Language

The $38,000 Handbag And Ms. Oprah Winfrey

The whole world knows about the incident by now. But on the freaky chance you don”t, here is what happened. Oprah Winfrey was in a department store somewhere in Switzerland and asked a clerk to take down a certain handbag from a high shelf for her examination. The clerk refused, telling her she couldn’t afford it because it cost $38,000. To no avail, Ms. Winfrey protested but did not identify herself. Later, using the power of...

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Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

In one of their great dance movies, Fred and Ginger take a rest after some ice skating and start to sing a swell song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZ3fjQa5Hls They quarrel in the usual friendly manner over potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, pajamas, pahjahmas, etc. What interested me most was the mini-debate over “neether/nyether” It’s the grammar, not the pronunciation that interests me. For what it’s worth,...

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Habits, Addictions, Obsessions, And Compulsions

As your good fortune would have it, I know more about the topics listed on the title line of this post than any man or woman alive. So here is a brief introduction to the unassailable facts. 1. The word “habit” gives you no clue as to whether the thing so described is problematic. Biting your nails and cuticles all day long is something you wish you could put an end to. Brushing your teeth every morning without giving it much...

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A Dormitive Virtue

Often, when I check to see what time it is, I discover it is precisely 1, 2, 3, 4, …12 o’clock. I find that strange. The odds against that seem to be 59-1 but I think the 1,2,3, 4….phenomenon occurs at least 25% of the time. Perhaps it occurs even as high as half the time. Why should that be? People have told me we have internal clocks but that explanation gets us nowhere when I consider I am not looking for a particular time...

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Good Anarchism And Bad Anarchy

ANARCHISM is a philosophical view about how the world should be structured. It preaches; it does not act. On the other hand, ANARCHY may be the more or less successful collection of reflective and violent efforts to disrupt a state it suspects of apropriating the status quo by such weak-willed philosophies as the preaching of anarchism. Anarchists who preach ANARCHISM are mild mannered members of conventionally ordered capitalistic...

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On A Quaint Literary Idea

This past week, a friend of mine asked me what I thought was “THE GREAT American Novel.” She took me by surprise and I mumbled and bumbled an answer. I think I said “Either The Scarlet Letter or Moby Dick.” In turn, she opted for The Great Gatsby. In retrospect, I think each of our answers was queer because something is wrong with the very notion of THE GREAT American Novel. I may do my friend an injustice. She...

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