Monthly Archives: February 2008

Are are electives important?

Over the past 42 years, as I’ve switched hats from journalism teacher to English teacher, I’m often asked, “What the difference?”Ah, but citing the differences would cover several columns. For now, the important distinctions are in the audience: For the most part, assignments given in English/composition classes end at the teacher’s desk; in journalism classes, the goal is publication, before a larger audience.So it is with letters to the editor, possibly the most popular feature in the daily press. As copy editor, I get to field most of the submissions, and I’ve become aware of many repeated features, including extreme length. Overall operation of the editorial page, however, rests with Tom McDonald, editor and publisher.

Some people expect us to do the research for them. Some letters — particularly from schools — omit first names, as students use Mr., Ms. or Mrs. We then call the writers, asking them to provide the given names, or we go to the phonebook. Continue reading

Sapodom revisited

“Want to know what a ‘sapo’ is? It’s the New York Giants beating the New England Patriots” in the recent Super Bowl. “See how that guy caught the ball on his helmet?” The emphatic utterer of this sapo-istry was Ron Maestas, professor, coach, referee and athlete. Of course, he was referring also to a recent column on sapos, and of this month’s Super Bowl. To review: Sapo means toad, but around here, we call a sapo any lucky shot, regardless of sport. The amazing thing about this part of northern New Mexico sapodom is that the word refers only to the other guys, not to ourselves.Thus, if my grandson and namesake sinks an all-net basket from 25 feet out, that’s a sapo. If I do it, it’s skill.

Of course, the more skill a person has, the more things look like sapos, to others. Isn’t the meaning of genius simply making the difficult appear simple?

Ron made his statement as I huffed and puffed on a treadmill at the Abe Montoya Rec Center. I’ve had time to assess his assessment, so here goes: Continue reading

Is kemo-therapy right?

As long as the language is English, it’s likely that what one thinks he heard will be far different from what gets written. Let me explain:A former student editor of mine wrote that his mother had just completed her kemo-therapy regime (regime should be regimen, but that’s a topic for a future column).

Although phonetically, it makes sense, the medical procedure is really chemo-therapy. The editor had never read the term, or if he had, didn’t snap.

The chemo prefix comes from the word chemistry or chemical. But why give it a “k” sound when we have many perfectly good words that begin with “ch” and sound like it: cheese, chair, chum? When the editor wrote kemo-therapy, I imagined Tonto, the Lone Ranger’s faithful Indian companion, comforting the masked man with, “You’ll be OK after I suck the rattlesnake venom out of your ankle, Kemo-sabe.” Continue reading

That’s nothing; my car gets more mpg

“With all the bragging people do nowadays about gas mileage, I do what others do to guarantee great mileage.”

And what is that?

“I lie about it.” Sometimes I claim fantastic automotive efficiency, when in reality, the kind of mileage I usually get can be measured in gallons per mile.

We’ve known people who couldn’t stand for anyone to be one up. And our enjoyment comes in planting a mythical number or amount and watching someone try to top it.

The first person is at an obvious disadvantage because all the second person needs to do is raise the figure.

For example, years back, my neighbor in Cuba, N.M., had just bought a new ‘72 AMC Gremlin, like ours. He asked what kind of mileage I got. “About 24 miles a gallon.” Continue reading