The emperor Frederick, who ruled the Roman Empire in the 13th century, thought it would be a useful experiment to discover what our original language was — Hebrew, Greek, Latin or whatever. So he decided to isolate a few infants from the sound of any human voice. He reasoned that, if so isolated from anything prejudicial, when they spoke, it would be in the universal, natural tongue of the human species.
Wet nurses were obtained to care for these infants. But they were sworn to absolute silence and could not engage in any socializing with these infants in any way. From the moment they were born, these infants never heard the sound or hum or song of a human. Within a year they were all dead. (from Earl A. Loomis, Jr. M.D., The Self In Pilgrimage, New York: Harper, 1960, p. 54.)
Wife: “Dear do you love me with all your heart?”
Wife: “And do you think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world?”
Wife: “Do you think my lips are soft as rose petals?”
Wife: “Oh, Dear, you say the most beautiful things.”
At a dinner party one night a famous politician’s wife was seated across the table from him. He kept making walk up and down — two fingers bent at the knuckles. The fingers appeared to be walking toward his wife.
Her dinner partner finally could contain his curiosity no longer and asked what the famous man was doing.
“That’s simple,” she replied. “We had a mild quarrel before we left home, and he is indicating it’s his fault and he’s on his knees to me in abject apology.”
Dear Ann Landers:
My husband doesn’t talk to me. He just sits there night after night, reading the newspaper or looking at T.V. When I ask him a question, he grunts “huh, or Uh’huh.” Sometimes he doesn’t even grunt uh’huh. All he really needs is a housekeeper and somebody to sleep with him when he feels like it. He can buy both. There are times when I wonder why he got married.
“The average man speaks 25,000 words a day and the average woman 30,000.”
Then he added: “Unfortunately, when I come home each day I’ve spoken my 25,000 — and my wife hasn’t started her 30,000.”
A couple in Michigan in their early 50’s had not been communicating for over 10 years, despite living in the same house. The man had a heart attack on the couch and died. It took his wife 2 days to figure out that he was dead. She was quoted as saying, “I thought he had been awfully quiet”.
Married couples have nothing more to say to each other after 8 years, according to a study. Professor Hans Jurgens asked 5000 German husbands and wives how often they talked to each other. After 2 years of marriage, most of them managed two or three minutes of chat over breakfast, more than 20 minutes over the evening meal and a few more minutes in bed. By the sixth year, that was down to 10 minutes a day. A state of “almost total speechlessness” was reached by the eighth year of marriage.
— Daily Mirror (London).
If more men were self starters in the area of communication, fewer wives would be cranks.
A husband gave his wife a beautiful skunk coat.
When his wife opened it up she said, “I can’t see how such a nice coat can come from such a foul smelling little beast.”
The husband said, “I don’t ask for thanks, but I do want some respect.”
Drinking coffee and talking
One evening a man and his wife called another couple to see what they were doing.
“Oh,” said the other wife, “we’re just drinking coffee and talking.”
As she hung up the phone, she demanded, “Why don’t we ever do that”.
“They’re just drinking coffee and talking.” Her husband said,
“So make a pot of coffee.”
They sat with their freshly brewed coffee, just staring at each other in silence.
“Well, call them back,” he directed, “and find out what they’re talking about.”
Rules for email writers
1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat)
6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
7. Be more or less specific.
8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
10. No sentence fragments.
11. Contractions aren’t necessary and shouldn’t be used.
12. Foreign words and phrases are no apropos.
13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary;
it’s highly superfluous.
14. One should NEVER generalize.
15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
16. Don’t use no double negatives.
17. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
20. The passive voice is to be ignored.
21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words
however should be enclosed in commas.
22. Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
23. Kill all exclamation points!!!
24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth
earth shaking ideas.
26. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not
27. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate
quotations. Tell me what you know.”
28. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve head it a thousand times: Resist
hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.
30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
32. Who needs rhetorical questions?
33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
34. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
After an unusually severe windstorm, Dorsey, a farmer friend of mine, called his insurance claims adjuster to come to his farm to survey the damage. One major mishap was that the barn roof had been lifted off intact and carried about 50 yards from the barn. The adjuster had been there for ten minutes when he said, “Well, it looks like you lost your roof.”
“Nope,” Dorsey replied. “It’s not lost. It just ain’t where I want it.”
— Mike Herbst, Olathe, Kansas (from Readers Digest, March, 1990)
The English language Poem
We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice;
yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet,
and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
but though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.
— author unknown
The English language is very difficult to learn
wonder how we manage to communicate at all!
We must polish the Polish furniture.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The farm was used to produce produce.
The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
This was a good time to present the present. (And this last could mean “gift” or “era of time “)
A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
I did not object to the object.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
The bandage was wound around the wound.
There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
They were too close to the door to close it.
The buck does funny things when the does are present.
They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
After a number of injections my jaw got number.
Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
What is a “free” gift? Aren’t all gifts free?
English is a crazy language
There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple
nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England nor French fries in
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we
find that quick sand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and
a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. And why is it
that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and
hammers don’t ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth?
One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese… One blouse, 2 blice?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one
amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian
eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
If you wrote a litter, perhaps you bote your tongue?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed
to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people
recite at a play and play at a recital?
Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and
feet that smell?
Park on drive ways and rive on park ways?
How can a “slim chance” and a “fat chance” be the same, while a
“wise man” and “wise guy” are opposites?
Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown?
Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?
Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled,
ruly or peccable?
And where are all those people are spring chickens or who would
actually hurt a fly?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which
your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a
form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the
creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all).
That is why, when the stars are out, they are still visible, but when
the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my
watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.
If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?
When someone offers you a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents’ worth, what happens to the other penny?
Why do “overlook” and “oversee” mean opposite things?
The bandage was wound around the wound.
He could lead if he would get the lead out.
The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
They were too close to the door to close it.
Maria Fedorovna, the empress of Russia and wife of Czar Alexander III, was known for her philanthropy. She once saved a prisoner from exile in Siberia by transposing a single comma in a warrant signed by Alexander. The czar had written: “Pardon impossible, to be sent to Siberia.” After Maria’s intervention, the note read: “Pardon, impossible to be sent to Siberia.” The prisoner was eventually released.
Today in the Word, July 14, 1993
Bad day at the ad agency
Here’s how one advertising slogan translated into a foreign language: When Gerber first started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as here in the United States, with the cute baby on the label — until they found out that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what actually is inside the container, since many people there cannot read.
Lady buying a hat
In a hat shop a saleslady gushed: “That’s the hat for you! It makes you look ten years younger.”
“Then I don’t want it,” retorted the customer.
“I certainly can’t afford to put on ten years every time I take off my hat!”
The following advertisements reportedly appeared in a daily newspaper:
Monday: ‘the Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale. Telephone 626-1313 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who lives with him, cheap.’
Tuesday: “We regret any embarrassment caused to Rev. Jones by a typographical error in yesterday’s paper. The ad should have read: ‘the Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap…Telephone 626-1313 and ask for Mrs. Donnelley, who lives with him after 7 p.m.”‘
Wednesday: ‘the Rev. A.J. Jones informs us that he has received several annoying telephone calls because of an incorrect ad in yesterday’s paper. It should have read: ‘the Rev. A.J. Jones has one color TV set for sale, cheap. Telephone 626-1313, after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Donnelley who loves with him.”‘
Thursday: “Please take notice that I, the Rev. A.J. Jones, have no color TV set for sale; I have smashed it. Don’t call 626-1313 anymore. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Donnelley. She was, until yesterday, my housekeeper.”‘
Friday: “Wanted: a housekeeper. Usual housekeeping duties. Good pay. Love in, Rev. A.J. Jones. Telephone 626-1313.”‘
Mistakes are inevitable in the publishing business.
Some dumb glacier
On a cruise to Alaska, I saw my very first glacier in the magnificent Inside Passage. Excitedly, I asked the ship’s officer what it was called.
“It’s some dumb glacier,” he replied.
Disappointed by his attitude, I bought a map to figure it out for myself. I calculated our location and found the name of the ice mass. It was called, just as he had said, “Sumdum Glacier.”
Research proving there is such a thing
Sumdum Glacier Alaska
Feature Name: Sumdum Glacier
Feature Type: glacier
County: Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon (CA)
Map Cell Name: Sumdum D-5
Geographic Keywords: Glacier, Sumdum
Not clearly understood
A customer called the electric company where I work, concerned that his utility bill was too high. Trying to determine if the man’s problem was due to a faulty thermostat, our representative asked, “What do you have your air conditioner set on?” The customer replied, “On a concrete slab by the side of the house.” – Readers Digest, March, 1997 P 170
A man returned to his home and played back his telephone answering machine to discover that his message to callers had not registered beyond his initial “Hello.”
Transcribed, the tape of the exchange between machine and one caller ran as follows:
“Hello.” “Hello. Hello. . . hello!” (click.)
“Hello.” “Hello, hello. . . hello, hello!” (click.)
“Hello.” “Hello, hello. . . You see, operator, he says ‘Hello,’ but he
won’t say anything else.”
“I’m sorry, sir. We can only connect you with your party. We cannot make him talk to you.”
A businessman was checking out of his hotel when he realized his briefcase was missing. “Boy,” he said to the bellhop, “run up to room 1484 and see if I left my briefcase there. And hurry. I’m late leaving for the airport.”
The man waited anxiously. Finally, the bellhop came running up and panted, “Yes, it’s still there.”
Checking some questionnaires that had just been filled in, a census clerk was amazed to note that one of them contained figures 121 and 125 in the spaces for “Age of Mother, If Living” and “Age of Father, If Living”.
“Surely your parents can’t be as old as this?” asked the incredulous clerk.
“Well, no,” was the answer, “but they would be, if living.”
A priest and pastor from the local parishes are standing by the side of the road holding up a sign that reads, “The End is Near! Turn yourself around now before it’s too late!”
They planned to hold up the sign to each passing car.
“Leave us alone you religious nuts!” yelled the first driver as he sped by.
From around the curve they heard screeching tires and a big splash. “Do you think,” said one clergyman to the other, “we should just put up a sign that says ‘Bridge Out’ instead?”
Brinkley’s Law: “If there is any way it can be misunderstood — by someone, somewhere, sometime — it will be misunderstood.”
A preacher in India began his sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 as follows: “The beatific familiarity of this chapter traditionally appointed for Quinquagesima must never cause us to neglect its profundity.”
His interpreter translated this for the benefit of the Indian congregation as follows: “The speaker has not said anything worth remembering so far. When he does I will let you know.”
Note: Quinquagesima (pronounced quin kwa jes i mah) is the name for Shrove Sunday (Catholic)
Note: beatific (pronounced bee uh ti fik) means: Showing or producing exalted joy or blessedness.
I did my nurse’s training at a hospital in Liverpool, England. My fellow students and I had little money for meals, so we ate the awful food provided at the hospital complex.
We often took our breaks in the kitchen, and sometimes kindly visitors would give us some of the treats they had brought for patients who had not wanted to eat them.
One night a woman brought a pie to the kitchen and said to me, “Would you eat this up, love?”
Another student and I devoured every delicious crumb!
Soon our benefactor returned, however, and asked, “Is me ‘usband’s pie ‘ot yet, dearie?”
A shy boy had his first college date with a young lady who seemed to take things faster than he did. After a fun evening of dinner and a show, he walked her up to the door of her sorority house.
She obviously was expecting a goodnight kiss. As he was about to leave, she closed her eyes and puckered her lips.
He said, “Good night,” and leaned down and kissed her on the forehead.
“A little lower, please,” she responded.
So he said (with a deeper voice) “Good night!”
An applicant for a job with the federal government was filling out the application form. He came to this question: “Do you favor the overthrow of the United States government by force, subversion, or violence?”
Thinking it was a multiple-choice question, he checked “violence.”
*The Hokey Pokey*
Put your left foot in,
Your left foot out,
Your left foot in,
And shake it all about.
You do the hokey pokey
And turn yourself around
That’s what it’s all about.
*The Hokey Pokey*
O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
Anon, once more the gesture, then begin:
Command sinistral pedestal to writhe.
Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Poke.
A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
To spin! A wilde release from heaven’s yoke.
Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
The Hoke, the poke — banish now thy doubt.
Verily, I say, ’tis what it’s all about.
Did you hear of the man that had a horse for sale? This man did not speak too much English, so when the buyer came he told the buyer that the horse was “not-looking-so-good”.
The buyer insisted that this was a beautiful animal and that the price was right. So he bought the horse.
Two days later he was back complaining: “Why did you not tell me the horse was blind!” The man replied: “I did tell you the horse was not-looking-so-good!”
Teacher: Billy, give me a sentence starting with “I”.
Billy: I is …
Teacher: No, Billy. Always say, “I am.”
Billy: All right… “I am the ninth letter of the alphabet.”
I know you believe you understand what you think I said. However I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.
I never kissed my wife until the day we were married . . .
However, I did kiss my fiancee’. (She became my wife the day we were married.)
Sometimes the advertising world creates a sensation when people misunderstand what is being said. It can even be quite humorous.
Back in the days when aviation was trying to re-invent itself and encourage more people to take up flying, a manufacturer ran an ad that said something like this:
“We can make you a pilot for $ 2,900.00”.
Well business picks up and they are encouraged. Then they get a letter from a group of women in Kansas. The women write, “We understand that you can make us a pilot for $ 2,900.00. We would like you to make us one right away.
“We want him to be a man, 6 feet tall, 190 pounds, with blue eyes and brown wavy hair. We understand that you guarantee that you can make us a pilot. Therefore we would like the pilot on approval for about 60 days. If he works out we’ll order more.”
This series of advertisements and “corrections” appeared in a newspaper
FOR SALE — R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Phone
958-3030 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him
Next day the ad was “corrected” to read:
NOTICE — We regret having erred in R.D. Jones’ ad yesterday. It
should have read: One sewing machine for sale. Cheap. Phone
958-3030 and ask for Mrs. Kelly who lives with him after 7 p.m.
That correction was “corrected” the day after. It read:
R.D. Jones has informed us that he has received several
anonymous telephone calls because of the error we made in his
classified ad yesterday. His ad stands corrected as follows:
FOR SALE — R.D. Jones has one sewing machine for sale. Cheap.
Phone 958-3030 after 7 p.m. and ask for Mrs. Kelly who loves
Finally, the day after, Mr. Jones “corrected” the ad himself with a second ad:
NOTICE — I, R.D. Jones, have no sewing machine for sale. I
SMASHED IT. Don’t call 958-3030 as the telephone has been taken
out. I have not been carrying on with Mrs. Kelly. Until
yesterday she was my housekeeper, but SHE QUIT!
While working as an agricultural inspector at the Arizona state line, I found that addressing people in an informal manner relieved their nervousness and minimized problems.
One day when a car with the vanity license plate “TVECL” stopped for inspection, I approached the driver and said, “How are you, Mr. Tvecl?”
“Your pronunciation is fine,” he replied, “but that’s not my name. I’m an optometrist, and those are the letters on the bottom line of my eye chart.”
— source unknown.
Did you hear about the tourist in Florida? He wanted to swim in the river and so asked a local resident standing nearby, “Are there any alligators in this river?”
The local assured him that there were no alligators in the river. So the man jumped into the river and began to swim a bit. Then he quickly jumped onto the bank. Hailing the man he had previously spoken with, he said, “What are those gray shapes swimming around? I thought you said there were no alligators in this river?”
“Oh, I told you the truth, there are no alligators in this river. Those sharks you see swimming ate them all.”
Sometimes, we don’t ask the right questions.
When the examination of a 78-year-old man had been completed, it was recommended that he come back in six months for another checkup. At this suggestion the aged patient shook his head and said, “Doctor, I don’t think I’ll be around then.”
“Nonsense!” replied the physician with a hearty, reassuring smile. “You’ll be around for years yet.”
The old fellow gave him an odd look, then nervously cleared his throat. “I mean,” he explained, “I’ll be in Florida. I go there every January.”
Did you hear about the lady who called for information about her credit card? The computer voice told her to enter her account number as it appears on the statement.
She did that. The system then asked for her 5-digit ZIP code.
After entering that she got quite a shock with the third message which said, “If you would like your information in English, press 1”.
A friend and her young son, Reid, were browsing in a large bookstore. Engrossed in making a selection, my friend had lost sight of her child. “Reid!” she called out, noticing the boy was missing. “Reid!”
Just as she spotted her son in the next aisle, she bumped into another customer. “Pardon me, ma’am,” he said, “but most folks come here because they already like to read. No sense wasting your time trying to convince them.”
There’s an old fable of the couple who went to the Far East on holiday. They wanted, besides their own supper, something to give their poodle. Pointing to the dog, they made international eating signs. The waiter understood, picked up the poodle, and set off for the kitchen, only to return half an hour later with the roasted poodle on a platter.
In promulgating your esoteric cogitations or articulating your superficial sentimentalities, and amicable philosophical or psychological observations, beware of platitudinous ponderosity. Let your conversational communications possess a compacted conciseness, a clarified comprehensibility, a coalescent cogency, and a concatenated consistency. Eschew obfuscation and all conglomeration of flatulent garrulity, jejune babblement, and asinine affectations. Let your extemporaneous descantings and unpremeditated expatiations have intelligibility and voracious vivacity without rodomontade
or thrasonical bombast. Sedulously avoid all polysyllabic profundity, pompous prolificacy, and vain vapid verbosity.
In short “Be brief and don’t use big words.”
Scintillate, scintillate, globule vivific, Fain would I fathom thy nature specific.
Loftily poised in the ether capacious, Strongly resembling a gem carbonaceous.
— translated —
Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
— Source Unknown.
“I never met a man I didn’t like.” — Will Rogers
Many people misapply or completely misunderstand this quotation. They think that Rogers genuinely liked and respected everyone he met, but this was simply not the case.
As reported by his son, Will Rogers Jr., he actually disliked any number of people. What he meant was that at the time of initially meeting someone he never took an instant dislike to them.
(Will Rogers Jr., 1911-1993)
When my wife and I showed up at a very popular restaurant, it was crowded. My wife went up to the hostess and asked, “Will it be long?”
The hostess, ignoring her, kept writing in her book. My wife again asked, “How much of a wait?”
The woman looked up. “About ten minutes.”
A short time later we heard an announcement over the loudspeaker: “Willette B. Long, your table is ready.”
— Herbert B. Karp (Quoted in Readers Digest, January, 2002, page 205)
My wife came in today and asked if I would go do some wood turning on the lathe.
“Ah,” I asked, “what do you need? Maybe a new dibber or possibly a rolling pin or a vase? I have Persimmon, Hickory, Mesquite, a little bit of Walnut and a tad of Oak. What would you like?”
“Oh, I don’t care. I need about six bags of shavings for the flower beds.”
Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf (An American Indian proverb)
Not all is pleasant: “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you’ve got to put up with the rain.” — Dolly Parton
The true spirit of conversation consists in building on another man’s observation, not overturning it. — Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Never say a humorous thing to a man who does not possess humor. He will always use it in evidence against you. — Herbert Beerbohm Tree
In the whole round of human affairs little is so fatal to peace as misunderstanding. — Margaret E. Sangster, American writer and editor
Nothing can be stated so perfectly as not to be misunderstood. — Philip Melanchthon