Thursday, April 27, 2017

Life rolls on, and we note it as it does.

       I opened the door of our bedroom this morning to allow Connie more easily to steer herself and her new rollator out to the hallway and into the living area of our house.  Connie is speedy once she gets going.

       I told her, "I feel like I'm letting the bulls into the lists."

       She laughed.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I think this must be a rare compliment

       "You've always made me feel safe," Connie said to me recently.

       I told her that made me feel very good.

       It does.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Oh, Don, that's too much; or is it just right?

       Connie does like having an orange and a half each morning, and her helpers and I feel obliged and sort of honored to present them to her in neatly cut portions circled around a plate.

       When Connie said to me, "No one does that as perfectly as you,"  I said, "Everyone loves beautiful order; otherwise I'd accuse them of being anti-symmetric."

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

For this twister we ask elephants' forgiveness.

       Lo and behold, returning with a single tongue twister to my blogly rounds, I immediately came across a truly malevolent one in an L.A. Times article about a local acting class.  One of the teacher's favorites to get her students' lips and teeth and tongues going with precisely articulated syllables (hmm, that's not a bad one itself) is a twister I had never run into before:

       "eleven malevolent elephants"

       Have a try on that, friends, and you too might take the stage and achieve Hamlet's advice to speak the speech "trippingly on the tongue."

       I personally fell acropper several times before I even got one out right.  For this baby, speed may come only after slow tries and then, possibly moderate ones?


Monday, April 3, 2017

"Honestly, officer, it wasn't the wine that made it hard to talk."

       Reading our new dishwasher manual, I discovered we had a special plastic gizmo to hold and keep wine glasses from breaking while neatly cleaning out vestiges of wine in the glasses' inner recess.

       Even better, it brought me an irresistible tongue twister:

             "stem safe shelf"
       Five times fast?  Three times?  Even two?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

"Untenable, Inescapable, Irreplaceable"

       Charles Mc Nulty's review of Long Day's Journey into Night recently in the L.A. Times used three uncanny words to characterize the heartwracking, entangled life of that play--about author  Eugene O'Neill's own family.

       Speaking of the relationships amongst Eugene, his mother, his father, his older brother, which the play is at pains to draw upon, McNulty says they are "untenable, inescapable, irreplaceable."

       Those words could not be better chosen or more accurate, as Connie and I recall so distinctly from our witnessing of the play almost 60 years ago on Broadway. 

       McNulty's words all begin with negative prefixes, but each suggests the terribly vital part nuclear family relationships play in every person's life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I'm with you, Chase!

       I don't think I was the only one who had an emotional twinge February 11th to read on front page of the L.A. Times Sports section in a  little side capsule:

       Utley re-signs 
       with Dodgers

       Before I saw that as a positive thing I would very much want to learn about a big fan favorite, I read it with pangs and a small heart-drop.  Did Chase Utley "resign"?!  Oh, no.  Finally the other possibility clicked in:  did Utley re-sign a contract with the Dodgers for another year?  The story on page 7 made it clear that he'd be back.  Yippee!!

       "Re-sign"?  "Resign"?  Don't play with my heartstrings!  Those words (if there is such a word as "re-sign"), are too close to kid around with.


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Kind of Magazine

I really don't think I thought any of this stuff was sexy in school.  I just was intrigued!

In "Hollywood" Everyone Has a Calling Card

       A kind of calling or publicity card with a photograph of the dentists was available for pickup at Connie and my dentist's office today.

       I picked one up.  A square, shiny card with all the pertinent information, and this smiley, sunny day outdoor, suit-and-tie, color photograph of the dentists.

       Only one thing curlicued my eyebrows a bit--this phrase--"emergencies welcome."

       Oh, I guess I know what they intended.  But isn't that a little too eager and crass sounding?  Smacks of another professional breed, doesn't it, certain lawyers given to ambulance chasing?  

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

No Way to Pronounce This Restaurant Confidently

       "Shogun Sushi."  "Shogun Sushi."

       Especially if you say it with alacrity:

       "Shogun Sushi Shogun Sushi Shogun Sushi"

It's those "easy" Tongue Twisters again.  Does the vowel have an "h" in front of it or not?!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Quadrant? AN Octant? Wait a Minute.

       "Have a quadrant or an octant," I said to Connie, bringing her 12 equal portions of her morning orange and a half.

       She laughed.  I said, "Or would Khan approve?"

       Connie's been studying fractions online at the Khan Academy, which is available to all to teach arithmetic and math, apparently very effectively.

       I had just cut those slices myself and came up with what they were:  the 8 parts of the whole orange and the 4 parts of a half orange--hence in my mind and language usage, octants and quadrants.

        Connie got it and was amused at my putting fractions to practical application and immediately began figuring out what the fractions really were. . .

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Take a Leap; the Vacuum is Fine

       So many outlandish things are appearing in the newspaper with Trump, and so much is he associated with and approving of world-wide business transactions, that I guess I wasn't shocked and even willing to believe the lead headline in the L.A. Times Business section on January 10th, 2017:


       Interplanetary dealing?!

       No, it's just the YUGE candy bar, etc., company I remember from my youth:  Mars, Inc.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"Do Make It a Good Day"

       There's a department at Kaiser Permanente which leaves a phone message to remind you of an upcoming appointment.   The nurse always ends with the same few words:

       "Do make it a good day."

       That stops/me/in/my/tracks/.  How different from just "Have a good day."
       Both sentences are imperative with an implied "you" as the subject, but "Have a good day" rings for me as "(I hope you experience) a good day."  "Make," however, with its auxiliary verb "do," creates a special message and emphasis:

       "Oops!  This "good day" is up to me?   I can cause it to happen??  Indeed, that's the only way it will???"

        That message helps me turn my day in a better direction, and I don't see how it wouldn't for anybody.   

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Mapping" the Body in Song Lyrics

       Listening to great old songs on radio.
       In "All of You,"  Cole Porter has a guy declaring the many beautiful parts of his girl friend.  The line that struck me was "The East, West, North, and the South of you."  I thought that's brilliant, but I hadn't heard what went before.

       On the Web I found the line preceding was "The eyes, the arms, the mouth of you."  "Mouth" didn't sound quite right . . . except to rhyme with the wonderful line that followed.

        Porter could have written "breasts" in the preceding line.  Then he'd have "The North, South, East, and the West of you," a more pedestrian order, and "breasts" probably was unpublishable in a song at the time.

       Besides, the South is the most interesting "part of you" he could name.  Save it for last!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Corruption, Mr. Hashtag.

       When our home phone wasn't working and I needed to be in touch with a person, my son texted me to call the person from my smart phone and tell him to use "that #" if he wanted to reach me.

        I texted my son back, thanked him, and then texted:  "Everything gets corrupted.  Even the lowly sign for number or pound I almost mistook at first in your message for #."

       What happened here was I spoke that text into my smartphone, said the word "hashtag," and the smart phone converted it into the hashtag symbol, which in my "lexicon" should be the symbol for "number" or for "pound."

       Corruption.  Corruption everywhere, Mr. Hashtag. 
       And forgive me for forgetting "tictactoe"  # !


Saturday, January 28, 2017


       A sign said,  "Get your movie ticket at a kiosk"; I knew then the word's meaning continues to evolve.  Here is the American Heritage Dictionary's "romantic" history:

       The word kiosk was taken into English ultimately from Turkish, in which its source kosk meant "pavilion."  The open structures referred to by the Turkish were used as pavilions and summerhouses.
The first recorded use of kiosk in English (1625) designates these Middle Eastern structures, which Europeans imitated in gardens and parks.

       In France and Belgium, their word kiosque was applied to something lower on the scale, structures resembling  pavilions but used as places to sell newspapers or as bandstands.

       England borrowed this lowly structure from France, then reborrowed the word, first seen in 1865 referring to a place where newspapers are sold. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


       There were women's marches all over the country and world last Saturday, January 21st,  2017, the day after our inauguration, including in Washington and Los Angeles.

       Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez was in Washington and recalled some of the printable signs he saw in the march:

       "We Shall Overcomb"

       "Did You Remember to Set Your Clocks Back 60 Years Last Night?"

       "Think Outside My Box"

       "IKEA Has Better Cabinets"

       My favorite from the sign-beladen Los Angeles march as captured in a great photograph by Francine Orr of the hundreds of thousands in the crowd: 

  WE MARCH               

       IS REAL


Relax, Sit Back, Shut Up!

       The male voice at the Pacific Theatres at the beginning of the actual feature, nice voice, but always says with a very authoritative sort of manner . . ."Please refrain from talking."

        Not only authoritative, a little imperious and final sounding.  I always want to react to it vocally, but I can't think of anything perfect to squelch the guy, who, being recorded, couldn't hear me anyway, but it might amuse or find agreement in other patrons of the theater the same night or day that I'm there. 

       This ordering us around in a place we've come to enjoy a movie, which might include a little talkback from time to time to what's going on on the screen . . .deserves a rejoinder and a putdown! 

       Any ideas appreciated.  

Friday, January 20, 2017

Maybe the Treasury only Speaks in $$$

       You don't like to catch a nominee for Treasury Secretary in a Trump administration sounding not literate at a Senate hearing, (regardless of his other qualifications or disqualifications).

       Reading from his own manuscript in front of him on the table, reading what he says are accusations made against him, he reads his response: "Nothing could be further than the truth."  You do have to wonder, wonder even MORE, maybe even MUCH more, about Steven Mnuchin.

       OK, this is not a political blog, it's a blog about language, but.  That kind of mistake, whether of the tongue or the page or the mind, does lead you to think, "Do I detect a confessional in that wording?"

        (He's also put himself in double jeopardy, first using a cliché, and then ruining it.)

Fascination with Language Knows No Limits

       Discussing Job in the Old Testament the other day in class.  Someone brought up Joe Biden as a good example of someone like Job.  Horrible things happening, wife and child killed in an automobile accident, later in life an adult son dying.  Yet he's gone on, somehow managing to accept.

       It's bad how lighter thoughts can come to us (OK, at least to me) when contemplating serious matters.  I didn't say it, but fortunately only because someone else beat me out by a fraction of a second with a serious idea.

       "Joe Biden is perfect to think of in comparison with Job.  After all, his name is Job  iden." 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

An Inundation of Senate Hearings

       Warren Olney, host of radio's "To the Point" show, today mentioned "a new climate" in Washington.  He was speaking generally but also in particular about attitudes toward the Environmental Protection Agency.

        Interesting that the new climate may be one you could call "a climate change" compared to all previous administrations.  But Trump especially questions the existence of "climate change."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Letters Are Just Pawns for Word Building

       Having saved my son the reading of my just previous blog post by reading it aloud to him myself, he reported to me that the following item had come across to him on the internet from someone:

       An anagram of "Inauguration Day" is "GAUDY URINATION."

        Of course nothing to do with what may or may not have happened in a hotel room and was or was not filmed by the Russians several years back.


Inaugural Weak?

       A lot of people note
       His behavior is unprecedented.
       That's why they dream
       This week he'll be unpresidented.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Maybe an Argument for Stage Names?

      It's amazing how much I am dependent on the visual in order to remember, spell, pronounce, even identify names. 

       A certain broadcaster on KCRW-FM says his name at the beginning of every stint on the air, and for years I have never been able to quite grasp it.

       Today I saw it in print for the first time!  I had thought it must be something like "Cheesecake" because that was the closest I could make it out to be orally.

       But before my eyes were syllables I had never seen together in one word:   Chiotakis.  Maybe that's why I have been unable to repeat it even after I've heard it on the air dozens and dozens of times.

       I needed to see it before I could say it, and now remember it:  Steve Chiotakis.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Images Convey What's Nonverbal

       (Please see yesterday's post.)  Huston Smith's obituary in the L.A.Times, following his passing two weeks ago, revealed that Smith's friendship with Aldous Huxley led to Timothy Leary and to experimenting with mescaline.

       Smith later compared his first time drug-induced mystical vision to "plugging a toaster into a power line."  He also said he now understood the Bible's claim that no one could see God and live.

       Though he tried hallucinogens again, he soon gave them up.  Smith wrote in his memoir, "As Ram Dass told me, 'After you get the message, hang up.'"

       Once again the richness and vitality of imagery, metaphor and simile,  expresses the felt meaning of powerful experience.  Emotional states naturally channel us toward the nonverbal to get "what it's like" across.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"Religion Gives Traction to Spirituality"

       That phrase was said by great experiential scholar of religions Huston Smith, who died December 30th.

       When Smith's book The Religions of Man came out in 1958, he illuminated each religion so beautifully, I remember asking someone, "Yes, but what religion is Huston Smith?"  "Oh, his religion is comparative religions."  The obituary even mentions:  "He was sometimes referred to as a 'spiritual surfer.'"

       Smith lived another 58 years after that book came out, and the statement my blog title quotes was made in 1999.  Smith was raised in and remained an active member of the United Methodist Church.

       Language turns to imagery to convey experiential truths.  Putting the "traction" quote another way, Smith said, "If you are looking for water, it is better to drill one 60-foot well than ten 6-foot wells."


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Name by Any Other Name Would . . .

       It's Hollywood awards season, AND, I had a slightly bothersome bodily dysfunction.  Otherwise, I probably never would have noticed this coincidental naming curiosity.

          MIRAMAX, a distinguished film company, and

          MIRALAX, a very effective osmotic laxative

       I'm  imagining the first company not liking my taking notice of the identity of the two names except for one letter, and the second company probably not giving a ____.

More Eggsactly to the Point

       For some reason, our son has left a few things in our refrigerator.  One of them is a jar of  "Spectrum Organic Mayonnaise." 

       What caught my eye especially is the next line on the jar:  "Made with cage free eggs."

       Now I've seen those factory egg-producing "farms," in which thousands of birds are caged, and when an egg comes forth, it rolls down a slide or tube into a receptacle for human pickup out of the chicken's reach.

       Though it's true such eggs are in a caged situation,  I wouldn't say that the eggs are caged.  What's truer is that the chickens are caged.

       And what's wanted, what's more desirable for all parties involved, and worth bragging about on a jar of mayonnaise, is "cage free chickens."

       "Made with eggs from cage free chickens."

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Tact and Truth: In a Word

       Connie and I have talked about weight gain and loss lately, which reminded me that no one likes to be called "fat," and I remembered a certain incident. 

       Cousin Norbert was visiting our family's house, and my dad hadn't seen him for several months.  Norbert, about 40 at that time, reached out to shake my dad's hand.  In his eighties, Dad took it and stared a bit at Norbert.  "You're looking  . . . stocky," he said.  Norbert had gained some around the middle.  This struck Norbert and his wife Shirley so funny, they laughed at the way Dad put it.

       No, he didn't say "fat."  But "stocky" was a pretty good euphemism.   I overheard it and chuckled at Dad's ingenuity.

       "Stocky":  "compact, sturdy, relatively thick in build"  (Merriam-Webster).  I'd say Dad hit it on the nose.   

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"Foist" and Foremost

       My last post didn't say as much as I wanted (or needed) to.

       Merriam-Webster re meaning of "foist": "to introduce or insert surreptitiously or without warrant," or, "to force another to accept especially by stealth or deceit."

       An example:  "They foisted a new system on us without any warning or preparation."

       (I understand the word better now myself.)

       All my sources say it came from Middle Dutch vuyst "fist" and is akin to Old English fyst.  But when you think about it (or listen to it), it's easy to wonder if "foist" isn't a distortion of "forced."

       Yet the image "fist" certainly stands plausibly as the actual etymology. 

"Who's on Foist?"

       I was struck with the word "foist."  Strange word.  "Fast," "fist," and "first" are all a lot easier to say.  Coming off the [f] sound with upper teeth on lower lip, one has to (for "foist") purse the same lip to utter the [AWih] sound, then back to straight-lipped [st].  It wrenches the organs of speech within a single syllable.

       Then I thought of "hoist," which at least begins with the mouth open for [h], and that reminded me of "hoist with his own petar'," which I learned from a fellow draftee in the Korean War who one-upped me with my not knowing it, and I'll point you here.

       Finally I thought of "Who's on foist?" the old Abbott and Costello routine, which has stuck around somehow in the ether of my mind.



Wednesday, January 4, 2017

At That "Point in Time"

       At that "point in time" was an expression used by the coterie around President Nixon who appeared before Congress during Watergate.   Both John Ciardi* and I wondered about that.  The phrase is self-contradictory.

       Can you have a "point" in "time"?

       "The shortest distance between two points is a straight line."  Points exist in space, not time.  You can pinpoint a location.  Time flows, it's fluid.  "You can never step into the same river twice" (Heraclitus), you will never experience the same moment again.

       Maybe some of those moments for Nixon, Ron Ziegler press secretary, others, were frozen in time.  The pincers of "Who knew what, and when did they know it?" re the Watergate break-in began to "pierce" the White House.  "Moments" became "pointed" (influenced the language), drew blood, felled a president.

       *in A Third Browser's Dictionary, The Arkadine Press, 1998 (originally published as Good Words to You) 



Monday, January 2, 2017

Facing Time!

       David texted me the other night from Santa Monica as follows:  "We should face time!"

       Wow.  I felt like a prisoner on death row.  Is execution nigh!

       No, it was because this was New Year's Eve.  My son wanted to use Apple's FaceTime so we could see each other and talk.  But yes, we are "facing time" with that.  A fresh year would be upon us in three hours.  

       So why not?  We did.  Maybe only 30 miles between us, but just as good as "televising" ["distance seeing"] across country.

       Connie didn't even move, but that didn't prevent her from being included.  I turned the camera a few inches, and she too, doing a jigsaw puzzle, found herself Facing Time. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Wise Saws and Modern Instances"*

       I came up with a bon mot or "wise saw" last week when I heard grandson Micah responding to his mother's question whether or not he was going to choose to do something.  The restaurant we were in was so noisy I couldn't make out exactly what it was.

       Micah thought a second or two before responding.  I was expecting to hear a yes or no; what I heard was, "I don't know."

       Thinking he might not be comfortable giving an indefinite answer, and remembering I was once his age, I said, in defense of a 15 year old's rights, "To not know is also to know your mind."

       Michael, the other grandpa at the table, smiled and assented to my gnomic wisdom.

       Our grandson, I think, felt supported.  We grandpas had done our job.

       *Jaques in As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7 ("All the World's a Stage")

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Micah, Meet Micah

       Grandson Micah was in town before the first night of Chanukah.  We lit the first candle, of course, Micah saying the prayer over the light along with Connie and our daughter Elizabeth.

       Since Micah's 15 now, I thought I would tell him my favorite quote in the Bible from Micah the prophet, I reminded him, for whom he's named.  I made a kind of greeting card out of it with the quote clearly typed and which he could take with him--

       What the Lord requires of you:
       Only to do justice
       And to love goodness,
       And to walk modestly with your God.

       It appeared Micah was touched after reading it, and gave me a very big hug, which was returned.  He has been becoming an adult in several encouraging ways in the last two years, and somehow this felt to me like a seal upon it. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Apple Incorporated's Advanced Knowledge

       For some reason, my iPhone, with its new System 10, has felt compelled to tell me that on Tuesday, December 27th, this day, there are

       "No Upcoming Events, Reminders, or Alarms."

       You cannot realize how warm and wonderful I felt to see those words.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Who's the Animal NOW?

       Where would we and our language be without animals to compare our behavior to?

       Somebody's playing "possum" because a possum can appear dead and then all of a sudden become very active instantly!  Sloths hang upside down by their claws and remain inert for a long time--hence certain people are "slothful."

       Ferrets are great little hunters, as of rabbits; so humans "ferret out" things.  Someone who likes to repeat whatever he's just heard is "parroting."

       Why do we say a woman has cuckolded her husband when she has an affair outside the marriage?  Because the female cuckoo frequently lays her eggs in other birds' nests.

       So don't be too "cocky" about our animal friends; we humble ourselves when we choose their behavior to name our own.