Here are some goofs, gaffes and otherwise humorous anecdotes showcasing the use and misuse of the English language.
Here are some of Life’s Mysteries, discovered at Bobby Matherne’s Tidbit of Humor: Puzzles and Unsolved Mysteries of Life website at www.doyletics.com/tidbits/puzzles.htm. Enjoy.
Can fat people go skinny-dipping?
Why is the word “abbreviation” so long?
Is it possible to be totally partial?
What’s another word for thesaurus?
If a book about failures doesn’t sell, is it a success?
If the cops arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?
If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?
Do cemetery workers prefer the graveyard shift?
Is there another word for “synonym”?
Isn’t it a bit unnerving that doctors call what they do “practice”?
NEWSPAPER GOOFS AND GAFFES
Here are some entertaining newspaper mistakes, taken from “The Revenge of Anguish English” by Richard Lederer.
The state board of fisheries is considering whether to impose seasonal catch limits on tourists.
Queen Elizabeth arrived in Paris to begin a visit that inspired the warmest welcome the French have given a royal figure since they guillotined their own Queen Marie Antoinette.
Owing to the lack of space and the rush of editing this issue, several births and deaths will be postponed until next week.
The ladies of the county medical society auxiliary plan to publish a cookbook. Part of the money will go to the Samaritan Hospital to purchase a stomach pump.
Rolls-Royce announced today that is it is recalling all Rolls-Royce cars made after 1966 because of faulty nuts behind the steering wheels.
The local medical association made a presentation to the minister complaining of laboratory delays, especially the 10-month wait for a pregnancy test.
CREATE YOUR OWN GIBBERISH
Great news! You no longer have to wait for others to create meaningless gibberish. You can do it yourself.
The procedure is simple. Using the columns below, think of a three-digit number at random and take the corresponding word from each column. Thus, “279” gives you the buzz-phrase “systemized, incremental contingency;” “583” creates “responsive, third-generation mobility;” and “720” rewards you with “synchronized, monitored options.”
The Canadian Defense Department is credited with the invention of the buzz-phrase generator. This is taken from the book “The Complete Plain Words” by Sir Ernest Gowers.
The authors claim that the buzz-phrase generator enables its users “…to invest anything they write, not with any particular meaning, but with that proper ring of decisive, progressive, knowledgeable authority…”
Even churches need to proofread. Here are some examples of published messages.
Untied Methodist Church
Remember in prayer the members who are sick of our congregation.
For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
WHY ENGLISH DOES NOT COMMUNICATE
by Richard Lederer
This is my favorite essay on the eccentricities of the English language. Enjoy.
Let’s face it. English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France.
Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why don’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, are humanitarians cannibals?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
And if I’m uncouth, are you couth?
Inoculatte and Other Fun Words
“The Washington Post” editors asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are some of the winners:
Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn’t get it.
Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
Decafalon: The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
More Fun Words
The “San Jose Mercury News” posed the same challenge to its readers. Here are some of my favorites.
Microsofa (mi kro so fa) n. A piece of furniture which, while it looked fine in the showroom, gradually begins to dominate the living room, eventually forcing you to replace all the other furniture, including the TV, to be “compatible.”
motherbored (muth r bord) n. In many homes, a technology discussion at dinner between father and the kids.
articulatte (ar tik y lat te) adj. The talkative quality of someone who consumes a lot of coffee-based beverages.
wusband (wuz b nd) n. Ex-husband
croissaunt Mom’s flaky sister
deaficit A budget problem no one wants to hear about.
Moore’s Low The processing power of a computer more than 18 months old.
downloafing Surfing the net when you should be working.
resolutionaries Folks who show up at the gym for the three to five weeks after New Year’s, then are never seen again, as in “New Year’s resolutionaries.”
teleprone Apt to answer a cell phone anywhere it rings
interfarce Software that doesn’t work.
Real-life Headlines and Comments
by Jay Leno
It’s amazing how absolutely clear we can think our writing is, and how it can still present the wrong message. These headlines (and Jay Leno’s comments) definitely point out the importance of having a good proofreader.
Area Man Wins Award for Nuclear Plant Accident
“Four days, three nights in beautiful downtown Chernobyl.”
Londoner Fatally Injured by Turnip
“When turnips are outlawed, only outlaws will have turnips.”
Three Ambulances Take Blast Victim to Hospital
“Sorry about your torso, but the second ambulance got stuck in traffic.”
Dog that Bit Two People Ordered to Leave Town
“How was this explained to the dog exactly?”
Don’t Leave Kids Alone with Molester
“Am I glad I read the paper today.”
July 4, 1776, Was a “Turning Point in History,” President Says
“Who says politicians are afraid to go out on a limb?“
Experts are Sure the Dow Will Either Rise or Decline
“Boy, business forecasting is an exact science, isn’t it?”
In Praise of Stupid Directions
A friend sent these, which are supposed to be actual instructions on these products. Enjoy.
On a Sears hairdryer
“Do not use while sleeping.”
(And that’s the only time I have to work on my hair.)
On a bag of Fritos
“You could be a winner! No purchase necessary. Details inside.”
(The shoplifter’s special?)
On a bar of Dial soap
“Directions: Use like regular soap.”
(That certainly clarifies it.)
On some Swanson frozen dinners
“Serving suggestion: Defrost.”
(But it’s only a suggestion.)
On Tesco’s Tiramisu dessert (printed on the bottom)
“Do not turn upside down.”
(A little late, don’t you think?)
On a pudding mix
“Product will be hot after heating.”
(…and you thought?)
On the packaging for an iron
“Do not iron clothes on body.”
(But wouldn’t that save me time?)
On Nytol Sleep Aid
“Warning: May cause drowsiness.”
(And I’m taking this because…?)
On most brands of Christmas lights
“For indoor or outdoor use only.”
(As opposed to…?)
On a Japanese food processor
“Not to be used for the other use.”
(Somebody please help me on this.)
On a container of peanuts
“Warning: contains nuts.”
(Talk about a news flash.)
On an American Airlines packet of nuts
“Instructions: Open packet, eat nuts.”
(Step 3, fly JetBlue.)
On a child’s Superman costume
“Wearing of this garment does not enable you to fly.”
(I don’t blame the company. I blame the parents for this one.)
More Real-life Headlines
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert Says.
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers.
That’s taking things too far!
Panda Mating Fails: Veterinary Takes Over.
What a guy!
Miners Refuse to Work after Death.
Talk about lazy!
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant.
Is that better than a fair trial?
War Dims Hope for Peace.
I can see that it might have that effect.
If Strike Isn’t Settled Quickly, It Might Last Awhile.
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures.
Who would have thought?
Couple Slain: Police Suspect Homicide.
They may be onto something.
Disorder in the Court
by Charles M. Sevilla
These are from “Disorder in the Court: Great Fractured Moments in Courtroom History” by Charles M. Sevilla (ISBN #: 0393319288). Evidently, people actually said these things in court, word for word.
Q: What is your date of birth?
A: July 15th.
Q: What year?
A: Every year.
Q: What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
A: Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
Q: How old is your son, the one living with you?
A: Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can’t remember which.
Q: How long has he lived with you?
A: Forty-five years.
Q: What was the first thing your husband said to you when he woke up that morning?
A: He said, “Where am I, Cathy?”
Q: And why did that upset you?
A: My name is Susan.
Q: Now doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn’t know about it until the next morning?
A: Did you actually pass the bar exam?
Q. So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
Q: And what were you doing at that time?
Q: Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A: No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
Q: Doctor, how many autopsies have you performed on dead people?
A: All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
The following ad bloopers are from Richard Lederer’s treasury of bloopers, “Anguished English: an Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon our Language” (ISBN: 044020352X).
Four-poster bed, 101 years old. Perfect for antique lover.
We do not tear your clothing with machinery. We do it carefully by hand.
Stock up and save. Limit: one.
Man wanted to work in dynamite factory. Must be willing to travel.
Used cars. Why go elsewhere to be cheated? Come here first!
Christmas tag sale. Handmade gifts for the hard-to-find person.
And now the superstore unequaled in size, unmatched in variety, unrivaled inconvenience.
Vacation special: Have your home exterminated. Get rid of aunts. Zap does the job in 24 hours.
For rent: 6-room hated apartment.
Employment needed: Man, honest, will take anything.
Customers who consider our waitresses uncivil ought to see the manager.
38 Years on the Same Spot! (sign at a drycleaners)
Ask about our plans for owning your home (sign at a loan company).
Our motto is give our customers the lowest possible prices and workmanship
Now Available in Multi-Packs! (on a display of “I love you only” Valentines)
Wonderful bargains for men with 16 and 17 necks
If you can’t read this, it’s time to wash your car.
Rearrange These Letters
How creative are you? Can you see different combinations in words? And, even more challenging, can you connect the “new words” with the meaning of the first words?
For example, if you rearrange the letters in the word “dormitory,” you can get “dirty room.”
From the letters in “desperation,” you can spell “a rope finds it.”
For “a decimal point,” you get “Im a dot in place.”
Try rearranging these letters into new phrases. You may use a letter more than once and you might not use all the letters.
Twelve plus one
The Morse code
Here are some suggestions:
“Snooze alarm” becomes “alas, no more Zs.”
“Twelve plus one” equals “eleven plus two.”
“The Morse code” becomes “here come the dots.”