Wednesday, May 13, 2015

As Yogi turns 90, a list of Yogi-isms

Yogi Berra turns 90 today, proving the wisdom once again of his words, "It ain't over 'till it's over." 

Interested readers might want to read the great humorist Roy Blount Jr.'s wonderful 1984 Sports Illustrated story about the wisdom in Yogi's words.  

Note also that the GTOTD staff was sitting in a glass-walled office on the 20th floor of the Time & Life Building next to one in which Roy was typing this story on a Royal typewriter, ripping out the pages, crumpling them up and throwing them into a pile in the corner.  

Though the story, cited recently as one of the 60 best ever run in the pages of SI, reads as if every word, phrase and sentence poured out with ease and fully formed, know that great humor is harder than it looks.  :-)

That same year, the GTOTD staff asked the great question of whether Yogi Bear was based on this rotund baseball great.  For the answer, click here.    

Here is a fairly complete list of sayings attributed to Yogi Berra. (Although, as Yogi himself once said, "I didn't really say everything I said.")

"This is like deja vu all over again." 
"Half this game is 90% mental."
"If I didn't wake up, I'd still be sleeping."
"Slump ? I ain't in no slump. I just ain't hittin'."
"Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical."
"You can observe a lot just by watching."
"He must have made that before he died." -- Referring to a Steve McQueen movie.
"I want to thank you for making this day necessary." -- On Yogi Berra Appreciation Day in St. Louis in 1947.
"I'd find the fellow who lost it, and, if he was poor, I'd return it." -- When asked what he would do if he found a million dollars.
"Think! How the hell are you gonna think and hit at the same time?"
"It's hard to make predictions, especially about the future."
"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there."
"I knew I was going to take the wrong train, so I left early."
"If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else."
"If you can't imitate him, don't copy him."
"You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I'm not hungry enough to eat six."
"It was impossible to get a conversation going; everybody was talking too much."
"A nickel isn't worth a dime today."
"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded."
"It gets late early out there." -- Referring to the bad sun conditions in left field at the stadium.
"Glen Cove." -- Referring to Glenn Close on a movie review television show.
Once, Yogi's wife Carmen asked, "Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?" Yogi replied, "Surprise me."
"Do you mean now?" -- When asked for the time.
"I take a two hour nap, from one o'clock to four."
"If you come to a fork in the road, take it."
"You give 100 percent in the first half of the game, and if that isn't enough in the second half you give what's left."
"90% of the putts that are short don't go in."
"I made a wrong mistake."
"Texas has a lot of electrical votes." -- During an election campaign, after George Bush stated that Texas was important to the election.
"Thanks, you don't look so hot yourself." -- After being told he looked cool.
"I always thought that record would stand until it was broken."
"Yeah, but we're making great time!" -- In reply to "Hey Yogi, I think we're lost."
"If the fans don't come out to the ball park, you can't stop them."
"Why buy good luggage? You only use it when you travel."
"It's never happened in the World Series competition, and it still hasn't."
"How long have you known me, Jack? And you still don't know how to spell my name." -- Upon 
receiving a check from Jack Buck made out to "bearer."
"I'd say he's done more than that." -- When asked if first baseman Don Mattingly had exceeded expectations for the current season.
"The other teams could make trouble for us if they win."
"He can run anytime he wants. I'm giving him the red light." -- On the acquisition of fleet-footed Rickey Henderson.
"I never blame myself when I'm not hitting. I just blame the bat, and if it keeps up, I change bats. After all, if I know it isn't my fault that I'm not hitting, how can I get mad at myself?"
"It ain't the heat; it's the humility."
"The towels were so thick there I could hardly close my suitcase."
"You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't come to yours."
"I didn't really say everything I said."

Monday, March 2, 2015

All hail the Queen of Commas!

Yes, the 75th anniversary New Yorker contains the memoirs of Mary Norris, who descended from the frozen North (and her job on a Vermont cheese farm) to the Vatican of word usage, where, over the course of decades, she earned her place among the great grammarians of the ages. Her defense of the serial (Oxford) comma is, of course, exhaustive and eloquent.   If you have enough "free views" on The New Yorker site, you can click on this link and enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

When to capitalize family titles

Here's a handy post from the Grammar Gremlin, Don K. Ferguson:

When referring to family titles in your writing, should you capitalize or use lowercase?
For example, is it “father” or “Father,” “dad” or “Dad,” “mother” or “Mother”?
If these terms stand alone and are being used as the name you use for the person, they are capitalized.
Example: “Have you decided yet, Mother, whether you and Dad will be able to take your trip?”
If you are merely referring to the person, use lowercase.
Example: “My mother and father are planning to a trip to the beach.”
If “uncle” or a similar family relationship term is used with the name, it is capitalized. Example: “They said Uncle Bill might go with them.”
Otherwise, it would be “my uncle.”
Don K. Ferguson, retired U.S. District Court chief deputy clerk, is a former member of the Knoxville City Council. He may be emailed here.

Don K. Ferguson

Friday, December 5, 2014

The book "Wayfaring Strangers" highlights the Scots-Irish music of Appalachia

From Ronald Radosh's review of Wayfaring Strangers in the New York Times Book Review:

"Wayfaring Strangers tells the story of how Scottish immigrants to Ulster in Northern Ireland merged their own musical traditions with those of the Irish before coming to America and adding their music to the American songbook. These Scots-Irish immigrants moved principally to Appalachia, where their traditions took new forms in classics like “Barbara Allen” and “Shady Grove.” As Dolly Parton writes in her introduction, “I grew up in the Smoky Mountains listening to these ancient ballads that had crossed oceans and valleys,” songs that became the basis for folk, bluegrass and country music."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Add ‘s' to main element of compound

Another great tip from Don Ferguson's Grammar Gremlins: 
A university professor commenting on a national television show about the election of several new governors used the term "governor-elects."
He should have said "governors-elect."
The rule is that the plurals of hyphenated or spaced compounds are formed by adding "s" to the main element of the compound.
In "governor-elect" the main word is "governor," and it gets the "s."
Other examples: "attorneys general," "fathers-in-law," "holes-in-one" and "runners-up."
But with nouns ending in "ful," the "s" is added at the end.
Examples: "cupfuls," "spoonfuls" and "mouthfuls."
Don K. Ferguson, retired U.S. District Court chief deputy clerk, is a former member of the Knoxville City Council.  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Linda Urbach's words at the memorial service for Bayard Clark in 1994


As we look toward our "Celebration of Linda" this weekend in Bridgeport, and the words we will use to remember her great spirit and humor, we've talked a lot about the eulogies she crafted for others.  

The one below, for her father-in-law, was among her most beautiful and well crafted.  

Words at the Memorial Service for the Rev. Bayard S. Clark  
By Linda Urbach
October 29, 1994
Christ Church, Harwich Port, Mass.     

      Bayard and I shared a love of sweets. Both of us had to
give them up. Occasionally he would indulge. And when he did
there was a look of such pleasure on his face it made you happy
just looking at him. 
      Halfway through a big dinner he would ask
whoever was in charge, “Are there pies in the oven?” And when
you presented him with a warm piece of blueberry pie a la mode
you always received the most wonderful smile in return. 
      His expression was one of pure sweetness. He had that same
expression on his face whenever he looked at his wife, his
children and his grandchildren.
        Sweet seems too simple a word to describe such a very
complicated man. But that’s how I like to remember him. That
and his heart, which was big and kind and rich and deep as the
fudge brownies he could never quite get enough of.
        If there is a heaven I know he is there, and I take great
comfort in the fact that he is able to eat anything he wants. No
more sugar free, salt free, alcohol free.  
       I like to think of him, in fact, at the bakery counter, in the sweet bye and bye having earned his just desserts, so that for him, the pies will always be in the oven and forever warm and sweet. Just like him.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Linda's toast about Charlotte's introductions on the Titanic

In yesterday's tribute to the late Linda Urbach, I referred to her deliciously crafted toasts.  The one below, delivered on my mother's 80th birthday, was one of her best.
    My brother-in-law Tom Lord read it recently and remarked that it was as funny now as in 1997; in fact, remarkably so.  Read it and see for yourself.  :-)
Getting to Know Charlotte Clark
Delivered by Linda Howard
Sept. 5, 1997, Harwich Port, Mass.

     I first met Charlotte Clark aboard the Titanic. I was
holding on the rail for dear life when Charlotte came up to
me, introduced herself and said, “I’d like you to meet
someone. Linda, this is Mrs. Astor. Mrs. Astor, this is Linda.”
Mrs. Astor was white as a sheet. “We’re sinking, we’re
sinking!” She shrieked.
    “Mrs. Astor lives in New York,” Charlotte explained to me.
    “Linda lives in New York, too,” she informed Mrs. Astor.
     “Oh, my God,” moaned Mrs. Astor, and she slipped away
into the sea.
     “Mrs. Clark,” I said. “Call me Charlotte,” she corrected.
     “Charlotte, I think we’re going down.”
    “Not before you meet the Captain,” she insisted. “Oh Captain, my Captain,” she
beckoned charmingly, “I want you to meet my new friend
Linda from New York. Linda, this is our Captain.”
   Well, it went on that way as people slipped past us into the ocean,
stopping only momentarily so that Charlotte could make her
      We all have our little idiosyncrasies. Lady Macbeth had
her spots. Jack Kerouac had his road. Charlotte has her
      To paraphrase Will Rogers, she never liked a
man she hasn’t met. She isn’t happy until everyone she
knows meets everyone else she knows. Not just meets, but
memorizes the exact moment of their meeting, the names
and ages of all their children and, most importantly, their
accumulated grade point averages.
     I talked to her son Stocky about this. He told me once he tried to limit her to five
introductions during one particular party. Well, you can just
imagine the results. She ended up by introducing him to over
250 people that night including the mayor of Boston, the
Secretary General of the U.N. and the novelist John Updike.
And they weren’t even at that party.
      In my family they were terrified of ever introducing me to
anyone. I was sullen, rude and prone to violent outbursts
when confronted with an unfamiliar face. But that didn’t stop
Charlotte. I was fresh meat to her – a veritable blank sheet,
an Unintroduced Person. Since first coming to the Cape with
her son Tucker on Memorial Day, 1975, I have met a total of
34,987 people. After introducing me to the entire town of
Harwich Port, she took me out by Exit 10 off Route 6 and
introduced me to 78 passing vehicles before the State
Troopers came. And then she introduced me to them as well.
“Officer Borden, Officer Mahoney, I’d like you to meet my
daughter-in-law Linda. There’s no doubt in my mind that
Charlotte Cushwa Clark will be around for many years to
come to introduce the few million people that still haven’t met

each other yet, “Uma…Oona…Oona…Oprah…Oprah….Uma…”