An alert user of the social medium, Facebook, posted something brilliant:
“I sure wish we had some of that green chile from Colorado.”
Said no one.
I spotted this post on the Facebook page of former Las Vegas and current Seattle-ite Ileana Gonzales. She said in 16 words what takes me several paragraphs to express.
You may have read in past columns my unceasing praise of green chile. My youngest son, Ben, spent his summers working at Lowe’s on Seventh Street. He indicated early in his tenure there that because he was the new kid on the block, at 16, one of his duties was to roast the sacks of green chile in the store parking lot.
It’s a messy, smoky job, but something in the fruit/vegetable from Hatch, N.M., triggers the olfactory system of the chile buyer and makes him/her generous. Several times, a customer, intoxicated by the aroma of the chile, tipped my son. He liked that.
Well, we New Mexicans take our green chile seriously, and when the state of Colorado starts to gamble with our product, well, that’s not proper. Officials of that state proposed providing sacks of green chile to Washington State if they won the Super Bowl.
Where in Colorado can one order an even semi-palatable bowl of green chile without having imported it from New Mexico? Where in Colorado can one even get served a bowl of hearty green chile stew, without having it watered down and doctored up or somehow made so bland that it resembles soup?
We applaud inter-state competitions, but let’s make sure it’s a real homegrown product that’s being wagered. The Internet is full of suggested gifts from Washington, including Washington salmon. Facebook users are suggesting Denver provide Colorado bison. And others suggest a supply of marijuana from the loser to the winner.
However, by coincidence, the two states with Super Bowl teams just recently voted to allow the sale and use of marijuana — with some conditions.
Let those states decide. But leave New Mexico green chile out of it. Offer Seattle a case of Rocky Mountain Oysters instead.
• • •
A scolding is in the offing, but I try never to chide people without throwing in a mini grammar lesson.
You are familiar with the case in which New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie got thoroughly railed for a “mistakes were made” incident that tied up traffic in a big way.
Let me explain:
The issue seems to be that Christie asked his across-the-bridge fellow politician, Mayor Mark Sokolich, of Fort Lee in New Jersey for an endorsement in Christie’s run for governor.
Failing to get that from the mayor who belongs to the opposite party, the governor is now accused of creating a major traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge, one of the U.S.’s busiest. That was to embarrass the mayor.
Since then, the New Jersey governor has been subjected to the how-much-did-he-know? and when-did-he-know-it? treatment. And that’s when Christie found it convenient to invoke the mistakes-were-made excuse.
Here comes the grammar lesson:
Notice how the mistakes simply appeared. It’s as if the governor were out for a stroll and a legion of mistakes just happened. That’s as flimsy as, “The figurine fell all by itself, all of a sudden, honest!”
You see, like many people in need of vindication, Christie used the passive voice. This grammatical term refers to the shifting of the action. For example, “I ordered the closing down of the lanes on the bridge,” is the active voice. The sentence tells correctly that someone did something, in this case, ordered the closing of three of the five lanes.
But the passive voice — which by its very nature is weak and flabby — shifts the action. Instead of a person directing something, the action apparently takes on a life of its own. Notice how often we use it: “The football is caught,” “the baseball was dropped,” “the motorist was stopped,” The baby was conceived.”
The language has a perfectly fine use for the passive voice, even with its weakness and flab. It is used (did you catch my own use of the passive voice?) when one doesn’t know who did what. Therefore, it’s common to read, “A bank was robbed,” “a car was stolen” and “mistakes were made” when we don’t know who’s responsible for the action.
Sportscasters rely on the passive voice to cover their inability to immediately identify players. It’s easy to say, “the ball is caught” when we don’t have the opportunity to sort out the players and give proper credit.
Let’s return to Gov. Christie. By no means is he the author of the passive voice; he’s had many predecessors. They’ve learned that the passive voice favors anonymity and generally excludes the names of the culprits.
So, Christie has implied to millions that somehow, he was innocent, out for a stroll, when suddenly “mistakes were made.”
How much more honorable it would be if the Christies of the world ‘fessed up to their misdeeds instead suggesting that mistakes are like flu viruses that swoop down to inflict innocent politicians.
• • •
Last week we included a high-fallutin’ term for a Christmas carol, submitted by John Geffroy, asking readers to guess the true title for “Observed: Genetrix Osculating Hibernal Gift-giver.” Rita Eichelberger of Las Vegas was the first to identify it as “I Saw Momma Kissing Santa Claus.”
• • •
What was the big to-do about Ground Hog Day? For my part, I had bacon on the morning of Feb. 2, a ham sandwich for lunch and a pork chop at dinner.
But ground hog? I don’t think most people would care for that.