Linguistic Lessons

TO WIT

October 13, 1991|By DAVE BARRY

It's time for another edition of "Ask Mister Language Person," the column that answers your questions about grammar, vocabulary and those little whaddyacallem marks.

Q: What are the rules regarding capital letters?

A: Capital letters are used in three grammatical situations:

1. At the beginning of proper or formal nouns.

Examples: Capitalize Queen, Tea Party and Rental Tuxedo. Do not capitalize dude, cha-cha or boogerhead.

2. To indicate a situation of great military importance.

Example: "Get on the TELSAT and tell STAFCON that COMWIMP wants some BBQ ASAP."

3. To indicate that the subject of the sentence has been bitten by a badger.

Example: "I'll just stick my hand in here and OUCH!"

Q: Is there any difference between happen and transpire?

A: Grammatically, happen is a collaborating inductive that should be used in predatory conjunctions such as: "Me and Norm here would like to buy you two happening mommas a drink." Whereas transpire is a suppository verb that should always be used to indicate that an event of some kind has transpired.

Wrong: "Lester got one of them electric worm stunners."

Right: "What transpired was, Lester got one of them electric worm stunners."

Q: Do you take questions from attorneys?

A: Yes. That will be $475.

Q: No, seriously, I'm an attorney, and I want to know which is correct:

"With regards to the aforementioned" blah blah blah.

Or:

"With regards to the aforementioned" yak yak yak.

A: That will be $850.

Q: Please explain the expression: This does not bode well.

A: It means that something is not boding the way it should. It could be boding better.

Q: Did an alert reader named Linda Bevard send you an article from the Dec. 19, 1990, Denver Post concerning a Dr. Stanley Biber, who was elected commissioner in Las Animas County, and who is identified in the article as "the world's leading sex-change surgeon"?

A: Yes.

Q: And what did Dr. Biber say when he was elected?

A: He said, quote: "We pulled it off."

Q: Please explain the correct usage of exact same.

A: Exact same is a corpuscular phrase that should be used only when something is exactly the same as something. It is the opposite (or antibody) of a whole nother.

Example: "This is the exact same restaurant where Alma found weevils in her pie. They gave her a whole nother slice."

Q: I am going to deliver the eulogy at a funeral, and I wish to `` know whether it is correct to say: "Before he died, LaMont was an active person." Or: "LaMont was an active person before he died."

A: The American Funeral Industry Council advises us that the preferred term is "bought the farm."

Q: Where should punctuation go?

A: It depends on the content.

Example: Hi Mr Johnson exclaimed Bob Where do you want me to put these punctuation marks Oh just stick them there at the end of the following sentence answered Mr Johnson OK said Bob".!"."?"",,".."!".

The exception to this rule is teen-agers, who should place a question mark after every few words to make sure people are still listening.

Example: "So there's this kid at school? Named Derrick? And he's like kind of weird? Like he has a picture of Newt Gingrich carved in his hair? So one day he had to blow his nose? Like really bad? But he didn't have a tissue? So he was like sitting next to Tracy Steakle? And she had this sweater? By like Ralph Lauren? So Derrick takes the sleeve? And he like . . . "

*

Professional writing tip: In writing a novel or play, use foreshadowing to subtly hint at the outcome of the plot.

Wrong: "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Right: "O Romeo, Romeo! I wonder if we're both going to stab ourselfs to death at the end of this plot?"

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