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Mixing Words with the Sense of Touch

We have five senses: sight, hear, smell, taste, touch. But we often use words incorrectly with them.

Recently, I attended a wine tasting. As a woman near me swirled the cabernet blanc in her glass, she put her nose into the glass, smelled the aroma and declared, “This smells dry.”

Immediately, my ears (figuratively) pricked up. One doesn’t smell something dry. The sense associated with dryness is touch. We touch something and judge it to be dry.

Another day, I heard someone say something “tasted hot.” Again, my ears did their figurative pricking up. Again, we feel heat from our sense of touch.

Ah, you say, but we taste spicy foods that are hot. Actually, we don’t. I found this on, which explains what’s really happening when spicy food contacts our tongue.

It turns out that capsaicin – the active ingredient in spicy food – binds to a special class of vanilloid receptor inside our mouth called VR1 receptors. After capsaicin binds to these receptors, the sensory neuron is depolarized, and it sends along a signal indicating the presence of spicy stimuli.

But here’s the strange part: VR1 receptors weren’t designed to detect capsaicin. They bind spicy food by accident. The real purpose of VR1 receptors is thermoreception, or the detection of heat. This means that they are supposed to prevent us from consuming food that will burn our sensitive flesh. (That’s why our VR1 receptors are clustered in our tongue, mouth and skin.) As a result, when the receptors are activated by capsaicin, the sensation we experience is indelibly linked to the perception of temperature, to the feeling of eating something near the boiling point of water. But that pain is just an illusory side-effect of our confused neural receptors. There is nothing “hot” about spicy food.

There you have it. I hope you were touched by this. Feel free to use this the next time you eat spicy food with someone (tomorrow at Thanksgiving, perhaps?).

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 27, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Butt, Who Knows?

Would you want an eye exam from this place?


I wonder if anyone either a) told them the correct word is retinal; or b) tried to take them up on their offer!

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two I Appreciated; Two He Would Have

I recently attended a Los Angeles Clippers basketball game with a high school classmate. He revealed himself to be as much a smart-ass as me.

During the game, somebody behind us said, “It’s only a six-point game. We can still come back.”

My friend said to me, “No, it’s a 60-point game.”

I initially didn’t understand until he pointed out the score: 33-27. Then I caught on. The guy behind us should have said, “It’s only a six-point lead.”

Later in the game, with the Clippers behind, a graphic appeared on the large screen urging the team to play defense.

“DEE-FENSE!” The crowd shouted.

My friend sniffed, “That’s a brick wall.”

Sure enough, the graphic’s background was a brick wall, similar to what one sees at any Improvisation comedy club.

I laughed. My friend would have appreciated the things I recently heard at a networking meeting.

In extolling a fellow networker’s virtues for a job well done, the person called him “Unpeccable.”

I looked at the guy I was sitting next to. “Huh?” I said.

Later, somebody else gave a testimonial in which he said the person was “Jiffy on the spot.”

I again looked at the guy I was sitting next to. “What?” I said. “Did I hear that right?”

“You did,” the guy said.

I didn’t have the heart to tell these people their word choices were far from impeccable, but if they ever need word help, I’m Johnny on the spot.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 14, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Get the Company’s Name Right!

When I worked for my college newspaper, my adviser made it clear that if any kind of name was misspelled in the paper, the writer automatically received a D on that particular assignment.

I was a class spelling bee champion in sixth grade and reached the school finals, only to be eliminated because I misheard the word acknowledged as acknowledge, which I spelled correctly. I never thought I had to worry about misspelling anything.

Until I spelled Tucson as Tuscon. Oops.

I bring this up because one’s credibility can take a big hit if one misspells a name. See the link below.

FRY’S 19.10.08

I have no respect for this writer who can’t seem to figure out that the electronics store in question has an apostrophe in its name. I have even less respect for all the editors who didn’t catch it. Yes, this was a newspaper article.

And one wonders why papers are disappearing. Could this be another reason?

I would have no intention of hiring this person to do any writing for me. But I would welcome the business if I was hired to do the editing.

Maybe I could restore some credibility, or prevent the credibility from being lost in the first place.

Until next time! Use the right words!

November 7, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

If I Drew a Comic Strip…

Earlier this week, I came across this comic strip in my newspaper, the Los Angeles Times.20191029_125708.jpg

Dan Piraro and Wayne Howath are my new heroes.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 30, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Threesome vs. Throuple

English is far from a dead language. We get new words introduced all the time. In fact, Merriam-Webster added more than 840 last year; the Oxford English Dictionary added more than 1,100.

This week, I encountered one that was added to the Macmillan English Dictionary in 2017: throuple.

The way I learned this word was uncomfortable: It was part of a headline that detailed an apparent consensual relationship between an elected official, her husband and a campaign staff member.

The word, an obvious combination of three and couple, was used correctly: It means “a long-term sexual relationship between three people.”

When I was younger, we had a perfectly good word for that: threesome. It dates to 1325 and means “something in which three persons participate.”

Admittedly, the definition is non-sexual; throuple’s is sexual. Also admittedly, I find threesome easier to say than throuple. I also know I have seen movies in which three characters get together to have sex, and it’s called a threesome.

Is it a necessary addition? Probably not, but that’s how English is.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 24, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When an “Outie” Doesn’t Refer to a Navel

Last week, I stood behind home plate and prepared to call balls and strikes for an under-14 softball game. As the first batter approached the plate, the catcher shouted instructions to her defense.

“None on! None out! Infield go one! Outies go two! B.C. one!”

I could translate the first three sentences: No baserunners, no outs. Infielders should throw a hit ball to first base.

For the fourth sentence, I had to guess. The final sentence, I had no idea.

Typically, a catcher yells, “Outfield got two!” meaning outfielders should throw the ball to second base. I asked the catcher what “outies” were.

“Outfielders,” she said. “It’s just my way of saying it quicker.”

OK. I get that — if you say outfielders. But outfield is the same number of syllables as outies. Why use a made-up word when a perfectly good word exists?

(Yes, I know outie is a word, referring to one’s navel that’s curved like the exterior of a circle or sphere. But I have never heard outie used like this. I chalk it up to Generation Z messing with the language again.)

As for B.C., the catcher explained it meant “bunt coverage.”

Um, OK. To mix my sports but keep the rhyme, I think I’ll punt.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 23, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Couldn’t Pass up this Chance to be a Smartass

Last week, my wife and I decided to stop at Baskin-Robbins for some ice cream. After perusing the flavors and sampling a few, we made our choices and paid.

As I received my change, the guy behind the counter wished me well — at least, I think that’s what he meant.

“Have the rest of your day,” he said.

I paused to make sure I heard him correctly. Then, being who I am, I responded.

“Thanks, and have the rest of your day too,” I said. Then, referring to his co-workers, I said,  “And since I’m feeling so generous, have the rest of his day, too. And her day!”

He laughed. So did my wife.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 3, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Who is This “Other” You Mention?

I find attorneys do not make good clients because most of them know how to write. But someone sent me the following ad.


If your name is “Other” and you’ve committed wrongdoing, watch out! This guy’s coming for you!

Thanks to Richard C. for the ad.

Until next time! Use the right words!

October 2, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Time Using the Right Words Didn’t Work

Last week, I wrote about how using the right words nonetheless got me in trouble.

Read it here.

Well, it happened again, and at the very same networking meeting.

This time, I needed to give a testimonial to a woman who occasionally massages my back and shoulders. But I couldn’t just thank her for the massages because this group has just one person per category, and it already has a massage therapist (in fact, it was the massage therapist who was too busy and recommended this woman to me).

The woman who massages me does skin care. She spoke at a recent meeting and asked me to say something nice about her services in a general way.

I wasn’t sure what to say until somebody else talked about how her treatment relaxed her. So, I stood up and said the same thing, “Thank you, Franni, for your treatment. It really relaxed me.”

Immediately, I heard snickers from the audience. And there was nothing I could do or say.

Until next time! Use the right words!

September 26, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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