In these amazing times, even the dictionary can get confused


April 20, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Baltimore City Councilman Joe DiBlasi has introduced a bill to fine fans who interfere with balls in play at Oriole Park. Hey, Joe, what's the matter? Not busy enough? Too much spare time? Come on over. You can cut my grass. You can mulch.

Hospitality and tulips, too

I drove through Guilford yesterday to see the amazing tulips in Sherwood Gardens when what caught my eye was a hand-painted sign: "Come see my parrots and birds." The sign was on the front lawn of Ed Johnston's house. How did I know? There was a 1992 Sun story about Ed Johnston and his birds attached, like a historical marker, to the side of the house. I stepped onto the lawn but felt strange about it. "Is this for-real?" I asked the guy scraping the paint from one of the white columns in front of Ed Johnston's house. "Is it OK for me to walk up to this house and check out the birds?" After the paint-scraper nodded, I walked to the side porch. Lots of birds in there, swinging and singing. I appreciated the open invita-tion, the hospitality, however odd it seemed. Too bad more people don't put up signs welcoming visitors. Signs that say things like, "Come see our new patio furniture," or "Come see our garden gnomes." What a nicer world it would be.

Fun at the movies

Assorted reactions, heard around town, to "Serial Mom" after its first weekend in release:

"Quite a fun, amusing flick with [John Waters'] usual quirky touch, and it serves up the laughs well, though it seems to be lacking a little of the size that his last few movies possessed."

"I saw Doug Roberts."

TC "Yeah. That was definitely Doug Roberts."

"They tried to do Baltimore accents but only one was any good."

"Very funny. Very John Waters."

"Wait till you see what happens to Patty Hearst."

"Academy Award nomination for Kathleen Turner."

"Definitely deserves the R rating."

Unlike a lot of movies made in Baltimore, "Serial Mom" doesn't force you to wait for the video and stop the action to see bits of familiar territory. There's plenty Land of Pleasant Living in Waters' latest film. "This movie surrounds you with countless Baltimore nuances," reports Liesa Abrams, a Park School senior serving an internship with this columnist. "There's a lot of Towson. You hear references to roads, like Keswick and Seminary. There's also a shot of Hammerjacks and a big role for the radio station 99.1 WHFS (posters hanging up in Hammerjacks as well as a close-up of a car radio set to 99.1)."

As the credits rolled at the Senator the other night, a voice in the darkness asked, with mock earnestness, "Was that true?"

B-U-S-E-S, if you please

To the two women who called this columnist to complain that Webster's allows two spellings for the plural of "bus," I say this: You can't have it both ways. "Buses" is the primary, widely accepted spelling -- the way it should be taught in school. Says who? Says me, and everyone else who learned it that way. "Busses" is merely a concession to the people who chronically spell it wrong. And "busses" is how it appears on the TV screen in a Howard County school system public service ad promoting bus safety. I concede that Webster's Third New International Dictionary lists both spellings, but "busses" is offered as a secondary version, which means it's second best, and no teacher should be teaching second best, right?

(Of course, just as I wrote those words, the following note arrived from Rita Gifford of Lutherville: "According to Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary, the preferred spelling for the plural of 'bus' is 'busses.' " All due respect, Rita, you're using a collegiate dictionary, which is like using Velveeta to make a hollandaise sauce. So, thanks for the note, but you're wrong, wrong, wrong!)

"Busses" is the plural of "buss," which is something you get on the lips from your sweetie. My pal, Frankie Sweetbreads, says: "All my teachers taught buses and busses the same way they taught us desert and dessert: If you wanted more than one, it was two s's." So there.

A Charles Street treasure

Over at the Woman's Industrial Exchange, 333 N. Charles St., right near that high-class chatczke store Beadazzled, Marguerite Schertle still waits tables every day. And she's 94, been there 48 of them. Miss Marguerite, as her associates at the Exchange call her, likes to wait on the tables farthest from the kitchen. She moves across the room as quickly as the other waitresses, too.

The other day, she apologized for not stopping to chat during our lunch; it was busy, you know, and Miss Marguerite doesn't like to keep her customers waiting.

Scenes from "Sleepless in Seattle" were filmed in the Woman's Industrial Exchange. Marguerite made it into the movie, and can be seen serving customers.

If you've never been, the place is worth checking out. The Polo Grill is Baltimore's hot power-lunch spot. (What can I tell you? I saw a guy talking into a cell phone at his table there.) The Woman's Industrial Exchange isn't that kind of place. But it's one of downtown's best-bargain-for-your-buck lunches.

It has the aesthetics of a well-made doily, like something your grandmother put together. The place still has a quiet "tea room" atmosphere. There's a polite doorman. There's a shop full of crafted children's toys and apparel, as well as baked goods. The desserts come in generous servings (including some tasty brownies).

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