Spoof Space


Random obfuscations and the English language

Secretly everyone wants to be a writer. No offense to those so obsessed, but doctors have often diagnosed the condition as manifestations of early insanity, or evidence of practicing masochism. No, the real secret is it’s not the fault of the world of frustrated writers. It’s about a disease known as the English language. A magnificent framework of grammar and words that addict the human’s intellect into putting the words together in ways that make sense, entertain, amuse, inform, cajole, communicate, etc, etc, etc. Or using words that bore you into oblivion, or encourage pursuit of worthwhile endeavors like drinking bourbon, smoking pot, going to war, cursing at the TV or your liberal neighbors, or spending more time in talking to intelligent beings like dogs. Dogs are sane and loving individuals because they can’t write. Though I do remember one time after it snowed when I took my Border Collie Arbuckle out for a walk, he did write something in the snow. But I couldn’t read it.

A friend of mine, Don Sorchych once described reporters to me as “word warriors.” An accurate, terse description of the job. But recordation of mere facts doesn’t cut it any more. Today we have to be lexicologists. Lexicology: “The study of the formation, meaning and use of words and idiomatic combination of words” . . . all so we can hold the interest of readers who are more anxious to watch those lazy liberals on TV. Writers don’t have the luxury of makeup, lights, voices, gestures, or emphasis . . . their only coinage is words and ideas. Actually, writing is like golf – 10 percent is mental and the remaining 90 percent is in your mind. Rewriting is like the unending number of golf practice shots, trying to figure out which one does it best. It is addictive and unending, best expressed like the imaginary conversation with my wife: “What are you going to do today?” My answer, “Nothing!” She, “That’s what you did yesterday.” Me: “I know, but I wasn’t finished.” Most writing is never finished, never concluded, never wrapped up. But it’s never nothing.

There are special segments of the great language that shine brilliantly as finished products – epigrams, witticisms, slogans, logos, rhymes, parables, etc, that stand as testimonials to original expressions of ideas. Recently, an organization in New York City awarded 1st Prize to the Las Vegas slogan “What happens here (in Vegas) stays here (in Vegas),” in its Annual Award for best slogan or tag line. Unfortunately one of the Las Vegas officials in praising the award said, “It speaks to the iconic nature of our campaign. It has really become part of the American vernacular.” If someone wrote that explanation, it would give writing a bad name. What in hell are iconic and vernacular? Parts of our body? But I’m guilty too – words I’ve used and not explained: epigram – any witty, ingenious or pointed saying tersely expressed. (“Terse:” neatly or effectively concise; brief or pithy) (“Pithy: brief, forceful and meaningful in expression, full of vigor).

So to give you some examples of great terse, pithy, witty epigrams and other good stuff, check the following: From many wives, “To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Oscar Wilde’s opinion of Niagara Falls, known as the Honeymoon Center of the World, “The second greatest disappointment of married life.”

Another example, in early English literature, to be successful, a novel had to have four mandatory ingredients, ROYALTY, RELIGION, SEX, MYSTERY. The shortest novel ever written was during Queen Victoria’s reign: “The queen is pregnant, my God who did it?” Isn’t the English language obfuscatingly iconic and vernacular?

GBA banner

How may I help you?

Caller (enquiring about legal requirements while traveling in Europe )
'If I register my car in France, and then take it to England, do I have to change the steering wheel to the other side of the car?'

Directory Enquiries
Caller: 'I'd like the number of the Argo Fish Bar, please.'
Operator: 'I'm sorry, there's no listing. Are you sure that the spelling is correct?'
Caller: 'Well, it used to be called the Bargo Fish Bar but the 'B' fell off.'

Then there was the caller who asked for a knitwear company in Woven.
Operator: 'Woven? Are you sure?'
Caller: 'Yes. That's what it says on the label – Woven in Scotland ....'
On another occasion, a man making heavy breathing sounds from a phone box told a worried operator: 'I haven't got a pen, so I'm steaming up the window to write the number on.'

Caller: 'I deleted a file from my PC last week and I just realized that I need it. So, if I turn my system clock back two weeks will I get my file back again?'

Tech Support: 'OK. At the bottom left hand side of your screen, can you see the 'OK' button displayed?'
Customer: 'Wow! How can you see my screen from there?'

Puzzle Solutions