Monthly Archives: September 2008

A matter of turf, or supremacy?

A few years back, I got quite a bit of feedback on a column I wrote titled “La jura got there at the right time.” Some readers said they were well able to identify with some of the accounts of an aborted melee.

It dealt with an ambush of a few friends and me as we walked, minding our own business, on North Grand one evening.

We were on the lower side of our mid-teens at the time, and the two Freds, Leroy and I – clad in Levis turned up once at the cuff and a white T-shirt with a pocket – were made to jump even further onto the sidewalk as a passing car deliberately swerved our way.

We thought it was a trick being played by someone we knew, but we soon discovered they were serious. They armed themselves with sticks, bicycle chains and even a radio aerial, as they came toward us. Continue reading

How much time, effort does ‘@‘ save?

At the outset, the disclosure is that I try to write more and more about less and less.

But at this rate, soon I’ll be writing everything about nothing. A quick survey of previous columns reveals such narrow topics as the word “so,” as it becomes “so-oo”; the overuse of the word “like”; and even the “f-word,” which appears with great frequency and rapidity in rap music.

One recent column exploited the west Texas way of raising an inflection at the end of certain words to make them sound like whines (or at least like warnings), and another discussed the specific use of the phrase “la jura,” a warning used only when the cops are closing in.

Small can be a good topic. However, functions of aging require me to express a lament over an extremely small symbol, the “@,” which is a funny little “a” with a tail circling it.

Let me explain: Continue reading

So what’s the big deal?


 “Hey, hey, anybody listening? Hey, hey, anybody there? Hey, hey, anybody listening? Anybody care?”

That song, which we often sing in Sunday school, means more to me in light of recollections of my acquisition of the English language, when I was a child.

One of the most stifling memories I have about childhood — wrought largely by the influence of siblings and schoolmates — deals with the pronouncement, “Don’t get excited.”

Some admonished me not to “go ape,” and others even added another word to enhance the ape-ness motif.

Thinking about how people express themselves in speech and writing, I wondered about the multitudes who simply ask, “What’s the big deal?” or “So it’s mispelled, but you can still read it, can’t you?” Continue reading

Thanks for the warning, P.A. Guy

Back in my bachelor days, way before the Internet was even conceived of and in an era when people actually wrote real honest-to-gosh letters that they mailed with real stamps, I came across an interesting habit among some correspondents.

Let me explain:

I’d been late in replying to one pen pal and got a letter whose writer seemed irate and who wrote something like, “And if I don’t receive a letter from you by this afternoon, I’ll never write to you again.” Then she added (in parentheses) “joke!”

Well, that did it. She chided me for not writing as quickly as I might but needed to assure me that she didn’t really mean it when she threatened the boycott. Here’s what she might have been thinking as she wrote the letter: If I don’t include “joke!” Art will think I’m serious about the threat. Continue reading