Tag Archives: words

Ignore a Moose

Hi Everyone!

The Cracker Barrel where my family frequently eats dinner is tucked within an enclave of four or five family priced hotels, which means, depending on the season and tournament, we might be dining besides a junior high soccer team, a high school baseball team or an elementary school cheerleading squad.  On our way there Friday, we passed a man wearing a t-shirt with the slogan “Coach” printed on the front.  Mark made a comment about the man being a sports fan, and Kayla announced from the back that “Radiostiping is wrong.”  Both of us stared at her blankly for a few seconds (somewhat dangerous on Mark’s part, since he was driving), and then I realized that she meant “stereotyping.”

Once we got to Cracker Barrel, Kayla started playing that peg game that drives me crazy because I can only get one peg left once every ten or so times.  Suddenly she announced that “I am mumble mumble ignore a moose.”  My hearing is not what it once was, although I can’t get any ear doctor to agree with me, so I have learned that rather than continually ask “What did you say?” sometimes repeating what I thought I heard gets a better response.  Accordingly, I exclaimed “You’re going to ignore a moose!”

She shook her head.  “No, I don’t want to be an ignore a moose.”  That’s when we realized that she was trying to pronounce “ignoramus.”

Today, on my way to lunch, I saw that the local KFC’s advertising sign board had changed.  It now asks me to try its new “baked beans and lemonade.”  Without meaning to radiostipe, I believe I would be an ignore-a-moose to try a dish made with such an awkward combination of ingredients!

Have a great day!


Maternity Fraternity

Good morning Everyone!

Copyright Protected by www.clickartonline.com.  Used with Permission.

Copyright Protected by http://www.clickartonline.com. Used with Permission.

We were driving around a shopping center this weekend to find an American Eagle Outfitter – Kayla had thirty dollars burning a hole in her pocket.  On our way to the store, Kayla suddenly piped up with “Gee, they must be really big to have one of those!  I didn’t know they had a college here!”

Mark and I asked together,” One of those what?”

She said,” You know, one of those places where college boys get together and have parties. ”

We were dumbfounded for about 5 seconds until light broke through our befuddlement.

We then took a few minutes to explain that the difference between the words “maternity” and “fraternity” was more than just spelling.

Maternity.  Copyright Protected by www.clickartonline.com.  Used with Permission.

Maternity. Copyright Protected by http://www.clickartonline.com. Used with Permission.

Have a great day!


Actually At Risk

Good morning Everyone!

Somewhere over the course of the last ten years or so, two phrases have steadily infiltrated American English to the point that they are becoming seriously irritating to me. especially when I hear them used by people on TV.  Those two phrases?  “Actually” and “at risk.”

“At risk” is a phrase promoted by the 24 hour news media crowd – after all, “Your child is at risk for measles” sounds exponentially more urgent than “one out of 1000 children catch measles each year.”  (None of the children in the United States should catch measles; they should be vaccinated against them instead.)  If I am told I am at risk for heart disease, flu or just catching a cold, I am instantly more concerned than if I am told that there is merely a chance that I could develop or catch the same thing.   What the people using that phrase don’t mention is that I am also at risk for winning the lottery, flying to the moon and winning the Nobel Peace Prize – but I’m not holding my breath for any of those things to happen soon, either!

“Actually” has become an overused meaningless filler word.  Most of the time, I hear “actually” in sentences such as “I actually went to the store and bought groceries.”  Well, yes, I assumed you did “actually” go to the store; I didn’t think you sent your evil twin instead.  I suppose there is the argument that “actually” is meant to indicate personal presence as opposed to “virtual” which would indicate that a person viewed or did something by computer, but most of the people who use the word interminably are not trying to be that precise.  I think people use “actually” now much in the way we used to say “ummm…” when we didn’t know what to say.  I think it’s time we stopped “actually” doing things, and simply started  doing them, but then that’s just me.

I, of course, catch myself using both phrases far too often

Because I am actually at risk for having to go to work today, I better close for now.

If you have any pet vocabulary or grammar peeves, I’d love to hear about them!

Here’s hoping that all of you are actually at risk for having a great day today!


Sometimes You Can’t Help Laughing….

Good morning!

We had to go to a funeral this week. Kayla has been to funerals before, but with the exception of the funerals for my grandparents, she had not been to a graveside service. I truly love my little girl’s sweet spirit – she informed me that she HAD to go to the funeral to show her support to the family members involved.

At 12, she amazes me by how alert and observant she is. After the funeral, as we were driving out of the cemetery, she looked over and saw a plot with three headstones. In the center was the name “Ferguson”; on the right, a stone with the name “Head” and on the left, a stone named “Gardner.” When she saw those, she was quiet, thinking for a minute, and then she said, “Those Ferguson people are showing off!” When we asked her why, she told us, “Not only did they bury themselves there, but they buried the head of their mansion and their gardener with them!”

Sometimes you just can’t help laughing!

P.S. Ferguson was not, of course, the real name on the center stone; I changed it to avoid unwittingly distressing someone else.

Words, Urns and Shotgun Shells

Good morning Everyone!

Mandy, Our Husky-Basset Hound Mix

I begin this morning with a plea for help – someone (probably from Britain, since they use the word “mum” for “mom”) has been searching my blog the last few days for information on husky-basset hound crosses.  Please, please, please whoever you are, put me out of my misery and tell me why you want to know!  I’ve already been fortunate enough to “talk” to another dog owner who has a husky-basset hound cross, Neda, who owns Sawyer and would love to add to that number!

Frosted Flakes

Frosted Flakes Box

I went grocery shopping Sunday night, and had only two things on my list – napkins and Frosted Flakes.  True to character, i.e., The Perils of Absent-Mindedness, I came out of Winn-Dixie with two different types of roast, four instant packages of rice, a large number of apples, three types of ice cream, Italian bread, spaghetti, Ragu sauce, apple sauce and canned green beans along with various other items – but had bought neither napkins nor Frosted Flakes.  I didn’t have the heart to go back for them either, so I guess we will live without napkins or Frosted Flakes this week.

Flip Flops

The results of Monday’s poll are in, and by a score of 3 to 1, you have declared that it is, in fact, evil to put peanut butter on your daughter’s flip-flops if they are left out under the sofa to encourage the dogs to destroy them.  There were also two “other” votes, but unfortunately the poll did not save the word with “other.”  If those of you who voted “other” have time, please leave a comment letting me know what your “other” word was.  However, alas, based on the vote, Kayla’s flip-flops are safe.  And it was such a fun idea to fantasize about!



Yesterday, I learned that it is not only my daughter that can make funny mistakes when it comes to words.  My art teacher is going to have her gallbladder out, and while I was at my lesson, she and I were joking about what she would do while she was “incapacitated.”  A high school age student, also in the room, looked up in horror and asked, “Isn’t that when they sever your head?”  I swallowed a laugh (I’m getting very good at it), and said, straight-faced, “No, that’s decapitated.”

Grecian Urn

In the “that can’t be true but unfortunately it is” range of stories, I came across the oddest advertisement on the internet yesterday.  A company called lifegems.com advertised that it would create a “certified diamond” in the lab from the “ashes/carbon” of “your loved one.”  Cremation is, in fact, used more and more often, but really, folks, somehow the idea of wearing Aunt Bessie’s remains in a diamond eternity ring is NOT appealing to me.

Of course, this company is not the only free enterprise seeking to find a good use for cremated remains.  I heard on the radio a couple of months ago about a little company here in Alabama that two men have started where they will, if you so desire, take cremated remains and use them in shotgun shells.   This being the South, the radio news team found Billy Bob from Nowhere, Alabama to interview about the idea, and Billy Bob proclaimed that he could rest easier knowing that he would be used after death to bring down a five point buck!  Only in Alabama.

And on that macabre note, I wish each of you a good weekend!


Speaking Southern

Good morning Everyone!

The subject of speaking Southern came up in our house a couple of days ago because we addressed Tyra by one of her nicknames, Tyra Belle.  According to Webster’s, the word “bell” is a single syllable, but anyone down here in the South is aware that if spoken correctly, “bell” consists of two syllables “be-ell.”  However, it is possible, if speaking extreme Southern, to stretch the word out into three syllables – “be-uh-ell.”  We know this because we heard Kayla do exactly that.  This lengthening of words is one reason why the Southern American accent is also known as the Southern drawl.

Southern American English is spoken generally by natives in parts of Virginia, all of West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, the northern part of Florida, including the panhandle (the panhandle is also known here as “L.A.”, standing for “lower Alabama,” although I haven’t heard the phrase for a while), Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and probably Oklahoma.  I say probably Oklahoma because I haven’t had the chance to spend any time in the state.  As a general rule, neither Maryland nor Delaware natives have a Southern accent, even though they are technically below the Mason-Dixon line.

There are many regional variations, of course, and I lack the phonetics background to begin to describe them.  However, to give you a sense of the historic precedents involved in at least some variations, I will mention the Louisiana Cajun accent, one of the most distinctive Southern English variations.  The Cajun accent comes from people who are native to areas where the descendants of French Canadians who emigrated to Louisiana after England took over Canada sometime in the 1600 or 1700’s still live today.

All Southern English dialects are spoken slowly.  We don’t care to rush our words, partly because we generally feel that what we are saying is worth listening to and partly because at 98 degrees outside with 100% humidity, it’s just too hot to do anything quickly.

Another characteristic of Southern American English is the pronunciation of words like “you” – phonetically, it would sound like “yew” or rhyme with “chew.”  I think this was designed by God to teach all church music ministers in this area of the country humility – rare is the church concert indeed where at least one “yew” doesn’t slip through the cracks into the singing somewhere.

Southern American English is best known for its use of the word “y’all.”  “Y’all” is a contraction of the words “you all” and can be thought of as the second person plural.  Before those of you in other areas of the country start laughing at the use of the word “y’all,” you should perhaps stop and reflect upon whether “y’all” doesn’t sound a bit better than other variations from other regions, such as “you’s guys.”  Besides, it avoids our having to use “yew” too very often in normal conversation.

Southern American English also is known for its use of colorful colloquialisms.  The best colorful colloquialisms I have heard have been from a friend raised in Texas, and of course at this moment (5:51 a.m.) all of them have fled my mind.  One region wide expression worth sharing is “even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.”  This expression is used to describe the surprising success of an individual in a field of endeavor that he or she has little experience in (or is just plain rotten at.)

Regional colloquialisms abound as well.  In the areas of North Carolina where my husband and I lived when we were first married, children “trimmed” their pencils instead of sharpening them (although we still sharpen them here in Alabama) and if they missed the bus, they had been “bus left.”  In Alabama, if we are getting ready to go somewhere or do something, we might also say that we are “fixin’ to” do it, as in “I am fixin’ to have some ice cream.  Would y’all like some too?” Some of us “carry” people places, rather than drive them there.  I use “fixin’ to” and  “y’all” frequently, but haven’t picked up “carry” for driving yet.

Native Southern American English speakers can spot a non-native speaker a mile away.  This fact creates a great deal of frustration on the part of the South when actors try to manufacture a Southern accent without truly doing their homework.  There are movies Mark and I have cringed through due to the butchering of a Southern accent.  On the other hand, it is a real pleasure to listen to the accent when an actor gets it right.  One of the best Southern accents I have heard from a movie actor was Kevin Spacey’s accent in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

I am not a native Southern American English speaker, although I have been progressively learning it for over 31 years now.  Anyone from any other region of the country would peg me as Southern, but as recently as two months ago, someone asked me, “You’re not from around here, are you?” because of the way I speak.  (Note:  To be “from around” a place translates to being born and bred at that place.) It was the first time in years someone had said that to me, but even so, he was exactly right.

From the most educated parts of our population down to the least educated parts of the population, we all speak a version of Southern American English.  In the South, we have an unfortunate predilection for displaying our least educated members on television or in the news, so the rest of you haven’t yet seen our college professors and rocket scientists who speak Southern, giving you a warped vision of what Southern American English can be.  And yes, we do have rocket scientists here in the Deep South, particularly in Huntsville, Alabama and Houston, Texas, where extensive NASA facilities are located.

One nice feature in Southern English is the phrase “bless her [or his] heart.”  You can get away with saying anything about anyone else as long as you say it in a gently compassionate voice, with a smile, and include the statement “bless his heart” somewhere in the sentence.  For example, the statement, “Bless his heart, John Smith is crazy as a loon,” is perfectly acceptable and taken as an expression of concern rather than derogation.

If you haven’t had the chance to spend some time down here, I strongly urge you to do so.  A week or two among the people of the South would be good for everyone in other areas of the country, both to give you a true sense of who we are, and to simply enjoy the different sounds of speech around you.  (The same is true for us in the South; it’s good for us to visit y’all, too.)  And, when you get ready to leave, don’t be surprised if someone says, “Y’all come back, you hear!”

Have a great day everyone!



Good morning everyone!

Quill Pen

Between my job as a lawyer, my writing here, e-mails, that wonderful, terrible, addictive game, Words With Friends, and some other writing that I do, I usually write a great many words in one day.  In the course of doing so, every once in a while a word will strike me as strange, and yesterday, it was the word “pants” which started me wondering – why is the word “pants” plural?  For that matter, why are most words involving things we wear on our legs (with the exception of variations of “panty hose”)  plural?

We wear, on other parts of our anatomy, a shirt, a blouse, a T-shirt, a hat, a dress (well at least some of us wear a dress occasionally), a skirt, a suit.  We wear a belt to keep our pants up.  We wear a scarf, either for warmth or decoration.

Givenchy Scarves; Photograph from Wikimedia Commons by Themepark Mom

We do wear shoes and socks, but that makes sense, because there are two of them, one for each foot.  The same is true for gloves and mittens – they are not connected, and we wear one on each hand.  If I am going to wear one, I say I am going to wear a mitten on one hand, and a glove on the other, making the singular/plural use logically consistent.

Motorcycle Riding Gloves

But when it comes to our legs, we wear pants, trousers, slacks, shorts, tights, leggings and jeans. Even things that hold our pants up in the years before elastic or belts (apparently) were plural – suspenders.   In years of yore, little girls wore pantaloons.

Pantaloons peek out underneath this little girl's dress from 1838.

The only other things that we wear that are treated the same way are eyeglasses – there is really only one unit. but glasses and spectacles always are plural, also.  (Notice I have to say “are glasses” not “is glasses” even though technically  if I am wearing glasses, I am wearing one item.  Of course, the store that makes glasses charges me as much for them as if I really were getting two units of something and not one, but that involves the science/art of economics, which makes my head hurt.)

We even went out and made another word, monocle, for glasses with one lens, rather than just calling it  a “glass” because it only involves one eye.

Actress and Screenwriter Ruth Gordon wearing a monocle in November 1919

I have read through a couple of on-line etymologies for the word “pants” and while interesting – through a long chain of events, the origin for the word “pants” comes from a Christian martyr, Saint Pantaleone, who was beheaded six times, and each time his head reattached and he continued to live  (Pantaleone basically means “all compassionate” and I guess being beheaded six times and having your head reattach would certainly help you in being compassionate)  – eventually they all can be boiled down to “see trousers.”  When you look at “trousers,” the etymology explains that the root of the word “trousers” is the Scottish “trews.”  No one explains why “trews” is plural.

A painting of Sir John Sinclair wearing trews - they look like pants to me!

That just struck me as odd.

Trousers - they still look like pants to me!

If anyone has an idea about why pants are plural, I’d love to hear about it!  Otherwise, I am afraid it will be time soon to go back to research the Ugg Clan’s family history one more time….

Have a great day everyone!


Inappropriate O’Fences

Good morning Everyone!

Kayla is at an age now where one of our joys is listening to her thoughts and vocabulary expand.  Of course, she doesn’t always get every word right the first time, but the things she says can really surprise us.

This weekend, we went to the hospital to visit someone, and on the way into the hospital Mark was roughhousing with Kayla, just a little bit.  She looked up at him and said sternly, “Playing in the hospital like that is inappropriate.”  Both Mark and I had to stifle a laugh.  (Somehow, laughing out loud in the hospital waiting room also seemed inappropriate.)

Sunday night though, I laughed out loud.  While we were eating spaghetti and bread on trays in front of the TV (it was the playoffs, after all!), Mark started teasing Kayla about something.  She informed him that doing so “while I’m eating is O’Fences.”  I started to laugh, and had to calm down enough to explain that the correct word was “offensive.”  Mark thought it was funny, too.

Have a great day everyone!


The Blank Page: Analogy and Reflection

Good morning Everyone!

Have you ever thought about the possibilities inherent in a blank page?  Every single book ever written began with one, even the Bible.  A page is anything that is written upon, physically or electronically, which includes all medium from leather hides, cuneiform clay tablets, papyrus, paper, computer screens and napkins and paper towels (for those of us like me who are organizationally challenged and can’t find paper all the time when they need it.)

A blank page can be intimidating, especially when a deadline is looming.  It stares back at you, unblinking, demanding that something be written on it.  At my work, it usually is demanding that something be written on it quickly, with accurate legal citations, and adequate evidence to prove my point.  When I am just writing, as I am now, sometimes it gives me a softer, gentler stare, reminding me that I can write about anything that I want, and sometimes the stare challenges me, telling me I can do better and it’s time to start writing.  

One typewriter Ernest Hemingway used to fill blank pages

A blank page can be comforting.  Each one is a new start, a new opportunity, a chance to write something that no one has every written before.  With each one, the possibility exists that the magic inherent in the written word will strike, and that elusive combination of words that goes straight to the hearts of others and makes them laugh or cry or think, that makes those particular words matter and live on past the immediate moment of their writing will be formed.

Kayla at what can only be called the "heirloom typewriter" for our family.

A blank page is both malleable, and inflexible.  A blank page, once I write on it, will let me erase the words I have previously written and start over again, if I need to, (with the exception of leather hides and cuneiform clay tablets; that’s more complicated) but I always reach a point where I am locked in to what I have written, and the story or brief acquires a life of its own.

Kayla, during her first Christmas ever with us.

I think that’s one reason that children are fascinating.  At the very beginning, they seem to be a blank page as well, but a blank page that, as it grows, like any good story, takes on a life of its own.  I have noticed that with Kayla.  While I see her growing into being her own wonderful person, I can see traits that mirror traits that Mark or I have, both good and bad.   She can be very flexible, at times, and absolutely intransigent (I can’t imagine where that stubbornness comes from!  Family members, no laughing please) at others.  She has been participating in writing her own story from the blank page that she started as, and as both a writer and a watcher of it, I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Kayla driving the Southern Star, our dolphin cruise boat, this summer

Have a great day everyone!