Guaranteed to improve your English

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 We’re only in Season 2, so Mandy Patinkin hasn’t been replaced by Joe Mantegna yet.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

Sherlock Holmes: My Hero

I recently started watching the British crime drama “Sherlock,” a contemporary take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. In this incarnation, Sherlock Holmes, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, behaves in many ways similar to Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on “The Big Bang Theory:” He’s very literal, and to a word snob like me, he’s awesome.

Following is a dialog Holmes has with a prisoner, Bewick, in the third episode of the first season, “The Great Game,” written by Mark Gatiss (also my hero):

Holmes: Just tell me what happened from the beginning.

Bewick: We’d been to a bar, nice place, and I got chatting with one of the waitresses, and Karen weren’t happy about that, so when we get back to the hotel, we end up having a bit of a ding-dong, don’t we?

Holmes: (annoyed sigh)

Bewick: She was always getting at me, saying I weren’t a real man.

Holmes: Wasn’t a real man.

Bewick: What?

Holmes: It’s not weren’t. It’s wasn’t.

Bewick: Oh.

Holmes: Go on.

Bewick: Well, then I don’t know how it happened but suddenly there’s a knife in my hands. You know, my old man was a butcher so I know how to handle knives. He learned us how to cut up a beast.

Holmes: Taught.

Bewick: What?

Holmes: Taught you how to cut up a beast.

Bewick: Yeah, well then I done it.

Holmes: Did it.

Bewick:  (annoyed) Did it! Stabbed her over and over and over, and I looked down, and she weren’t …

Holmes: (annoyed sigh)

Bewick: Wasn’t moving no more — any more. God help me, I don’t know how it happened, but it was an accident, I swear.

(Holmes gets up and starts to walk away)

Bewick: Hey, you’ve got to help me, Mr. Holmes. Everyone says you’re the best. Without you, I’ll get hung for this.

Holmes: No, no, no, Mr. Bewick, not at all. Hanged, yes.

Until next time! Use the right words!

July 2, 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


%d bloggers like this: