language

The Three Faces of Ho

Posted on July 16, 2014. Filed under: English, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a meaningless exercise in free association, so don’t expect too much.

Looks like another dry spell in my campaign to improve the attitudes and perceptions of you, the general public.  WAIT A SECOND!  What is that down here in the bottom of my trash can?  Let me un-wad this paper and see what we got.  O-kay…   there!

…it’s the word “ho.”

That’s all — just one word like a single drop of water in an empty desert.  It was part of a thought train a few months ago that passed its station without stopping to take on passengers.  Hmm!  Maybe it has fermented a little, and I can get some squeezing’s from it.  Let’s give it a shot.

Well, mathematically speaking, there is 1(ho), 2(ho), 3(ho), ho+x, x+ho.  X would be a variable like in an algebra formula.*  Ho, by itself, actually has several uses:

  • An attention getter as in “land ho!”
  • Something you throw, as in “heave ho.”
  • A socially derogatory term used either literally or euphemistically for somewhat indiscriminate social behavior, and can be applied to either gender.
  • The symbol for the metallic element holmium (Ho) which has an atomic weight of 67 if your are interested.

Sometimes, a single ho will act…   well…   like a ho…   and consort with unsavory types.  Such as the disrespecting hum:

  • ho-hum (ho+x) = “Oh, really?” or “Am I supposed to believe that?” or “Groan.  That is so boring.”

And those x + ho’s:

  • gung-ho, a trait of insufferable zealot-ism.
  • yo-ho = pirate talk, as in “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”  After a bottle of rum, I would wager that makes perfect sense.
  • heigh ho = a word with identity issues.  Miriam Webster says it is “used to express boredom, weariness or sadness,” while Dictionary.com says it is “used to call attention to or give encouragement.”  So, exactly what were those seven dwarfs** trying to convey?

Twin ho’s — 2(ho) — come in a variety pack:

  • ho ho = identical twins; happy ones, too.
  • oh ho = mirror twins.  They mean:  “What th…?”*** or “Caught you, didn’t I?”
  • Ho Ho = a really sweet couple (it’s a brand name)
  • ho…   ho! = estranged twins;  “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Ho times 3 has only one use:

  • Santa’s standard answer to the seasonal question, “What are you doing in my bedroom?”***

 

I think my station is coming up, so I’m getting off this train.

 

__________________________________

* I could have said algorithm, but, that sounds — erroneously — like I am invoking the Great Father of the internet, Al Gore, whose famous Al Gore ithm, “I created the internet,” was the joke of the 20th century.

** Of Snow White/Walt Disney fame

*** That would be “WTF?!” to those ubiquitous Children of the Thumbs (the texting generation)

 

 

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Conversation With A Chihuahua

Posted on February 28, 2014. Filed under: language, Pets | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Today’s proverbActions speak louder than words.

Your word for the day:

  • language = a communication medium; a bridge between the knowledge of one and the ignorance of another.

I noted the language barrier between our two species (homo domesticus and canis familiaris) in a previous post (Hermit Interrupted).  Time, once again, seems to have modified things a little.  The two little interlopers upon my solitude have figured out a few things about me and have developed a path of communication.  For my part, I figure they just want to eat or go outside…   or not.

For instance, the big dog uses his nose and muzzle in the same manner that we use a hand to tap someone for attention or take their elbow to say, “Come with me.”  A quick nose dob to the leg says, “Hello” while a light muzzle slide across the leg says,  “Hey, didn’t you see me down here?”  When he comes into my room with his mouth open and his tongue hanging out a little and his eyes are sparkling, he wants something.  If I do not get up and follow, I get the muzzle hook behind my calf saying, “C’mon, man, don’t be a jackass.  At least get up and see what I want.”

Almost always, with the big boy, it’s “come with me to the food bowl.”  But, since the bowl is just a few feet from the back door where stinky things often call to him, I can’t be sure.  I always pass the food bowl and open the back door.  It may be cold and rainy, but  I hype the excitement of the great outdoors and then look back for his reaction.  His eyes are looking at me from the tops of their sockets.  Holding that gaze, his butt slowly sinks to the carpet into the sitting position.  I can hear him thinking, “You…   have got…   to be kidding.  How long is it going to take you to figure this out?”  Yeah!  He wants food.  Conversely, if he makes a run at the back door, it’s the stinky things calling to him.

Then, there is the 50-ouncer, the hairy Chihuahua.  He asks for more than a trip outside or a serving of chow.  He has agenda:

  • I want your chair.
  • I want to be in your lap in your chair.
  • I want the other chair you use.
  • Open this door so I can get in this room.
  • It is time to feed me.
  • Daddy, he’s looking at me again!  (That is to tell me the big dog is edging closer to the little one’s bowl so he can muscle in and finish it off.  It is little dog’s way of getting me to scold the big dog.)

Both of them have different dialects for “holie molie what are you eating?  Can I have some, too?  Can I have some, huh?” When little dog is eager and excited for something, big dog exhibits interest but remains silent.  He keeps looking at little dog and me to see what the effect is.  Because big dog knows that little dog is cute to homo domesticus and gets what he wants most of the time, big dog lets little dog to the begging.  Big dog gets to share in whatever little dog negotiated

However, there was one event that went beyond “I am hungry, feed me” and “I’m bored, let me out.”  I think the little one called me stupid.

While in my LIFE IS GOOD pose (feet up, leaning back in my chair, cup of coffee poised to meet my lips, eyes closed in deep reflection) little dog came in all excited.  Right up to my knee he came, making that yelping, whiney noise and tapping my knees with his paws…   standing on his back feet since the top of his head is only about 7 inches from the floor.  My immediate assessment is that he wants up in my lap.  Wrong again, coffee breath.  As I stirred, little dog whirled and hit the doorway all excited.  When I stood, he took off down the hall…   outside, I guessed.  Out in the hall, I saw that he had raced all of 3 feet to the next door.  He was in a slight crouch, nose to the door and glancing up at me.  When that door opened at least 2 inches, he was ready to squirt in.

Small problem:  a house guest is using this room.  Whenever this request is made, I always knock first and wait for a reply before I open the door.  This I did twice with no answer.  Down low, I saw the hairy one rise from his sprint pose and give me a full face look.  Then, in an instant, he shot down the hallway and into the living room.  I followed.  In the living room he had stopped and sat down at the couch and was looking me in the eyes as I entered.  I then asked him if he wanted to go outside and I tried to make that sound exciting.  The dog responded by racing back into the hall and waiting for me at the door he wanted to enter.  I opened the door and he was happy.

This is the conversation that went down:

  • Hey, Doofus, let me in the bedroom next door.
  • Okay, but let me knock so I don’t surprise anyone.
  • Knock, knock.  No answer.  Knock, knock.  No answer.
  • Unbelievable.  Look, Doofus, there is no one in there to answer.  Come to the living room.
  • So,  now you want to go outside?
  • Are you for real?  The kid you think is in the bedroom is asleep here on the couch — you can see him can’t you?  So, quit talking to the stupid door and let me in that room.

If that damned, hairy little creature weren’t so cute, I could hate him…   a lot!

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Hermit Interrupted

Posted on July 5, 2013. Filed under: Humor, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Latin derivative:  hermitus interruptus*

Today’s proverbYou can’t teach an old dog new licks…   tricks…   new tricks.

Your words for the day:

  • broke (3) = as in, “Is it house-broke?”
  • canis familiaris = scientific flim-flam for “domestic dog.”
  • hermit = somebody who chooses to live alone and have little or no social contact (e.g., me)

(Is it just me, or is that a misnomer?  Dogs are tamed wolves, once-, maybe twice-, removed, so, shouldn’t that read “domestic wolf”?)

Did I mention that I am a hermit?  It is not simply that I just up and checked out of social networking.  It is just the way that events, my personal interests, and commitments resolved themselves.  Just call me the film (some might say “scum,” but I hold higher aspirations for myself) floating on top of the stew of life.

Just for fun, here is another definition of HERMIT (MS XP dictionary):  a soft cookie containing molasses, raisins, nuts, and spices.  Change that last word to “spites” and we might have yet another picture of me…   according to me, anyway.

I, personally, have no pets what with being a hermit and all.  Just barely keeping up with myself is quite stressful, and there is just no time for the tedium of picking up after even the likes of a goldfish.

And, yet, in the dark at 3:00 a.m., I trip over 2 canis familiari in the hallway outside MY door, exaggerating my stumbling gait to the porcelain pavilion at the other end…   of the hallway…   a big ‘un and a little ‘un…   dogs, not pavilions.  They are fallout from the life of a very close relative who, retracing the dark path I have previously taken, is reevaluating the meaning of the term “wedded bliss.”  We hermits can, at times, be accommodating to others.

One crab and two dogs.  Could be a fight to the finish.  Odds makers might call the outcome at 50/50, but, I’m hoping to just break even.

In any relationship, communication is of prime importance (e.g., the aforementioned wedded-bliss thing) so, right off we have a big problem:  canis familiari do not speak Latin, English, Russian, nor any other word-based communication code, and, I do not speak bark.  To the best of my knowledge, crabs don’t have much to say, anyhow.  Dumfounded staring is probably not a language either, but, both they and I practice it assiduously.  Judging by the developing impatience from them toward me and me toward them, I don’t think we are communicating effectively.

There are downsides to sharing one’s hermitage, the foremost being that it can no longer be called a hermitage.  Of secondary consideration is that word “sharing.”  One is forced to relive those formative and traumatic years where basic human relation skills were learned (“Don’t be selfish!  Let little Egghead play with your toys.”).

From the dogs’ perspective, they have stumbled into an ogre’s lair.  In their former residence, they slept peacefully in bed with their socially oriented humans.  A hermit sleeps alone, and, when 50 pounds of canine crashes down on his sleeping form, he awakens in the dark amid much vocalizing.  Additionally, the hermitage — really scarce on visitors — will have only one chair that delights the hermit, and the fifty ounce bag of fur tries to claim it whenever he sees it vacant…   sometimes when it is NOT vacant.  But, my oafishness toward their intrusions does not deter them, and, I must resort to keeping my bedroom door shut to preserve my sanctum.  Thus, the night-time stumbling act since the closed door is as close as they can get to me and my chair.

Other downsides to this canine-hermit cohab include the hermit’s unavoidable witnessing of canine self-grooming.  If I had to describe it mathematically, it would be the single word slurr-rrrr-pppp-slurpslurpslurp raised to the power of 10.  That is just the audio; the visuals are equally…   stunning.  Mysterious wet spots on the carpet, sudden applications of wet nose / tongue to surprised skin  surfaces (mine), and…   what is that smell, anyway?

The answer to that is found outside in the back yard.  Dead things, heretofore unknown to me, all over the place.  Frogs.  Birds.  Lizards.  And I hope that is all.  Small dead things hidden under the grass that can’t hide from the 50-pound bloodhound-like nose snuffling like a vacuum cleaner over the grass.  I quit investigating after listening to the crunch of tiny bones being pulverized and found a little bit of the blackened, old cadaver of a frog.  Watching the 50-pounder and the 50-ouncer rolling joyously in something that the Stink Fairy left for them discourages thoughts of closeness.

Bark-bark-bark.  Woof-woof-woof.  BARK-BARK-BARK!**  Oops, I gotta go.  Time to feed the dogs and let them out for a roll.

________________

* I made that up.

** “C’mon, you lazy lout.  Get off you butt and feed us.  We’ve been waiting at least 4 minutes”

_____________________________

Next up:  Do not offend tomorrow

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Arrogance: A Very Human Trait

Posted on February 10, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, language, Religion | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • arrogance = knowledge of one’s superior status
  • expert = a recognized or self-proclaimed know-it-all in a given field (but you may need to ask, “Which field?”
  • god = a being transcendent beyond humanity (a.k.a., expert)
  • AJ = Average Joe;  Average Jane

Just in case you didn’t notice, I sorta dabbled with those definitions.  Please, do not send hate mail to Wikipedia.

We, humanity in all its past incarnations, created language.  I noted somewhere in these articles  that information sharing (the venerable IT Dept) was the greatest of human* inventions.  Knowing how to make fire and passing that knowledge to others was a far greater achievement than just luckily starting a single friendly fire and using it as a one-time marshmallow toaster.  A spoken language was key to that achievement.

Each human is a mirror of humanity’s achievements.  In today’s societies, certain individuals rise above the general population in specific areas:  mathematicians, musicians, political leaders, legalists, investigators, athletes, teachers, medical practitioners, psychologists, astronomers, cosmologists, physicists…   this list could go on and on and still leave out some area of specialization.

Maybe “starter kit” is more apt than “mirror.”  All of these specialists rise from the general population by simply growing into a specialty according to their personal interests or by imposition of circumstance.  In order for that specialist to be recognized as superior in performance, the general population must also have the capacity to grasp that individual’s achievement, and — if so inclined — emulate that overachiever.  Ergo, there is healer, teacher, mathematician, priest, a beggar, a leader, a competitor ad infinitum in each and every one of us.  Because of that innate human capacity, superior achievements of other individuals are recognized and, often, revered.

There are social hazards associated with the ability — or simply the good fortune — to excel, exemplified by proverbs such as “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” ** and terms such as smug, self-aggrandizing, egotistical, god complex, condescending, arrogant…   another list that could go on and on.  This is a two-edged sword.

On the one hand, there is the risk of alienating the general populace, that group providing back-light for your stage performances, and of provoking jealously from other overachievers who want to crowd you out of the limelight.  And, yet, a third group that feeds like buzzards on celebrity status, picking at perceived hot spots to enhance its own standing as self-appointed judge…   and, blabber-mouth.  (Hmmmmm!  Now that is very annoying.  Pardon me while I slip out and preen my feathers.)

On the other hand, the euphoric appeal of such elevated states is what drives individuals to exceed their previous bests, often enhancing humanity’s understanding of self and nature.  Those human traits that cause achievers to turn a deaf ear to criticism and their backs to their humble roots may chaff uncomfortably on some individuals (the jealous and the left behind) while simultaneously advancing the human condition.  If there is one thing we know about Nature, it is that individual comfort takes a back seat to the survival of the group.  Yet, paradoxically, it is that quest for personal comfort that propels the group forward.

KISS.**  Cutting through the rhetoric, societies consist of two parts:  experts and laymen.  (Okay!  A third group, also:  critics.  But, they walk the fence between the other two and could land in either camp.)  Many ignore that the two groups are but two manifestations of a single fluid in flux.  The tendency is to view the ambient social status quo as a firmament defining immutable human interaction, so that the extant hierarchy is the once and future way of things.  In Galileo’s time, the experts to be revered were the ruling religionists;  in the time of the Industrial Revolution, innovators were the revered;  in our time, it is the scientists who rule the expert roost.  Each time the fluid stirs, society is panged by fear of change, loss of roots, confusion, and loss of direction.  The individual, truth be known, prefers the comfort of known truths to that of new, untried truths (the devil we know versus the one we don’t…   blah, blah…)

Experts.  Holier than thou.  Smarter than you.  Superior to you.  Entitled to more than you.  Totally disdainful of AJ and AJ.

Aye.  There’s the rub.

_______________________

*human.  Actually, this should be hominin.  Humans inherited, then refined all of the achievements made by near-humans.  Had to throw that in for the Science Department.

**The Bible (KJV) Proverbs 16:18

***KISS.  Has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.  Keep It Short and Simple.

_______________________

Next up:  Manipulators, puppet masters, trick knees

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English: Split Infinitives and Egos

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: English, grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • infinitive = the word “to” followed by a “verb form” (e.g., to go)
  • split infinitive = an infinitive verb form with an element, usually an adverb, interposed between to and the verb form (e.g., to boldly go)

To improve my smarts before opening my mouth, I went to the web to see what the Great Learned had to say on the subject.  From search results, I clicked on a Yahoo! item which was sponsored by a Yahoo! affiliate Houghton Mifflin.  Since this article defined my subject AND ALSO echoed my rhetoric about the Great Learned‘s LIARS status (LIARS, Feb 24, 2012)…   that’s as far as I researched.  Don’t rock the boat ‘n’ all that.

How luscious.  That article provided two delightful fruits for my cynic’s taste buds:

  • Usage History.  The split infinitive has been around since the 14th century.
  • Ruled out.  The Great Learned gave it a name and condemned its use in the 19th century.

It took 500 years for the Great Learned to get snooty about the argot of the Great Unwashed (i.e., all those ignorant Not Great Learned…   the General Public).  Noting that the claimed impetus for this pre-emptive action was grounded in the Latin usage for the derivative, Mifflin‘s article stated that “English is not Latin” and is premised differently.  The ruling, then, is arbitrary and incorrectly applied.  That appraisal also coincides with my earlier assertions in Why Not Me? Feb 27, 2012.

It is possibly NOT a coincidence that a number of famous writers are cited in the article as being perpetrators of this heinous infarction…   infraction…   heinous infraction of infinitive usage, which really wasn’t an infraction until the Great Learned said that it was…   after considering it for 500 years.

Published writings became widely available and popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, authors who, by and large, were NOT university scholars became the Madonnas and Justin Biebers of then pop-icon-ism (stay with me; I make ’em up as I go).  Until then, it was the educated scholars of recognized universities who were the darlings of media offerings, which, if you don’t count the town crier, was pretty much limited to printed stuff. Distressingly for The Learned, about all this new breed needed to become a published somebody was basic understanding of a written language, some knowledge about the selected subject, and a commercial appeal to make it sellable.  Those works were fiction and human interest, and, as such, not subject to being criticized on procedural or technical grounds. 

The famous authors cited in the Mifflin article delighted in the use of the split infinitive and utilized it to turn a neat phrase and make their offerings more picturesque.  The scholarly Great Learned, who had entered at the ground floor of the university and spent their whole lives making their way upward into the musty attic of the academic ivory tower, were no longer the sole beneficiaries of public adoration.  Disgustingly, they had to share that limelight with upstart, under-educated “writers.”

These Great Learned, basically, had an institutionalized mentality and found it difficult to think “outside the box.”  Eventually, one  of them observed that it was the impressive and descriptive use of English that made the new darlings shine.  So, to redirect the spotlight, the Great Learned cornered a popular and long-lived grammatical construction, labeled it a “split infinitive” and summarily declared it “unacceptable.”  The Great Learned’s new mantra:  “Split infinitive bad;  famous writers not so hot.”

…that would be the same motivation as a toddler banging a metal spoon against a metal pot:  “Look at me; look at me!”

The Mifflin article concludes that split infinitives are fine (and colorful) so long as one does not displace the adverbs; too close to the wrong noun, and, the intended meaning of the sentence can be changed.  With that, I gotta split from this article.

___________________________

Next up:  Puppet Masters?  Knee Jerks?  Arrogance?  Decisions, decisions…

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English: Gerunds, Fantasy, And The Splits

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • gerund = noun formed from a verb (verb + ing) 
  • gerund phrase = the gerund with modifiers
  • if-were = supposition of that which cannot be
  • unwieldy = unmanageable due to size or complexity

Before tackling those split ends, let’s rib a Gulf Coast newspaper that thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  That would be The Houston Chronicle, down in Houston, Texas.  Its issue of January 16, 2013, thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  Section B, page 1, is the site that caught my sight.

In the lower half of the page, there is an article featuring statements from U.S. Senator John Cornyn (Republican Whip, Texas) about the possibility of defaults in federal spending obligations.  This article is credited to Joe Holley of the Chronicle.  So, right off, I point at the article title.

The title Cornyn assures ‘we’re not going to default.’  Double marks are used for a quote; single marks are used for a quote within a quote.  The single marks used in this title get caught up with that apostrophe and give it a real funky look.  And, yet, within the story, double marks are used for direct quotes.  The title of the article just below this one also uses single marks while using double marks in the story itself.  Maybe you guys are using singles in the title to save space, but that doesn’t make it correct.

How ’bout the gerund phrase?  Here, it is exerpted from the sentence:  “…will not allow an impasse over raising the debt ceiling to result in the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations.”  “Defaulting” is the noun; “federal government” identifies the owner of the act of defaulting — possessive case.  That phrase should read:

  • “…result in the federal government’s defaulting on…”

Commas get a little difficult to manage, too.  This sentence, “I will tell you unequivocally, we’re not going to default,” has either l comma too few or 1 comma too many.  As it is, it is a single sentence — not a compound sentence — and needs no comma.  If the word “unequivocally” is being emphasized, there should also be a comma after “you.”

The article below “Cornyn” also has a couple of missteps (according to me).  It is actually a eulogy for a local celebrity, so my nit-picking should not be construed to reflect on him.  This article is the handiwork of that wordsmith, David Barron, also of the Chronicle.  Lets start with the “unwieldy” thing:

  • Brown came to Houston in 1972 to work for Channel 11 but spent the bulk of his 50-year career in television at Channel 13, where he worked from 1972 through 2008, most of that time as a fixture on the station’s “good Morning, Houston” program and on its morning newscasts.

Take a breath.  That was one sentence, one paragraph, and 51 words.  Yes, there are a couple of commas missing from it.

The if-were tandem failed to make the cut in this article.  Right after the 50-word sentence, the paragraph starts, “If there was some way for Doug to bottle his attitude and sell it, he could get rich.”  The author is quoting another eulogy for Brown, but, he should have caught this.  Hypothetical postulations about what can not or did not happen use the if-were tandem.  That sentence should start, “If there were some way…”

These missteps belong to the allegedly PROFFESSIONAL writers and proofreaders presenting this stuff.   If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.*  You EXPERTS want to act superior to the rest of the citizenry, but, you are way too often deficient in the use of the very tool upon which you rely.  You presumptively ridicule, conduct kangaroo courts in your “reporting,” assume holier-than-thou postures, ostracize, humiliate, endanger lives…   I’m going to need a bigger soapbox from which to express my distaste.  If you insist on being society’s judge and teacher, at least FIND THAT DAMN FIDDLE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO PLAY IT!

 _________________________

*A song by the group Alabama (Al Gore’s information highway wouldn’t give the name of the author, but there is a ton of videos for Alabama.)

Next up:  Maybe it will be about that split-infinitive thing

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English: Case Of The Abandoned Preposition

Posted on February 4, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • to = a preposition that sends the action of a verb to an object
  • preposition = a word that is used before a noun (as in pre position)
  • orphaned = bereft of purpose or guidance (crossword creators can make ’em up; so can I)

My C.I. (Clueless Informant):  that same Parade Magazine (Sunday, December 30, 2012) providing grist for my previous post.

Scene of the Crime:  A product advertisement touting…   well…   so far as I could tell, it was touting touts about a book on nutrition  that it was…   well…   touting.  I mean, it was a list of 37 touts about stuff like stopping the aging process, making arteries “smooth and bendy,” and “a stick of gum can save the cost of a day in the hospital.”  No real information.  Just teasers enticing you to get your snake oil…   er…   valuable reference book.  As I perused this recipe for immortality, the poor orphaned “to,” all alone in the midst of many, gained my pity.

  • The sentence of abandonment:  “Breakthrough research reveals you can slow — even reverse — the aging process with certain foods and activities that our bodies respond to with vibrant good health!”

Right off, I will agree that this construction sounds pleasing to the ear and does not seem to possess incongruity.  It is a grammatical format that all of us utilize without hesitation.  BUT…

That poor little “to” wants mightily to point to something.  That is why it exists.  It would point to “foods and activities,” but that other preposition, with, is hogging all of their attention, and, tauntingly, has even corralled “vibrant good health” right under “to’s” nose.  Oh, the pain to must feel.

Fortunately, “to’s” plight can be corrected.  A simple cosmetic procedure on that sentence will salvage little “to” and return it to a full and useful life of pointing.  Voila:

  • “Breakthrough research reveals you can slow — even reverse — the aging process with certain foods and activities to which our bodies respond with vibrant good health!”  (“Which” is a stunt double for foods and activities.)

We speak in the vernacular without giving a lot of thought to grammatical constructions.  Professional wordsmiths, on the other hand, supposedly give every word and gist careful thought.  Experts, at least those well aware of their expert status, irritate me with their better-than-everybody-else airs.  To impress me, PROFESSIONAL WORDSMITHS gotta do better than this.  Hey, you guys might take a peak at Nezza’s work at Hella@Sydney.  Talk about “smooth and bendy.”  Ouch!

Okay!  This is a short posting.  I promised more than I could deliver today.

Next up:  More grammatical finger-pointing.

 

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Panache, Smoke, Mirrors

Posted on May 21, 2012. Filed under: Journalism, language, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Aside from adding federally approved yellowing agents, there are other tactics used by the media to stand out when competing for the same audience with the same offerings (say, like your various news/weather broadcasts):

  1. Panache (old-fashioned showmanship).  Boast that “Our pretty-boy/ -girl has a prettier smile than your pretty-girl/ -boy and can read the teleprompter better than yours.”  Tap dance like Billy Clinton explaining his latest episode of Sex and the Single Girl while juggling the meaning of the word “is.”  SMILE A LOT.  Dazzle ’em with a glitzy studio and eye-catching technology.  Tease them with pointless, but cute, anecdotes.  SMILE A LOT.  Instead of being a fashion dummy’s torso sitting behind a desk, stand up to read the teleprompter in a really cool fashion-model stance so people can tell you ARE wearing pants.  Oh…    and, SMILE A LOT.
  2. Smoke.  Announce up-coming stories with teasers that take up more time than the actual story:  Did the President really say “$#+!%*”?   Will you need your umbrella?   What toddler completed potty training 20 minutes earlier than its peers?   Stay tuned right here ’cause Gregg has your answers at 10:00 P.M.   You get a lot more promise than substance.
  3. Mirrors.  When you got a story, even though irrelevant, with hot buttons (like GAY BAR, ELECTION, BRIBE), run it a dozen times a day, but, have different teleprompter readers read it while sitting or standing in different postures.   If it’s the same schmuck at every reading, have him try to act like he’s really excited on every retelling.

The breaking news ploy.  Oh!  Yeah, there is that:   (l) Live from some helicopter hovering over some disturbance on an interstate somewhere in Timbuktu, or (2) Live from some well-known rehab center where the gardener who works for the third cousin of a big name celebrity‘s chauffeur’s mother is delivering flowers — to whom and what does it mean?  (3)  “SO STAY WITH US AND GET THE TOTAL NEWS.”   Which means that five minutes of loud, obnoxious (if not ludicrous),  paid advertising is coming to your t.v. screen —  NOW!

To their credit, the tabloid genre doesn’t waste time with such inane creativity. They cut the hype and go straight to lurid, suggestive, prurient content with real (you-can-hardly-tell-they-were-photo-shopped) pictures IN COLOR — just in case the giant, outlandish headline didn’t catch your eye — and, a sort-of-story tailored to the photo.

I cannot shake the feeling that much of what the media offers is just illusion, a sop bloated with hidden messages and agendas that I am expected to blindly fulfill.  It is not a new feeling; rather, the same old one that induced my avoidance of newspapers, news programs, et cetera, for the past decade or so.  Embarking on this blog-cruise unavoidably causes me to allow media outlets access to my thought processes.  In remorse, I am wondering…

“Is it too late to jump ship?”

Next up:  It’s not my fault!

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Does The Yellow Ever Go Away?

Posted on May 13, 2012. Filed under: Journalism, language, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Alas, Virginia, no!  And, by “no” I mean “absolutely not.”  I am afraid it’s the “pecking order” thing embedded deep in the genes of all multi-cellular life.  Oh, yeah, you got your goody 2-shoes, reformers of human nature, tolerance, Dr. Phil, Dr. Spock, Dr. Fraud…   Freud…   but, all of that is basically just spittin’ into the wind — you just can’t change a leopard’s spots.  At least, not overnight.  A million years or so of natural selection might do the trick, but, really, who has that kind of time?  Best thing to do is just go with the flow, adapt to it, resign yourself to it, etc…   There will always be a little yellow in every headline-grabbing story.  (Uhmmm, on a personal note, Virginia, you don’t still believe in Santa, do you?)

Marketing.  That’s what they call “yellow” these days.  Like, if it’s playoff time, they media-hype old rivalries or even print stuff that CREATES controversy just to make sales; or, if it’s election time, they play on old phobias and Elysian dreams.  The line-up to identify the current opinion hot button contains the usual suspects:  economy, jobs, taxes, global warming, integrity (we’re talking about politicians here, right?“), improper conduct, family values, lifestyles…   They parade before the editors until someone says, “There!  That one.  That’s the incumbent’s (or challenger’s) Achilles’ heel.”  Then, depending on which runner is favored by the media, the order goes out, “Minimize the importance of that” or “Play it up really big.”

And, by “minimize,” they mean, “Bury it.  The stupid masses needn’t bother themselves with such trivia.”

And, by “play it up,” they mean, “Exaggerate the crap out of it.  Shock and awe the stupid masses into our line of thinking…   and voting.”

I do not mean to imply that main stream publishers and broadcasters are subject to being biased like the rest of us.  If you are having to infer anything from my text, then I am not being so clear as I think I am.  So, just to be sure you get my drift:   ALL MEDIA ARE BIASED, PRONE TO EXAGGERATE THE IMPORTANCE OF THEIR OFFERINGS, AND TAILOR THEIR MESSAGES TO A TARGET AUDIENCE.  Does that make it clearer?  Like Diogenes’ search for an honest man, the search for an unbiased reporter/blatherer can go into serious over-time.

Responsibility and veracity are very important in information transmission.  But, it is the individual recipient who bears full responsibility to test the veracity of information content and its sources.  You have the freedom to either be brainwashed without resistance, or, to demand to see the ingredient notice for the washing solution so you at least have some reading material during the rinse cycle.

Next up:  Panache, smoke, and mirrors

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Yellow Journalism

Posted on May 6, 2012. Filed under: Journalism, language, Piss Ants | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Yellow journalismSensational news-reporting.  A style of journalism that makes unscrupulous use of scandalous, lurid or sensational stories to attract readers.  Media using this style, collectively, are referred to as Yellow Press

Well, the definition speaks for itself.  Out of today’s enormous field of journalistic enterprises, those dealing in “sensation” stand out like a tart at a nuns’ convention.  They are too easy to spot, but, then, it’s not like they’re really trying to hide, since being noticed is the goal.  Today we call them tabloids… celebrity updates… the evening news…

Not just fringe media.  Even the big boys of broadcast lean to the lurid, pretend “news.”  Most recently, down in a big city on the Gulf Coast, there was this hit-and-run thing;  actually, it was an alleged sideswipe of a parked car (not a collision, not a fender bender, not an injury) at low speed in a parking zone as one driver, allegedly, tried to leave a bar.  How many hundreds of those happen every month without making the local evening news? 

But the owner of the scraped car said he saw who did it, and, it was mmffmnfm lxrrmfs, a well-known conservative talk show host.  Hot dog!  NOW, we got some news.

After the story broke, by  golly, we got some bona fide video that (allegedly) places our subject at an establishment in the area.  Look, there he is,  alone, carrying a bottle (beer?) and making his way toward the exit.  That’s all that’s in the video.  Can’t tell which, or what kind of, establishment.  So, all we got so far is a scraped car and a witness who says he saw who did it, video footage apparently showing the named suspect leaving someplace (his only companion a… beer?… bottle) with the time-stamp just before the alleged time of the alleged damage.  Those are the facts, ma’am.

BUT WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  The security footage, according to the voice-over, is said to be from a nearby bar.  Not impressed?  Get this:  it is a bar frequented by GAY persons.  Thus, the moniker “gay bar.”  Every time we (remember?… we…   the stupid masses?) were updated on the “ongoing investigation,”  we also got to hear the term GAY BAR vigorously delivered at least 5 times per update in association with the name of this alleged heinous perpetrator.  Never did  find out if the subject was:  gay, married, a father, a Catholic, agnostic, football fan, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, evolutionist, a brother, an Elk, marathon runner, vegetarian, or even if he was hungry a lot.  Any and all of those  are as relevant to the alleged property damage as the fact that there was a gay bar nearby.  Not relevant, but, by golly, loudly proclaiming GAY BAR just had to keep audiences glued to the television.  It must have been the first high for those ALLEGED reporters since they got to say “penis” over and over some years ago on the morning, afternoon , and evening news hours.

Remember cars rigged by a documentary producer to explode when impacted by another vehicle to “prove” car manufacturer negligence?  How about the super market chain selling out-of-date meats, only, it was the “reporter” who switched labels on the packaging?  [Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”   -Sir Walter Scot]

Next:  Does the yellow ever go away?

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