UH word nerds dissect recent period piece
Welcome to the Tuesday Lite Notebook (wherein we define, divine, refine, enshrine and undermine the various issues of the day).
» We recently celebrated National Punctuation Day (Sept. 24) in this space by discussing the great importance of punctuation to human history, not the least of which is to divide long strings of indecipherable letters into handy little chunks called "words" which often, when read in consecutive order, have "meaning," though -- as readers of this column can attest -- not always.
Knowing that a column on punctuation would be minutely autopsied by language savants, I cleverly hid several grammatical mistakes in the text that even this paper's editors wouldn't pick up. My trap worked. I heard from Pat Matsueda, managing editor of the University of Hawaii English Department's MANOA Journal, who rejoiced to tell me that he and his advanced editing class students found a number of errors.
After listing a few he wrote, "We don't consider ourselves 'smarty-pants grammarians,' but I wanted to ask if you inserted these errors deliberately." I did, sir! And I often insert grammatical errors in my writing just to give college editing classes something constructive to do. I've heard that this column does more to mystify, bewilder and entertain language experts than any other newspaper offering, including the crossword puzzle.
» Speaking of words, here's a new one: Googlement. "Gogglement" is a word invented by my wife and me to describe an argument that can be simply quelled by consulting Google on the Internet. We used to have standard arguments that would continue for hours, generally disintegrating into alternating shouts of "Is so!" and "Is not!" Now we have Googlements. We argue about something for a few minutes and then check Google to see who is right. Thank God for technology! We have so much more time on our hands now we can squeeze in several knock-down, drag-out Googlements in the time it took for a single argument in the old days.
» A reader sent me a news clip disclosing that guards at the Guantanamo Bay terrorist prison have confiscated unauthorized underwear from inmates -- including Under Armor briefs and Speedo swimsuits -- that had been smuggled into the facility. This is a disturbing development. Who knew that terrorists prefer Under Armor briefs to, say, Fruit of the Loom or Calvin Kleins? And what's with the Speedos? Are they the preferred undergarment of suicide bombers? Does the age-old debate over "boxers versus briefs" extend to terrorists?
A prison spokesman said the contraband raises concerns about the potential for smuggling other items into the prison. Well, duh. I mean, if terror suspects are able to smuggle briefs into presumably one of the most secure slammers in the world, what's stopping them from sneaking in G-strings, corsets, thong teddies, bustiers and, for that matter, a suitcase nuke?
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