An Essay for Mrs. Malaprop

“A malapropism (also called a malaprop or Dogberryism) is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, often humorous utterance… The word “malapropism” (and its earlier variant “malaprop”) comes from a character named “Mrs. Malaprop” in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1775 play The Rivals.” (Wikipedia)

Some examples of malapropisms are:

  • “illiterate him quite from your memory” (instead of “obliterate”)
  • “she’s as headstrong as an allegory” (instead of alligator).

A friend of mine recently posted this gem on Facebook; I had seen it before, but yesterday it rang a bell and I thought I’d just get it out here with its corrected version for future reference.

TRIGGER WARNING: If bad English offends you, look away now!

16683908_1280992588632773_450508375705471017_n.jpg

Ow! Ow! Ow!

In text format, the monstrosity reads:

Acyrologia is the incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds similar but has a diffident meaning – possibly fueled by a deep-seeded desire to sound more educated, witch results in an attempt to pawn off an incorrect word in place of a correct one. In academia, such flaunting of common social morays is seen as almost sorted and might result in the offender becoming a piranha, in the Monday world, after all is set and done, such a miner era will often leave normal people unphased. This is just as well sense people of that elk are unlikely to tow the line irregardless of any attempt to better educate them. A small percentage, however, suffer from severe acryrologiaphobia, and it is their upmost desire to see English used properly. Exposure may cause them symptoms that may resemble post-dramatic stress disorder and, eventually, descend into whole-scale outrage as they go star-craving mad. Eventually, they will succumb to the stings and arrows of such barrage, and suffer a complete metal breakdown , leaving them curled up in a feeble position.

The only way to stop the pain is to read the paragraph in its proper form:

Acyrologia is the incorrect use of words – particularly replacing one word with another word that sounds similar but has a different meaning – possibly fueled by a deep-seated desire to sound more educated, which results in an attempt to pawn off an incorrect word in place of a correct one. In academia, such flaunting of common social mores is seen as almost sordid and might result in the offender becoming a pariah; in the mundane world, after all is said and done, such a minor error will often leave normal people unfazed. This is just as well since people of that ilk are unlikely to toe the line, regardless of any attempt to better educate them. A small percentage, however, suffer from severe acryrologiaphobia, and it is their utmost desire to see English used properly. Exposure may cause them symptoms that may resemble post-traumatic stress disorder and, eventually, descend into full-scale outrage as they go stark-raving mad. Eventually, they will succumb to the slings and arrows of such barrage, and suffer a complete mental breakdown , leaving them curled up in a fetal position.

I’ve written before about “Word Crimes” – one of Weird Al’s best efforts ever, and that’s saying something because just about everything he does is delightful.

The Wold Floof has Broken.

Two bees, or not two bees.

When I was younger I was enamored of flying, having learned how at Key West Naval Air Force base thanks to a brief stint as a military dependent. Flying lessons were at that time affordable, and I took the opportunity to learn how to solo a Cessna 150, and later at Hill Air Force Base Aero Club, a PA-28 140. After I turned 23 and lost dependent status, flight time became prohibitively expensive, so I never got my ticket – but I sure loved the experience.

FLYING.jpg

During that time I was subscribed to “Flying” magazine and read it religiously, drooling over the new Mitsubishi twin-engine planes that looked so beautiful, and one of the monthly features was “I Learned About Flying from That” – a humorous but educational look at the odd sorts of things that crop up.

I share with you here a portion of one that I always remembered, and which thanks to the eternal memory of the Internet, has been preserved for posterity.


Ridiculous things can happen when you least expect them. It was a beautiful, smooth CAVU day and I leveled off at 8,500, cranked the trim, settled back and opened a stick of chewing gum. It was all very peaceful, but while part of the gum was sticking out of my mouth, a bee landed on it.

I exploded the gum as far as the windshield. This must have put the bee in a bad mood, because he did an immelman and came at me out of the sun. As soon as he got me in his sights, he was joined by another bee.

I wade a rather haphazard attack with a folded low-level chart, but the situation deteriorated when the bees made a flank attack up my trouser leg.

By this time, I imagined I was sitting on a whole nest of bees and began looking for an airport. In answer to my screaming into the mike, a pedantic voice told me wind direction and velocity, barometric pressure, runway, and then, to report downwind. I was hoping for a straignt-in approach, so I began to shout about bees.

Of course, the tower said, “Repeat.”

I supposed I sounded something like “Blah blah blah, Comanche, two bees…”

“Comanche Bravo Bravo, go ahead.”

“Negative Bravo Bravo. Bees. I’ve got two bees.”

“You’ve got to what?”

“Seven-Five Pop has got two bees!”

The tower somehow got the idea that I wanted to use the facilities, and cleared me straight in. I went literally buzzing up to the wire fence beside the terminal, leaped madly out on the wing and took off my pants. Not until there was a burst of applause from a Girl Scout troop did I realize how totally I had been routed by the emergency.

Now bees are on my checklist, just like birds.

From “Flying” magazine, October 1972. “I Learned About Flying from That,” No. 389, by Guernsey Le Pelley

Full text here: https://books.google.com/books?id=aMXZoqvRpaIC

I could tell you about the time that I was at about 10,000 feet practicing cross-control stalls in a Piper and learned exactly why one should be aware of this danger by going into a dead spin, but perhaps another time…

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Even the best cartoonists repeat now and then.

I grew up on Peanuts™. I learned how to read with the first Peanuts book that appeared in 1952, and read them voraciously as other volumes were published. Over time my collection was sold or given away (heresy!), and when I came to my senses decades later I began collecting them again.

peanuts-1952

The challenge with the original books was that Schulz was very selective about what he allowed to be anthologized, and many of his strips vanished from the public consciousness. Happily, later arrangements with Schulz and his estate allowed the entire collection to be republished either by Fantagraphics (beautiful but very expensive) or online at GoComics (colorized but free.)

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the GoComics edition, and read it faithfully and daily. But recently I came across a strip that rang a loud bell:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

I remembered this strip clearly, but something about it seemed “off.” When I finally had some time to do a deep search of the internet, I was able to find the one I remembered:

peanuts-bread-and-budder-sandwich-1

Same gag, re-drawn, slightly different punchline. According to comments at the GoComics site, there may also be a strip where Linus tells Lucy that if you cut a PB&J sandwich, all the flavor runs out.

Why the re-do? Could be any number of reasons. Maybe Schulz liked this punchline better and wanted to see it published. Charles M. Schulz created a total of 17,897 Peanuts strips; maybe he just forgot he had done this one and the idea stuck in his head, so he “re-created” it. Maybe he was stuck for an idea on a given day. Whatever the case, if this is the only true duplication of a gag that he ever did, that’s a prodigious feat.

Other cartoonists repeat occasionally (and not just re-runs for vacations or filler.) I’ve seen one or two examples, but most of them keep coming up with fresh ideas (or in the case of some comic strips, not-so-fresh ideas) for years or even decades. Schulz was undeniably one of the masters of the genre, and an inspiration for countless cartoonists who followed.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Two lessons from bees

1) The Unwise Bee

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Elder James E. Talmage

Sometimes I find myself under obligations of work requiring quiet and seclusion such as neither my comfortable office nor the cozy study at home insures. My favorite retreat is an upper room in the tower of a large building, well removed from the noise and confusion of the city streets. The room is somewhat difficult of access and relatively secure against human intrusion. Therein I have spent many peaceful and busy hours with books and pen.

I am not always without visitors, however, especially in summertime; for when I sit with windows open, flying insects occasionally find entrance and share the place with me. These self-invited guests are not unwelcome. Many a time I have laid down the pen and, forgetful of my theme, have watched with interest the activities of these winged visitants, with an afterthought that the time so spent had not been wasted, for is it not true that even a butterfly, a beetle, or a bee may be a bearer of lessons to the receptive student?

A wild bee from the neighboring hills once flew into the room, and at intervals during an hour or more I caught the pleasing hum of its flight. The little creature realized that it was a prisoner, yet all its efforts to find the exit through the partly opened casement failed. When ready to close up the room and leave, I threw the window wide and tried at first to guide and then to drive the bee to liberty and safety, knowing well that if left in the room it would die as other insects there entrapped had perished in the dry atmosphere of the enclosure. The more I tried to drive it out, the more determinedly did it oppose and resist my efforts. Its erstwhile peaceful hum developed into an angry roar; its darting flight became hostile and threatening.

Then it caught me off my guard and stung my hand—the hand that would have guided it to freedom. At last it alighted on a pendant attached to the ceiling, beyond my reach of help or injury. The sharp pain of its unkind sting aroused in me rather pity than anger. I knew the inevitable penalty of its mistaken opposition and defiance, and I had to leave the creature to its fate. Three days later I returned to the room and found the dried, lifeless body of the bee on the writing table. It had paid for its stubbornness with its life.

To the bee’s shortsightedness and selfish misunderstanding I was a foe, a persistent persecutor, a mortal enemy bent on its destruction; while in truth I was its friend, offering it ransom of the life it had put in forfeit through its own error, striving to redeem it, in spite of itself, from the prison house of death and restore it to the outer air of liberty.

Are we so much wiser than the bee that no analogy lies between its unwise course and our lives? We are prone to contend, sometimes with vehemence and anger, against the adversity which after all may be the manifestation of superior wisdom and loving care, directed against our temporary comfort for our permanent blessing. In the tribulations and sufferings of mortality there is a divine ministry which only the godless soul can wholly fail to discern. To many the loss of wealth has been a boon, a providential means of leading or driving them from the confines of selfish indulgence to the sunshine and the open, where boundless opportunity waits on effort. Disappointment, sorrow, and affliction may be the expression of an all-wise Father’s kindness.

Consider the lesson of the unwise bee!

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. 3:5–6).

2) You can’t escape death

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Visit anythingcomic.com, and someone please think of the bees!

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Fun with Linguistic Symposia

Academic symposia are great fun if you don’t have a reputation to defend. Listening to a presentation can be informative, but the true entertainment value arises when you watch numerous ivory-tower types begin to shred one another’s theories.

This bit of doggerel has been floating around in my humor files since the 70s (first pulled off a chain printer), and deserves to be appreciated by a new generation of linguists.

With no further ado, I present to you a collection of (allegedly) real interactions documented at early gatherings of linguists. First up:

A Taxonomy of Argument Schemata in Metatheoretic Discussions of Syntax
or
Name That Tune

I. Logical Argumentation

  1. If A = ¬A, then my position is true.
    Therefore, since A = ¬A, …
  2. A: ¬p.
    B: Since you agree that p, …
  3. P is absurd, therefore q.

II. Now you see it, now...

  1. Your argument supports my position.
  2. I’m aware of these putative counter-arguments, but…
  3. Let me rephrase that so that it agrees with my position…
  4. I think that is true, but I’m not sure it means anything.

III. The Reasoned Response

  1. I don’t see the argument.
  2. I don’t like your example.
  3. That’s not a problem in my theory.
  4. It’s my opinion, and it’s very true.
  5. I still say that…

IV. Papa Knows Best

  1. You say that, but you don’t believe it.
  2. You believe this, but you won’t say it.
  3. What you really believe is ____, and I agree with you.
  4. Our disagreement is merely semantic.
  5. Don’t be misled by the similarity between A and A. It’s merely a superficial identity.

V. Audience Participation: Let’s take a vote!

VI. The Pre-emption

  1. You’re right, but I said it first!
  2. What you say is wrong, and I said it first!

VII. The Putdown

  1. You can’t do it either
  2. That’s true, but uninteresting in the ____ sense!

VIII. Advancing to the rear

  1. I knew that analysis was wrong before I proposed it.
  2. Of course my analysis is wrong in detail – *all* analyses are wrong in detail.

IX. The Principled Argument

A: Shut up!
B: No, *you* shut up!
A: No, *YOU* shut up!


 

But wait, there’s more!

An Ancillary Guide To Understanding a Syntax Conference

 What the Speaker Says  What the Speaker Means
These examples are from Dyirbal, a widely discussed language, so I will assume familiarity. I don’t know the language well enough to answer questions, so don’t ask any.
When you stop to think about what you said, it doesn’t say anything.  I don’t understand it.
Some examples are vague; the others are simply wrong. I can’t quite put an argument together, but I still want to attack yours.
No one has ever studied “X”. I haven’t studied it, and neither have my friends.
I may have to retreat (there is a possibility), which is a wise thing to do when you are wrong. I assure you that you are a good guy if you say that you are wrong.
Nobody is going to be converted to another side at this conference. This is not a tournament in which someone will win the main prize. This is my excuse for not accepting anyone else’s argument, regardless of how valid it may be.
It is significant in an “interesting” way. I could possible squeeze an article or two out of it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve attended one of these conclaves, but I have no doubt that such things are still heard if you listen closely.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Improving the web, one word at a time.

XKCD is a wonderful strip. Sometimes Munroe’s posts are based in deep and often incomprehensible (to me) math, sometimes intriguing science, and sometimes the most violently twisted whimsy one could imagine.

The most recent installment gives some suggestions for making the web-browsing experience more interesting.

substitutions_3

The internet being what it is, and people’s creativity and free time factoring in, it was no surprise that a vehicle has already been created that allows such a list (or any other) to be implemented.

My news feed now looks like this:

news

This courtesy of Word Replacer II, a chrome extension that allows you to wipe out any word in your browser that you might find offensive, tiresome, or annoying, and replace it with any other. Tired of seeing Justin Bieber or Kim Kardashian all over the news? Replace them with “Little Bunny Froo-froo” or “King Koopa.”

Trust me, it will make your daily perusal of the news much more uplifting.

The user interface is a bit hard to use, but the fastest way to get things in is to build a blob with this format and import it. Notice that the closing brace after each segment has a comma after it – all except for the last one.

{
“version”: “2.0.10”,
“replacements”: [
{
“repA”: “Hillary Clinton”,
“repB”: “Her Supreme Corruptness”,
“type”: “Simple”,
“case”: “Maintain”,
“active”: true
},
{
“repA”: “Donald Trump”,
“repB”: “the bombastic blowhard”,
“type”: “Simple”,
“case”: “Maintain”,
“active”: true
}
]
}

It took me a while of fiddling to get them in, but I was able to get about 30 replacements installed and now watching the news feeds actually gives me a smile.

Enjoy.

The Old Wolf has spoken

If the shoe fits…

Vicks Inhaler

When I was a kid, I remember encountering one of these at the home of an older relative. Being naturally curious, I unscrewed the thing and smelled it.

Eeyagh! Hideous! I didn’t even bother asking what it was for, I just considered it anathema and forgot all about it until years later when, as an adult, I discovered how useful they are for unplugging a stuffy nose.

The event was brought sharply into renewed focus in my memory when, about 8 years ago, my oldest granddaughter who was, at the time, 3 years old, picked one up off my nightstand, unscrewed it, and gave it a smell. Her response cracked me up, and I remember it to this day and have told the story many times; indeed, it has become somewhat of a watchword in our family, as you shall see.

What she, at that tender age, said was: “Ew! That’s for old!”

Indeed it is, sweetheart, but I do hope you come to appreciate its value when you have grandchildren of your own.

One day this last year, my wife’s youngest daughter, who was 25 at the time, accompanied me to the dollar store to pick out some candy for a daddy-daughter movie date that we were planning. We each picked out a couple of our favorites, and one of mine was this:

Good-&-Plenty-Box-Small

Naturally, I hated these as a kid as well, preferring things like Bazooka™ bubble gum, Nik-L-Nips™, Jujubes™, and Chunky™ candy bars. Licorice was for *old* people. Gah.

You can imagine my delight when our sweet girl saw my choice, wrinkled up her nose, and said,

“Ew! That’s for old!”

And so it is. But while I’m not excited about the aches and pains that come along with becoming a senior citizen, I have long been appreciative of the sentiment, “Never resent growing old. It is a gift denied to many.”

True enough, and if it brings with it appreciation of things like Good & Plenty™ and Vicks inhalers, then that’s just icing on the cake.

The Old Wolf has spoken.