Passive Observation

He cuts paper now. If you had any idea how many times he’s asked for
and been denied the use of scissors, you’d know it’s a pretty big deal.

There are milestones of development only a parent notices. Or cares about. Sleeping through the night, first words, learning to walk, potty training—these are things a parent’s friends and family members express genuine joy about when the kid finally achieves success (or frustration when the process isn’t going so well). I get more excited about less obvious stuff.

Like syntax and grammar.

Yesterday, Colin pretty stubbornly demanded that he watch a Veggie Tales movie in the van. On the way to church. As we left church. Maybe during church. The answer was always No. But he persisted in his pleas for  Lord of the Beans. Even the prospect of getting Dunkin’ Donuts didn’t help.

He said, “I don’t want donuts to be eaten. I want movies to be watcheded.”

The dude likes to add an extra -ed to the ends of words, but I was actually pretty impressed with his unorthodox use of the passive voice. I’ve never heard him use that phrasing before, and it gave a completely different feel to his demands. He wasn’t asking just for himself. It was as though, for the sake of the state of the universe, he wanted things to be a certain way. He wanted to live in a world where movies get watched and donuts go undisturbed.

Maybe I’m embellishing his verbal intentions just a bit, but he’s the one who said it. There had to be a reason. That’s my best guess.

But this isn’t the kind of thing anybody else cares about. I mean, it’s not going in his baby book. It’s going on this blog, but I hardly think it will cause anyone to say, “When did our kids start using the passive voice?” I doubt with all my spirit this will make anyone feel jealous (and any milestone worth two bits will stoke the green flames of envy in other parents).

It’s just something I noticed because I’m Colin’s dad. And because I’m a dork.

May 22, 2009 question – Shameless Plugs

Other Stuff
While we’re on the subject of unimportant things . . .
As part of my continual thirst for glory this laid-back Friday, I just wanted to take a brief moment to promote myself highlight some other content you might find of interest online (if you’ve visited these before, deal with it, post glowing comments under a pseudonym, consider yourself blessed, I apologize):

Musical Ripoffs: a look at songs that rip-off plagiarize steal seem inspired by other songs. The latest one kinda shocked me, even though the newer song is all but unknown.

v34: Why I hate LOL and you should, too. And there will be a Lost update soon, I promise.

AndCounting: It will be at least 101 #@&! years between #&*$@*^$#@ championships, and Tony LaRussa is the Devil. (Did I forget to strike that? Hmm. Whoops.)

Today’s Question
Food and Words (how awesome is that?)
From what does the thick soup chowder derive its name?
A) The name of the chef who, according to folklore, concocted the original New England clam version
B) The pot or kettle in which it is cooked
C) The traditional base of salt pork
D) The traditional inclusion of seafood

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Billy Idol. A man who needs no introduction (by definition that’s something you should say after you say the person’s name) and the answer to yesterday’s question. If today’s question were, “Who knew?” the answer would be Kyle. The both of you rock.


I’m a self-professed word addict, but I’m not a language snob. I don’t really like Grammar Nazis. I don’t bemoan the demise of the English language. I just want to make it clear from the outset that this rant is not, I repeat, not (at the risk of creating a double negative . . . I mean, the second not was for emphasis, not to negate the previous not . . . I didn’t say I wasn’t a nerd) grammatically or linguistically motivated. 

I do love language, I just don’t believe in lording it over people. I love it when people use words well to communicate ideas not just clearly but also beautifully. When people can’t communicate, that’s okay. There’s plenty of other cool stuff to do. So, once again, this isn’t a rant in defense of language.
This is a rant in defense of laughter. I haven’t decided yet, but I just may love laughter more than language. I love the sound of genuine, good-natured laughter. Haughty laughter (which should kind of rhyme, but doesn’t at all) is irritating. Derisive laughter, not so fun. And some people’s laughs are just plain wrong, though it’s no fault of their own. But when people laugh for all the right reasons, laughter is my favorite sound in the universe.
But in text speak, it’s just LOL. Or LMAO. Or ROFL. Or ROFLMAO. Normally, I love abbreviations. But LOL just doesn’t cut it. LOL isn’t funny. Laughter is supposed to be contagious, but LOL is a virtual laughter vaccine. What’s more, the paranoid side of me (all of me) has serious doubts about just how OL the L really is. It’s the texting equivalent of just telling someone, “That was funny.” Cue the video:

When I see LOL, no matter how much I trust the person who typed it, I usually suspect them of lying. I think, Oh . . . they didn’t really think that was funny. They just saw that I was trying to be funny and patronizingly LOL’d me to make me feel better. Well guess what . . . IT DIDN’T WORK! And that’s just not healthy.
The sad thing is, I don’t know a remedy. Typing in “Ha ha” doesn’t really work. “Hee hee” sounds . . . not manly. Expounding on how hard you’re laughing sometimes works. (My friend Heather usually informs me when an IM or email forces her to involuntarily spray her beverage on her computer screen . . . I really like that one, but it can be expensive.) And no acknowledgment of the humor is even worse. Total silence just lets the joke-teller’s mind wander to all kinds of bad places. Youcrossedthelineville. Youreanidiot City. Ihavenoideawhatyourtalkingaburg. I hate those places.
I guess we could all just YouTube videos of ourselves laughing at various degrees of hilarity. You could tape the, “I’ll humor you with a subdued chuckle” laugh. The “I don’t get it, but I’m laughing anyway” laugh. The “seriously, if I typed LOL, I wouldn’t be lying,” laugh. The delayed, “Okay, I’m laughing, but just kind of . . . still figuring it out . . . oh, NOW I get it, that’s hilarious and I can’t stop laughing,” laugh. And of course the “Someone call a doctor, I’m having an aneurysm and my abdomen’s imploding,” laugh. I’m sure there are others, but those would do okay.
Still, I guess there’s just no substitute for actually being with people and laughing in their company. Kind of the down side of freelance writing from home, eh? Of course, my favorite audience of laughers is almost always here, and they’re a very easy crowd to please. 🙂 (Oh, yeah, smiling via text is completely ok with me.)
If you have any better ideas for LOL alternatives, please let me know. I’m dying here.

April 15, 2009 question – Frontal Taxonomy

Taxing Intrusion
Private eyes (clap, clap)
I really don’t mind the tax paying. Honestly, I expect the government to need a little help. What I don’t like, though, is the fact that the Internal Rigorous Search-party is all up in my business. Before the days of federal income tax and Social Security, personal finances were considered private. I’d say that the single biggest cause of identity theft is the simple fact that we’re required by law to make our most private financial information completely public.

But until Uncle Sam decides to add a trivia tax, I’ll just keep my complaints between us . . . and the Internets.

Today’s Question
In the world of currency (and other two-sided objects as well) the back (or tails) side is referred to as the reverse side; what is the term for the front (or heads) side of a coin or bill?

Yesterday’s Answer
And the people who knew it
Fiji and Russia are the only two countries in which you can actually stand on the Antimeridian. A lot of you guessed zero, and only one of you guessed anything else. Unfortunately for a lot of you, anything else was closer (because it was three). Congrats to Nancy K (the K stands for Knows Her Anti From Her Prime) for her solo flight around the trivial globe.

March 12, 2009 question

W didn’t wiggle it’s way into the alphabet until the Middle Ages, but J and U didn’t declare their respective independence from I and V until after the Renaissance, when the enlightened finally acknowledged that J and U are letters too. Seriously, that’s what they yelled at the protests and wrote on their picket signs: “J AND U ARE LETTERS TOO!!!” Very controversial. A few people knew one of those, no one knew both, but Elena did couple W with J, which, if you think about it, is twice as correct as U.

Moving away from the alphabet now (finally), here’s today’s challenge:

Name a word that has its letters arranged in reverse alphabetical order.

(Examples: if, red; also, I lied. The moving away from the alphabet is merely an optical illusion, since we’re moving backwards . . . almost like a lexical moonwalk, if you will.)

March 11, 2009 question

The little letters are minuscule, and the big ones are majuscule (even though my spell checker wants to change it back to minuscule). Only multilingual wiz kids Elena and Konrad knew that nugget of trivial infinitesimality, for which they deserve infinite praise. Well, maybe just barely finite praise. No matter. They’ll have a chance to extend the glory if they can get this one right:

What two letters of the English alphabet were last to be added to the Latin alphabet from which they came?

March 10, 2009 question

Aegilops, a type of grass, is the longest alphabetically ordered word in the English language, weighing in at 8 unwieldy letters. No one knew that (and why on earth would you . . . before now, of course) but Karen M (the M stands for ‘Mazing) tossed out the still-impressive seven-letter word, billowy, edging out a handful of would-be six-letter winners. Holy hyphen, Batman. So congrats to Karen, and good luck to all of you on this alphabetical stumper:

The set of small or lowercase letters are properly known as the Minuscule Forms of the alphabet. What is the corresponding term for the capital or uppercase letters?

March 9, 2009 question

St. Paul and Minneapolis might be twin cities, but they had a real hard time agreeing on Daylight Saving Time. Only Kyle knew that, so he alone will receive the grand prize: immeasurable trivia glory. But I’ll be surprised if anyone duplicates that solo effort with this question that is actually more of a contest.

Name a word that has its letters arranged in alphabetical order.
(Examples: ace, cent, and no words that begin with z; Longest word wins.)

March 3, 2009 question

The answer to Friday’s question is baseball. The only reason I know that is because Steve J (the J stands for Just Trust Me) got it right . . . according to my notes. If you know what the question was, or if you have any information about my whereabouts over the past several days, please let me know. The last week or so is an absolute blur. So let’s just trudge ahead into trivia, shall we? Here’s the question:

What is the only Major League Baseball team whose name begins with the same four letters as its city?