Friday, November 4, 2016


You can learn
A lot from comics

I GREW UP READING the Sunday Funnies. When I worked for newspapers, I was a comics loyalist – as well as a devotee of “ROP” fillers.

I still get my daily dose of comics, but now they appear on a computer screen thanks in large part to

Some of the comics are actually educational. I learned a new, family-rated word the other day thanks to Jef Mallett’s Frazz.

While I easily can define “octothrope,” “podiumed” had me stumped. I had to look it up.

That was embarrassing since I preach to one and all that English, akin to Hebrew and perhaps other languages I don’t know, largely is ROOT BASED.

Think about it. A quick, off the top of the head example: Command-Commander-Commandment-Commandant.

I know and love the words “ubiquitous” and “picayune”. When I was citing threats to my risk management clients, I always included “and the ubiquitous other” at the end of a risk list.

I am a “pedant” (but not a “pendant”) for the correct use of the word “unique.” My Spouse and children know well that if something is “unique” it is – no modifiers appropriate; no “most unique” or “very unique” and they delight in catching tv talking heads mis-speak.

I share my word fetishes with friends, at least one of whom is a former librarian – no, she’s not named Marian.

I once wrote poems, but mostly my “poetry” was closer to Burma Shave signs and puns.

Word play, give me Thave’s Frank & Ernest.

I confess that I follow more than just these two on an almost daily basis. It’s always nice to start the day with a chuckle, but spare me the political slams for/against any candidate. I get enough of that on the tv – thank goodness for the mute button.

I realize it is a Dilbertian world so I also follow Scott Adam’s Dilbert, usually agreeing with the cartoon’s point. Usually. Everyone who worked for someone else had a PHB with whom to contend at some point.

Octothrope: Octo=8, thorpe=point, ergo the # symbol no matter what anyone calls it (pound sign, hash tag)

Podiumed: Placed on a podium (especially as a result of winning, or coming second or third, in a race or similar competition)

Ubiquitous: Existing or being everywhere, especially at the same time; omnipresent. Does NOT take a modifier; it either is or is not ubiquitous.

Picayune: In addition to being a newspaper in New Orleans LA (the Times-Picayune), the word means
1. of little value or account; small; trifling
2. petty, carping, or prejudiced
3. (formerly, in Louisiana, Florida, etc.) a coin equal to half a Spanish real
4. any small coin, as a five-cent piece
5. Informal. an insignificant person or thing.

According to Historical New Orleans, the paper, before merger with the Times, was named for its price, a picayune - small coin.

Pedant: 1. a person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning
2. a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details
3. a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense
4. Obsolete. a schoolmaster.

I will admit to only the second definition, preferring the Chicago and GPO style guides over Fowler's Modern English Usage which, incidentally, sits over my desk. (There is a story there, but it's long and deserves to be told on its own.)

1. existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary in type or characteristics
2. having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable
3. limited in occurrence to a given class, situation, or area
4. limited to a single outcome or result; without alternative possibilities
5. not typical; unusual
6. the embodiment of unique characteristics; the only specimen of a given kind

Like ubiquitous, unique is NOT a word to be modified; something either is unique or it is not.

Marian the Librarian: From the Music Man.

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