On the “lighter” side of writing, I thought I’d share this humorous story about how words (and letters) can lead us astray.
“The Wayside Chapel”
An English lady, while living in Switzerland was looking for a room and asked The Schoolmaster if he could recommend any. He took her to several rooms and, when everything was arranged, the lady returned to her home to prepare for the move. When she arrived home, the thought suddenly dawned that she had seen no WC (water closet or toilet) around the place, so she immediately wrote to The Schoolmaster asking him where the WC was.
The Schoolmaster was a very poor master of English so he asked the Parish Priest if he could help in the matter. Together they attempted to discover what the letters WC meant. The only solution they could find was the local “Wayside Chapel.” The Schoolmaster then wrote the following note to the lady seeking a WC with her room.
I take great comfort in informing you that WC is located nine miles from the house, in the center of a beautiful grove of trees surrounded by lovely grounds. It is capable of holding 200 people and is open on Sundays and Thursdays only. As there are a great many people expected in the summer months, I would suggest that you come early, although there is usually plenty of standing room. This is an unfortunate situation, particularly if you are in the habit of going regularly. You will no doubt be glad to hear that a good number bring their lunch and make a day of it, while others who can afford it go on Thursday when there is organ accompaniment. The acoustics are excellent and the most delicate sound can be heard anywhere. It may interest you to know that my daughter was married in the WC, for it was there she first met her husband. I can remember the rush for seats. And there were 10 people to a seat usually occupied by one. It was a wonderful sight to behold. The newest attraction is a bell donated by a wealthy resident of the district. It rings every time a person enters. A bazaar is to be held to provide plush seats for all, since the people feel it is too long a wait.
I shall be delighted to save the best seat for you, if you wish, where you will be seen by all.
Hoping to have been of service, I remain,
Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words. You will love the winners!
- Coffee (N.), the person upon whom one coughs.
- 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.), olive-flavored mouthwash.
- Flatulence (N.) 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 bearing adopted by proctologists.
- Pokemon (N), a Rastafarian proctologist.
- Oyster (N.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
- Frisbeetarianism (N.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your Soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
- Circumvent (N.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by Jewish men.
The Washington Post’s Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are this year’s winners:
- Bozone (N.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
- Foreploy (V): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
- Cashtration (N.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
- Giraffiti (N): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
- Sarchasm (N): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
- Inoculatte (V): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
- Hipatitis (N): Terminal coolness.
- Osteopornosis (N): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
- Karmageddon (N): It’s like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it’s like, a serious bummer.
- Decafalon (N.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
- Glibido (V): All talk and no action.
- Dopeler effect (N): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
- Arachnoleptic fit (N.): The frantic dance performed just after you’ve accidentally walked through a spider web.
- Beelzebug (N.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
- Caterpallor (N.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you’re eating.
And the pick of the literature:
- Ignoranus (N): A person who’s both stupid and an asshole.
Words are my business.
I love them dearly, but sometimes, they can be perplexing, confusing, and downright ornery. Here’s one word, a tiny one, that conveys my meaning with its myriad meanings.
The tiny word is UP. And it has more definitions and uses than a giraffe has spots. In the dictionary it takes UP, ahem, half a page to define. Let us count the ways UP is employed.
We wake UP in the morning, go outside and look UP at the sky.
We stand UP. We sit UP.
We speak UP at meetings, write UP reports.
We can be UP to a task or not.
We warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
UP can be an adverb, an adjective, a preposition, a noun, or a verb. See if you can pick those out.
We dress UP for an occasion, lock UP the house and walk UP the street.
We call UP our friends, fix UP an old car, brighten UP a room with flowers.
We can stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite or think UP excuses.
We open UP a drain that’s stopped UP.
We open UP a store in the morning and close it UP at night.
It can cloud UP and rain, then clear UP for the sun to shine.
When it doesn’t rain, the earth dries UP. When it does rain, the earth soaks UP the water.
A candidate can be a runner-UP in an election.
We can pick UP a box, or move UP a ladder.
Then there’s that great animated film, UP, about a flying house and . . . well, never mind.
I think you get the idea. If you have more definitions for UP that I missed here, or, perhaps other similar words, please share!
This came across my desk this week and, unfortunately, I cannot find out who actually wrote it, since it was passed along by so many. If any of you know, please let me know, so I can properly thank the writer! For now, just enjoy!
TECH SUPPORT A young woman who submitted the tech support message below (about her relationship with her husband) presumably did it as a joke. Then she got a reply which was way too good to keep to herself. The tech support people’s love advice was hilarious and genius!
Dear Tech Support,
Last year I upgraded from Boyfriend 5.0 to Husband 1.0 and noticed a distinct slowdown in overall system performance, particularly in the flower and jewelry applications, which operated flawlessly under Boyfriend 5.0.
In addition, Husband 1.0 uninstalled many other valuable programs, such as Romance 9.5 and Personal Attention 6.5, and then installed undesirable programs such as: NBA 5.0, NFL 3.0 and Golf Clubs 4.1. Conversation 8.0 no longer runs and House cleaning 2.6 simply crashes the system.
Please note that I have tried running Nagging 5.3 to fix these problems, but to no avail.
What can I do?
The response (that came weeks later out of the blue)
First keep in mind, Boyfriend 5.0 is an Entertainment Package, while Husband 1.0 is an operating system. Please enter command: Ithoughtyouloved me.HTML and try to download Tears 6.2.
Do not forget to install the Guilt 3.0 update. If that application works as designed, Husband 1.0 should then automatically run the applications Jewelry2.0 and Flowers 3.5.
However, remember, overuse of the above application can cause Husband 1.0 to default to Grumpy Silence 2.5, Happy Hour 7.0, or Beer 6.1. Please note that Beer 6.1 is a very bad program that will download the Farting and Snoring Loudly Beta version. Whatever you do, DO NOT, under any circumstances, install Mother-In- Law 1.0 as it runs a virus in the background that will eventually seize control of all your system resources.
In addition, please, do not attempt to re-install the Boyfriend 5.0 program. These are unsupported applications and will crash Husband 1.0.
In summary, Husband 1.0 is a great program, but it does have limited memory and cannot learn new applications quickly. You might consider buying additional software to improve memory and performance. We recommend: Cooking 3.0.
For my blog this week, I thought I’d spotlight one of my favorite humorists, Ogden Nash. For those of you unfamiliar with this witty poet, he is often remembered for his short but clever poems such as:
“The trouble with a kitten is that . . .
Eventually it becomes a cat.”
So in honor of the coming holidays, here is:
“The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus.” Enjoy.
In Baltimore there lived a boy,
He wasn’t anybody’s joy.
Although his name was Jabez Dawes,
His character was full of flaws.
In school he never led his classes,
He hid old ladies’ reading glasses,
His mouth was open when he chewed,
And elbows to the table glued.
He stole the milk of hungry kittens,
And walked through doors marked No Admittance.
He said he acted thus because
There wasn’t any Santa Claus.
Another trick that tickled Jabez
Was crying “Boo!” at little babies.
He brushed his teeth, they said in town,
Sideways instead of up and down.
Yet people pardoned every sin,
And viewed his antics with a grin,
Till they were told by Jabez Dawes,
“There isn’t any Santa Claus!”
Deploring how he did behave,
His parents swiftly sought their grave.
They hurried through the portals pearly,
And Jabez left the funeral early.
Like whooping cough, from child to child,
He sped to spread the rumor wild:
“Sure as my name is Jabez Dawes
There isn’t any Santa Claus!”
Slunk like a weasel or a marten
Through nursery and kindergarten,
Whispering low to every tot,
“There isn’t any, no there’s not!”
The children wept all Christmas Eve
And Jabez chortled up his sleeve.
No infant dared to hang up his stocking
For fear of Jabez’ ribald mocking.
He sprawled on his untidy bed,
Fresh malice dancing in his head,
When presently with scalp a-tingling,
Jabez heard a distant jingling;
He heard the crunch of sleigh and hoof
Crisply alighting on the roof.
What good to rise and bar the door?
A shower of soot was on the floor.
What was beheld by Jabez Dawes?
The fireplace full of Santa Claus!
Then Jabez fell upon his knees
With cries of “Don’t,” and “Pretty please.”
He howled, “I don’t know where you read it,
But anyhow, I never said it!”
“Jabez,” replied the angry saint,
“It isn’t I, it’s you that ain’t.
Although there is a Santa Claus,
There isn’t any Jabez Dawes!”
Said Jabez with impudent vim,
“Oh, yes there is; and I am him!
Your magic don’t scare me, it doesn’t”–
And suddenly he found he wasn’t!
From grimy feet to grimy locks,
Jabez became a Jack-in-the-box,
An ugly toy with springs unsprung,
Forever sticking out his tongue.
The neighbors heard his mournful squeal;
They searched for him, but not with zeal.
No trace was found of Jabez Dawes,
Which led to thunderous applause,
And people drank a loving cup
And went and hung their stockings up.
All you who sneer at Santa Claus,
Beware the fate of Jabez Dawes,
The saucy boy who mocked the saint.
Donder and Blitzen licked off his paint.
In my travels across country, I have run into many signs.
Not omens, by the way, but road signs or signs posted on buildings, restaurants, theaters, etc. I’m always amazed at the imaginative ways the English language is used. Here are some you just can’t help laughing at.
The sign on the left is a favorite, since I’m from Brooklyn and it’s a hard place to forget!
The one on the right is a sample of Dutch humor. Great, isn’t it?
I came across the next two recently.
The first one (left) was in Massachusetts. Makes you wonder whether you’re coming or going.
The second was on a rural dirt road in Vermont. Not a soul around. Seriously?
The next five are just for fun!