MR. LANGUAGE PERSON'S FACADE OF GRAMMAR
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Dave Barry; 01-30-1994
IT'S TIME once again for Ask Mister Language Person, the award-winning
column by the world's foremost leading word expert, who was recently
chosen Official Grammarian of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team (motto: "
Hopefully, Nobody Will Break Their Leg").
Our first grammar question comes from reader Martha Booth, who
writes: "I heard on NPR that President Clinton and Pope John Paul
II met and exchanged a few words. Do you happen to know which ones
they exchanged? And can you please tell me what is sometimes seen
hanging off the bottom of the "c" in the word "facade"?
A: Scientists believe it is a parasite. As regards the word exchange:
Clinton gave the pope a handsome matched set of "parameters," and
in return received the traditional papal "Quod Sic Et Cetera Pluribus
Q: What does that mean?
A: "There is a bologna in my carburetor."
Q: According to a Tampa Tribune article sent in by Dorothy Ladd,
what did University of Florida Associate Athletic Director Greg
McGarity say about allegations of abusive fan behavior at UF football
A: He said: "In no way are we turning a deaf shoulder."
Q: What is the correct wording to use when responding to a formal
invitation to dine at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth?
A: The correct wording is: "Your Majesty is darned tooting that
yours truly shall be honoured to put on the feed bag with Your Royal
Q: Please describe the photograph on the front page of the Oct.
6, 1993, issue of The Monona Billboard ("Official Newspaper of Clayton
County & Monona, Farmersburg & Luana, Iowa").
A: Certainly. It shows two senior citizens using a knife to slice
a large cheese at the annual Germanfest. Just below this photograph,
in large letters, it says . . .
Q: No, you're not going to tell me . . .
A: Yes. It says: "CUTTING THE CHEESE."
Q: Please explain the statement: "I can't seem to find my car keys."
A: This statement means that the person can FIND his car keys,
but he cannot SEEM to find them.
Q: Please review the basic purpose of the apostrophe.
A: The apostrophe is used primarily as a punctuation mark in certain
Lesley Gore songs, such as "Judy's Turn to Cry," where the apostrophe
and the "s" indicate that "Judy" is possessive, which is why she
tried to steal Lesley Gore's boyfriend, "Johnny," away.
Q: What is the best verse in that song?
A: The one wherein Lesley saw Judy and Johnny kissing at a party,
so, to make Johnny jealous, she (Lesley) kissed another guy, and
"Johnny jumped up and he hit him
'Cause he still loved me, that's why."
Q: What an attractive couple.
Q: Speaking of song lyrics: In "Wooly Bully," by Sam the Sham and
the Pharaohs, Sam the Sham sings: "Let's not be L-7s; come on and
learn this dance." My question - which has been nagging me for YEARS
- is this: Is "Sam the Sham" his real name?
A: No. His real name is "Howard A. Sputelman Jr. the Sham."
Q: What is the purpose of the hyphen?
A: The hyphen is used to connect congestive nouns to their precipitate
adjutants, as we see in this example:
"That Zsa-Zsa is a wiener-head!"
The hyphen is also used at the end of a line when there is not
enough room to finish a word:
"Marsha moaned as Brad thrust his throb-uh-oh we're out of room."
Q: Please quote a sentence from an Aug. 12, 1993, Dayton Daily
News report, sent in by Lou Copits, concerning the rescue of a man
who nearly drowned while attempting to swim across a river.
A: "Police said (the man) told them he had been playing a game
that involved banging his head against a wall when he decided to
swim across the river."
Q: What game is that?
A: Probably golf.
Q: According to Dale Stephens, what does the sign on the main road
into Bolivar, W.Va., say?
A: It says:
WELCOME TO BOLIVAR
PLEASE COME BACK
Q: Did Stephens also relate an anecdote concerning his friend John
A: Yes: One time Pharis saw his 3-year-old daughter picking her
nose and then sticking her finger into her mouth. He told her, "You
know, I don't think I'd want to put anything in my mouth that came
out of my nose." And she said: "You should try it. It's good."
TODAY'S WRITING TIP: In writing an advertising slogan, always go
with your strongest "selling point."
WRONG: "Tastes like goat drool."
RIGHT: "Proud to be your Bud."
GOT A QUESTION FOR MISTER LANGUAGE PERSON? The answer is: "No."
Copyright © 1994, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
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