Friday, February 15, 2013

Language Barriers

Hi, everyone!  It's not quite time for me to do another post (I was going to do that over the weekend) but I came across this article today, and just had to share it.

Anyone who knows me well can tell you: I get crazy over the butchering of the English language.  How many times have I shouted "hanged!" when some TV program announced that a thief had been "hung" for his crime? You don't feel bad. Bad what? It's badly; it's an adverb.  Maybe you should have went, but I should have gone. (Mother pounded THAT one into me, having been a youthful offender.)

I come by this mega-focus honestly.  My mother's father only went to the "third book" in his schooling in Sligo, but prided himself on speaking English better than The British people who surrounded him when he worked in England. He impressed the need for clear, concise speech upon my mother.  She, in turn, passed it to me.  I have always been thankful for that.  If the English forced us to speak their language, we would out do them at their own game.  Besides, it helped us acclimate better into the American melting pot when we were forced by famine, poverty or prejudice to leave our sacred isle.

I love when folks don't quite get the saying, or song lyric, right.  That's given rise to such cute books as "Olive, the Other Reindeer". .. or people singing "You're the tea in my coffee.." (??? It's cream, by the way).  Even my own dear, sweet Gary has fallen into the trap.  He would sing along with the car radio when our station played "Grovin" by the Lovin Spoonful. (Look them up, children):

 "Life would be ecstasy, you and me and Leslie grovin'..."

Leslie?  Who the hell was Leslie?

(The actual line is " and me endlessly grovin'.)  Yes, brats, I know. Grovin' - not an actual word. Complain to John Sebastian....(sigh)...look him up.

With that said, may I present:
Ten Commonly-Misused Expressions From British English

By Fraser McAlpine | Posted on Thursday,
February 14th, 2013

Mustard unpassed

Language is a liquid constant. Its only job is to communicate and, really, so long as it does this reasonably efficaciously, none of us have any reason to complain about the rights and wrongs of other people’s communication. I mean, so long as I get what you mean when you say “pacifically how many people are coming to dinner?” or “I could care less about your new jumper,” does it really matter if you’ve used the wrong term, or got a little confused with your idioms? I mean REALLY?
OK, OK it matters! Stop shouting…
For you, then, here are 10 expressions that people commonly mess up, and the reasons why they are the way they are:
1: Pass mustard
 So, first of all, the expression you’re aiming at is pass muster – a state of being where you’ve been tested and come through with flying colors. There is also the expression cut the mustard, meaning the same thing. However, there is no pass mustard. And cut the mustard is thought to be derived from a mishearing of pass muster in the first place, so this whole thing is just a mess of badly applied condiments.
2: Tow the line
Unless you’re a shire horse, pulling a barge down a canal, your opportunities to tow the line will be few and far between. However, if there’s a line that you cannot cross – real or figurative – it’s your feet that will need to be kept in check, just ask Johnny Cash. Therefore, the thing you need to do is toe the line.
3: Chomping at the bit
A frustrated or excitable horse will sometimes mouth his (or her) bit, in frustration that they can’t just get on with, y’know, running around the field or kicking a stable-boy (or girl) in the ribs (or groin). This mouthing and biting action is called champing. So the expression for someone in a state of high excitement or frustration is champing at the bit. The horse isn’t chomping at the bit, because while chomping also means biting and chewing, the inference is that the act of chomping breaks the chomped item down into bits for the purpose of swallowing. And a horse that swallows his (or her) bit is not a healthy horse.
But, given that none of us is a horse, it’s close enough to be a forgiveable error, surely?
4: Nip it in the butt
Please don’t nip things in the butt, you’ll only get a slap in the face for your trouble. If you’re nipping anything in the anywhere – ie you want to prevent situations from growing into bigger and worse situations – the correct thing to do is nip while those things are in the bud (ie, before they flower). It’s about gardening, not sexual harassment.

5: Just desserts
The idea that some idiot is about to settle down, after a hearty meal and fork a mouthful of revenge pudding into his gob may be highly appealing, but that’s not the expression, it’s just deserts. In this case, deserts means “that which a person deserves,” with just deserts being a more righteous version. Granted, there is no other context in which anyone uses the word deserts to mean that, but that is what it means.
6: Ice tea
It’s iced tea. See that rapper Ice-T? Well he’s not only got himself a curiously frou frou name for his street poetry persona, but he didn’t even get the reference right. So much for keeping it real.

7: Wait with baited breath
Another expression that requires specialist understanding of the words involved, without which, any similar-sounding and familiar will (and have been) thrown in there instead. If you’re holding your breath waiting for someone, your ability to breathe has temporarily been abated, so to wait with ‘bated breath means to forgo breathing, not to dangle maggots from your tongue.
8: Deep-seeded
Now, if a thing is buried deep, like a seed, that’s one thing. But that’s not what the expression you’re thinking of means. To have a deep-seated objection, or a deep-seated conviction of any kind, you’re describing something that is not only deep but firmly rooted. In nature, things that are firmly rooted tend not to be seeds any more, so even if the mis-heard version of the saying was correct, it’d be wrong.

9: Anchors away!
Seamen! Seawomen! Do not throw your anchors away. You will need them. But if you want to raise them from the sea bed, so that you can start your journey, your anchor will become a-weigh, meaning its full weight is clear of the bottom. This confusion is one of those things that sounds like it makes more sense when it’s wrong, but doesn’t.

10: A tough road to hoe
Any road would be tough to hoe, what with all that tarmac and concrete. But you don’t hoe roads, you hoe rows.


What can I say? RUE BRITANNIA!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Puppy Love


My namer is Rufus. My Mama is in snow shock. Well, that's what she says. We didn't get all THAT much last night, but she still goes through anxiety. That's because she suffers from “piles”...piles of snow here, piles of snow there...and all the bad memories of shoveling out the driveway, the steps, a poop path in the back yard (a shih tzu has to do what a shih tzu has to do), and the sidewalk at our old house. Oh gods. The sidewalk.

She would take forever doing the front, using the shovel as a cane as well as a snow removal tool, sweating under her wool coat with sinuses running free, until the walk was perfect. She would come in grasping, dragging clods of snow on her pant legs (loved those!) and collapsing on the rocker. She would close her eyes, and breathe easier...until a revolving yellow light reflected off our picture window and we heard a scraping sound. She'd jump up, look out the door, and wail as the township plow covered her work with ice floes dug up from the road. (One year, she finished the walkway and turned back to the house, only to see the plow at the corner just waiting until she went inside. She whipped out her cell phone, took her shovel to the middle of the street, and called the Works Department. “I'm on Laurel Place, starring down one of your plows. I just finished my sidewalk. I'm not doing it twice. Tell your man to back off 'cause if he moves, I move with my industrial shovel, and I'll take out the headlights and windscreen before I'm through.” She hung up and, minutes later, watched the plow back down the street.)

Mama doesn't have to shovel anymore. We live in a senior village now. We have a downstairs co-op, so we don't have to worry about ice dams either, nor does she have to drive to work. Doesn't matter. Snow is still the enemy.

So, with weather stress, and articles to write, and a house to clean, I decided I would do her blog as an early Valentine Day present. I mean, why not. She always says I never give her anything except pee in the bathroom and poo in the hall (along with 9 years of stolen and shredded tissues, paper towels, documents, bills). But, what about unconditional love? What about loyalty? Who ELSE goes with her to the bathroom and guards her underwear every... single... time?

And – ya know – it's not easy being this chick's puppy. I'm scooped up and flung on my back for belly kisses, she's constantly picking eye buggers out of the corners of my lids, and she's manic about dirty hineys. And, by the way, if you don't want toys all over the place STOP BUYING THEM. Hey, I lived almost a year with my groomer with only a buffalo, a rubber cat and a grunting raccoon. I can handle it.
You know, she is always taking photos of me.  Now, she's even trying for naked art shots when I'm asleep.  This has to be illegal in some states, no?


Then, there are the costumes. I mean, when did I sign up for this? Every Samhain, since I was 6 months old, there has been a costume. The first one was a bumble bee. I don't really remember that one, but oh...I remember all the others.

The next year she dressed me as a DAISY. Hello! Just because you had my doctor do that thing with my junk doesn't mean I am now a girl.


Next came the lobster. Really? Do I look that comfortable to you? Just boil me already.


Then came the worse – the dinosaur. OK. This was partly my fault. I kept pawing at the picture of the costume in the sale catalog. Mama wanted me to be a pumpkin. I'm a BOY! I want to be something cool! So, she bought it saying, “You'll be sorry.” I was. How do you pee in that thing? Mama ended up writing a story about it, illustrated by her artist friend Robin Ator.

So, the following year, I had to give in. I was a pumpkin. Oh joy. Oh rapture. (Not raptor; that was the year before).


I don't even understand the next year's costume. Am I fish food? Jonah and the Whale? I couldn't even walk in this get-up.


The last year for costumes was 2011, a few months before Mama got sick. I was a hot dog. FINALLY! Something I understood! Right after the photo, I flung it off and tried to hide it in the back yard.

I know she had plans for this October. She was sitting at the computer at 3am muttering “costumes...costumes...” and then gasped, “Oh my god...PERFECT!” As Dorothy Parker said, “What fresh hell is this?” (Yes. Dorothy Parker. I'm a writer's dog; ya pick up things.) It's enough to make a shih tzu go voodoo.

I tried bribing Mama not to do this any more. Didn't work. Perhaps I shouldn't have taken the money from her Vera Bradley purse in the first place. (If they don't want puppies to get into their wallets they should make the zippers harder to undo.)

When I stop and think about it, life isn't SO bad. I have lots of playthings, fresh water, good food, my own bed and the OK to lie on the sofa and sleep in Mama's bed. It's fun to cuddle and then sleep back to back. Nice and warm...And I have family and friends who love me. I just wish Mama would stop watching those miserable ASPCA commercials. Every time they show a pup with the caption “Why do they beat me?” she cries, grabs me and sobs in my ear “How can anyone DO that?'

I don't KNOW, Ma! For the love of Isis, change the channel and unhand me! I had a good scratch going!

Me and Aunt Claude

All in all, I do love my Mama. She's not the sanest owner in the world, but I run around the coffee table in circles until I'm dizzy, and bark at imaginary enemies under the dryer. What do I know?

Happy Valentine's Day, Mama, and to all of you.

Your friend, Rufus