Showing posts from January, 2016

Am I Too Young to Carry a Handkerchief?

Maybe it's because I'm getting older. Maybe it's because I moved to a warm weather climate. Maybe it's because I'm turning into my father.

Whatever it is, I bought a handkerchief. I bought a whole pack of them, in fact. I did it so I could mop my brow in the Florida heat.

Another sign I'm turning into my father: I just said "mop my brow" without feeling like an old-timey English teacher.

I don't like the word "mop." It sounds gross, like an actual mop. The word just sort of flops there, like a moist, dirty jellyfish. So to say "mop my brow" just gives me an icky feeling all over.

I also hate the word "moist" for the same reason. The phrase "mop your moist brow" may make me throw up. And then we'll need a real mop.

I decided I had reached an age where I needed a new solution for forehead sweat. I'm no longer a college kid who can just wear a baseball hat. Once you hit your 30s, you need to stop wearin…

In Praise of the Singular They

You know that wonderful feeling you get, when you learn something you've been told was "wrong, was later determined to be right after all?

Like learning "don't end your sentences with a preposition" was a nonsensical, unnecessary rule created by a Latin scholar in 1762 because he wanted English to be like Latin.

Like reading on Web MD that nothing will actually freeze your face that way.

Like finally being old enough to win an argument with your parents.

That's how I felt this past week, when I learned that top language experts support the "singular they."

"What kind of language experts?"

Top. Language Experts.

Singular "they" is the word you'd use if you don't know the sex of a person in a hypothetical situation.

"I don't know who keeps stealing my cupcakes, but they better hope I don't find them."

Singular they is a great replacement for "he or she" and "his or her," which are a lin…

That Time I Tried to Cancel My Cable

"Hi. My name is Erik Deckers and I—"

"Thank you. How are you?"

"Great, I just wanted to—"

"Erik Deckers."


"No, E-R-S."

"Yes, with the 'S' at the end. So I just wanted to can—"

"No problem, I watched a whole episode of Elementary while I waited."

"Great, so I wanted to get some help with—"

"You've already got my account number."

"Then why did I enter it when I called in?"

"Verify what, exactly? It's not like someone wrestled the phone away from me while I was waiting. For 45 minutes."

"Fine, it's A2C-4EF-789."

"No, nine. One more than eight. You know, the German word for 'no?'"

"That's Dutch."

"Yes, I'm sure. Look, I just want to cancel my cable."

"No, the service is fine. We were happy with the service. I just don't need 300 home shopping channels."

"I know …

The Virgin Mary in a Cheese Sandwich

Erik is out of the office this week, so we are reprinting a column from 2005.

It seems cheese sandwiches have been in the news a lot during the last few months, but not always in a good way.

In November 2004, online casino paid $28,000 on eBay for a 10-year-old partially-eaten cheese sandwich that bore the image of the Virgin Mary.

I saw pictures of the Virgin Mary Cheese Sandwich on their website, and while I agree there was a face on the sandwich, I don't necessarily believe it's the Virgin Mary. For one thing, I've never actually seen the Virgin Mary, so I can't actually be sure. But I've seen Stevie Nicks, and I think it looks more like her.

But Diana Duyser swears that for 10 years, the Velveeta vestal virgin has brought her enormous good fortune, including winning $70,000 at her local casino. She kept it on her nightstand in a plastic container. announced they will take the sandwich on a national tour and sell Virgin Mary Chee…

So, This Year's Banned Words List is Problematic

So, every year, I look forward to Lake Superior State University's List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use, and General Uselessness. But this year is not as emotionally satisfying as past lists.

It has some words that should have been banned years ago, and others that I just don't care about. So I don't feel as emotionally connected to the 41st annual list.

"So" made the list this year, although it's actually the second go-around for the offending utterance. In 1999, it made the list for things like "I am SO tired of you people." And now it's back again for being used at the beginning of sentences. Sort of like I did twice in the first two paragraphs.

I can't figure out when this became a problem. Either I've never really noticed it, or I've been doing it for such a long time, I'm used to it. So, I was pretty surprised when I learned this was a problem for a lot of people. But that doesn't me…