Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fatuous choices in SAT Question of the Day

The Official SAT Question of the Day (TM) below presents a problem: a candidate in today's political arena using any of the choices below would risk being tagged as elitist!

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

Since the two legislators had a long history of major disagreements, the senator considered his colleague’s enthusiastic assurances that they would be in agreement on a forthcoming piece of legislation -------.

A. fatuous
B. precious
C. sagacious
D. meritorious
E. ignoble

Carte blanche -- what Congress shouldn't have given last time, either


carte blanche (kart blanch, kart blansh) noun
Unrestricted authority.
[From French carte blanche (blank card or blank document).]
"Stewart says he has been given a clean slate and carte blanche by the ADT's board 'to do my thing'."
--Carolyn Collins; New ADT Direction Paying Off; The Australian (Sydney); Jun 30, 2000.

Houston humor

This comes to us from Gail Canny.

You know you're from the Gulf Coast when….

1. You have FEMA's number on your speed dialer.
2. You have more than 300 'C' and 'D' batteries in your kitchen drawer.
3. Your pantry contains more than 20 cans of Spaghetti O's.
4. You are thinking of repainting your house to match the plywood covering your windows.
5. When describing your gutted house to a prospective buyer, you say it has three bedrooms, two baths and an open air feel to it.
6. Your SSN is written in Sharpie on your arms. [explanation for outsiders: Folks in mandatory evacuation areas who won't leave are asked by sheriff deputies to write their SSN on their arms with a marker so their bodies can be identified later. It is an attempt to scare them out of their homes in the face of the storms.]
7. You are on a first-name basis with the cashier at Home Depot.
8. You are delighted to pay $3.50 for a gallon of regular unleaded.=0 A
9. The road leading to your house has been declared a No-Wake Zone.
10. You decide that your patio furniture looks better on the bottom of the pool.
11. You own more than three large coolers.
12. You can wish that other people get hit by a hurricane and not feel the least bit guilty about it.
13. You rationalize helping a friend board up by thinking It'll only take a gallon of gas to get there and back
14. You=2 0have 2-liter coke bottles and milk jugs filled with water in your freezer.
15. Three months ago you couldn't hang a shower curtain; today you can assemble a portable generator by candlelight.
16. You catch a 13-pound red fish - in your house.
17. You can recite from memory whole portions of your homeowner's insurance policy.
18. You consider a vacation to stunning Tupelo, Mississippi.
19. At cocktail parties, women are attracted to the guy with the biggest chainsaw.
20. You have had tuna fish more than 5 days in a row.
21. There is a roll of tar paper in your garage.
22. You can rattle off the names of three or more meteorologists who work at the Weather Channel.
23. Someone comes to your door to tell you they found your roof.
24. Ice is a valid topic of conversation.
25. Your drive-thru meal consists of MRE's and bottled water.
26. Relocating to South Dakota does not seem like such a crazy idea.
27. You spend more time on your20roof than in your living room.
28. You've been laughed at over the phone by a roofer, fence builder or a tree worker.
29. A battery powered TV is considered a home entertainment center.
30. You don't worry about relatives wanting to visit during the summer.
31. Your child's first words are hunker down and you didn't go to Ole Miss!
32. Having a tree in your living room does not necessarily mean it's Christmas.
33. Toilet Paper is elevated to coin of the realm at the shelters.
34. You know the difference between the good side of a storm and the bad side.
35. Your kids start school in August and finish in July.
36. You go to work early and stay late just to enjoy the air conditioning.*
37. Your garage smells like gasoline.
38. Your more concerned about someone stealing your generator than your car.
39. You get excited when you see a Centerpoint truck in your neighborhood.
40. You get really excited when you see the cable guy.
41. You can create memorable meals with a can of SPAM and one gas burner.
42. You are prepared to wait in line at Starbucks for 2 hours to get a cup of coffee.

Subliminal suggestion in SAT Question of the Day?

For some reason, today's SAT Question of the Day seems vaguely topical to me, though I'm not sure why.

Choose the word or set of words that, when inserted in the sentence, best fits the meaning of the sentence as a whole.

His ------- prior experience notwithstanding, David was judged by the hiring manager to be ------- the job.

A. illustrious . . entitled to
B. limited . . qualified for
C. applicable . . assured of
D. useful . . overqualified for
E. irrelevant . . perplexed by

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Euphemisms -- a must to avoid

Rule No. 265 from Guide to Composition (1919) by Royster and Thompson :

As a rule, do not employ euphemism -- the softening or veiling of an expression to avoid the use of words that seem objectionable or coarse.

Say went to bed, not retired; leg not limb; died not passed away. Facts that are really vulgar or coarse may well be veiled under a euphemism, or left unsaid.


The red ink above is the hand of Ferdinand Ruge on a 1972 essay, "How I Spent My Summer."
In note (1) at the top, Mr. Ruge points out that "non-motivation" is "A euphemism for damned laziness."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Puns for all occasions

These puns came from Phil Perlman, credited to John Gordon.

1. The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference.
He acquired his size from too much pi.

2. I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out
to be an optical Aleutian.

3. She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still.

4. A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra css because it
was a weapon of math disruption.

5. The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in
his work.

6. No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery.

7. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

8. A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum

9. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie.

10. Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

11. A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are
looking into it.

12. Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

13. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to
the other, 'You stay here, I'll go on a-head.'

14. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me.

15. A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: 'Keep off the Grass.'

16. A small boy swallowed some coins and was taken to a hospital. When
his grandmother telephoned to ask how he was, a nurse said, 'No change

17. A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.

18. The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium,
at large.

19. The man who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned

20. A backward poet writes in-verse.

21. In democracy it's your vote that counts. In feudalism it's your
count that votes.

22. When cannibals ate a missionary, they got a taste of religion.

23. Don't join dangerous cults, practice safe sects!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ad lib -- doin' what comes extemporaneously


ad lib (ad LIB) [From Latin ad libitum (at pleasure).]
  • noun Improvised speech or music.
  • verb tr. To perform music, speech, etc. spontaneously.
  • verb intr. To improvise.
  • adjective Improvised, impromptu.
"From delivery of scripted material to covering slip-ups to ad-libbing, Aznil is probably one of the few in the business who has a sixth sense, comedy wise."
-- Awards: Wide-skrin Disasters at Anugerah; Malay Mail (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); Aug 28, 2003.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nick Lowery on Yelling at Refs

After Further Review
by Nick Lowery

Pete Koch, former #1 pick of the Cincinnati Bengals, a six year veteran of the NFL and personal trainer to Hollywood stars like Tobey Maguire, tells a story about coaches and rules that captures the one consistent theme about coaches and referees in sport, and their impact on young athletes: respect.

It was the era of All Pro Mark Gastineau, the record-setting pass-rushing star for the New York Jets (one of my former teams) during the famous “New York Sack Exchange” days. Sam Wyche, the Bengals’ head coach, had been telling his offensive line all week to do everything they could get away with to block Gastineau, “pushing it right to the edge. We really went after him, and here I was a rookie, and I hated it,” Koch remembers, with high/low double team blocks (illegal today) that would effectively cut the Jets All-World Defensive end down at (and to) his knees. The Bengals were cut blocking Gastineau all game, when a sweep took Gastineau near the Bengals’ sideline. “As he got up, Gastineau gets right up in Sam’s face and says loud and clear, ‘Listen to me, Sam, you %^&*?!$!! Quit that chicken s--- blocking or I’m going to come over and personally kick your butt in front of your whole team.’”

Koch says he never forgot how in that moment he lost respect for his coach’s cavalier attitude toward the rules. The same can be true for every coach who loses his cool in front of a referee.

“Youth Sports is about education and behavior”, says Dr John Eliot, Professor of Sports Ethics at Rice University. “Kids are more apt to model the behavior toward authority and referees that they see in their coaches. Yelling at umpires is not performance enhancing; it reinforces an improper response to a tough situation. (If you lose your cool) “you as the coach are demonstrating your inability to perform in a difficult situation. You have a teaching opportunity: one of the prime lessons of sport,” says Eliot, “by modeling how you handle disagreements and incorrect calls.” Because they happen. We all know that.

Hall of Fame NFL coach Marv Levy says, “Officials make mistakes. So do coaches. So do players.” Levy says he made it a point to know the names of the referees. “Know who they are, meet them before the game, and treat them with respect. If you have a discussion before the game with that respectful manner, you are more likely to be able to have a respectful discussion during the game.” But it’s not easy. The refs always knew that Marv respected them even when he had, like we all do, his more colorful moments (watch NFL Highlights some time!).

Tri City Christian’s Baseball coach Ken Bouchard says, “I treat refs as human beings. I usually don’t question the small stuff. The biggest thing is you are an ambassador for your team. The umpire can be your best friend if you treat them with respect.”

Brooks Clark, a veteran youth coach in Tennessee and former writer for Sports Illustrated, says, “Yelling at referees is like yelling at waiters…they can’t yell back, and they’re paid to take it. Its really about development for all of us, not just our kids.“ Clark mentioned David Cutcliffe, who coached both Eli and Peyton Manning in college, about the role his father, NFL legend Archie Manning, played in their development. “He’s the parent who knew the most, and said the least.” Silence sometimes teaches more than words.

Dr Eliot gave three things to do when the ref makes a questionable call:
Take a pause: collect your thoughts and take a breath. If you are walking to the mound, take your time!
Be diplomatic and deliberate with your questions: plan ahead so your questions help create the right tone of respect.
Take time to help your players refocus on the next play: explain “here’s what we will do to handle this.”
As legendary NFL Referee Jim Tunney says, “I didn’t mind them disagreeing with my calls: the coach’s job is to be biased. From Lombardi, to Landry, to Shula, to Walsh, to Madden, the great coaches all understood that the officials are there to do the best job they can.”

It’s ok for coaches to question calls. Just remember that your players will do nothing at that moment but watch what you do.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Jonathan Yardley pays tribute to "The Elements of Style"

A 'Little Book' Bursting With The Write Ideas

By Jonathan Yardley

Saturday, September 6, 2008

An occasional series in which The Washington Post's book critic reconsiders notable and/or neglected books from the past.

One of the never-ending frustrations of my otherwise enjoyable half-century newspaper career has been what newspapers call "style."

Newspapers have many good qualities, but "style" most certainly is not among them.

Newspaper "style" consists mainly of ungrammatical, unlovely attempts to compress as much information as possible into as little space as possible.

Thus, instead of the elegant "Senator Nonesuch, Republican of Transylvania," we are required to write, "Sen. Nonesuch (R-Tr.)"; instead of "Rockville, Maryland," we must suffer with "Rockville, Md."; and poor "William Strunk, Jr.," must sacrifice his comma and become "William Strunk Jr."

To continue reading, click here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The bard of the Yukon

One great disappointment of the past several days is that we haven't heard a single funny line or reference to Robert W. Service (1874-1958), the bard of the Yukon and, most pertinent, Ronald Reagan's favorite poet.
Two of Service's most wonderful poems are "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Shooting of Dan McGrew"
We can only assume that we'll see an adequate topical parody of one of the above in the next few days. Perhaps the Grammar Tip of the Day will come up with one.