Showing posts with label Mothering the Tongue. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mothering the Tongue. Show all posts

Aug 29, 2015

Puss 'n' Boots language

A while back I used the word "lovely" in a conversation among two or three close friends. One of them took me gently to task for girly-girl talk. No big deal, but I was reminded of it this morning.

Once in a while I go through a breakfast ritual. Eggs just right, coffee with real cream and sugar, well-buttered toast, a pancake and maple syrup.  And a book, good book, just weighty enough to engage my facilities but not so idea-packed as to overstrain those facilities so early in the day.

Today: Meriwether Lewis is speaking through his journal. Entertaining as I do the the most confident hope of succeeding in a voyage which had formed a darling project of mind for the last ten years...


That sounds pretty puss 'n' bootsie, but considering the source, I'd be very reluctant to call the man on it. If there's a pantheon of tough guys in the American tradition, Lewis is in it.

(I use Puss 'n Boots as a substitute for you-know-what, a term midway along the scale of vulgarity and hence unsuitable for a family-oriented pessay. Wait. I mean essay.)

So, with the great  and brave explorer behind me,  I think I'll worry less about a drop or two of lilac water lacing my speech.

Don't you find that lovely?

Aug 9, 2015


It's not easy to write seriously about this guy, especially if you think he is performing a useful role in American political discourse.

Limited but still worthwhile is Trump's  absolute rejection of the mealy-mouth sputterings of politicians willing to risk offending no one, tiny men and women terrified of riling some identifiable group. Black people. Women.  Fundie religionists. Humanists. Cat lovers. Art lovers. Gun lovers  -- probably descending downward to whatever internet group exists to mock  folks who eat hummus. None must have the tender hymen of virgin ears pierced.

He came into this campaign with the idea that millions are fed up with limp language of PC. His polling numbers tend to prove him correct.

But the poor, sad egomaniac's insight stops a world away from the notion that plain speech, blunt speech, is not the same as stupid and vile speech. For instance, he could have said of John McCain:

"From what we know this guy endured pain we can't imagine under Communist torture. For six long years he was, in fact, a military hero as most people define the term. It's too bad people confuse this with the kind of wisdom we need in a political leader, balh blah blah.

That was his point, exactly,  a valid argument on which Trump committed seppuku by expressing it as mockery, intentionally cruel sarcasm displaying a strong hint of envy.

Mexicans are rapists. 

Nonsense, of course.  But he could say,  the illegal immigrant population from Latin America includes a high proportion of thugs.  Even that will inflame passions, but it is a proposition which can be debated. It can be tested for truth. If found true it can be a base for policy. As Trump vomited it out, it is a flash-bang grenade tossed simply to make his 15 minutes last longer and longer and longer.

The coy reference to Ms. Kelly's vagina was probably the final cross-stroke in Trump's ritual suicide. Rag-on remarks have been around forever but, in my life experience, anyway, always taboo in any but the most testosterone laden gatherings, even in the years before our intellectual betters decided that that open debate should be forbidden except when framed in words which carry zero chance of offending some group or even some one.  (That's the way it is now ...trigger warning...  honest, Injun.)

A Trump with his mouth under even small control would have said something like: Ms. Kelly, I speak my mind without a lot of editing for mushy political correctness.  Maybe I go to far sometimes, but I think your question reflects a stupid approach to journalism. The campaign is about huge issues, and whether or not one candidate sometimes uses words too strong for you is not one of those issues. Grow up."  

The furor about stupid journalism and Kelly's alleged infantilism would have been almost as raucous,  but it would bear on things we need to think about, namely stupid journalism and  arrested-development teevee personalities.* It is far more important than her menstrual status.  Goodness, I'll bet the nation can avoid thinking about her cycle for months on end. If it can't, what the Hell. We might as well elect The Donald because we deserve no better.

*I do not necessarily accuse Megyn of those faults

Apr 20, 2015

George Will and the Great Raisin Raid

Over four long years, Marv and Laura grew abut 500 tons of raisins out in California. By government reckoning, that's about $700,000 dollars worth. And that's how much the government wants . The Hornes object on grounds that they bought the land and the vines, planted, cultivated,  fertilized,watered, harvested and dried those little tasteies.

"Well, sure," says mommiedotguv, "but they didn't sell them right.  They violated a (trumpet fanfare here) Marketing Order!"

Enter George Will, an old Cold Warrior and  Buckley/Reaganite journalist. I find it odd that a guy can go months and months without seeing him cited or quoted in this libertarian corner of the internet.

It could be that most everyone considers him just too 20th Century to be worth reading anymore. It's more likely that the moderns and post-moderns find his words too hard. U no the ppl hu think lol & omg & wtf are adequate terms for any necessary exposition and all possible conditions of human emotion.

I mean, WTF!? George uses the word "recondite*" in this column about government stealing the Horne grapes.  More damning, he often expresses himself in the pre-tweet fashion, writing in complete sentences and paragraphs, each bearing some relationship to its predecessor.

His news peg for this weekend article was oral argument scheduled for the Supreme Court Wednesday. The Horne lawyers will try to persuade the justices that stealing the raisins is unconstitutional, no matter what Franklin Roosevelt  and his brain trust decided in 1937. Will thinks it is.

His larger point is more important.  The level of government meddling and theft and general pestering is huge. But since it is so recondite, hardly anyone understands it. So bad that you are being taxed in one way or another to maintain an official spearmint oil reserve. Not to mention "almonds, apricots, avocados, cherries, cranberries, dates, grapes, hazelnuts, kiwifruit, onions, pears, pistachios, plums, spearmint oil, walnuts and other stuff."

And if you tell me you were well aware that it is in the national interest to maintain an orderly market  in figs I'll call you a liar and add that your philosophy (a ) smells worse than a Syrian camel and   (b) is dangerous. This dangerous:

Government sprawl and meddlesomeness mock the idea that government is transparent. There are not enough cells in the human brain to enable Americans to know more than a wee fraction of what their government is up to. If they did know, they would know something useful — how much of what government does is a compound of the simply silly and the slightly sinister. The silly: Try to imagine the peril from which we are protected because the government maintains a spearmint oil reserve. The sinister: The government is bullying and stealing property to maintain programs that make Americans pay higher commodity prices than a free market would set.


I need to thank Mr. Will for adding impetus to my campaign to be your president. It reminds me to articulate a vital  plank in my agricultural reform platform.

Anyone using the term "marketing order" without obvious snide intent will be taken out and shot.


*It means abstruse.

Jun 6, 2014

The Longest Wind

Good Lord. Can it be that long since President Obama first showed his arse to the world in a D-Day speech?

He's still fumbling for his Commander-in-Chief britches,  but in all fairness he has improved since the rhetorical embarrassment he uttered five years ago today when he proclaimed that the Normandy invasion was launched by generals who planned to fail.

Today's 2014 edition is less laughable, pretty good, in fact for His Ineptness. If you want to think he ordered his speech writers to study up on Peggy Noonan's  the boys of Pointe du Hoc gem I won't argue with you.

On the other hand, he forgot to remind his staff that maybe they might want to think about consulting someone who is at least casually acquainted with the summer of '44.

By the end of that longest day, this beach had been fought, lost, refought and won -- a piece of Europe once again liberated and free. Hitler's Wall was breached, letting loose Patton's Army to pour into France.

All I can figure is that his pollster told him Patton is a supremely recognizable name while Omar Bradley is  by now a whoduhhellizzat?  I mean,  George even had a movie made about him, and it is still getting decent numbers on teevee reruns.

On D-Day, Patton was giving speeches in England and commanding a ghost army of rubber tanks and plywood trucks to fool Nazis into believing in a main attack later across the Dover Straits. He was quietly training his real army -- the Third -- which went operational more than a month later, long after the first Normandy beach breakouts.

The point isn't Patton. It is a president who commands resources vast enough to inform him -- assuming he gives a damn --  that, among the Americans, Bradley and his First Army carried the load for weeks beyond "The Longest Day." It's basic stuff.

But maybe it is important only to old cranks who cling bitterly to the notion that when presidents speak their stuff gets written down in books and, therefore, the lower the nonsense quotient the better.


And then he read off his Teleprompter:

To the East, the British tore through the coast, fueled by the fury of five years of bombs over London, and a solemn vow to "fight them on the beaches." 

Just for the record, the quote is from Churchill in 1940 and had nothing to do with Overlord. Winston was rallying the home army -- and the home folks with shotguns and cricket bats -- to hold fast on the beaches of Britain.

Oh well. What difference does it make, anyway?

Mar 21, 2014

Thirty Seconds More than Tokyo

Headline: AP Stylebook Takes a Dive; Facebook Furor Ensues

The Stylebook, one of America's traditional bulwarks against flabby couch-potato language, is no longer eating its peas. It decrees that "over" and "more than" may be used synonymously when reporting numerical values.

For this travesty it mounts a Twinkie defense: "We  can't fight a trend." It is but a matter of time before AP sanctions "over" and "more than" as all-purpose synonyms.

Somwhere, More Than the Rainbow, starring Li'l Debbie Garland.

More than my dead body.

Mar 12, 2014

What's the frequency, Kenneth? (More bizarre than...)

This does not bode well. A trigger-lock company trying to buy Remington?

Aside from writing like a bunch of long-winded nerds...

("This model, which takes advantage of market trends, technological advances (Most of you will want to stop reading the red print here; I just wanted to give serious language students enough jargon and cant to convey the full buzz-word flavor) and industry consolidations to fuel profitable growth, presents a value proposition that is perfectly suited to the military armament industry, an industry that is heavily fragmented and evolving rapidly toward a RFID/WiFi-enabled technology platform. In this dynamic environment, we see enormous opportunity to consolidate this market with a program of targeted acquisitions, including the proposed Freedom transaction. Technological convergence is the future in the cyber/smart arms arena and we're eager to leverage our proven history of success by helping Freedom and others navigate the transition from analog to digital.")

.. .the predator company says things which make a guy scratch his head. Among its other bragadocci we find:

Global Digital Solutions is positioning itself as a leader in providing cyber arms manufacturing, complementary security and technology solutions and knowledge-based, cyber-related, culturally attuned social consulting in unsettled areas.

 "culturally attuned social consulting in unsettled areas?"  If there is any actual meaning  there, it escapes me. So I'll make something up.

GDS buys Remington. After a short R and D period, it sells you a  a G5 or 6 or 7 cell phone with an accessory clip for a Model 700. When in an unsettled area you can either shoot at stuff if you can remember the code to tell your phone to unlock the trigger. or you can just settle yourself on a lonely stump and text.

UPDATE: I think we can rest easy.  GDS doesn't have enough money to buy the rusted Remington 742 I picked up for parts last week. The release wasn't satire, but it was the CEO's way of crying out for help. "Oh look at me. Please. I am so pretty."  'course, if you want to take a chance, you can buy a share of the company stock for 86 cents.

Apr 15, 2013

A Monday Morning Mash

1. My friend John in ultra-urban Arizona spent hours looking for .22 Shorts for his friend who owns a Beretta Minx. This crap has been going on for a long time now -- long enough to get me questioning my usual iron resistance to goofy conspiracy theories.

2.I'll ask her to do something about the slightly frizzy hair, but Rep. Martha Blackburn of Tennessee will be offered a high position in my First Administration. This morning on the teevee she characterized the Gosnell murder/abortion case as 'horrible" rather than "horrific." This persuades me she might refrain from  using "impact" as a verb. In this language-murdering 21st Century, that qualifies anyone for cabinet-level office.

3.  Global warming, anyone? The Plains weather continues to suck. If this kind of weather hangs on for a few more weeks, we're only a middlin' Tambora eruption from a rerun of 1800-and-froze-to-death. If you look at your weather graphic on your telescreen, you'll see a splotch of white about the size of Europe splashed across the country from Oklahoma up to the western Great Lakes. That's real snow, cold and pearly white, reflecting heat back into space at a time when The Good Earth should be soaking up warmth for the 2013 growing season. We'll probably be okay, of course, but it never hurts to remind the climate politicians of how little it takes turn an 8,000-mile diameter rock into a pretty snowball.

4. Nothing else impacts on my mind this morning. So have a nice day if you can, otherwise endure.

Jan 26, 2013

H.L. Mencken on Gun (and everything else) Control

Each year about this time,  the Moon of the Shrunken Scrotum, I tend to stay  in my lodge,  near the fire, and spend time with the old writings. I owe these authors. Without them I would be someone else.

This morning it is H.L. Mencken (1880-1956), one of my primary sources on 21st Century politics. Here he discloses one of the reasons we veer so close to post-constitutional government and pixie dust economics.

He is discussing American literature as it existed in the earliest years of the 20th  Century. It was ponderous stuff requiring close attention and patience, but Mencken thought it was important. Or would have been if enough people paid attention. He wasn't optimistic about that.

"In the arts, as in the concerns of every day, the  American seeks escape from the insoluble  by pretending it is solved. A comfortable phrase is what he craves beyond all things...".

Gun Control and Language Control

Another parallelism, further demonstrating the increasing uselessness of the English language as a tool for expressing logical thought processes:

Semi-automatic assault weapon

Horse-drawn automobile

Jan 19, 2013


We're sending a company of National Guard troops to Afghanistan. A helpful public relations officer told us what they'll be doing there. Unfortunately, some members of the public are not well-versed in the dialect spoken by the military literati. As a public service the TMR offers a translation of  "A release from the Iowa National Guard (which) states the company’s mission is... 

-- to  “increase the combat effectiveness of United States and coalition forces (usual cant, either obvious or meaningless)

--  by removing physical obstacles, (Bulldozing stuff down while in the vicinity of armed people who hate you.)

-- identifying and reducing minefields and explosive devices  (Shitting pants while in possession of a metal detector in the vicinity of armed people who hate you.)

-- executing mobility missions, (Driving to the PX through crowds containing armed people who hate you.)

-- emplacing barriers (Piling up dirt between you and some of the armed people who hate you.)

--constructing protective positions (Digging fox holes)

--and performing infantry missions (Shooting at armed people who hate you with the strong suspicion that they will shoot back.


Good luck ladies and gentlemen. Stay safe.  I mean it.

Jan 7, 2013

It doesn't bother me much that fresh-hatched Senator Tammy Baldwin is gay, purportedly the first and only openly gay U.S. senator.

It is annoying, however, that she embraces the rhetorical style technically referred to as "flibbertigibbet."  She brings nonsense -- and, more important, noncommunication -- to an oratorical height we've missed ever since Teddy Kennedy went away.

"Revenue is hugely important, spending cuts are hugely important, but the way you approach spending cuts, we have to make sure that we don’t you know, cut off our nose despite our face, that we don't impede economic growth and prosperity for American families."

Well, first off, Tammy,  if you're actually intending to, you know, vote for one budget choice or another, it would really help us to know which of the two choices is hugelier.  If they are hugely equal, there's no point in choosing between them, is there?  So  you might as well go back to Madison to protest something and have a sit down strike or something, right?

Second, about our noses and faces. You will still be in the senate during my first administration and, unless you improve, be placed on the list of lawmakers who should be suspended until they have demonstrated competence in the use of idiom as it is practiced by native speakers of English.

Oct 29, 2012

Just maybe some piddly little Sandy deaths

I know a lot of Virginians,  and they don't talk this way. Just the politicians.

"...  no injuries so far and no fatalities of any significance," Governor Bob McDonnell told the electric teevee this morning.

Try it like this, Governor Bob. "No one hurt or killed yet."  You're just not ready for words of two or more syllables.

Sep 17, 2012

How much does a Kwee cost?

"Quantitative Easing" -- or "QE" -- my butt.  The Fed loves the locution because it rings of careful policy crafted by the wisest of the wise.

Wrong, Bunkie. It is a pure and simple dilution of every dollar you have accumulated. It is money-printing.

So "QE" deserves a twee name. I nominate Kwee. As in, "Last week the Fed imposed Kwee 3 on the liquid wealth and productive forces of America."

Kwees are cute, also expensive as Hell. Permit me to take you back about four years, to a TMR report Dec. 4, 2008, when the the federal government was only thinking about bailing out every thuggish and incompetent business in sight.


As of the time the Mr. Coffee wheezed itself full today, wholesale gasoline needed to decline just 29/100ths of one cent (about the value of a Pelosi promise) to be below $1 per gallonAnd a pound of lead now trades at 45.5 cents


The corresponding  prices today are about $3 for wholesale gasoline and around $1 for lead.  The difference is what it cost you to permit the politically connected money barons to enjoy all the rewards of capitalism but none of the penalties. 'course if your personal income has doubled or tripled in the past three years and 10  months, you probably aren't all that upset. Show of hands, please?

Pronunciation aid: "kwee" rhymes with "Weimar."

Sep 6, 2012

Softly, softly, cache monkey

The AP is carrying a rambling but interesting review of Asian monkeyshines. It concentrates on squabbles about which nations own which guano piles in the western Pacific.

It is refreshingly free of explanations that Hillary Rodham is there, on the job, and carrying solutions to Oriental angst such as the Korea-Japan spat over the Dokdo Islands. This strategic treasure in the Sea of Japan is about half-way between the disputants. It is made up of 46 acres of rock which, at last report, was home to a Korean octopus fisherman, his wife, and a handful of ROK cops.

"Korea and Japan have a bitter history  (says The Associated Press)   ...  Thumbing one's nose at Tokyo has long had substantial cache for millions of Koreans.

Uhh, look. A Rocky Mountain fur trapper hid his plews in a cache. A girl I knew in Yokosuka sometimes stuck a flower in her hair. That gave her a certain cachet.

I know. Spell-check is cheaper than an editor.

Sep 5, 2012

Paging Ed Newman

How 'bout that? You can buy a gizmo to charge your telephone with tiny little pieces of wood, but "wood" is not good enough for marketeers hustling the Bio-Lite.  They insist:

"Fuel (is)  Renewable biomass"

Elegance like that  shames me. For all these years of timber-felling and and maul-swinging, I've missed the opportunity to sound edgy and hip, aquiver with a passion for keeping Mother Earth all scrubbed up; virginal, you might say, although there's an oxymoron to overcome there.

So I reform and report Camp J is at present supplied with nearly three cords of renewable biomass for the wood renewable-biomass burner.

In fairness, the Bio-Lite copy writer does translate for  the benefit of English speakers, confiding to us that  "biomass"  is "(twigs, pine cones, wood pellets, etc.)"

The gadget costs a hundred-nine bucks, but that includes a thermally actuated electrical output to a USB connection for your mobile i-Whatsis.

If you can live without the "thermoelectric generator (TEG)" you can save about a hundred-twenty-nine  bucks with a No.10 can and a set of tin snips. Fueled with renewable biomass, it will boil up your Arbuckles just fine.

H/T to Tam who is hosting a funny discussion on the subject. Some want. Some are skeptical. To each his dag-nab, blue-eyed own.

Jul 23, 2012

Why we're broke, except for Utah

If Utaht you saw the national MasterCard go a little more over limit recently, you were right.

It somehow came to the attention of the National Science Foundation that things can get a little dry in Deseret. Nice catch, and a perfectly good reason to shovel an extra $20 million  in "research" money to the considerable spawn of Joseph Smith. Utah tax-troughers are giddy with the intellectual challenge. For instance:

"Most of Utah's precipitation falls as snow. As a result, the project will focus on how changing mountain snowpack affects water supplies for the state's growing communities, officials said."

We anxiously await the results of this research, and I submit that we'll all need Valium to cope with the shock of learning that when it snows more in the mountains, Utah gets more water. Another $20 million might extend our knowledge to undertanding that less snow produces less water.

Please notice the words "focus" in the quotation above and "specifically" in this one:

"It will look specifically at watersheds, infrastructure and technology."

if we parse it out we face a single-minded concentration -- which is the meaning of "focus" in this context -- on mountain snow and equally laser-like aiming at "watersheds, infrastructure, and technology."

A definition or three adds clarity:

--Watersheds: Every gawddam valley and divide in the state, from the beautiful Bear River to the tiniest dry wash down south in the multiwife kingdoms.

--Infrastructure:  Farms, roads, power plants, bus stations. buildings, airports, ski lifts, temples, brine shrimp warehouses, railroads, visitors centers.

--Technology: Everything with a 110--volt AC connection and/or a battery. Such an an iPod to message  Orrin Hatch that $20 million may not be enough to "focus"  on and "look specifically" at all that stuff, so send more money and if you do we might vote for you again.


it's a jobs program for a few academics, government "public information" specialists,  assorted bureaucrats, and journalists who turn a pretty good buck uncritically  passing along thin rewrites of federal, state, and local government gobbledygook headed, "For Immediate Release!"

But, on second thought, perhaps I err. After all, we have the governor's explanation that it is, ta-da, a public/private partnership.

Gov. Gary Herbert said. "This public-private collaboration among so many educational, industry and government partners in tackling a key factor in long-term economic growth and quality of life is another example of our state's can-do approach."

If you want to interpret that as a promise the swag will be divvied up among all  varieties of looters, why, I guess I sure won't editorialize against you.

Jun 22, 2012

Ruger? Seriously??

It's nice that a gun maker made the market headlines yesterday by bucking the big Dow loss. But to call Southport a maker of "durable goods" is questionable.  LCR. LCP. SR9.

Mar 15, 2012

Language note

Pink slime is repulsive stuff they put in hamburger.

It is not the  MSNBC prime-time team.

But if you insist I'll try to be tolerant. After all, language is a living, growing gthing.

Mar 6, 2012

Have you heard the one about squawberry shortcake?

Every time this claptrap about offensive place names hits the press I recall a jingle in one of the old Boy Scout handbooks. How to make a fire:

"First you get your tinder, dry as can be,
"Then a little squaw wood, dead but from a tree...".

As far as I know this did not lead to widespread disrespect for female Indians, or Native Americans, or if you must, indigenous people of the American continents.  If it had any implication at all beyond simple bush craft, it taught scouts an anthropological fact. In many tribes, men hunted and made war.  Women cooked and kept wigwam.

"Squaw wood" was the term for firewood light enough to be handled by women.  I know of no case in which a lad, upon hearing it, was carried off into perverted reveries about primitive females' private parts or had even heard that "squaw" is a vulgar synonym for the v-word. (Which it probably isn't.)

That came later when white (mostly) America became rich enough to afford to pay idlers to point out and rectify the moral failures of our fathers in naming the new places they ran across. It continues to this day.

And so it is that the board (of  Geographic Place Names) , which tends to listen to what locals want, has slowly set about scrubbing the word from the landscape. Late last year, for example, Squaw Peak in California’s Inyo National Forest became Wunupu Peak, a Paiute name for “tall pine” or “pine-nut tree area” ... and Squaw Creek in Montana became Two Moons Creek, in honor of a Cheyenne leader of the 1870s.

"Wanupu?" Say it out loud and think thoughts of wholesome purity.

"Two Moons?"  If I were a Cheyenne I'd be less than thrilled about a place named for a turncoat who -- after helping lead his band in a couple of victories against the white eyes -- became a turncoat and spent most of the rest of his life as a lackey for paleface General Bear Coat Miles.

I was pleased to see the term "niggerhead" (a rock awash) disappear from United States nautical charts, but beyond that sort of thing this preoccupation with titivating the language of our fathers strikes me as expensive, time-wasting, history-denying bullshit.

And if that ain't the Taku-Wakan's own sweet truth I'll kiss your arse in the shadow of the Grand Tetons and give you three sleeps to gather the tribes.

Jul 22, 2011


On MSNBC this morning a talking head said it would be hot in Washington. How hot would it be?

"It will be the hottest morning of the week if you factor in the temperature."