Monthly Archives: April 2011

Having a bone to pick

“I have a bone to pick with you.” Really? Does anyone fail to understand the expression, meaning having a score to settle or an argument to advance?

Methinks many of us — including and especially myself — must have come across this and other expressions and never really bothered to verify them, to discover what they really mean. Sometimes we use incorrect expressions without knowing so; other times we use them correctly but don’t know why.

Here are some common terms, which, invariably get used wrong:

At the top of the list has to be “I could care less.” People use it more often than the original term, “I couldn’t care less.” Note that the first instance demonstrates that the speaker is capable of caring a great deal and is therefore far from indifferent.

Another is “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” For many years I would argue, “Yes you can!” But really, you can’t. Imagine a cake so carefully crafted that it’s a thing of beauty, a joy forever. Until it gets eaten. Continue reading

The perfect photo-op

One of the best photo-ops in recent times came Monday morning when I got a call from Optic managing editor, Martin Salazar, asking me to hustle over to the north exit on I-25 to get some pictures.

Taking Exit 347, I discovered that a sea of orange cones, closing the right southbound lane, stretched for about a mile. There, a number of city vehicles were towing away dozens of wrecked trucks, buses, trailer houses and other equipment that had greeted locals and tourists alike. This eyesore has been an in-your-face assault on our aesthetic sensibilities for years.

Patiently, city crews hooked on vehicle after vehicle, dragging them to the shoulder and towing them away. With each tow-away, there seemed to be sighs of relief from the workers. One of them even slapped his hands together in a gesture that says, “Well, that’s one down; only 100 more to go.” Continue reading

Linguistic tyranny

Growing up on Railroad Avenue, the place we called “Tough Street,” presented manifold problems. Having left that barrio about 50 years ago, I still retain many quite lucid memories of that place.

Mom and Dad, like so many other parents raising families in the ‘40s and ‘50s, probably believed children needed to acquire English as their primary language, and if we were to pick up a bit of Spanish along the way, well, that’s even better. But to be fair, this behavior was a regular feature of our parents’ generation, and it has faded somewhat during ours.

Regardless of their intentions, I for one struggled, especially among kids I played with in the neighborhood and those I went to school with, at Immaculate Conception, for 12 years. Continue reading

I just had to send this to you

Imagine receiving a letter so eye-catching that it makes you want to send a copy to 100 friends. But wait! With postage costing $44, not to mention the price of paper, envelopes and ink, well that starts to run into money.

The only time I succumbed to such expenditures was in 1972, when an acquaintance whom I met at a workshop in Charlottesville, Va., sent me a letter with the notation “This one really works!” with the urging that I send copies of the letter to 25 friends.

Postage was about 18 cents at the time, but my teaching pittance was also less, so I felt it more. The 10 dollars it cost to forward the letters didn’t yield me that $10,000 this “really works!” scheme virtually promised. It did, however, force me to consider a third mortgage.

What if technology hadn’t made it so easy today to send off a zillion copies? On the one hand, the ease in e-mailing things tends to cheapen the product: it’s like receiving a photo-copied thank-you note, or, as we recently experienced, attending a wedding reception and finding the words of gracias already on the tables, wrapped in a plastic ribbon. Continue reading