Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor update

Jun 16, 2015

Gene's next monthly chat is Tuesday, June 30 at noon. You may submit questions here.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Like most columnists, I have certain subject areas I revisit often.  One is male-female stuff, discussed with my pal Gina Barreca.  Another is doggerel -- I turn corny old jokes into poems.    Perhaps the area I revisit most frequently is the English language and its abuse, which was the subject of Sunday's column. 

The best mail always comes from these English-language columns.  It's a subject people care about, often to an alarming degree.  A few years ago a letter writer expressed so much anger at persons who say "eck cetera," including  specific retaliatory measures he was prepared to take the next time he heard this formulation, that I actually considered Notifying Authorities.   Instead, I engaged him in email conversation and became persuaded he was probably violent only in words.

Anyway, Sunday's column resulted in the usual hemorrhage of interesting letters.   My favorite is this one, from Ben Sloan, an English teacher at Piedmont Virginia Community College, in Charlottesville: 

Every semester I write the following on the board:

converse

conversate 

Then I ask the class, "What is the difference between these words?" I have heard many distinctions made, some quite subtle. Someone will say, maybe, "Converse is for formal communication, and conversate is for informal communication." I remember one student saying "converse" is a brand of sneaker and "conversate" is when people are talking.  Finally, when I draw an X through conversate and say this is not a word, typically there is an audible gasp in the room. Sometimes students become angry and upset; in fact, I remember I had a student almost punching another one over this. I am always pleased when a discussion of language leads to a brawl.

--

Neither I nor (I am sure) Mr. Sloan are word Nazis.  There are times when the creative use of technically incorrect language achieves a sort of poetry and is not only to be defended, but to be celebrated.  "Conversate" made me remember one of my favorite song lyrics, from "Maybelline," by the incomparable Chuck Berry... (This is one of the weirdest and most wonderful rock videos you will ever see.)

The line is:

As I was motivatin' over the hill, / I saw Maybelline in a Coup DeVille. / Cadillac rollin' on the open road, / But nothin' outrun my V-8 Ford.   

--

Kay Schmid alerted me to the following line, which appeared in the Washington Post just the other day: 

"The nebula, which is being formed 200 light-years away by the red giant star L2 Puppis, is an important find. Astronomers want to better understand why stars die the way they do.  In the case of L2 Puppis, a younger red giant of similar mass is joining in the death throws.

(Yes, it should be "death throes."  A death throw would be a particularly awful beaning, which has occurred only once in major league baseball, on August 16, 1920.  (The biography of Carl Mays is poignant.) 

Oh, wait.  There is another death throw associated with baseball!

--

John Shages notes the prevalence of highway signs reading AGGRESSIVE DRIVING ENFORCED, which, when you think about it, is insane.

--

Janice Dickson writes in to note that she is the founder of the Apostrophe Police, and I really didn't need to read any further to understand what she meant.  Apostrophe abuse is wildly rampant in America, and Something Must Be Done.   Apostrophe absurdities abound.  Here's one.   Here's another.   Here's a third.   Here's a fourth.  Here's a fifth.    My absolute favorite was once spotted by Dave Barry.  It was a sign in a supermarket:

"Hot dog's"

--

And finally, this rather astonishing thing from Larry  Bowring:

--

See you next week.

 

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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