Monthly Archives: September 2016

Big whoopee! Let’s be neater

There are only two kinds of people in the world: those who use the Oxford comma, and those who don’t. I’m not a willing user, even to the peril of a lowered grade in school.

An instructor we suffered through in the Dark Ages at Highlands University laid out some arcane rules we were to follow in doing our homework. One was that we use the serial (or Oxford or Harvard) comma whenever necessary. “It looks neater,” she said.

Well big whoopee! We now write things on the basis of neat looks! In addition to working harder on neatness, I had a tough time choosing the right sentence structure that made my prose flow without having to insert that wretched Harvard-Oxford comma.

That comma is the punctuation mark that goes before “and” or “or” in a list of three or more. Here’s an example, but this should not be construed as an endorsement. Let’s say that I enjoy three things for breakfast: eggs, toast and coffee. It’s clear that these three are distinct. The Oxford person would insert a comma before the “and” and render it this way: “The three things I enjoy are eggs, toast, and coffee.” Did you notice the comma in front of “and”?

Ostensibly, this practice serves to avoid confusion. I contend it’s redundant: why use both “and” and a comma? In years of chasing commas and other marks of punctuation I’ve been asked countless times whether I’d recommend using a comma before “and” in such a sentence, or whether I’d prefer to “do it correctly” (my choice of words, not theirs). Continue reading

Time is money– and then some

Remember when a nickel would buy us a candy bar or a bottle of pop? And even a penny amounted to something when inserted into a gumball machine. I recall that the Coke machine in the mechanics’ area at B.M. Werley Auto Company, the Ford dealership on Grand and University, got rid of possibly the last nickel pop machine in town, charging a dime for the “new and improved” product.

And the jerks that replaced the machine didn’t even provide a bottle larger than the six-ounce drink we received.

Some of those memories returned on Bonnie’s and my trip to Santa Fe last week. We had an appointment in Santa Fe, and decided to squeeze in a movie downtown at the Velvet Crown Theater. The maps app on our cell phone stopped speaking to us, so we needed to watch the car’s GPS very closely. As we approached the theater, we stopped at a series of parking meters.

They wouldn’t accept bills or plastic and certainly not those dollar presidential coins I usually carry, or the Sacajaweas. And that makes me wonder whether the newish dollars serve any purpose other than making people think you’re a cheapo when you plunk some of them down as a tip but they’re mistaken for a quarter. Try using the dollar coins for anything mechanical. They won’t fit, so what’s their appeal? Continue reading

It’s right downtown

Do you ever run into people whom you like instantly? It happens often in our case.

We met Tony and Elizabeth Riome last Tuesday morning. They are from Scotland, both former air traffic controllers in Norway. It was our daughter-in-law, Connie Trujillo, who took the first step at New Mexico Hospitality 101. As she left the El Fidel Monday, Connie noticed an elderly couple toting suitcases. They were asking the waiter if, where and whether they could hire a taxi.

A taxi in Las Vegas? Connie instead offered the couple a ride to their hotel.

The new arrivals, in their 70s and married 53 years, had been making their way on foot to 816 Grand Ave., the block that contains the Trujillo Insurance Agency, a bar, a laundromat and a car wash. And why were they walking in that direction, north of the railway station?

Amtrak had stopped to load and unload passengers. Having used the internet to plan their trip, Tony and Elizabeth assumed that the Holiday Inn Express, where they’d booked reservations, would be just a couple of blocks north.

But were they ever mistaken! Continue reading

Search for gender neutrality

Man oh, man, did I ever have a rough day! Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I ever have a day like today. You see, Monday, Labor Day was a holiday. I went to the office to do some of Tuesday’s work on Monday, and there was no one available to man the office.

Perhaps some 30 years ago, none of the above would have caused a ripple. Today, it seems, there are many who might argue that using all those masculine terms is offensive and sexist. makes it difficult to say or write anything.

Let me unscramble what I’ve just written. Today, without even being aware of it, there are many ways to offend — even if the offense is inadvertent. The first paragraph uses the word “man,” if only as an exclamation, along the lines of “boy, oh boy!” The term “monkey’s uncle” excludes females, and the final sentence turns the second usage of “man” into a verb. I doubt many people agree to woman an office. Continue reading