Dec 062017
 

Saying And Aphorisms

Abbott’s Admonitions:

1) If you have to ask, you’re not entitled to know.

2) If you don’t like the answer, you shouldn’t have asked the question.

Abrams’s Advice:

When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.

Rule of Accuracy:

When working toward the solution of a problem, it always helps if you know the answer.

Corollary:

Provided, of course, that you know there is a problem.

Acheson’s Rule of the Bureaucracy:

A memorandum is written not to inform the reader but to protect the writer.

Acton’s Law:

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Ade’s Law:

Anybody can win — unless there happens to be a second entry.

Airplane Law:

When the plane you are on is late, the plane you want to transfer to is on time.

Albrecht’s Law:

Social innovations tend to the level of minimum tolerable well being.

Algren’s Precepts:

Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never play cards with a man named Doc. And never have sex with a woman who’s got more troubles than you.

Allen’s Law of Civilization:

It is better for civilization to be going down the drain than to be coming up it.

Agnes Allen’s Law:

Almost anything is easier to get into than out of.

Fred Allen’s Motto:

I’d rather have a free bottle in front of me than a prefrontal lobotomy.

Alley’s Axiom:

Justice always prevails … three times out of seven.

Alligator Allegory:

The objective of all dedicated product support employees should be to thoroughly analyze all situations, anticipate all problems prior to their occurrence, have answers for these problems, and move swiftly to solve these problems when called upon. However, when you are up to your ass in alligators, it is difficult to remind yourself that your initial objective was to drain the swamp.

Allison’s Precept:

The best simple-minded test of experience in a particular area is the ability to win money in a series of bets on future occurrences in that area.

Anderson’s Law:

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.

Andrews’s Canoeing Postulate:

No matter which direction you start it’s always against the wind coming back.

Law of Annoyance:

When working on a project, if you put away a tool that you’re certain you’re finished with, you will need it instantly.

Anthony’s Law of Force:

Don’t force it, get a larger hammer.

Anthony’s Law of the Workshop:

Any tool, when dropped, will roll into the least accessible corner of the workshop. Corollary: On the way to the corner, any dropped tool will first always strike your toes.

Laws of Applied Confusion:

1) The one piece that the plant forgot to ship is the one that supports 75% of the balance of the shipment.

Corollary:

Not only did the plant forget to ship it, 50% of the time they haven’t even made it.

2) Truck deliveries that normally take one day will take five when you are waiting for the truck.

3) After adding two weeks to the schedule for unexpected delays, add two more for the unexpected, unexpected delays.

4) In any structure, pick out the one piece that should not be mismarked and expect the plant to cross you up.

Corollaries:

1) In any group of pieces with the same erection mark on it, one should not have that mark on it.

2) It will not be discovered until you try to put it where the mark says it’s supposed to go.

3) Never argue with the fabricating plant about an error. The inspection prints are all checked off, even to the holes that aren’t there.

Approval Seeker’s Law:

Those whose approval you seek the most give you the least.

Army Axiom:

Any order that can be misunderstood has been misunderstood.

Navy Law:

If it moves, salute it; if it doesn’t move, pick it up; if you can’t pick it up, paint it.

Ashley-Perry Statistical Axioms:

1) Numbers are tools, not rules.

2) Numbers are symbols for things; the number and the thing are not the same.

3) Skill in manipulating numbers is a talent, not evidence of divine guidance.

4) Like other occult techniques of divination, the statistical method has a private jargon deliberately contrived to obscure its methods from nonpractitioners.

5) The product of an arithmetical computation is the answer to an equation; it is not the solution to a problem.

6) Arithmetical proofs of theorems that do not have arithmetical bases prove nothing.

Astrology Law: It’s always the wrong time of the month.
Fourteenth Corollary of Atwood’s General Law of Dynamic Negatives:

No books are lost by loaning except those you particularly wanted to keep.

Avery’s Rule of Three:

Trouble strikes in series of threes, but when working around the house the next job after a series of three is not the fourth job — it’s the start of a brand new series of three.
 

Dec 042017
 
The Right Way To Spell Potato

If GH can stand for P as in Hiccough
If OUGH stands for O as in Dough
If PHTH stands for T as in Phthisis
If EIGH stands for A as in Neighbour
If TTE stands for T as in Gazette
If EAU stands for O as in Plateau

Then the right way to spell POTATO should be:

GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU

 

English Is A Crazy Language

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May 302017
 

English Is A Crazy Language

There is no egg in the eggplant,
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England,
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted, but if we examine its paradoxes we find that:
Quicksand takes you down slowly,
Boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing?
If the plural of tooth is teeth,
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why hasn’t the preacher praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
What the heck does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play,
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways?
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language where a house can burn up as it burns down,
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers,
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all.)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible,
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts,
But when I wind up this poem
It ends.

 

Words That Are Their Own Opposites

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May 282017
 

Words That Are Their Own Opposites

Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression’ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’? We’ve stumbled into the looking-glass world of “contronyms”—words that are their own antonyms.

1. Sanction (via French, from Latin sanctio(n-), from sancire ‘ratify,’) can mean ‘give official permission or approval for (an action)’ or conversely, ‘impose a penalty on.’

2. Oversight is the noun form of two verbs with contrary meanings, “oversee” and “overlook.” “Oversee,” from Old English ofersēon ‘look at from above,’ means ‘supervise’ (medieval Latin for the same thing: super- ‘over’ + videre ‘to see.’) “Overlook” usually means the opposite: ‘to fail to see or observe; to pass over without noticing; to disregard, ignore.’

3. Left can mean either remaining or departed. If the gentlemen have withdrawn to the drawing room for after-dinner cigars, who’s left? (The gentlemen have left and the ladies are left.)

4. Dust, along with the next two words, is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.

5. Seed can also go either way. If you seed the lawn you add seeds, but if you seed a tomato you remove them.

6. Stone is another verb to use with caution. You can stone some peaches, but please don’t stone your neighbor (even if he says he likes to get stoned).

7. Trim as a verb predates the noun, but it can also mean either adding or taking away. Arising from an Old English word meaning ‘to make firm or strong; to settle, arrange,’ “trim” came to mean ‘to prepare, make ready.’ Depending on who or what was being readied, it could mean either of two contradictory things: ‘to decorate something with ribbons, laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance’ or ‘to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities of.’ And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree are you using tinsel or a chain saw?

8. Cleave can be cleaved into two “homographs,” words with different origins that end up spelled the same. “Cleave,” meaning ‘to cling to or adhere,’ comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfan. “Cleave,” with the contrary meaning ‘to split or sever (something), ‘ as you might do with a cleaver, comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: “cloven,” which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in a “cleft palate” or “cleaved.”

9. Resign works as a contronym in writing. This time we have homographs, but not homophones. “Resign,” meaning ‘to quit,’ is spelled the same as “resign,” meaning ‘to sign up again,’ but it’s pronounced differently.

10. Fast can mean “moving rapidly,” as in “running fast,” or ‘fixed, unmoving,’ as in “holding fast.” If colors are fast they will not run. The meaning ‘firm, steadfast’ came first. The adverb took on the sense ‘strongly, vigorously,’ which evolved into ‘quickly,’ a meaning that spread to the adjective.

11. Off means ‘deactivated,’ as in “to turn off,” but also ‘activated,’ as in “The alarm went off.”

12. Weather can mean ‘to withstand or come safely through,’ as in “The company weathered the recession,” or it can mean ‘to be worn away’: “The rock was weathered.”

13. Screen can mean ‘to show’ (a movie) or ‘to hide’ (an unsightly view).

14. Help means ‘assist,’ unless you can’t help doing something, when it means ‘prevent.’

15. Clip can mean “to bind together” or “to separate.” You clip sheets of paper to together or separate part of a page by clipping something out. Clip is a pair of homographs, words with different origins spelled the same. Old English clyppan, which means “to clasp with the arms, embrace, hug,” led to our current meaning, “to hold together with a clasp.” The other clip, “to cut or snip (a part) away,” is from Old Norse klippa, which may come from the sound of a shears.

16. Continue usually means to persist in doing something, but as a legal term it means stop a proceeding temporarily.

17. Fight with can be interpreted three ways. “He fought with his mother-in-law” could mean “They argued,” “They served together in the war,” or “He used the old battle-ax as a weapon.” (Thanks to linguistics professor Robert Hertz for this idea.)

18. Flog, meaning “to punish by caning or whipping,” shows up in school slang of the 17th century, but now it can have the contrary meaning, “to promote persistently,” as in “flogging a new book.” Perhaps that meaning arose from the sense ‘to urge (a horse, etc.) forward by whipping,’ which grew out of the earliest meaning.

19. Go means “to proceed,” but also “give out or fail,” i.e., “This car could really go until it started to go.”

20. Hold up can mean “to support” or “to hinder”: “What a friend! When I’m struggling to get on my feet, he’s always there to hold me up.”

21. Out can mean “visible” or “invisible.” For example, “It’s a good thing the full moon was out when the lights went out.”

22. Out of means “outside” or “inside”: “I hardly get out of the house because I work out of my home.”

23. Bitch, as reader Shawn Ravenfire pointed out, can derisively refer to a woman who is considered overly aggressive or domineering, or it can refer to someone passive or submissive.

24. Peer is a person of equal status (as in a jury of one’s peers), but some peers are more equal than others, like the members of the peerage, the British or Irish nobility.

25. Toss out could be either “to suggest” or “to discard”: “I decided to toss out the idea.”

 

Joke Of The Day: Language Lesson

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Mar 102016
 
Rubber Chicken A friend of mine is an officer in the naval reserve.

A few weeks ago, He was attending a conference that included admirals in both the US and the French navies.

At a cocktail reception, my friend found himself in a small group that included an admiral from each of the two navies.

The French admiral started complaining that whereas Europeans learned many languages, Americans only learned English.

He then asked. “Why is it that we have to speak English in these conferences rather than you having to speak French?”

Without even hesitating, the American admiral replied.

“Maybe it’s because we arranged it so that you didn’t have to learn to speak German.”

The group became silent.