Mister Language Person strikes again -- and again

June 27, 1999|By DAVE BARRY | DAVE BARRY,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

IT IS TIME ONCE AGAIN for Ask Mister Language Person, the advice column written by the world's No. 1 foremost leading authority on grammar, syntax, podiatry and using big words to physically harm your opponent. In just a few moments, we'll answer some language questions sent in by concerned readers that we made up. But first we have the following important "Y2K" advisory:

Many experts are concerned about how the Y2K problem will affect grammar. A federal task force has studied this question and recently released a report concluding that beginning Jan. 1, 2000, there could be "widespread, sporadic shortages of words." The task force recommends that Americans prepare by stockpiling "at least a two-week supply" of words, and by learning to speak in an efficient, word-saving manner, as in these examples:

Inefficient: "Let's definitely get together for lunch soon."

Efficient: "Go away!"

Inefficient: "That's an attractive sweater you're wearing."

Efficient: "Let's have sex!"

Inefficient: "As commander- in-chief, I view the introduction of ground forces with the gravest of reservations."

Efficient: "Let's have sex!"

Now let's answer some common grammar questions:

What is the purpose of the colon?

The colon forms a barrier alerting the reader not to go any farther in the sentence.

Example: "Earlene, you will never in a million years guess what the doctor found in there: A gerbil."

What does the "K" in "Y2K" stand for?

"Konrad."

Is "yonder" really a word? Because listen to how it sounds when you say it a lot: Yonder yonder yonder yonder.

The same is true of "festoon."

What is a "moot point?" There's this guy at work, and every time you criticize him about anything, he says it's a "moot point." Like you'll say, "Hey, Bob, could you stop dripping ketchup on the copy machine?" and he'll say, "That's a moot point." So we put toner in his Big Mac.

Ha ha!

What does the computer spell-checker do when it's not checking spelling?

It's working on a porn novel entitled "Buck Naked Oenologists."

You know how the local tv news people are always telling you they're going to tell you the news, instead of just telling you? Like they say, "Did the Bobcats win the big game? We'll have the story at 6!" Or: "Was St. Louis obliterated by a nuclear missile? Find out at 11!" Don't you just wish that the heat from the studio lights would ignite their styling gel, and they'd grab the phone and call 911 and yell, "My hairstyle is on fire! Send an ambulance!" And the 911 person would say, "Sure! we'll send one at 11!"

We would not wish that on anybody.

How come so many women love horses, which are big and dirty and smelly and stupid and go to the bathroom all over the place, and yet women are highly critical when men exhibit exactly these qualities?

That is a good question.

In Cher's hit song "Believe," which lasts as long as dental school, how many times in a row does Cher moan the phrase "Do you believe in life after love?"

Scientists attempting to answer this question counted as far as 43 million, then shot themselves in the head.

According to correspondence you received from Studebaker collector Robert Williams, how do Studebaker people close their letters?

"Studebakerly."

Could you give some examples of notable language usage that you are not making up, sent in by alert readers?

Certainly:

* Toni Summers sent in a magazine advertisement for DiGiorno brand pastas and sauces making this appetizing promise: "You can enjoy a gourmet meal in your sweatpants."

* Janine Stone sent in the cover of a package of VHS tapes, featuring this statement: "Each storage case automatically becomes portable when carried."

* Scott Warfield and Kathleen Sewright sent in an Associated Press story on Republican presidential hopefuls, containing this statement: "Rep. John Kasich of Ohio, the House budget chairman, could catch fire under the right conditions."

Should they keep him away from studio lights?

Yes.

* Cheryl Shambora sent in a story from the Vero Beach, Fla., Press Journal that begins: "For the third time in two years, a St. Lucie County sheriff's deputy attempted suicide. This time, the officer survived."

What happened the first two times?

Apparently, he was not so lucky.

* Laura Petrelle sent in a story from the Observer quoting a University of Notre Dame residence-hall official as saying, in response to a student disturbance: "People are being immature and this will go on as long as people continue to be immature."

Today's tip for writers: When writing a business report, avoid big words and jargon; try to use everyday language.

Wrong: "We will prioritize the infrastructure paradigm matrices."

Right: "We are fixin' to prioritize the infrastructure paradigm matrices."

Got a question for Mister Language Person? Visit his Web site at www.aintnowebsite.com

Pub Date: 06/27/99

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