Posted by: David | December 13, 2010

Not Quite Right

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, [I have to … for obvious reasons] then you know that on rare occasions I like to post short lists of things I hear people say in the neverending stream of chatter to which I’m exposed in my day-to-day work at a charmingly small liberal arts college. The other day I heard some female students crowing victoriously over a recent test in one of their classes  …

GIRL 1: “YEAH, we RAPED that quiz!”
GIRL 2: “DUDE, you gotta stop saying that! One of these days you’re gonna offend someone who’s actually been raped!”

It’s rather amazing how invisible we OLD PEOPLE can sometimes be to the 18-22 year olds, especially when they’re walking around campus in packs. They tend to be in packs now because this is the week of final exams and projects. So they’re often in commiserative groups when going to or departing from a final. Most of the stuff these young adults say has made me laugh. Some has had the opposite effect. Then there’s the stuff you hear other not-young adults say, along with the stuff that echoes in the back of one’s own brain. Well my brain anyway. Stop me if you’ve heard any of this already …

cow in a China shop

a chip off the old blob

stump roast

escape goat

run the gamma

flammable as a timberbox

when I saw that a light bulb went off (in my head?)

put your money where your wallet is

don’t fear the piper

if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a baby wildebeest

Bob’s my uncle  (British)

i before e except after d

yes, as in the Bushmen of the calamari

who died and made you god?

a false choice is still a choice

forgettable mnemonics

superlatives are the BEST!

I would go on, but what’s the point? I’m out. Kaput. I know right? I have no stamina. And I worked on this post for over a week. Stuff either comes to me or it doesn’t. After this week I have a two week break, as the college closes for the holidays. We’re all looking forward to the time off, it’s been a very busy semester.



  1. I ran the gamma once but ran into this guy Ray and didn’t care for him.

    > when I saw that a light bulb went off (in my head?)
    Maybe he is correct and, if so, I trust that this was a very, very good thing.

    > put your money where your wallet is
    This one I’ve got to give to him. It is a solid piece of advice.

    > if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s probably a baby wildebeest
    Huh. I’m just glad I didn’t have to go on that kids zoo trip.

    You are so right about, not only the invisibility, but the mangleation of the speechafication these days. I get to spend way more time than I could possibly enjoy in two lifetimes with a college junior and her friends. It’s actually less speech than branding. I’ve watched her try out words and phrases with me and her mother then heard them dot her speech or facebook posts. It’s actually the land of the anti-phrase. I’ve heard someone use a phrase then have to explain the meaning. That’s not communication, that’s branding.

    I’m not saying this generation is unique, it’s been happening since the dawn of time (I’m sure ‘Uragh’ was first uttered by an angst filled caveteen), but that it happens in a hypersensitive time frame. Instead of the slow movement from city to town to hamlet of a confounding phrase such as, “I gotta book.” Once it moves past your immediate group and you hear it back it’s imperative to discontinue it’s usage.

    Or maybe they’re just multioquous people who just don’t have time or desire to form proper sentences because it’s not what they say that has meaning, it’s that they are saying.

    Awesome comment B&G. Thank you. Gamma Ray … HAR! Love the physics humor!

    What an astute observation “…less speech than branding…”. The evolution of language is a wondrous thing. It’s a kind of music I think. Possibly a problematic kind of music, like opera or “easy listening”. I like your idea of quenching an expression once it’s made the circuit. The circuit seems to be shortening as the media formats continue their black hole-like collapse, alongside our similarly collapsing attention spans … WHAT? You talkin’ ta me?

    A mind is a terrible thing to waste, but it’s the first thing to go. Right after the nouns.

  2. These are sad and great. I loved the post, and your and B&G’s discussion. I agree about the branding.

    These are just the things that people say. I also think that text messaging is a brain shrinker. Everything’s reduced to two to four word sentences, and one to two line thoughts. People write, “prolly” instead of “probably,” and then they start verbalizing it. That’s prolly okay, but I think it’s just further dumbing us down.

    For some reason, this post reminds me of when my daughter was about seven, and I was rushing around trying to get something done. She sternly said, “Mom. Sit down.” She then proceeded to lecture me about my hyperactivity, and said, “You’re running around here like a dog with its head in a can.” Gee, I love that to this day.

    I ran across this little list of mixed metaphors, and thought you’d like it. It’s from the Dilbert Newsletter, but it’s still funny. 🙂

    Thanks Moonbeam, I loved those mangled metaphors or whatever from the Dilbert Newsletter. That Grammar Tip Of The Day is a pretty cool website too!

    Your daughter’s lecture was effective too. We’ve been known to put socks on cats’ heads from time to time. Similar effect.

  3. ‘Fess up, Dave, have you REALLY heard people say these things? {are you making them up?}
    Given human nature, I can believe it though.
    I will admit I found the expression “raping the test” somewhat disconcerting!
    Happy time off! Let us know how it goes. 🙂

    OK Muse, you got me. I made up 9 or 10 of these. Twice in the past couple of weeks, people at work happened to mention female friends whose behavior was compared to the proverbial bull in a china shop. My brain auto-corrected these to ‘cow’, maintaining gender alignment. So I can’t take full credit for that one. But I really did hear the college students saying that about their quiz grades. I can’t quite remember if I made up “escape goat” or I heard someone say it, but I’ve always loved that one and think we could all use just such an animal.

    Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  4. I feel sued! Here I am, pooring my heart out about the foibles I witless with the languish of the times and here you are, willy nilly, I might add, just writing comedy?

    Whatcha doin’, Dave? Trompeling my playground?

    Thank you, MusEditions, for pointing out what a poopie head my, supposebly, friend is!

    The good thing (if there is such a thing with such a betrayal) is they rolled as if you’d lifted them off the ground like buds from a paronomasia tree.

    Now on to (slightly) less stupid things (from me). It’s funny you equate today’s language to music because it’s part of the branding. Speech has always had a rhythm but now it’s an extravaganza. I see this sense of pressure because, as I watch them (and I watch people of all ages converse), I see less concern about what they are saying then how it appears and that it is them speaking.

    Again, it’s not that different from the days of all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. But, not satisfied to be mere players, they are all rock stars. That said, if they are not the ones speaking they sure aren’t the ones listening.

    I watched this unfold recently. As I’m watching and listening to the conversation I saw no one (outside of myself I guess) listening. What I saw were three unobserved rock stars waiting for their cue. It was funny to watch one of them lose control of the attention (not conversation because it was not a linear conversation. If there was any connection between one and the other it was of the slimiest margins. As in, you mentioned Bob so I mentioned him but doing something totally unrelated) then go into baby bird at feeding mode.

    With any slight pause (I’m talking eye blink pause) I watched bodies get ready to expel air, maws wide with utterances, all at the ready. Two, sometimes all three rock-stars-in-waiting would begin almost as a chorus until one by one they’d slowly give way to the new rock star. It was funny to watch their gears turn as to how they would best garner the attention. And, just like a pre-intro rock star, there was the requisite primping.

    Rockwell was a visionary, somebody is watching you! The only difference is now it’s not paranoia inducing.

    It’s funny to hear the mother ask the daughter what her friends were talking about and, unfailingly, get back,

    “I dunno.”

    And it’s not evasive. It’s the truth. You can’t talk about something if no one is listening.

    What do you mean SUPPOSE-OF-LY a poopie head?!? [That was a real one I heard someone say- honest!]

    No comedy writing here, just fair and balanced observations that amount to zilch. But I live for paronomasia, my head cocked like the RCA Victor dog at the Victrola. ‘Scuse me, did you just say ‘inextricably’ or ‘inexplicably’?

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
    And then is heard no more: it is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    Thanks for expanding on this theme B&G. Dead on observations.

    In my mind your words conjure bar chatter. The rock star image is great. The participants in the gabfest are each waiting for their solos. Musically, the chatter is in C major or A minor, but the melody and counterpoint are missing. Nonlinear, as you say, tangential and repetitious, full of tones that may run counter to the words themselves. Until punches are thrown, or loud snoring is heard. One thing is certain: There Shall Not Be Silence. Another thing is less certain: There Shall Be Little Meaningful Content. Maybe it could improve if people started getting better at PRETENDING to listen?

    Rockwell? As in Norman Rockwell? Oh wait, you mean that song. Yeah. Right. It’s like we’re all the star of our very own reality show. Now playing. I’m not an actor but I play one in real life.

    What were your friends talking about?

    I dunno. WhatEVER. Blah blah blah.

    True dat!

  5. Around here I hear supposebly all the time. Either way I knew you’d get it.

    That’s so true. They all think they ARE in their own reality show. I’m not joking when I say they take more photos of what they’re doing at one event than were taken of me during my entire tennis career.

    My favorite part is when they compare (almost exactly the same) pictures of the event when they’re still at the event.

    “We’re we so hot twenty-seven seconds ago?”

    “I know! Where does the time go?”

    I have to assume it’s why the kid, although she’s in constant communication, never has a clue as to what is going on next. I’ve actually filled in some blanks.

    “He told you he’d meet you at Donna’s aunts cousins neighbors friends loft about an hour ago.”

    “I don’t remember that!”

    It actually works to my advantage because, just like you mentioning bar chatter, I find conversations more interesting from a distance. I rarely find what people are saying useful for my work. Usually it’ll be during a walk by,

    “So that’s when I boxed the cats ears in and finished eating spam from the can.”

    Ah. . .wha????????

    I like to watch the movements, body language, facial expressions. That’s where I find moves for characters. But being the passive member of a multi-person conversation is usually not useful for my work and just makes me want to flee. I may get inflections or interesting phrasings, but, for the most part, the banality on the conversation isn’t useful.

    I think that’s why, when I put up the crap I do here, I’m involved in the conversation so I can steer. Yes, the way I want it to go but if I wasn’t in control who knows how long some of these situations would linger.

    When you mentioned everyone talking I laughed because it reminded me of radio people. I remember walking into parties where it was all industry and marveling at how many mouths were moving. I’m not kidding when I say it was all of them. Every mouth was open and the sound was unintelligible. I pointed it out to a DJ friend and he started laughing. He’d never noticed it because, before it was pointed out to him, he was part of it.

    I guess all we can take away from that is society has now progress to the point where everyone is as self-important, self-aggrandizing, and self-involved as the most egotistical group I’d ever worked with: radio people.

    I fear for the future.

    But at least I won’t have to listen to them.

    Yes, I hear supposebly up here in NH all the time. Along with “so don’t I” and “right off the back”.

    What I have the least tolerance for, the older I get, is the pontificator. The very worst species of blowhards. Not only are they indisputably correct in their every pronouncement, but they will not release you until they have FULLY enlightened you. And they will require you to properly state your agreement. Polite to a fault, it is when listening to these nominally misinformed diarrhea founts that my inner Tasmanian devil is screaming at 3 billion decibels. Silently shouting the unholiest obscenities directly into the face of the execrable pontificator. At the same time, my inner angel is tearfully begging, head down, eyes averted, for the windbag to please, for the love of god, stop. Stop. Talking. Now.

    There are probably lots of pontificators in the population of radio people.

    Don’t fear for the future. Everything’s gonna be fine.

  6. Who’s the “Piper”? Should I fear him in my drug-induced state?

    He’s that guy that plays the pipe(s). I guess. Never seen him. Heard him though, and don’t WANT to see him now. Fear him yes. Help the drugs will. Crap, I seem to have Yoda’d myself. When happens that I hate. D’OH!!

  7. A blog I was reading recently referred to someone as “living next store to them”. My friend’s father also specialises in mixed metaphors. He’s always talking about divvying things up “equal stevens”.

    Hi Nursemyra, thanks for visiting and for commenting! It’s an honor to have a non-member of the nursing profession visiting this null-space of mine. 🙂

    I had a coworker who specialised in these too. “Equal stevens” is a good one. Next store ain’t bad either. I don’t know why others’ errors are so amusing. Oh wait I do know. It’s ’cause I’m an elitist know-it-all snob. I KNEW it!

  8. oops… that should read “divvying”

    I fixed that. I made a ‘feature request’ to WordPress a few months back. Allow editing of unmoderated comments by their authors for a time period controllable by the blog owner. They said they’d think about it. Thanks again for visiting.

  9. I read a blogger who is a Michelangelo specialist, and MIchelangelo, when he was young, made an immense statue of a naked David holding a stone and very very quietly waiting to use his sling and kill Goliath. The work is famous for its calculated beauty in the design of the male body. You could see it here

    Well, the blog entry on “David” received this comment:

    “wooooooooo so tot awsum, r u on facebook mike? “.

    OMG, that would be TOTES awsum if mike WAS on facebook! Can u imagine? He’d be all like “where can I get some decent MARBLE dude?” and “my model keeps sayin he’s gonna QUIT if I don’t give him more wine” and “what’s with these f*cking Macedonian chisels man they are FOR SH*T!”

  10. Do you think it was just a joke?
    Or did he just for a second somehow believe one could meet that David?
    For you would not think that anyone of that mindset would want to meet just a sculptor.
    Rather for just a moment he would haved thought this thing might actually come to life, be a self-portrait or something.
    There are legends out there of sculptors who could not bear the thought that their David or Aphrodite would not come to life and so they ended up destroying it, destroying the illusion.

    That is a ‘slippery slope’ trying to determine whether a blog comment is a joke, a taunt, or just a random idiotic utterance, a written form of the waving to the camera seen in the background of TV news footage. Meaningless graffiti, a scribble which says nothing more than “HERE I AM LOOK AT ME”.

    I think I saw a movie once about a sculptor who destroyed his beloved creation. But he was drunk.

  11. That he was drunk is a useless addition to a story which isn’t factual anyway, but narrates the power of pictures and words to blow people off their socks.

    Yeah, I was thinking of the movieThe Agony and the Ecstasy which cast Charlton Heston as Mike. It was Hollywood crap. Of course. I like your misuse of the idiom: “knock your socks off”.

  12. “Mom, who does Superman verse in this book?” he asked.

    I was mystified. “What does that mean, Moon Pie?”

    “It means…who’s the bad guy? Who does Superman fight?’

    He was using “to verse” as the infinitive form of “versus.”

    Children come up with best twists of language. I imagine that must be so for all languages. I like this use of ‘verse’ as a verb. But I also like the use of ‘verse (note leading apostrophe) as a contrived slang shortening of ‘universe’ as used in the sci fi series Firefly.

  13. It wasn’t really a misuse. I had learned “blow your socks off” and after thinking about it I thought it had to be “it blows you off your socks” meaning “it makes you lose contact with the ground you stand on” meaning “you take off” meaning “you lose your sense of what is real”.

    It makes sense that way. Your socks would stay put and you would fly barefoot to cloud nine.

    Yes, nice image. OK, not a “misuse” but just a slight sound problem. “Off” doesn’t quite sound right to me. It should be “out” since feet are “in” socks and not “on” them. The original idiom was “knock your socks off” and was most often applied to a decisive outcome of some violent contest in which not only your shoes but your socks too remained grounded whilst your body flew heavenward, as you say. Your reconstruction of the idiom would sound better this way: “blows you out of your socks”, however, it still sounds bad. Which is why people should never over-analyze and reconstruct idioms like this.

    Now will you agree with me?

  14. I see. Pax Dei tecum.

    OK, I think you are agreeing with me. In Latin. Thanks!

  15. Yes, but the Latin is wrong. I thought it didn’t sound quite right when I wrote it, but I must have been on the tail end of a little headache or nearing the muzzle of the next one. It is not pax dei, but pax domini.
    Pax dei exists; I googled and saw there is some special connotation that I have already forgotten again, because my memory is very small and I have to be choosey about what goes in.
    You know how to pass a university entrance exam if you have a diminutive memory?
    An old Protestant aunt who was a good friend of an old abbot who was the head of some university entrance exam commission.

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