More linguistic treasures cheerfully uttered, merrily recorded


June 08, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

One thing I've noticed: There isn't a day that doesn't go by. And I get mail every one of those days. And each day someone with an inferior attitude drops me a line -- or stops me on the street, or passes notes under my transom -- pointing out mistakes in the English language as it is practiced by me, other writers, relatives, friends, coal workers and all people who write and speak out both sides of their heads.

So, now that I have acclimated another big pile of lingual bloopers, it's time for another column of malaprops (or "malapropisms"; my dictionary vindicates that either noun will do). We deserve what we reap. As Mr. Art Wadsworth said in a recent letter: "He who opens a can of worms needs a much bigger can if he ever intends to put them back."

But why put them back? Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Therefore and henceforth and whereas, here are more priceless examples of goofs people make when they write and speak, offered by readers of This Just In and myself personally.

Emergency cases

Men and women who work in the medicinal field -- doctors, nurses and farmercologists -- submitted examples of injuries to the language.

An obstetrician heard a woman say she was "stagnant" because she "hadn't demonstrated in three months."

A Rodgers Forge woman phoned for background information about a clinic and almost got more than she bargained for. A clinic staffer with whom she spoke offered to send "biological sketches" on all the doctors at the treatment center.

Suzan Powell wrote: "While attending medical school, we had to identify various surgical instruments as part of a course. A student identified a Mayo- Hagar needle holder as a Merle Haggard one instead."

Dr. Nathaniel Sharp of Westminster recalled a naval officer who, after receiving a promotion, issued his first important order to a medical inquiry board. It said: "This board is hereby convenient to investigate the circumstances of the surmise of the recently diseased."

Fun with Mary

Bee Crivello, box office manager at the Baltimore Arena, kept records of malaprops by her late mother-in-law, Mary Crivello.

On futility: "You can't get blood out of a turtle."

Directions to Aberdeen: "Just drive up Plastic Highway."

On Baltimore television in the 1950s: "All the kids are watching the Buttie Bean Show."

Her busy life: "I'm tired. I've been going around in circulars all day." (Some people go around delivering circulars all day.)

Suzie's doozies

Phyllis Van Buiten of Columbia is telling on her daughter, Suzanne. "She spoke these gems when she was just a kid," Phyllis says. "At the time I didn't realize they were malaprops, just thought she had a creative mind." Moms always put such a good blight on things, don't they?

On religious tolerance: "I can't see why the Catholics and Luthervilles can't get together."

On crowd response: "He got a standing notation."

Suzanne, the 4-H'er: "I can tell it's a cow because of its cuds."

On spilling the beans: "You slipped the peas!"

Suzanne, the gymnast: "I jumped out of bed and landed on the palms of my feet."

Limits to everything

Anonymous in Cockeysville heard her neighbor say, "We've been invited to the wedding but not to the conception."

Albert Adler collected these from around the Social Security Administration: "My car is on the brink. . . She sings in the high octane range. . . I have to get back in the sling of things."

Playful thoughts

During spring training this year, a Baltimore sportscaster declared that weak Orioles pitching "won't be the thing that derails the ship." A local TV reporter said that infield cleanup after the Preakness is a "monolithic job." And Carol Chesney Meyers of Towson says that, while riding in her car during a spring downpour, she heard a newsman say that a certain community was "unindated with heavy rain." Now, Carol says, she has a hard time coming up with the correct word: Inundated.

Our Towson contributor also reported amusing redundancies by three media:

On TV: "We are the future generation of tomorrow."

On radio: "Fourteen straight wins without a loss."

In The Sun: "Extracurricular activities outside of marriage."

Marriage and malaprops

A man in Phoenix, Baltimore County, who did not have the nerve to allow me to use his name, submitted a list of malaprops -- not by a deceased relative, not by a former co-worker or an old high school coach. But by his wife. (I guess I understand the desire for anonymity.) Thanks, Horace.

On a change in her dog's behavior: "He acts like a different human being."

On stress: "Why worry yourself gray in the face?"

On misplaced concerns: "You're coughing up the wrong tree . . . "You're barking at a dead horse."

This Just In appears each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Letters should be addressed to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278. Or let's hear from you by phone. Call 332-6166.

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