Monthly Archives: December 2013

Farolitos or luminarias?

The question was: “What do you call those things you put a candle into and line your driveway with?” The answer was: “They’re luminarias, but in some places, they’re called farolitos.”

Alas, but a once-and-for-all answer is not possible. Researching something like the difference between the two terms, which surface each Christmas season, isn’t a question of exhaustive sources; rather, it’s a matter of being selective:

There are reams of articles on these topics.

We contacted a few people from northern New Mexico to get their take on luminarias and farolitos, and while there is some agreement on terms, people put their own slant on things.
Rudy Laumbach maintains that the farolito is the item that contains a candle, whereas the luminaria is really a bonfire. And how does a farolito become a luminaria? Well, it happens when the paper bag that encloses the candle ignites and starts a bonfire. Continue reading

Affluenza vs. povertenza

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, there comes a new excuse, a new diagnosis, a new cop-out. Anyone who’s followed the news recently probably has learned a new word: “affluenza.”

Give us a break, your honor! But first let me explain:

A 16-year-old boy, a Texas youth, drunk, with three times the presumed level of intoxication, loses control of his truck and plows into a group of pedestrians. In its wake, the massacre takes the lives of a woman, her daughter and two others.

The driver, Ethan Couch, received an underwhelming sentence of 10 years’ probation after confessing to having been intoxicated. His defense team came up with a term that explains everything. Continue reading

Sleeping through English class

Pop Quiz: Who can name all 10 reindeer? Yes, 10 of them. I’m sure most people will come up with Dasher and Dancer, Hansel and Gretel, Comet and Cupid, Sleepy and Bashful, but there is a tenth whose name will appear at the end.

Is it just me (or, as my English teacher would say, “Is it just I?”), who becomes giddy this time year, knowing 40 reindeer paws will land on my roof in a couple of weeks? Here are some observations I’ve made over the years:

Sunday night, we spent a couple of hours enjoying an all-female Irish group called the Celtic Woman, who sang Christmas carols. Notice I didn’t write “Holiday Carols.” This group of young women with such beautiful voices used words like “Gentlemen” in “God rest ye merry,” and not “Gentle-persons.” Continue reading

What’s your angle?

Here’s a huge admission: Remember that time an incensed seventh- and eighth-grade homeroom teacher at Immaculate Conception School mockingly said, “One student even gave this answer when I asked you students to draw three kinds of angles.”

The nun drew a couple of lines, one of them pointing to the left. She waited for classroom reaction, which in seconds produced the desired collective shaking of students’ heads and a whispered, “What a loser!”

Minutes before that hand-in assignment, I’d heard kids buzzing about obtuse, acute and right angles, but I had no idea what any of them meant, much less how to draw them. Accordingly, I reasoned that if there’s a right angle, there’s a left angle. And that was my answer.

Mercifully, Sister Mary Angle Angel didn’t name the errant student, but my blush probably gave me away. The truth is that I’d missed 10 days of school, with a sneezing condition like I now have — 60 years later. Continue reading