Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ask Mr. Language Person

One of my readers, Ruth Hull Chatlien who lives somewhere on the frozen tundra up north, left this comment on yesterday’s post:

“Ah, you have the soul of an editor. Most people really don’t notice stuff like that, but to a language person, they are indeed disorienting.”

The jury is still out concerning whether I have the soul of an editor, but I really perked up when she called me “a language person.” That is definitely true. Yes, indeedy. However, I can’t hold a candle to the all-time champion in that field, the man with the phenomenally creative mind that had the entire English-speaking world rolling in the aisles and gasping for air for years, Dave Barry.

I can hear some of you saying, “Who?”

Well, according to our old friend Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, David “Dave” Barry (born July 3, 1947) “is a [sic] American author. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the The Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous books of humor and parody, as well as comedic novels.” (Note. I don’t expect ever again to have an opportunity to insert such an accurate editorial addition at such an appropriate place in a sentence.) But he is so much more than that. To me, he will forever be the writer of the “Ask Mr. Language Person” pieces that have invariably left me, as I said, rolling in the aisles, gasping for air.

To anyone out there who considers himself or herself “a language person” (and you know who you are), I would like to say that “this too shall pass” but I cannot because it won’t. Therefore, as a humanitarian gesture, I am including this link to a number of Dave Barry’s “Ask Mr. Language Person” columns, or as my son-in-law would refer to them, a “plethora.” A plethora in this case means fifteen; my personal favorites are numbers 12, 14, and 15. If you are “a language person,” all of the columns are downright hilarious, so just be sure the aisles are clear and you have an oxygen tank ready. If your name is Pat and you are “an Arkansas stamper,” which is completely different from being “a language person,” an initial fit of giggles may lead to the accesses of insanity and you might come dangerously close to having a Pond Spell. [For those of you who don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, I refer you to my post of June 29, 2008, “It looks even more like Cair Paravel from this angle” and a couple of the comments afterward from Pat. --RWP]

A caveat to the curious, which is sort of like a word to the wise, only different: If you insist on clicking on any of the links in the link I linked you to, I cannot be responsible for what you may find. If you persist, you may even wind up on the web page of Dr. Robert P. O’Shea, a professor of psychology at Otago University in Dunedin, New Zealand.


  1. Make my 1/2 giraffe of wine a Cabernet, please.

  2. That is a very witty man! I've only read a couple so far but he's pretty clever with words, isn't he?

    I love this one -


    Hahaha! You know, on a dog forum which I frequent, a lot of people get really upset if you ask for clarification on something they've said (and got wrong). They call us 'The Grammar Police'.

    Just the other day, someone used the word 'dictaphony'. The thread got locked.

  3. Oh, me, me (waves hand in air) I want to be a language person! I get in trouble all the time for "proofing" things other people have written. It annoys them, but I can't help it, stuff just jumps out at me, and usually it's hilarious! I am (for the most part) a big fan of Dave Barry. (Whoops, that's a gaffe too, isn't it, making me big as well as a fan...)The first thing of his I ever read was something about childbirth and I laughed myself sick. Another series I like too is "Anguished English" by Richard Ledbetter. Well, not exactly by him, he compiled school paper bloopers, etc. It's along these same lines, you might like it.

  4. I have always enjoyed Dave Barry. I have several of his books. Thanks for the link.
    I do hsave an oxygen tank ready.

  5. Ryme... have you thought about getting a pseudonym? Most writers have at least one (i.e. Mark Twain/Samuel Clements for Tom Sawyer on, he had several more), I have several and am not really a writer.
    You have a nice blog, you could be a Language Person from what I see.

    I get Dave's Dailey via e-mail to my Yahoo. But I seldom read him anymore. I don't know why, maybe too busy blogging. I've read him in print way back. When people want me to read on the computer I can find someone else still doing the print thing.

    That said, it isn't an attitude that I hope my bloggers take. I love the hits and comments.
    Thank you for trying to help poor Ms. Needs on my Ask Dr. Jim (blog).
    I try to update weekly over there.
    My other blogs--just two now--get several updates a week.

  6. GOING BACK TO my old format as you the putz...or putzier...or putziest

  7. Springboarding off of Rosezilla's comment...that, and being the daughter of Mr. RWP...I also love to proof other people's written work for errors and such. My favorite, though, is the teacher at my school (currently my son's fourth grade teacher) who proofed an excuse from a parent for her child and sent the excuse back with RED editing marks all over it with the request for her to "re-do" her work!! Goodness gracious!

  8. Thanks to everyone who commented on this post!

    Ruth - No less than a full giraffe for you, if you don't mind.

    Jay, a.k.a (in her dreams) Mrs. Johnny Depp - I'm still trying to envision a scenario in which the word 'dictaphony' would appear on a dog forum.

    rosezilla (Tracie) - If people are annoyed, you are well on your way to being a bona fide language person.

    dr.john - I always keep a spare handy. Don't forget to clear the aisles, though, to avoid injury.

    Jim - Silly me, I thought 'rhymeswithplague' was my pseudonym. Now I'm going to have to try to think of something else.

    Putz (Mr. Barlow, sir) - I'm sure your new format will be the putziest and we'll all be able to follow along better!

    Angela, that is not just a language person, that is someone with real chutzpah! Hug every single member of your family for me, even the one who hasn't been single since he married you.

  9. Hey, hey! I may be a stamper, but I'm "a language person," too! I'm just home from the babysitting joys, and will read the Dave Barry posts when I've caught my breath. I'll try to avoid any "excess of insanity," but thanks for the warning.

  10. Thanks for these. Some are indeed great fun.