Monthly Archives: October 2013

Loving being scared

Tomorrow night, many of us may get the opportunity to become frightened — and to enjoy it. Is it the rush of adrenalin that gives people a “high”?

Thursday night, Halloween, will of course feature spooky costumes as kids go trick-or-treating. If history holds out, they’ll congregate mostly in the newer, better-lighted areas of town. Streets like Vegas Drive, Mountain View, Dalbey and Lee drives are likely gathering places.

Along with the door-knocking comes a host of scary Stephen King movies or those of the Friday the 13th vintage, the super-slasher flicks.

All that makes one wonder: Why do people enjoy being scared?

The final speech class before Halloween usually was devoted entirely to the notion of being frightened. My speech class, last decade, featured several prepared speeches delivered by a few students who seemed convinced of the dangers facing trick-or-treaters. Continue reading

Things we wouldn’t know . . .

A columnist I admired in my early days in journalism was Hal Boyle, who wrote about 7,000 newspaper columns during a long career. He died in 1974 at the age of 64.

Though he reported from the front lines during World War II, he didn’t limit his topics to war stories: Everything was fair game for the Associated Press writer, who often opened with, “Things a columnist wouldn’t know if he didn’t open his mail.”

Can we apply that to today’s mail? Well yes, if you want to learn about credit card offers or solicitations for funds from a zillion charities. A close friend once told me that giving to a charity is “like feeding pigeons.”

Let me explain: When I was an editorial assistant for a weekly newspaper called the Naperville (Ill.) Sun, I’d walk through a huge park on the way to work each morning. Once I must have dropped part of my breakfast roll, whereupon a couple of pigeons joined in the cleanup duties. I shared some more, and over several days, the word must have gotten around, and soon I feared I’d become like one of the statues in the park, a place for pigeons to leave their constant droppings. Continue reading

A prof’s word was law

At Highlands University in the ‘80s, a secretary I used to know circulated a sheet that contained clever descriptions of the college hierarchy.

It started with the dean, who was “able to leap tall buildings at a single bound” and was “more powerful than a locomotive.”

The department head could leap Quonset huts and sometimes win a tug-of-war with a switch engine.

The full professor left scuff marks trying to leap over a chair. The lowly instructor would trip over his own shoes.

The events and descriptions are probably inaccurate and based on memories. I hope some Highlands secretary, with access to the correct version, will forward it to the Optic. Continue reading

AP Stylebook, OKs ‘hopefully’

No, this is not a repeated column. It’s not a summer (or early fall) rerun; however, you might recall I’ve asked the question before and touched on the subject: When we suddenly become aware of word or combination of words, is its usage new, or did we just now become aware of it?

During political seasons, we overdose on “convoluted,” usually in the context of “The provisions of Obamacare are too frigging convoluted.” They mean, I surmise, “confusing,” but the meaning of convoluted comes closer to intricate, repetitious.

And the word “conflate,” to mix, blend, combine, usually arguments and issues, gets plenty of play by the fine folks in Washington, who brought us the Shutdown.

As a grammar purist, I can overlook conflate and convolute; I still struggle with the pass that the incorrect use of “hopefully” received into the once-pristine English language. The word’s been around forever, and it’s obviously one of those that make us wonder whether it suddenly emerged and we all began to use it. Continue reading

‘You’re a heretic’

For years I’ve read about the old school marms, usually found in Dickensian novels, whose only way of passing on erudition is by ridicule.

But it goes beyond what we read in Victorian novels; for some, it was a daily experience.

Was I always a skeptic, or at least an inveterate questioner? In exasperation, Mom once announced to the family that the first word I ever spoke was “why?”

The household I grew up in, as the youngest of five siblings, put some of the fear of questioning things into me. But that’s not to say it cured me. About 33 years later, our own, second child, “why’d” us a lot. We quickly discovered that Diego probably was to us, his parents, what I was to mine.

Let me explain: Continue reading