Icy weather like what we’ve just had tends to lead to a bit of introspection for me. Or just random weird thoughts … like why normally sane people in broadcasting go completely Super Bowl/Wrestlemania fan on the air sometimes.
Seriously, is a little dignity too much to ask? Let me answer that: Yes.
Why did the Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore get so excited about thundersnow in Boston? Yes, he is a self-described weather geek and it’s a somewhat rare phenomenon, but still … that was some crazy celebrating, especially considering that he’d seen it before.
Why does it seem there’s always at least one meteorologist/weather reporter who laughs maniacally while throwing boiling water in the air during sub-zero stand-ups to watch it turn to ice? I recall being stuck in a hotel room during an ice storm back when I was in TV and seeing a reporter in Minnesota do just that. It still haunts me.
And why do so many people try to do the same thing without taking precautions like … oh, I don’t know … not throwing the water on themselves? And folks, it’s not going to get cold enough in Arkansas for it to work anyway, so save the boiling water for some cocoa (maybe even splurge with milk!).
So while you’re inside cocooned in blankets, cup of cocoa in hand, and hopefully not fending off a very large cat who either wants to be fed or to displace you (I will have to weather that, though, and with a bum arm at the moment), it’s the perfect time to ruminate. You can choose your own topics; my ponderings tend to involve words.
Being the word nerd that I am, I get especially amused by malapropisms and other slips I see or hear, or that are shared by fellow logophiles. One of those happened Saturday, thanks to a slip in the sports section that mentioned a Phil Mickelson British Open “antidote.”
GolfDigest.com contributor Shane Ryan dove into the moneymatch culture on tour in the most recent issue of ESPN The Magazine.
Included is an antidote where Phil Mickelson reportedly enticed Dustin Johnson and Nick Watney into a bet during a practice round at the 2010 British Open.
Mickelson proposed a simple stroke-play match, with the highest score paying the winner $1,000 and the middle man walking away scot-free.
Watney, knowing the amount could easily increase with presses or novelty bets, told them he preferred to play for less.
“They started calling me names that shouldn’t be in print,” he said. “So I gave in to peer pressure.”
Watney was the ultimate loser.
On the 18th green, he counted out $1,000 and handed it over with a word of congratulations. Mickelson grabbed the stack of cash, gave it a quick glance and handed it right back.
“This is Britain,” he told Watney. “I need pounds.”
Watney stared at him, hoping it was a joke. It wasn’t. He later found himself handing over $1,700 to Mickelson.
That prompted judge, law professor and renowned cruciverbalist Vic Fleming to drop me a line. “I expected a pun to emerge, a subplot, perhaps, in which one player cured another’s hook or slice with a swing adjustment,” Fleming wrote. “Nope. Just an amusing anecdote about Mickelson’s winning and demanding payment in pounds, not dollars.”
While I always cringe at any mistake I see in the paper, ones like that always make me giggle as well. (What would that be? A criggle?) Yep, I can be easily amused sometimes.
When it’s another paper that made the mistake and it happens to be funny, well, that’s just a bonus. One that made the rounds at the end of last week provoked laughs for many reasons. If you saw my blog post Sunday or caught it elsewhere, please avert your eyes for a moment.
The correction has shown up everywhere from Christian Post to WND to Huffington Post, proving that all political stripes can enjoy a good laugh (even if it’s for different reasons). The original letter, though, isn’t that funny, and is actually kind of creepy (and pretty unoriginal). That’s what happens when you publish everything.
Other corrections are meant to be taken very seriously, but sometimes (at least for me) call for a rim-shot at the end, such as this from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., printed in April 1996: “An April 5 story stated that Mary Fraijo did not return a reporter’s calls seeking comment. Fraijo died last December.”
Death does have a way of interfering with things like that. Darn it all, don’t these people check their messages from beyond the grave?
As much as words have been used to volley hate, a recent study of 100,000 words in texts across 10 languages published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that soothing and happy words tend to dominate.
Yes, the study appears severely limited in its choice of sources, which The Atlantic listed as “texts from Google Books, Twitter, the New York Times, a Google Web Crawl, subtitles from movies and TV shows, and music lyrics.” I’m thinking had the study authors included newspaper comment boards (the Washington Post’s comments are some of the most combative I’ve seen) and Facebook walls, it would be skewed wildly in the other direction.
That brings up the notion of word neutrality. Some words are inherently “loaded,” having been given (usually) a negative connotation, and careful news writers try to stay away from them (opinion is a whole other matter). “Funneled,” “shadowy” and other such words have obvious negative connotations; others might not be so blatant, especially in this era where “left” and “right” are spat-out epithets, not directions. For some people, it seems any word at all is negative.
Here’s an idea: Let’s take everyday words for what they actually mean rather than whatever baggage someone else wants to attach to them. While some are far from polite, not every word is offensive. When you can’t say something as simple as “hello” or “I love you” without offending someone, we’ve gone too far in policing language.
You muse on that for a while. My cocoa’s getting cold, and the furry beast is giving me the eye.