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Half-Mast, Half-Staff, Half-Cocked

When I was younger, there was a place called the Museum of Television & Radio in which I could watch old TV shows. It was like an amusement park to me — but much less expensive. I wiled away hours watching cartoons, pilots and finales.

The place is now called the Paley Center for Media, but I don’t go anymore. I have Netflix.

Now, I can watch all the TV shows I want. The current one my wife and I are enjoying is “Criminal Minds.” We’re only in Season 2, so Mandy Patinkin hasn’t been replaced by Joe Mantegna yet. My wife’s favorite character is Dr. Spencer Reid, portrayed by Matthew Gray Gubler. He reminds me of Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) from “The Big Bang Theory” but with less humor.

In one episode, characters are talking about flying a flag at half-mast to honor a dead officer, when Reid interrupts and corrects them, saying it’s half-staff. Half-mast is reserved for ships.

When I was a kid, flag were always flown at half-mast, so I wondered who was right.

My research concluded that a fictional character was correct. In this country, it’s half-staff when flying over non-nautical things. Many countries still use the term half-mast when we would use half-staff.

Let’s not go off half-cocked on this matter.

Until next time! Use the right words!


January 28, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Compound vs. Mixture

I am not scientifically inclined. In high school, half the Bs I ever got were in biology and chemistry. I even failed the second-semester chemistry final (so did everyone else, causing the teacher to throw it out and restore our grades to what they were).  In junior high (which was what it was called when I was in eighth grade), I only got an A in science because the science teacher took leave to act as school dean and his replacement was nicer and an easier grader.

With all that in mind, it never crossed my mind to know the difference between a compound and a mixture.

That is, until before my daughter went on winter break. She told me her science teacher taught her the difference between the two: A compound is made of ingredients that can’t be separated; a mixture is made of ingredients that can.

I checked the dictionary to verify. Sure enough, compound means “something formed by a union of elements or parts.” The key word is union. Once the ingredients form a union, they’re a whole.

Mixture means “a portion of matter consisting of two or more components in varying proportions that retain their own properties.” (italics added)

As proud of my daughter as I am, I don’t expect her to suddenly become a Caltech or MIT candidate. The closest she’ll come to either of those is watching “The Big Bang Theory.”

Until next time! Use the right words!

December 29, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Learning from “The Big Bang Theory’s” Geniuses or My Attempt to Write a “Twilight Zone” Ending

I got into “The Big Bang Theory” late. It’s soon to conclude Season Five, but I’m back in the second season, specifically the episode in which Leonard’s mother, played beautifully by Christine Baranski (and it’s really too bad she’s only in one other episode), pays a visit.

As Beverly Hofstadter walks up the stairs with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), Penny asks her what Leonard was like when he was little. To which Beverly replies, “Oh, I think you mean young. He’s always been little.”

I had always understood little to mean young.

Until I checked the dictionary.

I expected to find tucked in among the numerous definitions pertaining to size and amount one relating to age. To this I would have said as I’ve said before, “This is more correct.”

Instead, I found nothing about age. But among the numerous definitions of young was one that shocked me.

It read, “having little experience.” (italics added)

Until next time! Use the right words!

April 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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