Monthly Archives: March 2008

What you say, how you say it

In discussing communication with a friend, a counterpart, from another newspaper, I learned that the content of the paper is what you say, whereas the typography — type fonts, sizes, styles, etc. — is how you say it.

Well, that’s brilliant. In many years in this business, I’d never thought of it that way. Any article, even one about something dull, has its own content, but if spiced up with flashy headlines, it becomes something else.

That led to the question of “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” We can say “I love you” in such a sneering, venomous way that the lovee has no choice but to say, “It’s not what you say, but …” By the same token, we can say anything in a kind way and get a conflicting message across. Tone of voice counts. And it works with animals as well — maybe even better.

We tried this with my son Diego’s Rhodesian ridgeback, Zeus: Instead of “Here, nice puppy,” we called him a cow but said it sweetly, whereupon he transferred himself from the carpet to my lap. Try it sometime, but preferably with a dog weighing less than 75 pounds.

Back to people: Continue reading

Men often get bad rap

Men don’t get a fair break in popular culture. Notice the comic books of old, the Turner Classic Movies comedies, even today’s sitcoms: Most of them show men — incorrectly — as inept, overweight, bumbling, pathetic creatures ever in need of a woman’s guidance.

An old comic strip, by today’s standards politically incorrect, was named Denny Dimwit. It began as part of the Winnie Winkle strip and featured a youth with a long ears, a pointed head and a hat to match.

And even Maggie & Jiggs, also called Bringing up Father, featured a wife who referred to her mate as “Insect,” and often pelted him with crockery.

The hardest my wife Bonnie ever laughs is when watching a movie such as “The Big Lebowski,” with Jeff Bridges, in which there’s a lot of he-man posturing but little action. If women had been in that situation, Bonnie — and virtually all women — would believe, the situation would have been handled differently. Continue reading

Digital clock is right once a day

“You people at the Optic are so-oo negative. Why don’t you print something positive for a change?” We’ve heard that many times. So, in an effort to out Pollyanna myself, I herewith attempt some positive stuff. It’s a wonderful, helpful and expensive message board that lights up Mills Avenue near Robertson High School. It’s an electronic, digital sign that flashes announcements and gives the time and temperature.

In the olden days, when analog was the norm, we could say about downtown clocks that hadn’t operated in years, “Well, on the positive side, at least a stopped clock is correct twice a day.”

But what about digital clocks? Usually then they’re on the fritz, they’re simply turned off. But the digital clock on Mills has been locked at 8:27 for days, possibly not able to adapt to Daylight Savings Time. So, in a negative vein, we could say the clock is wrong 1,438 times a day, but it’s more positive to say it’s correct two times a day, once in the evening, once in the morning.

But wait. My clock-watching task force just informed me that, unlike the analog counterpart, the stalled digital clock also shows “p.m.” So that means it’s correct only once a day. Sorry, but I tried to be positive on this one. Continue reading

Big use of a little ‘ito’

Something happens when people turn 80. In the case of my parents, for example, age 80 was the time they begin to lose bone and muscle mass. They simply became smaller people.

My dad was wont to order three of everything when he shopped in the Blair clothing catalog: one for himself, one for my brother Severino, and one for me.

The polo shirts he’d order were always his size, and since my brother and I were going the other direction, girth-wise, at least one of us — who shall remain nameless, shameless and blameless — looked like a stuffed sausage at gatherings where Dad insisted we all dress as in uniforms.

Something happened to the language as well: Suddenly, as they experienced their own diminution, my parents referred to objects in the same way. Every object they referred to had an “ito” or “ita” tacked on. Therefore, tamales became tamalitos, chile became chilito, and the list goes on. And it will.

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