Varied musings about where words come from,
what they mean, how they're used and other
assorted trivia. All comments sincerely welcome!
:cool: Kaye Shannon:cool:
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  1. It's been two years since I wrote on this blog - time flies. Both my parents - in their eighties - became ill and moved to a nursing home, where they subsequently both died, so I was preoccupied with that for some time.

    That's behind me now, and I'm up and writing again - just landed a freelance spot on an AOL Business Communications Patch - one of many community on-line newspapers they are launching across the United States. Happy to be on board, and ready to roll again! Hopefully it will move me forward to bigger and better assighments - I hope!

    Thinking of some posts on etymology - you'll be the first to know.

  2. It comes down to nature lovers and sports enthusiasts. Mark Twain once said, “Golf is a good walk ruined.” Another good quote, whose author is unknown, is the slogan of the
    United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Let me make a case
    for how these two quotes are connected.

    The point of golf is to hit long shots, as few as possible on the fairways, and have as
    few putts as possible on the putting green. The fewer strokes, the better your score.
    It’s a challenging game, and one sport I do enjoy watching on TV, as well as tennis.

    When someone is playing golf their mind is totally consumed with making the fairway
    shot go where they want it to go, making the putt perfect, keeping those strokes down.
    Their mind is not being wasted, whether they walk or use a golf cart.

    For those golfers that walk, golf is sociable as golfers talk about the current game.
    Same for those in the cart. Sociability is a good thing. A solitary walk doesn’t
    provide socialization. A group walk would.

    Now, as Mark Twain mentioned ruining a walk by playing golf, what did he mean by
    it? Obviously there were no golf carts at the time he made this memorable quote.
    Did he mean people would be thinking about golf, not contemplating nature on their
    walk, or meditating, or trying to resolve a philosophical question while meandering
    through a meadow? Or perhaps he meant just walking to enjoy a beautiful day, and get intot the rythym of walking. People thinking of these things on their walks were obviously not ruining their minds, they were improving them. So we can conclude Mark Twain thought golf, by virtue of thinking about the next long shot or putt, was a stretch of
    time where a mind was being terribly wasted.

    I’ve never taken up golf because it’s so time consuming and you have to play several
    times a week to be good. And even at a miniature golf course I tend to get bored
    focusing on the game way before the 18th hole. I would rather be putting my mind to
    better use, like coordinating it with my body to play a good game of tennis.

    When we watch golf on TV we don’t get minutes long views of a golfer walking from
    one tee to the next. That would be too boring for the viewers. So we get lots of
    swing shots at the fairway, and lots of putting green action, all of which require a
    great deal of mental concentration. Wasted mental concentration according to Mark

    I love his quip. I’m not sure I totally agree him. But I do agree that a mind is a terrible
    thing to waste, whether it be because a person can’t get into college because of being
    economically disadvantaged, as many blacks are, or because it’s not solving a philosophical question or how to make par.
  3. There's no one I admire more than William Safire when it comes to English usage. But an email from him several years ago still has me down.

    He said, in response to my email to him, complaining about how words evolve and are misused, that language evolves and changes over time, and that everyday usage causes this to happen.

    The email was probably from an assistant, but his name was used at the end, so I like to think that it was actually from Mr. Safire.

    Take the word graduated, for example. So many people say, even broadcasters, and reporters write it, that someone "graduated"
    high school. How do you graduate a high school? Proper language would be "graduated from" high school.

    But when people hear or read the news, and
    the people they hear or read are not well
    versed enough, their own lack of education
    showing, the usage changes over time.

    Another one is hospital. People constantly say
    "He went to hospital," not the correct "He went to the hospital."

    Or they say "Doctor is not in today." Why
    not "The Doctor," or "Doctor Smith" is not in.

    These verbal shortcuts are annoying and
    irritating. Do you care? I most certainly do,
    and my therapist agrees with me.
  4. Every area of the country has certain idioms or colloquial phrases that are unique to a particular locale. It's like a Balkanization of the English language.

    In Eastern Pennsylvania, home of Pennsylvania Dutch country in Berks, Lancaster and Lehigh counties, there are phrases that endure, although most of the original quaint "dutchified" langauage is used by a handful of old-timers.

    According to, "It's all" means something is done or gone. "Outen the lights," has a meaning understood by most people in New York or California. "Gretzy," means cranky and is still used on a regular basis.

    There is one word usage that is particularly vexing. Many people in Eastern PA refer to their hair or tresses as "them." "I'm going to wash them tonight." "I have to get them cut tomorrow." "I got them permed."

    "Aye, yi, yi!"

    Them is plural. You or I would most likely say,
    "I'm going to wash my hair," which can be used as both singular and plural (Merriam-Webster, 2004). So if a dutchified local wants to use them, plural, in the singular sense, they would use the imperative conjugation, he or she. Which means. . . I'm going to wash he/she tonight which makes no sense in any reference to hair. Sounds like bad grammar for giving a child a bath.

    What would Andy Rooney say? "I have them in my ear." "I have hair in my nose." "I have hairs in my ear." He definitely would not use the singular imperative conjugattion for them, "He's in my nose, or ear." Although a couple of midgets could possibly fit into his nostrils.

    What do most women say after going through menopause when estrogen decreases, making natural testosterone levels create hair or hairs on their necks and chins? "I have them on my throat." Have what on your throat - pimples,
    dribbles of marinara sauce, or brown liver spots?

    Does them refer only to hair on your head or to hair under your armpits and on your legs as well? "I have to shave them under my arms tonight." What? - the dogs silken tresses are too long so you'll put the dog under your arm to shave his coat of hair? Now that is plausible.

    The possibilities are endless. It's all.

  5. Reading through a dicoesan newsletter I was surprised and baffled when the bishops of Anglican churches in Africa were called primates in an article. Giggling a little, thinking of apes, why of earth would a bishop be called a primate?

    Primate means "first" in Latin, so in Catholic, Anglican (in the Unites States - the Episcopal Church), and in Eastern Orthodox churches, some bishops or archbishops are called primates - the first bishop, meaning the most important, not numerically the first, but the
    one currently most important, and not only that, some primates are metropolitan primates - which I thought were only in San Diego or New York or Cleveland zoos.

    Let's consider monkeys, apes and humans. A primate is a member of the biological order Primates, a group consisting of the commonly related species consisting of lemurs, monkeys and apes, with the last (or first, since we are primates) category including humans, some of which are metropolitan, others rural or suburban, which a religious primate can be as well.

    Today MSNBC Live Science reportred that Jared Taglialatela, a bioligist at the Yerkes Nation Primate Research Center in Atlanta siad, "we share many profound likenesses with our closest animal relations. They posesss remarkable language capacities, have the ability to make and use tools, and even to learn behaviors from other members of their community - all traits once thought to be the hallmarks of humanity."

    In the UK there is a court case in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France to declare primates human. According to Sarah Brosnan of Georgia State University, "One of the hard things is there is no single characteristic that has been found that makes humans truly unique."

    According to MSNBC, about 96 to 98 percent of 100 DNA structures of chimps and humans
    match up.

    Then Primates would truly be Primates!

    Maybe we should combine religious and biological primates into one group called the Order of Primates - since apes are primates and many primates have behaved like apes, or their cousin the monkey, especially some Catholic or Episcopal ones, which is a totally different topic. Makes a good movie title - The Order of the Primates - and would definitely have innumerable sequels.

    The locale could be the Conferenza Episcopale Italiana and focus on primates run amok in Rome - the Amalfi coast is more scenic, but Rome has more sneaky little hiding places. Or Florence. Florence would be good.