A Lesson In Language

TO WIT

August 21, 1994|By DAVE BARRY

It's time now for Mister Language Person, the expert who answers frequently asked questions about grammar and syntax despite having no idea what syntax means.

Today's first frequently asked question comes from Mick Philip of Raleigh, N.C., who writes:

"I recently bought a microphone from the Shure Microphone Co. The brochure says that it is 'often called the unsurpassed choice of professional performers,' as in: 'Bob, pass me the unsurpassed choice of professional performers.' My question is, should I avoid deodorants that contain alcohol?"

A: Well, you should probably stop drinking them.

Q: Speaking of what things are called, I have noticed that when media people refer to the rock musician who changed his name from Prince to an unpronounceable symbol, they call him "the artist formerly known as Prince." My question is, what do his friends call him in casual settings? Do they say, "Hey, the Artist Formerly Known As Prince, is there any more bean dip?"

A: No, in casual settings they shorten it, as follows: "Hey, Twit."

Q: Please explain the grammatical difference between you're and your.

A: Certainly. You're is a perennial invective that is used in declamative sentences involving property damage.

Example: "You're stupid dog ate our wading pool."

Whereas your is a disparative rejunction that is used in writing to cable-TV companies.

Example: "Your going to fry in when you die."

Q: In a game of hide-and-seek, what phrase should the person who is "it" yell to let the other players know that they may safely return to home base?

A: When he was little Mister Language Boy, Mister Language Person yelled, "Ollie Ollie in come free." However, various professional journalists who were asked about this claimed that they yelled, among other things, "Ollie Ollie outs in free," "Ollie Ollie Olsen free," "Ollie Ollie oxen free" and "Red Rover." Ultimately, it will be up to the Supreme Court to decide.

Q: Who is Ollie?

A: He is the artist formerly known as "Wayne Newton."

Q: I am writing an operating manual for a nuclear power plant in a major urban area, and I wish to know which is the correct term: Whoops-a-daisy or Whoopsy-daisy.

A: The Association of Associated Atomic Nuclear Plant Engineers recommends: "Uh-oh."

Q: According to a transcript published in the Feb. 4, 1994, issue of the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald (sent in by Will Davis), what exchange took place between a police emergency operator and a man named Bill Eidson, who called 911 when his wife started having sharp abdominal pains?

A: The exchange was as follows:

Eidson: Uh, ma'am, there is something coming out! There is a baby coming out!

911 operator: OK, she was pregnant.

Q: Those operators are trained to recognize certain key symptoms.

A: Thank goodness.

Q: Has former Miami Dolphin football player Joe Rose, who is now a sports-talk person on radio station WQAM in Miami, made any good statements on the air?

A: Yes. Speaking about Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jeff George, Joe said: "He's the kind of guy who doesn't like it when anything out of the abnormal happens."

Q: In the Jan. 30, 1994, issue of the Amsterdam (N.Y.) Sunday Recorder, which was sent in by Erik Schnackenberg, what is the headline on the column called "Green Thumb Journal," which recommends planting small trees around a house as a protective barrier?

A: The headline is: Row of Shrubs Breaks Wind.

Q: That item is in poor taste.

A: Wait until you read the next one.

Q: Did you receive an October 1991 issue of a newsletter published in Maryland for people, mostly women, who have a certain bladder disease, and if so, what is this newsletter called?

A: Yes. It is called the Bladderette.

Q: Does that issue of the Bladderette offer a powerful incentive for attending a future meeting of the Takoma Park Support Group?

A: Yes. It says: "To get in the Holiday spirit, a special door prize will be given to the best Jell-O dessert molded in the shape of a bladder."

Q: Are you making that up?

A: No.

Q: It's a good thing it's not a hemorrhoids support group.

A: Yes.

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