Getting A Grip On Grammar

TO WIT

January 30, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

It's time once again for Ask Mister Language Person, the award-winning column by the world's foremost leading word expert, who was recently chosen Official Grammarian of the U.S. Olympic Ski Team (motto: "Hopefully, Nobody Will Break Their Leg").

Our first grammar question comes from reader Martha Booth, who writes: "I heard on NPR that President Clinton and Pope John Paul II met and exchanged a few words. Do you happen to know which ones they exchanged? And can you please tell me what is sometimes seen hanging off the bottom of the "c" in the word "facade"?

FTC A: Scientists believe it is a parasite. As regards the word exchange: Clinton gave the pope a handsome matched set of "parameters," and in return received the traditional papal "Quod Sic Et Cetera Pluribus Per Annum."

Q: What does that mean?

A: "There is a bologna in my carburetor."

Q: According to a Tampa Tribune article sent in by Dorothy Ladd, what did University of Florida Associate Athletic Director Greg McGarity say about allegations of abusive fan behavior at UF football games?

A: He said: "In no way are we turning a deaf shoulder."

Q: What is the correct wording to use when responding to a formal invitation to dine at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth?

A: The correct wording is: "Your Majesty is darned tooting that yours truly shall be honoured to put on the feed bag with Your Royal Highness."

Q: Please describe the photograph on the front page of the Oct. 6, 1993, issue of the Monona Billboard ("Official Newspaper of Clayton County & Monona, Farmersburg & Luana, Iowa").

A: Certainly. It shows two senior citizens using a knife to slice a large cheese at the annual Germanfest. Just below this photograph, in large letters, it says . . .

Q: No, you're not going to tell me . . .

A: Yes. It says: "Cutting the Cheese."

Q: Please review the basic purpose of the apostrophe.

A: The apostrophe is used primarily as a punctuation mark in certain Lesley Gore songs, such as "Judy's Turn to Cry."

Q: What is the best verse in that song?

A. The one wherein Lesley saw Judy and Johnny kissing at a party, so, to make Johnny jealous, she (Lesley) kissed another guy, and then:

"Johnny jumped up and he hit him

'Cause he still loved me, that's why."

Q: What an attractive couple.

A: Yes.

Q: Speaking of song lyrics: In "Wooly Bully," by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Sam the Sham sings: "Let's not be L-7s; come on and learn this dance." My question -- which has been nagging me for years -- is this: Is "Sam the Sham" his real name?

A: No. His real name is "Howard A. Sputelman Jr. the Sham."

Q: What is the purpose of the hyphen?

A: The hyphen is used to connect congestive nouns to their precipitate adjutants, as we see in this example:

"That Zsa-Zsa is a weiner-head!"

Q: Please quote a sentence from an Aug. 12, 1993, Dayton Daily News report, sent in by Lou Copits, concerning the rescue of a man who nearly drowned while attempting to swim across a river.

A: "Police said (the man) told them he had been playing a game that involved banging his head against a wall when he decided to swim across the river."

Q: What game is that?

A: Probably golf.

Q: According to Dale Stephens, what does the sign on the main road into Bolivar, W. Va., say?

A: It says:

Welcome to Bolivar

Please Come Back

Q: Did Stephens also relate an anecdote concerning his friend John Pharis?

A: Yes. One time Pharis saw his 3-year-old daughter picking her nose and then sticking her finger into her mouth. He told her, "You know, I don't think I'd want to put anything in my mouth that came out of my nose." And she said: "You should try it. It's good."

Today's writing tip: In writing an advertising slogan, always go with your strongest "selling point."

Wrong: "Tastes like goat drool."

Right: "Proud to be your Bud."

Got a question for Mister Language Person? The answer is: "No."

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