”

The be-all and the end-all from “Macbeth”

The game’s afoot from “Henry V”

Too much of a good thing from “As You Like It”

Wild goose chase from “Romeo and Juliet”

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 23, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Spell Fish and Potato


Easter was Sunday, so I thought now would be a great time for a spelling lesson, courtesy of the Internet.

How do you spell fish? Ghoti.

Gh pronounced “f” as in enough, O pronounced as “i” in women, Ti pronounced “sh” in nation or motion.

Next, spell potato. Ghoughphtheightteeau.

Gh pronounced “p” as in hiccough, ough pronounced “o” as in dough, phth pronounced “t” as in phthisis, eigh pronounced “a” as in neighbor, tte pronounced “t” as in gazette and  eau pronounced “o” as in plateau.

Ain’t English grand?

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

April 3, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Did I Really Lose That Money?


One of my many jobs is to officiate youth sports such as volleyball, softball and soccer. I find it a great financial supplement and it helps me get my sports fix.

One of the drawbacks of such a job is that games sometimes get canceled or postponed due to rain, fire, excessive heat or a school not having enough players to field a team. When that happens, and I can’t work the rescheduled date, I lose money.

Or do I? People tell me that I really don’t lose money because I never had it. And it’s true that lost means “no longer possessed,” among other definitions.

Yet although I never had it, I had an agreement that if I showed up and officiated, I would get paid. Circumstances beyond anyone’s control interfered with that agreement, so I did not work and did not get paid.

Maybe what I should say is, “I lost the opportunity to make the money.” Good thing I never spend the money until I get it.

Furthermore, to lose means “to suffer the deprivation of,” and I certainly feel like I suffer when I don’t get the money. My wallet is deprived. Yet the examples given with this definition are “to lose one’s job” and “to lose one’s life.” In those instances, a person would have had a job or a life before losing it; I never had the money, only an agreement.

To the wordsmith, it might seem clear that I have not lost any money. I can assure you that to the self-employed person scrambling and hustling and trying to make a decent living in a city where it is becoming increasingly difficult to make a living wage, it feels like I lose money every time.

Until next time! Use the right words!

leebarnathan.com

March 20, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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