Words, both written and spoken, are much in the news these days. Uncle Mort, visiting from the thicket, waxed theatrical — in so many words — as he gave me his “take” on “word news.”
As always with Mort, it was “light on the give, and heavy on the take.”
He was wound up, loaded for bear…
His first shots were fired at Merriam-Webster’s new dictionary, due out this fall with 100 new words.
“I’m not sure I’ll ever need to know that ‘crunk’ is Southern rap music, or that ‘microgreen’ is a shoot of a salad plant,” Mort said.
He mentioned the big dictionary they rolled around the school library when he was a kid. (It was on a tall table with wheels.)
“I swear it was the same dictionary from Grades 1 through 12,” Mort assured. “And we figured if we could learn just a few words on each page, we could get by. That it would ever be outdated was lost on us.”
He said that folks committed to learning all the dictionary words are as much in a futility lock-down as the fellow who’s determined to visit every Starbucks in the world. My uncle says they’re opening ‘em faster than the guy can visit ‘em.
“It just ain’t gonna happen,” Mort opined. “And if the dictionary people are going to come up with a hundred new words each year, surely they could delete at least that many words that we don’t use any more.”
Uncle Mort says it’s all kinda like keeping up with the Joneses. Just when we think we’ve caught up with ‘em, they re-finance…
Uncle Mort is ready to “duke it out” on a couple of surveys, too. (He says he’ll take on all comers who believe the “plus or minus three percent” statistical dodge.)
Mort wondered why men are questioning the survey claiming that they are talking as much as women. “Conversations start out with men ahead two to one in the world count. At our house, when Maude says, ‘Mort,’ I answer, ‘Yes ma’am.’”
He switched gears, ready to take on surveys that are so pointless, white space would be preferable…
Backdrop for this broadside was geographical. He unfolded a newspaper clipping; the headline blared “Midwestern-ers volunteer more.”
Mort nodded approvingly, pointing out that almost 50 percent of Minneapolis adults sign up for volunteer service. The percentage is much lower at coastal cities and in Las Vegas.
“Now is this rocket science, or what?” Mort fumed. “Just think about it — do you think most people would rather go to the beach, the casino or go door-to-door collecting food for the poor? White space would be a heap better than this survey!”
I could feel my beard growing. I wished for an interrupting phone call, even if it meant participating in a survey. A little of Uncle Mort goes a long way.
He had the first word, and he was determined to have the last one, too. (At home, Aunt Maude gets equal time, maybe more.)
Mort has long bragged that he “wrote the Constitution” at his house, but everyone knows that he accepts all of Maude’s amendments…
Uncle Mort’s final words (for this visit, anyway) turned positive — congratulatory, in fact.
“I rarely congratulate professional athletes, particularly concerning their vocabularies,” he muttered, “But Mark Teixeira of the Texas Rangers gets a ‘pat on he back’ today. He can both hit the long ball and pronounce the long words.”
“In a recent interview, Teixeira used the word ‘prerogative’—and properly, at that — so let’s give credit when it’s due,” Mort said.
My old uncle then cited the oft-quoted remark made by former Dallas Cowboy Thomas (Hollywood) Henderson, concerning then Pittsburg Steeler Quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Henderson said Bradshaw couldn’t spell “cat” if you spotted him the “c” and the “t.”
Then Mort asked me directions to the cheapest gasoline in town, hopped on his golf cart and rode away…
Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org His Web site is www.speakerdoc.com.