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Another Day in the Country

Subjecting ourselves
to the King’s English

© Another Day in the Country

When the library was still open, I borrowed a book called “Have You Eaten Grandma?” on the subject of the importance of punctuation. The book turned out to be about commas and a whole lot more.

I do believe that people interested in the written word, or just words in general, would like to have this book in their libraries.

Without correct punctuation, sentences have a variety of meanings, as demonstrated in the title of the book. You could either be asking Grandma if she’d eaten or wondering whether Grandma had, in fact, been on the menu.

Some of us have discovered punctuation problems while texting or sending emails. It is so easy for a meaning to be misconstrued in writing. 

When speaking we use facial expression and tone of voice to express intent.

In writing, we’re stuck with punctuation marks! Depending on my skill in using commas, for instance, or the mood you’re in while reading my text message, the meaning is up for grabs. 

I also am curious about where words originated. Sometimes the origin helps us ferret out the meaning of a word with which we’re unfamiliar. I run into this all the time with a word-game app that I have on my smartphone.

“Today’s dumb word that I needed to know was ‘theta’, ” I texted my grandson. 

“Isn’t that a Greek word?” he texted back.

Come to think of it, it was; but what was it doing in an English word game?

I also was surprised to discover a distinct difference between English — which I always check as my language on forms — and American. Evidently I speak American. 

I realized that the name of the school where I teach art — Centre Elementary — uses an English (Centre) and not an American (Center) spelling. Quite a few of those English words remain in our American language. 

I’ve always wondered why the English said “aluminium,” when we know it’s just aluminum. They sneak an extra “i” into the word.

Meaning also can change, like with “nappie” and “napkins,” which sound somewhat alike but are vastly different in usage.

Some words stayed the same when they crossed the Atlantic, but many English words changed when they became American citizens. A hot flush became a hot flash, the inside leg of your trousers because an inseam, a jumble sale turned into a garage sale, and a lollipop lady became a crossing guard at school. The railway became a railroad and a sledge turned into a sled, while a tick became a check mark and not a bug.

Words are so fascinating and so complicated in their spelling, meaning, and usage.

My family always has enjoyed puns and double meanings, odd words, and catchy phrases. My son-in-law sent me pages of funny sentences filled with double meanings and guffaws, some of which were good enough to share and funny enough to make me laugh out loud.

So I’m sharing a few with you. My favorite is No. 5, so watch for it! I hope it brings levity into an otherwise redundant and somewhat querulous day.

01. A rubber-band pistol was confiscated in algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption. 

02. No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.

03. A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering. 

04. Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie. 

05. Atheism is a non-prophet organization. 

06. Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One said to the other, “You stay here; I’ll go on a head.”

07. I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me. 

08. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts. In feudalism it’s your count that votes. 

09. Two fish swim into a concrete wall. One turns to the other and says, ‘Dam!’ 

10. There was this gullible person who sent ten puns to readers of her newspaper column with the hope that at least one of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Okay, you guys, it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, even if it’s raining. Just know that, if you are sad, or even if you’re well and quite content, I tried to cheer you up, bring a little mirth into your life — thanks to Richard, and his “older” friend who sends him all this stuff, which he passes on to me (did I say that I love to use dashes, in my sentences?) — on another day in the country.

Last modified June 3, 2020

 

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