Sunday, August 1, 2010


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • Is there a King Latifah?
  • Miguel Rodencito.  That, if you haven't already guessed, is "Mickey Mouse" in Spanish.  (Literally, "Michael Little Rodent.")
  • (Sponge Bob Square Pants?  That would be Esponja Menearse Plaza Pantalones! Who else would tell you these things?)
  • Do animals get their blood pressure taken?  Is it possible to do that?  Is it a "silent killer" for them too?
  • If I had a mere 1 percent of the money spent on the postage that is paid on stuff we reflexively throw in the recycling bin without even opening it, I'd be richer than rich.
  • "We weren't able to find out whether Saddam had WMD, we missed the signs of a Wall Street meltdown and we don't really have a clue how much health reform will cost.  But gosh darn it, we are going to ferret out the secret details of Chelsea Clinton's wedding!"--Howard Kurtz, Washington Post media critic
  • I love my wife dearly, but I think she has a self-esteem problem.  She just subscribed to Mediocre Homes & Gardens! 
  •  Most Misused Word of the Week:  "Notoriety."  It is NOT, as most people think, a synonym for fame.  It's root is "notorious," therefore Al Capone achieved notoriety, Cary Grant achieved fame.
  • Most Misused Word of the Year:  Parameter(s). In mathematics, statistics, and the mathematical sciences, a parameter is "a quantity that serves to relate functions and variables using a common variable when such a relationship would be difficult to explicate with an equation," Wikipedia states.
  • In different contexts the term may have special uses.  But it does NOT mean boundaries or "perimeters," a sound-alike word people are confusing it with.
  • Whatever happened to hard labor in judicial sentences?  "30 years at hard labor." You never hear that anymore.  Has it been politically corrected out of existence?  Into "cruel and inhumane punishment" perdition?
  • What do Hillary Clinton and Dick Cheney have in common?  They are members of The Emil Verban Society, a "club" started by columnist George Will in honor of a Chicago Cubs infielder (1948-50) of no particular distinction. Others members are (or were) Barack Obama, Donald Rumsfeld, Pat Sajak, John Cusack, Jim Belushi--and Ronald Reagan.
  • Academic obfuscation:  "Adjunct professor."  Sounds a lot more elegant than "poorly paid part-timer," which would be a more accurate job title.  You could probably add "marginally qualified" as well and not be too far off the mark (it says here).  In fact, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an excellent report on this skeleton in academia's closet a few years ago.
  • Why do snack foods like potato chips have actual expiration dates on them . . . and food items like crackers have some indecipherable code?  Who makes these decisions?  Did Congress pass a Consumer Confusion Act when we weren’t looking?
  • Redundancy patrol: "General public," "unsolved mystery," "mass exodus."
  • I have to laugh every time someone uses "everything else being equal" as a qualifier in whatever hypothesis they're hypothesizing.  When is "everything else" ever equal?  It never happens!  Therefore the hypothetical is specious and doomed from the outset.
  • In France, their top film awards are called the Cesars.  Don't ask me why (and I'm not sure I want to know).
  • Larry King's real name is Lawrence Harvey Zeiger.  (And the occasional feature "If Larry King Wrote For Us" in ESPN the Magazine is my favorite part of said publication. Hilarious and so on-target.)
  • In addition to "the right to bear arms," I think some folks hold just as dearly "the right to bear grudges."
  • Broadcast blather often heard:  "We'll talk more about that 'on the other side of traffic.' "  Let's see: "On the other side of"--five words.  "After"--one word.  Do they get paid by the word?  One could well debate which has deteriorated (in quality, not quantity) more in the last 20 years--radio or television.
  • Sometimes I think people who claim their comments were "taken out of context"  don't really understand the concept of context.  If you say "Rush Limbaugh is a big fat idiot," in what context is that really not an insult?  For some statements, no qualifying context is needed or is in fact exculpatory.
  • The parking lot at a nearby restaurant has 12 spaces--four of them reserved for the handicapped!  Is a third of the country now fully or partly incapacitated?  I guess that obesity epidemic we're always hearing about has really taken its toll.
  • Then there is the truck stop in Minnesota with a sign proclaiming that it is "semi accessible."  It really says that!
  • Today''s Latin lesson:  Don't sudo vegrandis effercio. ("Don't sweat the small stuff.")