Category Archives: Wordplay

An exploration of words and language

Defining UP ?!

This two-letter word in English has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that word is ‘UP.’  It is listed in the dictionary as an [adv], [prep], [adj], [n] or [v].

It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?

At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP, and why are the officers UP for election (if there is a tie, it is a toss UP) and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report? We callUP our friends, brighten UP a room, polishUP the silver, warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and fix UP the old car.

At other times, this little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.

To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is blocked UP.

We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night. We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!

To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look UP the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4 of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.

If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with (UP to) a hundred or more.

When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out, we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it soaks UP the earth. When it does not rain for awhile, things dry UP. One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now . . . my time is UP!

Yes, one more thing: What is the first thing you do in the morning and the last thing you do at night?  U…  P…!

Did that one crack you UP?  Send this on to everyone you look UP in your address book . . . or not . . . it’s UP to you.  Now I’ll shut UP!

(Thank you to our Ottawa friend and By George reader, Dick Inwood, who supplied us with this piece of nonsense.)

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

The Top-25 Most Common English Words

According to Oxford English Corpus, here are the top-25 most commonly used words in the English language:

The / Be / To / Of / And

A / In / That / Have / I

It / For / Not / On / With

He / As / You / Do / At

This / But / His / By / From

This list is based on an Oxford English Corpus analysis of over a billion words, and represents one study done by Oxford Online, associated with the Oxford English Dictionary. This source includes writings of all sorts from literary novels and specialist journals to everyday newspapers and magazines, and from U.K.’s Hansard to the language of chatrooms, emails, and weblogs. (The Reading Teachers Book of Lists claims that these first 25 words make up about one-third of all printed material in English.)

SOURCE:  Wikipedia 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Did you know the origins of these sayings?!

Early aircraft’s throttles had a ball on the end of it, in order to go full throttle the pilot had to push the throttle all the way forward into the wall of the instrument panel. Hence “balls to the wall” for going very fast.

During WWII , U.S. airplanes were armed with belts of bullets which they would shoot during dogfights and on strafing runs. These belts were folded into the wing compartments that fed their machine guns. These belts measure 27 feet and contained hundreds of rounds of bullets. Often times, the pilots would return from their missions having expended all of their bullets on various targets. They would say, “I gave them the whole nine yards,” meaning they used up all of their ammunition.

In George Washington’s days, there were no cameras. One’s image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are ‘limbs,’ therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, “Okay, but it’ll cost you an arm and a leg.”

As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October). Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn’t wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term ‘big wig’. Today we often use the term ‘here comes the Big Wig’ because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.

In the late 1700’s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use the expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the Board.’

Common entertainment included playing. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the ‘Ace of Spades.’ To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren’t ‘playing with a full deck.’

Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV’s or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to ‘go sip some Ale and listen to people’s conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. ‘You go sip here’ and ‘You go sip there.’ The two words ‘go sip’ were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term ‘gossip.’

At local taverns, pubs, and bars, people drank from pint and quart-sized containers. A bar maid’s job was to keep an eye on the customers and keep the drinks coming. She had to pay close attention and remember who was drinking in ‘pints’ and who was drinking in ‘quarts,’ hence the phrase ‘minding your ‘P’s and Q’s’.

In the heyday of sailing ships, all war ships and many freighters carried iron cannons. Those cannons fired round iron cannon balls. It was necessary to keep a good supply near the cannon. However, how to prevent them from rolling about the deck? The best storage method devised was a square-based pyramid with one ball on top, resting on four resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem….how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding or rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate called a ‘Monkey’ with 16 round indentations. However, if this plate were made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make ‘Brass Monkeys.’ Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannonballs would come right off the monkey; Thus, it was quite literally, ‘Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.’

(ed. – Thank you to our friend Dick Inwood who sent this missive through to us this past week. Always appreciated Dick!)

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

5 shaggy-dog (pun-ishing) stories

Here are 5 gems to get you through the week!!

  • King Ozymandias of Assyria was running low on cash after years of war with the Hittites. His last great possession was the Star of the Euphrates, the most valuable diamond in the ancient world. Desperate, he went to Croesus, the pawnbroker, to ask for a loan. Croesus said, “I’ll give you 100,000 dinars for it.” The King protested, “But I paid a million dinars for it! Don’t you know who I am? I am the king!” Croesus replied, “When you wish to pawn a Star, makes no difference who you are.”
  • A marine biologist developed a race of genetically engineered dolphins that could live forever if they were fed a steady diet of seagulls. One day, his supply of the birds ran out so he had to go out and trap some more. On the way back, he spied two lions asleep on the road. Afraid to wake them, he gingerly stepped over them. Immediately, he was arrested and charged with — transporting gulls across sedate lions for immortal porpoises.
  • An Indian chief was feeling very sick, so he summoned the medicine man. After a brief examination, the medicine man took out a long, thin strip of elk rawhide and gave it to the chief, telling him to bite off, chew, and swallow one inch of the leather every day. After a month, the medicine man returned to see how the chief was feeling. The chief shrugged and said, “The thong is ended, but the malady lingers on.”
  • A skeptical anthropologist was cataloguing South American folk remedies with the assistance of a tribal pujo who indicated that the leaves of a particular fern were a sure cure for any case of constipation. When the anthropologist expressed his doubts, the pujo looked him in the eye and said, “Let me tell you, with fronds like these, you don’t need enemas.”
  • Ollie Oyster and Sam Clam were best friends. They grew up together, went to school together, and even played in a rock band together. One day they had a horrible car accident, and both died. Ollie had lived a good life, and went to heaven. Sam went to the other place. Ollie wanted to play in a rock band again, just like before he died. But the only instrument allowed in heaven was the harp. He was a little sad about it, but learned to play the harp anyway, and became pretty good about it. But Ollie Oyster missed his good friend Sam Clam. One day he asked God if he could visit Sam. God said “Well, we don’t normally do that kind of thing. But you were a very good oyster, so I can make a small exception. I’ll let you visit Sam for one day. But the catch is, you have to take your harp with you. They don’t have harps in hell, so when you want to get back into heaven just come to the front gate and play your harp, and we’ll know it’s you and let you in.” Ollie was overjoyed, grabbed his harp, and went to visit his old friend. Ollie found Sam, and they soon caught up on old times. Musical instruments of all kinds were allowed in hell, and Sam had formed a band, made a lot of money, and eventually opened his own disco. The two friends partied the night away in Sam’s disco, talking about old times, drinking heavily, and having a great time. Finally, Ollie realized that time had gotten away from him, and he had only minutes to get back to heaven. He rushed out of the disco, leaving his harp behind. He made it to the front gates of heaven, and pounded on the door. St Peter peeked out, and said “God told me you would be coming back, but I can’t let you in until I hear you play your harp!” Ollie cried “Oh No! I left my harp in Sam Clam’s disco!”

Pass along your favourite puns! The By George Journal would love to post them!

If you’d like to see further punny stories and pithy shorts, here the full menu of our pun posts.

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Paraprosdokians to Enjoy

A paraprosdokian is a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation (i.e. “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it.”) .

  1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
  2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
  3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
  4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
  5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
  6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
  7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  8. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
  9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
  10. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
  11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
  12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
  13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
  14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
  15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
  16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
  17. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  18. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
  19. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
  20. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.
  21. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
  22. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
  23. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
  24. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
  25. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
  26. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
  27. A diplomat is someone who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
  28. Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.
  29. I always take life with a grain of salt. Plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.
  30. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

(ed. – Thank you to our friend, Dick Inwood of Ottawa.)

Your Wordplay Weapons

For writers (and flacks and hacks), there are many weapons at your disposal to ensure the written word is lively and engaging. Here are but a few.

  • Malapropism – a comic misuse of language
  • Neologism – a made-up word
  • Anagram – a word formed by transposing letters
  • Acronym – a word formed by combining first letters or syllables of other words
  • Antonym – a word that means the opposite of another word
  • Paraphrase – to state something differently
  • Double Entendre – a word or phrase with an extra, often racy meaning
  • Metaphor – a figure of speech suggesting a likeness, but offering a description that is not literally applicable
  • Homophones – words with the same pronunciation
  • Cipher – secret writing, such as diplomatic writing
  • Palindrome – a text that reads the same in reverse
  • Spoonerism – transposing first letters of two or more words (i.e. right lane / light rain)
  • Pangram – a phrase using all 26 letters of the alphabet
  • Portmanteau – a word blend of two other words (i.e. breakfast and lunch becomes brunch)
  • Retronym – a modified name for an old item
  • Sesquipedalian – having many syllables
  • Paronomasia – a pun or play of words

(ed. – We dug this helpful piece out of the By George archives. Through the next few weeks By George will post lists of these “wordplay weapons.”)

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Rules for Writing Plain English

From How You Can Write Plain Language by Just Following These 39 Steps
By William D. Lutz, author of Doublespeak Defined and The New Doublespeak

 

The Writing Process

1. Know your reader, and write with your reader’s viewpoint in mind.

2. Organize your text: in a logical sequence, with informative headings, and with a table of contents for long documents

3. Use short sentences

4. Say only what you have to say, avoiding too many messages in a single sentence, and omitting surplus words.

5. Keep equivalent items parallel.

6. Avoid unnecessary formality.

7. Give an overview of the main idea of the text.

8. List conditions separately.

9. Arrange your words with care.

10. Punctuate carefully.

11. Use an average of 25 words per sentence.

12. Put most of your messages at the subject-predicate position.

13. For variety or emphasis, invert your sentences.

14. Use the art of subordination to smooth out choppiness.

15. Avoid disrupting your sentences with thought-stopping gaps.

16. Tabulate particularly complex information.

17. Get rid of compound prepositions.

18. Rewrite the adjective, adverb, and noun clauses to other structures satisfying the same functions.

19. Use phrases to smooth out the choppy noun-noun modifier.

20. Be fair and nonsexist, but don’t be stupid.

 

Usage

21. Prefer the active voice.

22. Use simple, “everyday” words.

23. Use words consistently.

24. Use familiar, concrete words.

25. Avoid multiple negatives.

26. Avoid nouns created from verbs.

27. Use action verbs; avoid the verb “to be.”

28. Use personal pronouns.

29. Avoid noun strings.

30. Avoid deleting words such as “which is,” “who was,” “that are,” etc. – that link a subordinate clause.

31. Avoid language quirks.

 

Presentation of Material

32. Make the document attractive and designed for easy reading.

33. Use white space in margins and between sections.

34. Use ragged right margins.

35. Do not use all caps.

36. Use highlighting techniques, but don’t overuse them.

37. Use 8 to 10 point type for text.

38. Avoid lines of type that are too long or too short.

39. Avoid strings of symbols.

 

Chris George provides reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Well-Turned Phrases

Regarding apathy, I have no opinion.

Remember you’re unique, just like everybody else.

Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Every morning is the dawn of a new error.

If all is not lost, where is it?

Ignorance is no excuse. It’s the real thing.

I always wanted to be somebody, but I should have been more specific.

I plead contemporary insanity.

Committee: a body that keeps minutes and wastes hours.

Yawn: an honest opinion openly expressed.

Education is what you have left after you’ve lost all your notes.

Procrastinate now.

Deja Moo: The feeling that you’ve heard this bull before.

Any philosophy that can fit into a nutshell belongs there.

No matter where you go, there you are.

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

Meandering to a different drummer.

Hermits unite!

Dyslexics Untie!

Eschew obfuscation.

Egotist: someone who is usually me-deep in conversation.

A PBS mind in an MTV world.

Ambivalent? Well, yes and no.

Entrophy isn’t what it used to be.

She had a body like a burlap bag full of bobcats.

Compost happens.

Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.

That was Zen. This is Tao.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Text Message Abbreviations

There are few who will argue against the fact that modern language has degenerated with the advance of on-line communications – particularly our use of strings of abbreviations when we send text messages. For your reference to this new world of abbreviations, we have compiled some of the most commonly used:

AFK – away from the keyboard
ASL? – Age? Sex? Location?
B4 – before
BAK – back at the keyboard
BBL – be back later
BCNU – be seeing you
BRB – be right back
BTW – by the way
FAQs – frequently asked questions
IMHO – in my humble opinion
L8R – later
LOL – laughs out loud
MOF? – male or female?
NM – never mind
N/M – not much
NP – no problem
OMG – oh may god!
ROFL – rolling on the floor laughing
TTFN – ta ta for now
UR – your or you’re
W/ – with

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Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Some Scientific Equations You May Not Be Familiar With

Ratio of an igloo’s circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi

 

2000 pounds of Chinese soup = Won ton

 

1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope

 

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecon

 

Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram

 

Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong

 

16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Sterling

 

Half of a large intestine = 1 semicolon

 

1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz

 

Basic unit of laryngitis = 1 hoarsepower

 

Shortest distance between two jokes = A straight line

 

453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake

 

1 million-million microphones = 1 megaphone

 

2 million bicycles = 2 megacycles

 

365.25 days = 1 unicycle

 

2000 mockingbirds = 2 kilomockingbirds

 

52 cards = 1 decacards

 

1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 FigNewton

 

1000 milliliters of wet socks = 1 literhosen

 

1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche

 

1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin

 

10 rations = 1 decoration

 

100 rations = 1 C-ration

 

2 monograms = 1 diagram

 

4 nickels = 2 paradigmne

 

2.4 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 IV League

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

The Five Oldest Words

Of all languages, throughout the ages, around the globe, there are five words that are today recognized as “the oldest.” University of Reading evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel studies have concluded the oldest words as:

I
Who
Two
Three
Five

These words are the most often used in daily speech – their forms or sounds date back over 10,000 years. Some of the other oldest words in mankind’s communicative history are:

We
Thou
Name
Tongue
What
How
Where
Four

This extraordinary work was first reported in a 2009 issue of National Geographic, but detailed reports about Professor Pagel’s study are found in U.K. media: BBC News and The Telegraph.

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

 

Classic tongue-in-cheek puns

  • A jumper cable walks into a bar. The barman says “I’ll serve you, but don’t start anything.”
  • A sandwich walks into a bar. The barman says, “Sorry we don’t serve food in here.”
  • A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
  • A man walks into a bar with a slab of asphalt under his arm and says : “A beer please, and one for the road.”
  • Two hydrogen atoms walk into a bar. One says, “I’ve lost my electron.” The other says, “Are you sure?” The first replies, “Yes, I’m positive…”
  • I went to buy some camouflage trousers the other day, but I couldn’t find any.
  • I went to a seafood disco rave last week … and pulled a mussel.
  • Two Eskimos sitting in a kayak were chilly; but when they lit a fire in the craft, it sank, proving once and for all that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.
  • What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.
  • That was two-thirds of a pun: ‘p’ , ‘u’ .

 

Check out By George Journal’s selection of puns in our archives – articles tagged “puns”.

(ed. – No punny post would be complete without acknowledging our friend, The Kng of Punsters, Dick Inwood. Thanks Dick for your years of providing our office countless morning smiles and groans!!)

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Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a trusted executive assistant, a communications can-do guy, or a go-to-scribe? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Our Redundant Redundancies

Have you notice we repeatedly use common figures of speech that are obvious redundancies?  Here are a few we’ve recorded at work in the last few weeks.

  • an added bonus
  • all inclusive
  • basic fundamentals
  • a brief moment
  • it’s boiling hot
  • let’s circle around
  • classic tradition
  • close proximity
  • duplicate copy
  • end result
  • false illusion
  • they’re immortalized forever
  • live audience
  • mental thought
  • my personal opinion
  • new discovery
  • original founder
  • it’s a temporary reprieve
  • true fact
  • unique, one-in-a-lifetime opportunity

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Monday Morning Definitions

COMPROMISE:
The art of dividing
A cake in such a way that
Everybody believes
He got the biggest piece

CONFERENCE:
The confusion of one man
Multiplied by the
Number present

CONFERENCE ROOM:
A place where everybody talks,
Nobody listens

OFFICE:
A place
Where you can relax
After your strenuous
Home life

SMILE:
A curve
That can set
A lot of things straight!
And everybody disagrees later on

ECSTASY:
A feeling when you feel
You are going to feel
A feeling
You have never felt before

CLASSIC:
A book
Which people praise,
But never read

MARRIAGE:
It’s an agreement Wherein
A man loses his bachelors degree
And a woman gains her masters

YAWN:
The only time
When some married men
Ever get to open
Their mouth

EXPERIENCE:
The name
Men give
To their
Mistakes

TEARS:
The hydraulic force by which
Masculine will power is
Defeated by feminine water-power!

DIPLOMAT:
A person
Who tells you
To go to hell
In such a way
That you actually look forward
To the trip

OPTIMIST:
A person
Who while falling
From EIFFEL TOWER
Says in midway
“SEE I AM NOT INJURED YET!”

LECTURE:
An art of transmitting information
From the notes of the lecturer
To the notes of students
Without passing through the minds
Of either

MISER:
A person
Who lives poor
So that
He can die RICH!

FATHER:
A banker
Provided by
Nature

BOSS:
Someone
Who is early
When you are late
And late
When you are early

POLITICIAN:
One who
Shakes your hand
Before elections
And your confidence
Later

DOCTOR:
A person
Who kills
Your ills
By pills,
And kills you
By his bills!

CIGARETTE:
A pinch of tobacco
Rolled in paper
With fire at one end
And a fool at the other!

 

(ed. – Our thanks to friend Dick Inwood for these priceless definitions. Great way to start the week!) 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

10 Spoonerisms, Oxymorons, & Palindromes

Here are three lists of special kinds of words…. a diversion for our wordsmith followers.

Spoonerisms are slips of the tongue by transposing the sounds of words, usually by accident. (The term “spoonerism” is derived from W.A. Spooner (1844 – 1930), an English clergyman noted for such slips.)

  • a lack of pieces – a pack of lies
  • tips of the slung – slips of the tongue
  • pleating and humming – heating and plumbing
  • chilled grease – grilled cheese
  • sparking pace – parking space
  • chewing the doors – doing the chores
  • clappy as a ham – happy as a clam
  • wave the sails – save the whales
  • tease my ears – ease my tears
  • our queer old dean – our dear old Queen

 

Oxymorons are adjectives describing nouns of opposite meaning (such as a jumbo shrimp)

  • virtual reality
  • original copy
  • old news
  • act naturally
  • pretty ugly
  • constant variable
  • exact estimate
  • paid volunteers
  • sound of silence
  • only choice

 

Palindromes are words or sentences that read the same backward or forward.

  • A nut for a jar of tuna.
  • Borrow or rob?
  • Do geese see God?
  • Go hang a salami. I’m a lasagna hog.
  • A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!
  • We panic in a pew.
  • Never odd or even.
  • Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
  • Madam in Eden, I’m Adam.
  • Murder for a jar of red rum.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR & GR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? 613-983-0801 @ CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Def’n on the origins of popular sayings

HOT OFF THE PRESS
As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it is hot. The expression means to get immediate information.

A SHOT OF WHISKEY
In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.

THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

BUYING THE FARM
This saying is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

PASSING THE BUCK/THE BUCK STOPS HERE
Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it as common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal he would “pass the buck” to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there”.

CURFEW
The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “couvre-feu”, which means “cover the fire”. It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a “curfew”.

IRON CLAD CONTRACT
This saying came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

And from the days of steamship travel on the mighty Mississippi River…

RIFF RAFF
The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff” and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.

SHOWBOAT
These vessels were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These barges played in small towns along the Mississippi River . Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating”.

BARGE IN
Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in”.

HOGWASH
Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless “hog wash”.

OVER A BARREL
In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in an effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.

(ed. – Our thanks again goes out to friend Dick Inwood who is a constant source of wonderment.)

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Double-takes Wordplay

Let’s take everyday words and do a double-take…

  • Coffee (n.), a person who is coughed upon.
  • Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
  • Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
  • Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
  • Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
  • Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
  • Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
  • Gargoyle (n.), an olive-flavored mouthwash.
  • Flatulence (n.) the emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
  • Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
  • Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
  • Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified demeanor assumed by a proctologist immediately before he examines you.
  • Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddish expressions.
  • Pokemon (n), a Jamaican proctologist.
  • Frisbeetarianism (n.), the belief that, when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck there.
  • Circumvent (n.), the opening in the front of boxer shorts.

This list that was first printed years ago in the Washington Post and has forever circulated on the Internet and in e-mails ever since. The words are the winning entries in the newspaper’s contest that asked readers to supply alternate meanings for various words.

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.

Oxymoronica

Dr. Mardy Grothe is a ‘wordsmith extraordinaire’ and he is an author of many books that take an in-depth look at some of the more amusing elements of our English language. A case in point is his book entitled Oxymoronica.

By Dr. Grothe’s own definition, oxymoronica is a noun that means: “Any compilation of phrases or quotations that initially appear illogical or nonsensical, but upon reflection, make a good deal of sense and are often profoundly true.”

The following list of oxymorons is concerning ‘writers’ and it is one of the many treasures found within the book Oxymoronica.

  • It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. — Robert C. Benchley
  • A writer is somebody for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. — Thomas Mann
  • I love being a writer. What I hate is the paperwork. — Peter De Vries
  • I don’t think I am any good. If I thought I was any good, I wouldn’t be. — John Betjeman
  • We are all failures — at least, all the best of us are. — J. M. Barrie, on writers
  • Be obscure clearly. — E. B. White, advice to writers
  • A good novel is possible only after one has given up and let go. — Walker Percy
  • If it sounds like writing, I re-write it. — Elmore Leonard
  • It takes less time to learn how to write nobly than how to write lightly and straightforwardly. — Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Writing came easy — it would only get hard when I got better at it. — Gary Wills
  • Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead. — Gene Fowler

And here are samples of poets who have created ingenious oxymoronic verse:

Our interest’s on the dangerous edge of things.
The honest thief, the tender murderer,
The superstitious atheist.
— Robert Browning, in “Bishop Blougram’s Apology”

In solitude, when we are least alone.
— Lord Byron, in “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”

Terminate torment
Of love unsatisfied
The greater torment
Of love satisfied.
— T. S. Eliot, in “Ash Wednesday”

Here’s a good rule of thumb:
Too clever is dumb.
— Ogden Nash

And ’tis remarkable that they
Talk most who have the least to say.
— Matthew Prior, in “Alma”

A day
Spent in a round of strenuous idleness.
— William Wordsworth, in “The Prelude”

For those who love the art and fund of ‘wordplay,’ there is a tremendous site for your surfing pleasure at http://www.drmardy.com/

 

Chris George, providing reliable PR counsel and effective advocacy. Need a go-to writer and experienced communicator? Call 613-983-0801 @CG&A COMMUNICATIONS.