Wednesday, March 2, 2011



Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • No wonder we can't get a handle on the Libyan situation: We can't even agree on how to spell the Main Man's name. As a matter of fact, neither can he! 
  • Libya's Brother Leader lets a hundred flowers bloom, the Christian Science Monitor reports. The banner at the top of his official website spells it, "AL Gathafi." But on the same site you'll also see it variously rendered as "Al Qaddafi," "Algathafi" and "Al-Gathafi."
  • And that's just the surname. Variations on his given name, says the Monitor, include Muammar, Moammar, Mu'ammar and Moamar and many others.
  • Once you've settled on how to spell his first and last names, you then have to decide whether you want to add the Arabic prefix "al-" before his last name. Which can also be spelled "el-." And then you have to decide whether the prefix should be capitalized.  
  • For those few brave editors who press on, the result is a multiplicity of spellings. The Associated Press, CNN and MSNBC spell it "Moammar Gadhafi." The New York Times spells it "Muammar el-Qaddafi." At the Los Angeles Times, it's "Moammar Kadafi." Reuters, the Guardian and the BBC go with "Muammar Gaddafi." The Irish Times goes with "Muammar Gadafy." ABC News--which spells it "Moammar Gaddafi"--has posted a list of 112 variations on the English spelling of the Libyan strongman's name.
  • The Christian Science Monitor goes with "Muammar Qaddafi," a spelling that is no more or less defensible than anyone else's.
  • According to Dr. Ahmed Ferhadi, Director of the Arabic Program at NYU: “Based on the structure and pronunciation of this Arabic name, its English transliteration should be Qaddafi. The variation Qadhafi is fine, too.”
  • More on this story as it develops, dwindles or disappears.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life:
  • Morning in America:  Church attendance is way down, the prison population is way up  . . . and people are still sneaking into the Express Lane with more than 12 items. (Which of these problems is easiest to fix? Not so sure it would be the third one.)
  • Note to the protesters and politicians in Madison, Wis.:  "You cannot shake hands with a closed fist."--Indira Gandhi (1917-1984).
  • I'll be glad when the all of the budget messes are settled (in some distant day, if ever) so I don't have to hear the phrase "kicking the can down the road" a dozen times a day.
  • Jim's Life Coach Tip of the Week:  Guys, never marry a woman with the name of more than one guy on any of her more intimate body parts!
  • It was so windy the other day, the flag at the YMCA was down to two stars and one stripe!
  • Sign of the (old) times: Disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagoevich's name is still on a building at the Illinois International Port District near 129th Street and the Bishop Ford Freeway, according to The Chicago Sun-Times.
  • I don't understand all these school-closing "snow days." Why?  Because you go to the gym, the library, the mall, and what do you see?  Wall to wall kids!  It's not like the school closing kept them safely at home, so aren't they're better off on the school bus instead of individually heading out into the very same elements they're supposedly being "protected" from?  The teachers?  Well, other adult employees find a way to get to work on snowy days, so what's the problem?  What is this, another quote-unquote liability issue?  Ridiculous.
  • Mark my words, someday "Winnie the Pooh" will be on Broadway.  (They've done just about everything else, from "Peter Pan" to "Spiderman.")
  • When's the last time someone invited you to "step into the parlor"? (A very long time, unless you were recently in a remake of a very old movie.)
  • Word of the Week (from Al Lewis of Dow Jones Newswires):  "Biflation."
  • (That's when everything you already own--house, car, stock portfolio--has rapidly declined in value, and everything you actually need to buy--food, fuel, medicine, education--is going up.  This is what happens, Lewis says, "when the Fed creates trillions of new dollars out of nothing, but mostly just gives it to the banks.")
  • Doesn't seem to matter whether they're $12 sneakers from Wal-Mart or $150 shoes from somewhere else--shoe boxes are getting flimsier and flimsier.  Maybe there's a sinister connection between shoemakers and the burgeoning plastic container cartel!  (Where is "60 Minutes" when we really need it?)
  • It’s a tossup as to who gets lied to the most—doctors or policemen.  (“Yeah, doc, I have a drink once in a while, but that’s about it.”  “No, officer, there’s nothing in the car you need to be concerned about.”)
  • “The question is,” says an American staff officer in the play The Great Game, “are we on our ninth year in Afghanistan, or are we on our first year for the ninth time?”--Maureen Dowd in the New York Times (Feb. 16).
  • Talking back to the TV:  When CNN flashed "Coming up next: Are you smarter than the average computer?" the other day, I said: "No!  But I've got a chip on my shoulder if that helps!"
  • All-Overrated Club:  Regis Philbin, Barbara Walters, Whoopie Goldberg.
  • Where phrases originated:
  • "By the skin of one's teeth"--Job XIX, Verse 20.
  • "Through thick and thin"--Chaucer's "The Reeves Tale."
  • "Paint the town red"--The practice of American Indians setting fire to towns.  (Allegedly.)
  • Seventeenth entry in the Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw it Mentioned in a Newspaper Obituary sweepstakes:  Cato.  (R.I.P. Georgianna M. "Tootsie" Hill , Green Bay Press-Gazette, Feb. 8, 2011.)  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh and Pulcifer.
  • "Learn your lines and don't trip over the furniture."--Spencer Tracy, when asked his advice about acting.
  • You're not a celebrity until you've been on the cover of People magazine, been a clue or an answer in the New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle or been mentioned in an least one edition of SZSEZ.
  • What's in a Name/Nomenclature Disconnects Dept.:  There are no commercial entities that label themselves what people actually call them.  Therefore, there are no "grocery stores," no "gas stations," no "pool halls."  But "SuperCenters," "Q-Marts" and "Billiards Parlors"--those we have. (So please revise your locutions accordingly.  Thank you.)
  • A woman wrote a letter to a small-town newspaper recently about some Good Samaritan helping get her tire inflated at the "filling station."
  • (Don't know the woman, but my guess is that she is at least an octogenarian, since it has been about 30 years since I've heard anyone refer to a "gas station" in those words.  She probably stores her food in the "ice box" and then relaxes on the "davenport." "Jumpin' Jehosaphat!" and "Gee, willikers, lady!")
  • "Computer dating is fine--if you're a computer."--Rita Mae Brown, American writer and activist.
  • Parking lot mystery:  It’s 10 degrees, and there’s plenty of room inside the warm fast-food restaurant, but more often than not there’s some doofus (or doofusette) eating in his or her car or truck, with the engine running, polluting the air and wasting expensive fuel. As they say in Standup Land, “What’s up with that?”
  • I know it costs more to feed 260 horses than it does to fill up my car, but the gap is narrowing.
  • Obituary Headline Nicknames of the Week (tie): "Skeeter" and "Kool It."  As in Patrick "Skeeter" VanderMuss (Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, Feb. 9, 2011) and David A. “Kool It” Boening (Kenosha News obituary, Feb. 16, 2011). (R.I.P., Messrs. Boening and VanderMuss.)
  • Piers Morgan, your flight is now boarding.
  • Today's Latin lesson:  Etiam, medicus, Ego imbibo vel duos quondam in a dum, tamen ut est super is. ("Yeah, doc, I have a drink or two once in a while, but that's about it.")