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Gwin Paden: On a fondness for good grammar and good cats

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Posted: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 12:00 am

Within the last month or so, Philip Bookman wrote a couple of columns for the News-Sentinel, and I was pleased to see that Phil was still among us and writing. During my last year as a teacher of English at Lodi High School, he was the editor of the (Stockton) Record, and we enjoyed a lively back and forth about misspelling, bad grammar and general decline in the proper use of the English language.

I have been keeping a list lately of misused words. Please, weather is not “forecasted,” ever. The only version of this word for all tenses is “forecast.” Watch out for the Greeks; their singular/plural versions are tricky. Singular: criterion, phenomenon, etc. Plural: criteria, phenomena, etc. There’s a vast difference between “alter” and “altar,” although what’s said at an altar may well alter someone’s life!

Others: lesson, lessen; peaking, peeking; duel, dual; berg (short for iceberg), and burg, a word generally designating a city or city area. One can’t “tow” the party line (unless it’s attached to something being pulled along) but one “toes” the party line, an expression taken from the literal standing in a lateral a line with everyone’s toes lined up exactly along an imaginary line.

All those years ago, Phil and I remarked on grimmace, trys, fewd, monitary, ambulence, committment, siezure, benefiitital, and enviornment. These are all misspelled. What’s the correct spelling?

A number of the words being talked about here are in a very inclusive list sent to me recently by Frank Swanson, so it’s nice to know others care about language, too. Thanks, Frank.

***

Some readers have been asking about my cats. I am glad to report that there are still two warm, cuddly fuzzies keeping me company — Oliver and Wee Geordie (who, like his Scottish namesake, is not exactly “wee”)!

Arthritis and old age took Toby a year ago; this month, the boys and I lost little old black-and-white Molly. The house is very quiet; she bossed us all around with a meow larger than her body. Waking up and feeding times are now more leisurely; I miss her because she and I were two old ladies sitting together while the boys were outside adventuring, although they do seem to be inside more, now.

Pets are so wonderful, and losing them is so hard. Take care of them well, and be sure they have shade/shelter and lots of cool water in this heat. And if you find a lost animal without a collar, take him/her to the nearest vet to see if the animal has an implanted chip. This can end an owner’s worries very quickly.

***

I was planning to write about some of the old books I have been reading, but I don’t want to do it in a hurried, crammed-into-space way, so will save that item until next time. I haven’t remarked on the garden, either, so that will come next time, too. Meanwhile, here’s a good oldie: “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” Groucho Marx, of course.

Miscellany: Does anyone remember the Salmon Festival? There used to be one in the fall over at Lodi Lake. There used to be Indian dances, too, and other kinds of celebration. Is anyone going to bring that back? That grilled salmon was wonderful ...

These days, most bills have a second page, with about two-thirds of it blank. All that paper can be torn off and used as scratch paper for figuring, lists, etc. ... in line with that, too many requests for financial donations are accompanied by four full pages of writing. No one wants to read all that; the request point should be made in one page, at the most ... As the old rule says, “Write tight” ...

With water so scarce, why are all those new housing development going up in both Lodi and Stockton? More bathrooms, kitchens, and laundries. Common sense? ... These new hoses which are light-weight and shrivel up tend to hold water a long time after the hose bib is turned off. Save a few flower pots to take the extra ...

Here’s another old groaner: Have you heard about the old lady who bought a hundred pounds of steel wool? She planned to knit a stove! I love this one!

***

Sept. 11 is not too far off. Is there any chance someone — or two — among our pastors will step forward this year and plan a simple public service of prayers of thanksgiving and prayers for protection? As bad as some things are in this country, we still have much to be grateful for, and the likelihood of another attack is somewhat greater now. We need this communal recognition of what the world is getting to be, and of the fact that we all need to be cognizant and concerned, even though each of us may feel powerless to do anything. Awareness on everyone’s part means less likelihood of our country being caught asleep at the switch, as the saying goes.

And one to end on: “No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves.” — Wayne Dyer

Gwin Paden is a writer and long-time Lodian.

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