Monthly Archives: January 2014

Seattle 27.6, Denver 22.6

Do you think it’ll work? For this Super Bowl edition of Work of Art, I asked a number of athletes, employees of the City Recreation Center — people who follow football — to predict the winner and the final score of Sunday’s game.

Surprisingly, only West Las Vegas High School junior Brandon Gallegos predicted anything close to a slaughter. Brandon picks the Seattle Seahawks to beat the Denver Broncos 42-24. And why does he choose the Seahawks? “I don’t like Denver.” That’s reason enough.

Those who predicted a final score were extremely conservative, for the most part, choosing either the Broncos or the Seahawks winning by a touchdown or even a field goal. Except for Brandon, the participants in this informal poll kept the scores in the teens, twenties and low thirties.

The experiment mentioned above will be simply to tally all the predicted scores and come up with an average. We’ll see how close our local experts come to guessing the winner of Super Bowl XLVIII final score. With experts like these, we don’t need odds makers from the bigger Las Vegas. Continue reading

‘Whatever’ wins again

It seems as if we’ll be stuck with it forever. A poll of 1,173 adults, conducted by researchers at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., discovered that the word “whatever,” has — for the fifth straight year — secured the title as the most annoying word in conversation.

But before we hoist the trophy higher than the Seattle Seahawks will raise theirs in two weeks, let me explain that “whatever” has company. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents to the telephone survey chose “whatever” as most annoying, followed by words we hear daily in Las Vegas: “like,” 22 percent; “ya know,” 18 percent. Also getting votes were “just sayin’” and “obviously.”

What inheres in a word that makes our back teeth ache? Well, I’ve spent hours trying to explain that certain words are pretty, others not. “The murmuring of innumerable bees” is pretty; the f-word is not. And we’re not necessarily referring to what the words represent — solely to the sounds they make.

And there’s also a bit of semantics that tempers our like or dislike of words. Continue reading

And what’s so funny?

What’s so funny? John Adams, a long-time member of the Highlands University English Department, often asked me that between classes at Mortimer Hall.

Unlike several other members of the Humanities faculty of yesteryear, Adams was an 8-to-5-er. If not in class, he was in his office. Therefore, he heard every giggle and chuckle that emanated from my journalism and speech classes down the hall.

His question was honest: What’s so funny? But before parsing the question, let me explain that in my experience, asking “What’s so funny?” is often a prelude to a fight, or at least to a disagreement. I believe my English colleague was sincere; he wanted to be privy to whatever ribald humor emanated from my classroom.

I’d invariably make up some Dallas Cowboy joke; he’d chuckle, and we’d go on. Now, before you accuse me of having wasted countless taxpayer dollars, let me explain that indeed I incorporated humor into my lecture-discussions, but not that much. Some people, I’m convinced, believe that learning takes place only with students’ heads buried in a book and in a silent room. I beg to differ. Continue reading

A numismatist — and proud of it

You may call me a numismatist or a numismatic. But before you start inquiring as to how it feels, or whether I need to register as a numismatist for life or how many times I’ve had to change my residence because of its proximity to a school or church, or whether there’s a cure for this affliction, let me explain that what I am is fairly innocuous.

So what is this deep secret? Well, I merely consider myself a collector of coins and currency. I’m not like the serious collectors who own coin books, subscribe to journals on the subject and attend conventions. No, I’m merely one who dabbles and likes to play with money, what little I have.

In the really olden days, when I was 11, my dad made sure always to have several coins in his pocket. In those days, coins jingled; nowadays they make a dull thud. Dad told me I could be popular with the girls if they suspected I was flush. I’d carried a quarter in my pocket, the fruits of a week’s worth of selling Optics on the street. But the quarter lacked a companion, something to cling and clang against. Continue reading

Try the interrobang

An old-time commercial that advertised a controlled, measured laxative featured a woman asking the rhetorical question about prunes: “Is one enough? Are three too many?”

That question goes right up my alley, but my preference is to think of too few/too many in the context of punctuation marks. Specifically, I believe people are slaves to the notion that “If one is good for you, two are even better.” We can use that analogy when discussing aspirin, Tums, cough syrup, cigarettes and burgers.

In this context, I wonder why people feel the need to sprinkle their prose with profuse punctuation marks. One comment on Facebook included a string of exclamation points strewn across the page, like this: !!!!!!!.

Get the message? If you’re really uncertain about an issue, you punctuate it like this: ??????. And when you feel strongly, try this: !!!!!!!. Continue reading