Frequently Not Asked Questions: Seven

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Is it safe for children to watch Curious George on PBS Kids online?

 

Curiously, if you had asked me that last week, I would have answered yes. But after a shocking conversation with my grandchild, I would have to answer with an unequivocal “not-yes” or perhaps “not-no.”

 

Not-yes and not-no represent the infinite number of answers that fall between no and yes. This includes not only vocal responses such as maybe, not exactly, possibly, but also gestures such as a shoulder shrug, a humph, and a side-mouthed tsk.

 

Why “not-yes” and not yes, or “not-no” and not no? I’m afraid I can’t answer that because Frequently Not Asked Questions addresses only one question at time. Please try to remember that as we continue.

 

George, the monkey on the back of the man with the yellow hat, is curious, and as you know or should know, curiosity killed the cat. What most people, don’t know is that it was saturated fat that killed the cat. Had you been privileged to be raised by my mother, you would know that cats live only to jump on the table and lick the butter. Any time the subject of cats came up in a family discussion, my mother would snort softly, shake her head, and say, “You can’t trust them. The minute you turn your back, they jump on the table and lick the butter.”

 

Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Courtesy of Wikimedia.

We lived in a cat-free home but never left any uncovered butter on the table or counter. In fact, we used mostly margarine, but mother was convinced that should a cat be allowed in the house, it would lick all our butter leaving vegetables with nothing to swim in. I never doubted her wisdom and when I heard the warning “Curiosity killed the cat,” I imagined a curious cat atop a table, licking butter until its arteries clogged with fat and it died.

 

I have nothing against George for being curious, as long as he stays off the table and away from the butter. But if what my grandchild told me is true, I fear something much, much worse from George than butter-licking.

 

My grandchild spent a morning with me last weekend and talked with me as I took the clothes out of the dryer. When I bent down to take the dryer lint out, I heard words that filled my heart with dread and despair. “Grandma, don’t throw the dryer lint out; we can make something with it. I saw it on Curious George.”

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Protect your loved ones. Dryer lint is a gateway craft. Picture courtesy of BD2412. Creative Commons.

 

I read aloud every Curious George book ever written by Margret and H.A. Rey four or five thousand times when my daughters were growing up, and I know for sure that they never mentioned dryer lint crafts. If they had, I would have burned every one of their books.

 

Crafting with dryer lint never ends well. Once the thrill of dryer lint is gone, these crafters begin to crawl under beds looking for dust bunnies; then they begin sweeping dresser dust into paper bags to make papier-mâché. It’s not long before they begin saving belly button lint for collages. Fingernail clipping mosaics are next, followed by collected hair found in brushes spun into yarn for itchy boleros. Unless someone intervenes, they will be found stark naked in the bathroom, standing on a piece of paper to collect their own dead skin cells to use as snow dust on ornaments to give to grandparents for Christmas. I would rather my grandchild just jump on the table and lick the butter than begin dryer lint crafting.

 

What should you do? Again, please don’t ask any more questions. It’s annoying.

 

In my search on the PBS Kids website I failed to discover a link to the craft my grandchild mentioned, which proves to me and others who have searched for elephants with pedicures that the craft is hidden somewhere on the site. As you know if you have children or grandchildren, elephants paint their toenails red in order to hide in cherry trees. Over your life, I’m sure you’ve never seen one in a cherry tree. Actually, no one has yet spotted any elephants in cherry trees, which proves how well it works. Nothing could convince me more that dryer lint crafts are promoted on PBS Kids and Curious George than not being able to find any mention of it.

 

Remember, friends, the road to ruin is covered in lint.

 

 

Close up: Chalome

 

 

Screen: BD2412

 

 

 

 

 

 

Windbreaking news: NBC reveals major cause of climate change

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First, let’s clear up any misunderstandings you have about the difference between weather and climate.

 

This gives you a clue as to where weather comes from. Courtesy of http://gwendolyn12-stock.deviantart.com/art/Sky-Texture-390272597 (NOTE: she provided the picture not the weather)

This gives you a clue as to where weather comes from. Courtesy of http://gwendolyn12-stock.deviantart.com/art/Sky-Texture-390272597 (NOTE: only the picture comes courtesy of her, not the weather)

Weather is one snapshot from your trip to Prairie du Sac for the Bovine Bingo and Cow Chip Throw Festival, climate is the 2-hour video of the event that you sent to your relatives for Christmas this year.

 

Weather is one drop of water in that little drip from your kitchen sink, climate is the water bill you get at the end of the month.

 

Weather is one website that you visit, climate is the history of every website you visit that the NSA keeps, just in case.

 

Weather is one pixel, climate is a collection of those pixels that shows Elvis leaving a Walmart in Pittsburgh.

 

Weather accumulates until it becomes climate. And since it’s left outside day after day, it rusts, which leads to change. Not the paltry amount you find under your couch cushions, but the kind that causes your skin to lose its elasticity. Skin that once covered your thighs now pools around your ankles like an old pair of underpants, but unfortunately you cannot discretely step out of that loose skin and look back in shock wondering who would leave a pair of underpants on the sidewalk, which is a true story about one of my daughters that I try not to tell because it’s…em…barrassing.

 

And what does that have to do with windbreaking news? Be patient, I’m getting there.

 

Climate changes just like you do, and only a tiny handful of the bad changes are your fault, while the majority are other people’s fault. And NBC has finally revealed that a major part of the bad climate changes falls at the feet of the U.S. and China, like an old pair of….dinner rolls.

 

Trust me, I was as surprised as you are at that last statement, but according to the screenshot I took, NBC, typing in the voice of  Jonathan Overpeck, director of the University of Arizona’s Institute of the Environment, clearly states that most of the problems in climate change are due to the “outsized rolls” of China and the U.S. As temperatures rise, these rolls also rise.

Outsized rolls cause climate problems

There are two important takeaways here. First, the initialism for Overpeck’s institute is UAIE. By adding the initial of his last name, we end up with UAIEO. Yes, friends, all the vowels. Clearly, our Dr. Overpeck is involved in vowel play, and while he may fool others, I’m no popover.

 

Second, Dr. Overpeck’s name not only includes the word peck, he prefers to be called Peck. As you know, a peck was traditionally used as a measurement for flour. Rolls need flour, and outsized rolls need more flour, or eerily, over flour. To make matters even more conspiratorial, he went to Brown University for his MSc and Phd. And what do China and the U.S. do with their oversized rolls once they are made? They brown them.

 

Guess which one belongs to the U.S.

Guess which one belongs to the U.S.

What does all this mean? Sadly, your guess is not as good as mine, but don’t be discouraged, keep on guessing. And I’ll keep on doing my part by bringing you windbreaking news like this.

 

 

There’s fun in words

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Literally. You can find fun in words. Like fungus. Maybe you know a guy, and he is fun, so you say he is a fun guy. And if his name is Gus, maybe you say he is one fun Gus.

As you know if you know what’s good for you, fungi rhymes with fun guy. Every time someone uses the other pronunciation that rhymes with fun jai, a dung beetle dies. And do you really want to live in a world without dung beetles? No, because once they are gone, we are in deep doo-doo.

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We eat fungi, which are both tasty and sometimes deadly. Fungi live on us and sometimes invade our toes.

Fun Guy: George, you’ve got some fungosity    going there on your toes.
George: You nailed it, Fun Guy. You’ve got onegood eye.

 

You also might have made a go of something fun like bowling blindfolded. Then you could say you made a fun go of it. And if you talked quickly, squeezing those last seven words together because you heard a loud yell after you threw the bowling ball, you would say you made a fungo of it, and it would be true. Or almost true if your bowling ball was just struck by someone’s foot three lanes over, because fungo is baseball talk for striking a ball thrown up in the air. And that means one of two things: you shouldn’t bowl blindfolded no matter how fun it is, or you need to work on your hook.

 

Baseball_swing

The term fungo snuck into the baseball lexicon sometime in the 1880s, probably by climbing over the fence to watch the game. No one knows for sure, except for those people who think they know for sure. Like so many English nouns it has a second career as a verb. So, a person can fungo during practice, or have a coach who thinks fungoing is essential, which in my book is a fungoing coach.

If you think there’s a lot of fun in blindfolded bowling (and frankly, who doesn’t?), you probably think that there’s just as much of it in funambulism, aka tightrope walking. If etymology were done correctly, that fun in funambulism would derive from the word fun, or amusement. We would be left with a fun kind of ambulating, which is a four-syllable way of talking about simple two-syllable walking. However, the Romans lacked the kind of etymological skills that would truly benefit posterity because they spent too much time conquering and slaughtering barbarians to develop much of a sense of humor. In addition, they appeared too early in history to even know about the word fun. This is often true of people who show up too early at a party and then leave before the real party begins.

Highline_Peeto

Courtesy of Philip Bitnar

 

 

In what has to be the worst instance of word origin I’ve run across today, they borrowed that first syllable in funambulism from funis, Latin for rope. In one fell swoop, they cut the rope under my feet, so that instead of enjoying the fun of walking 50 stories high on a thin rope connected to two buildings on a windy day in the Windy City, I’m left trying to walk across a rope. Etymology is such a heartbreaker.

 

If I had more time, and trust me, you are going to be glad I don’t, I could write a ditty, a simple song, about etymology’s betrayals. Of course I would have to make it fun. I’m a positive person and very pro fun, so I would call it a profundity, but I don’t think anyone else would agree.

 

 

 

 

Learn another language – slam a door

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Courtesy of Patriiciiaa suga

Courtesy of Patriiciiaa suga

 

I taught myself to slam doors as a second language. I picked up a bit of it when I was a teenager, but I attained fluency after I got married.

 

By the time I said, “I do,” I had lived through almost thirty winters and considered myself a bona fide grown-up who dealt with problems in a calm and rational manner. Thankfully my husband thought I was calm and rational, too.

 

I also believed that my college education and years of reading books with big words allowed me to articulate my thoughts in a cogent and persuasive manner.

 

But after we each pulled tight our end of the knot at the wedding and began to live together, words failed me.

 

Since I was much too nice of a person to harbor ill will or feel irritated or hurt, whatever was bothering me was too petty to even mention, so I didn’t. Instead, I began to speak in slams.

 

Courtesy National Park Service

Courtesy National Park Service

One light slight slam of the cupboard or drawer meant I was chafed about something. To indicate that the problem needed more immediate attention, I slammed harder. Each slam and its intensity indicated my level of unhappiness or distress. Emergencies required a wall-shuddering large door slam.

 

Unlike English, door-slamming lacks subtlety. It consists mainly of nouns and adjectives: soft slam, lively bang, vigorous boom, and so on. The paucity of nouns is counterbalanced by comparative and superlative adjectives: the softest slam, a livelier bang, and the most vigorous boom of all.

 

In spite of these limitations, my husband learned to interpret his wife’s new language skills and use his words to coax me to use mine.

 

Me: Bang!

He: Is anything wrong?

Me: Headshaking and heavy snorting.

He: Do you want to talk about anything?

Me: Slam! Slam!

 

Eventually I would blurt out, “If you loved me, you would know what’s wrong!”

 

At the time, it was clear to me that if he would show common courtesy and read my mind, I wouldn’t have to speak in an unknown tongue. I was dumbstruck by what I interpreted as either obstinacy or lack of trying on his part. Clearly I was trying – very trying.

 

It took over two decades to realize that my thoughts were as opaque to him as his were to me, so I began to use my words and admit the things that bothered me. Big things. Small things. Trifling things that I should have been able to laugh off, but couldn’t. I married the man to be known, but my biggest fear was that he would fully know me, including my pettiness, my fears, and my insecurities.

 

Every door I slammed in the house mirrored a door I shut within myself to silence the words that would reveal that I am flawed and in desperate need of love and acceptance. And though my husband developed keen interpreting skills, he never attempted to speak the language.

 

Courtesy National Park Service

Courtesy National Park Service

I’ve lost my fluency in door-slamming and I think both of us are pleased about that. During the years I spoke in slams, my forceful manner of talking loosened screws, which meant both the doors and I were always in danger of coming unhinged. Having fewer loose screws is always a good thing.

In which she gets to the new car, or halfway to toity

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If I wrote like I were a truck driver, I would put my idea into the GPS, choose the shortest route, and arrive at my destination in the least amount of time possible. Instead, I write like a tourist wandering around a new city with the vague idea that I might go to the local zoo.

 

I put the address of the zoo into the GPS, choose the shortest route, and head off, eager to see the sloths and Gollum-like tarsiers. On my way, I see hundreds of billboards and decide to check out one of them because it won’t take long, and it’s right on the way to the zoo.

Tariser photo courtesy of motz

Tariser photo courtesy of motz

 

Three hundred and fifty-two times out of three hundred and fifty-three times, I never see a sloth or tarsier because I spend the day at a local winery learning about bâtonnage* or stop to fish for a few hours. While fishing, I notice four kinds of bobbers in my tackle box, and drive to the nearest bobber-making factory to learn how they are made.

 

In my last post, Compound interest, I put “new car” in the GPS and drove off. On the way, I noticed a sign marked off-ramp, began to wonder about compound nouns, and swerved at the last minute to see where the off-ramp would take me.  It took me everywhere but “new car.”

 

Today I finally got there.

 

Several months ago, my husband and I realized my 1997 Bonneville might not make it through another winter. We are cash-only car buyers because I pledged long ago that I would never, ever buy a new car, and I never have, until I did.

 

I have cherished two reasons why I would not be foolish enough to buy a never-owned car. First, once you leave the DDR force shield that covers every car dealer, deadly depreciation rays (DDRs) bombard your car and reduce its worth by up to 9%. Second, I have no interest in paying interest on a car.

 

Our auto search led us to a car dealer to look at fully depreciated cars. Although I am a fairly good judge of character, I don’t know my Buicks from my Bonnevilles. My husband, on the other hand, has a caveman’s instinct for car hunting. He always spears the fattest, biggest mastodon available, and we feast on it for years.

 

During what seemed like three days, but were only three hours in caveman hunting time, my husband went over every inch of a brand-new double-tusked mastodon with shiny gray hair, several shades darker than his own. I pretended to look interested while he looked for cash on its back and something called an APR. Since it had a cash back and the APR search came up zero, we took it.

 

Arriving home in my first and last brand-new car, I realized I had entered fancy territory. As you know, fancy is halfway to schmancy. Or put synonymously, since fancy is the same as hoity, I was halfway to toity.

 

I had no intention to leave the hoi polloi (even if it’s a redundant place to be because it translates to the the many), and then my husband went hunting again – this time for his own mastodon. He found one – an older model exactly like mine, but in black. If that’s not hoity-toity, I don’t know my hoits or my toits.

 

Becoming fancy-schmancy or hoity-toity has required a change of attitude and vocabulary. I must move from being super silly to being supercilious. Rather than shouting out, “Holy cow!” when I see the price tags on shoddy name-brand clothing, I must exclaim, “Holy filet mignon!” To avoid identification with the  double-articled hoi polloi, “Heaven’s to Betsy!” must now be expressed as “Elysium to Elizabeth!”

 

My hoity-toitiness will last about as long as autumn in Wisconsin. By January of next year, my car will be old and my newly acquired rhyming compounds will drop off like autumn leaves. I hope to grow some new ones, befitting my fall from fancyhood. Perhaps I shall be barely-therely, or bleak and meek, or squarely-sparely, or plain mere-here.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*bâtonnage is a fancy French word for taking a big stick and stirring the dead yeast in the bottom of a wine barrel.

 

 

 

 

Compound interest

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If you were lured here by the title of this post, expecting some insight into money, please understand that I do what have to do to get readers. Like most people, I have an interest in money, but I have more outsight than insight; that is, as soon as it is in sight, it usually wings its way out of sight before a lured person can say compound interest.

 

Courtesy National Archives

Courtesy National Archives

However, I am flush with words, have books full of them, store them on my computer, and spend hours everyday stuffing them into other people’s ears – for free. I’m nothing if not generous with them.

 

 

I’m interested in words and find  compound words especially interesting. Hence, I have a lot of compound interest.

 

 

In the intimate life of words, compounding is how words meet and mate.

 

 

Nouns, the parts of speech that never forget a name, live to meet other words and partner up. One day a hand reaches out for a bag, slaps a logo on, and voila, the $10,000 handbag is born. Later in a city, a building rises up to scrape the sky and calls itself a skyscraper. During a show, a magician saws his sister in half and ends up with a half-sister. Back at the farm, Old MacDonald takes a hog, washes it up, expecting it to keep it clean, and finds that his idea is pure hogwash. Then he splits a horse four ways and ends up with a quarter horse. Fun, isn’t it?

 

 

Compounding is not just for nouns. Verbs like to get into the action, as do adverbs, a kind of word that can’t be in a relationship without trying to modify its partner. Prepositions, the words that let you know what’s up and what’s going down participate, as do adjectives, those opinionated words that always have something to say about every noun they meet.

Courtesy of Library of Congress: DN-0068144, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum

 

Some compounds, like bridegroom, are monogamous – two nouns become one and everything they own is joint property. They take seriously the ancient truth: what the dictionary hath joined together, let no auto-correct put asunder. Others are more like the bride-to-be; they flash their hyphen to show they’re engaged. Open compounds go on dates, visit the amusement park, ride the roller coaster, and eat ice cream together, but maintain their distance and avoid PDAs (public displays of affection). Many compounds start out in an open relationship, get engaged, and end up in a closed relationship.

 

 

 

Much of my compound interest comes from rhyming compounds. I like their razzle-dazzle sound. Many of them disparage others, looking down their noses at the jibber-jabber of the snake oil salesman; others have a keen eye for disorder and will call you out if you shilly-shally or dilly-dally. *

 

 

I’ve shared all this to tell you about a car, but as you can see, my thoughts are all higgledy-piggledy, and I’ve used up my cyberspace allotment. So now I’ll have to backtrack and write about the car next time, unless I miss the off ramp again.

 

 

 

*I sort rhyming compounds like I sort my buttons: all in one big pile. There are dozens of ways to categorize them, but since this is a family friendly blog, I would like to afford linguists some dignity and not talk about their piles. If you find yourself disturbed by this and would like to make a case out of it, I’ll see you in court. Tennis or basketball – it’s your choice.

 

 

 

Actually I could care less

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Caring requires time and effort. It’s like filling up a bucket, except it’s filling up the mind and heart with a person, a thing, or a cause. You have to think about the object of your caring, which means shifting your brain from idle to at least first gear.

 

Science moment: Assuming you have a brain, and frankly, the fact that you are reading this blog creates doubt, said assumed brain idles at about 6 to 11 calories per hour. Actual thinking increases the amount of calories only slightly, which explains why there are so many thickheaded people about.

 

If caring were math, it would be the whole numbers, which depending on who you trust and I’m not sure it should be me, includes zero. Getting from caring to the nothingness or zero of not caring requires sliding down the scale of care like a firefighter sliding down the firehouse pole.

 

Couldn’t-care-lessness is measurable and getting there requires another simile. It’s like untying a balloon full of concern and attentiveness and forcing all of it out by stretching the neck of the balloon to produce sounds not unlike those experienced during gastrointestinal distress. Once all of that air is satisfyingly released (and you know exactly what I’m talking about), you have emptied yourself and have reached the “Om” of OMG, I couldn’t care less.

Care-o-meter

Once this nirvana of carelessness has been achieved, you must never think about the subject again, so as to not disturb your care-o-meter. This explains why I avoid reading tabloid headlines in supermarket lines and tend to weep any time I come across bad words like…Warning! BWA! (Bad Words Alert)….Bieber, Kardashian, and Brangelina.

 

Hearing or reading about what the not-to-be-mentioned people wear, don’t wear, eat, don’t eat, kiss, or don’t kiss knocks my brain out of idle and forces me to not care about what I just heard or read. The very act of not caring about the information tires me out and often leaves me at the place where I could care less if I tried, but I don’t have the energy or inclination to do so. More often than not I exhaust myself into numbness and discover I could not care less, but this usually requires dark chocolate, wine, or both.

 

So, yeah, sometimes I really could care less.