Ask Mr. Language Person


September 19, 1993|By DAVE BARRY

Once again it is time for Ask Mister Language Person, the column whose motto is: "People Judge You By The Words You Use, So Use Words That Nobody Really Understands, Such As 'Parameter.' "

Today, as is our custom, we shall start with our first question:

Q: I have noted that the slang expression "cool" is being used once again by young people. Is this good?

A. Yes. Mister Language Person approves of any language trend that makes him feel like a "hep cat," so he is pleased to hear young people bringing back "lingo" from the days when he was Mister Language Teenager and the Earth's crust was still warm. Mister Language Person would like to see the return of other expressions from his youth, such as "in the groove," "shake your booty" and "boss."

Q: What does "boss" mean?

A. It means "cool," as in these examples:

"Duane got a boss carburetor."

"Michelangelo painted some boss frescoes."

Q: Was "Michelangelo" his first name or his last name?

A. Neither. It was just his fresco name. His full legal name, on his driver's license, was "Vito."

Q: Recently I made the statement: "I'm so hungry I could literally eat a horse." My grandmother, who is a real stickler for grammar, told me that this was incorrect. So I flushed her insulin down the toilet. My question is, what is a "stickler"?

A: The correct form is: "I could eat a literal horse."

Q: Please give an example of baseball analysis provided by former catcher Gary Carter, who is currently employed as a TV broadcaster for the Florida Marlins.

A. According to alert viewer Martin Merzer, Carter said: "There've been times when they've had hits from time to time, but they weren't timely hits at the right time."

Q: Do catchers get hit on the head a lot of times?

A: Apparently.

Q: Speaking of broadcasters, I have noted that they're always saying, "If you're just joining us, my guest's name is Wanda Weemer." What I want to know is, what's the guest's name if you're not just joining them?

A: "Vito."

Q: According to a KRT News Wire article on sexual harassment in Washington, sent in by alert reader David Travis, what allegation did a female congressional staff person make about a male lobbyist?

A. The article states that the lobbyist "felt free to pinch her buttocks in the reception area."

Q: Where is that located?

A: Just below the vestibule. It is extremely sensitive.

Q: Do the instructions for the Batman costume set manufactured by Kenner Products contain important consumer safety information?

A: Yes. These instructions, sent in by alert reader Maria Reed, state: "Caution: Cape does not enable user to fly."

Q: What does the cape enable the user to do?

A: It enables the user to leap from one tall building to another. A user wishing to actually fly should purchase the Kenner Products Superman cape.

Q: Please quote from an Official Marker erected in Plum Lake, Wis., to commemorate "The First Lighted Softball Park in the Far North."

A: According to a photograph sent in by alert readers Dick and Margie Kussman, this marker, after praising the accomplishments of Plum Lake's champion softball teams, states: "We Hail What Radiation Has Wrought What We Have Today."

Q: "Radiation"?

A: Yes. The marker also states: "Travel Around and See the Vast Legend of Our Community. Enjoy Relaxing in the Fun of the Homeland of Which We Are Proud."

L Q: Probably it would be good idea not to get out of the car.

A: Yes.

Q: What was the cause of a September 1992 airliner crash in Katmandu, Nepal?

A: An Associated Press report at the time stated: "Airline sources said a Pakistani jet that plowed into a hillside may have been flying too low."

Q: It certainly pays to have airline sources.

A: Yes, and that is why we journalists will go to jail to protect their secret identities.


Today's Grammatical Tip: Avoid unclear use of pronouns.

Wrong: "Earl and Ted were working together when suddenly he pushed him into the threshing machine."

Right: "Earl and Ted were working together when suddenly he pushed him into the threshing machine, which is a machine used for threshing."

Got a question for Mister Language Person? He is not in at the moment.

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