Originally created 04/27/04

Have fun with English and make Webster weep

We seldom attribute common sense except to those who agree with us.

- La Rochefoucauld

When you spend your career in the newsroom, you get used to using words.

Those who use them well become celebrated writers and often pursue fame elsewhere with better hours and no-weekend work.

We jealously call them "wordsmiths," with its implication that they artistically shape precious metals.

More generally, newspaper writers are "word masons," piling word brick upon word brick and trying to keep everything level and in a straight line.

We figure if we get it all right and keep it together, the work will last.

What both styles have in common, however, are the words. They're common. They're rare. They're useful.

They're even fun, because they sometimes have different meanings.

For example:

  • A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.
  • What's the definition of a will? (It's a dead giveaway).
  • A backward poet writes inverse.
  • In democracy, it's your vote that counts; in feudalism, it's your count that votes.
  • A chicken crossing the road is poultry in motion.
  • With her marriage, she got a new name and a dress.
  • The man who fell into an upholstery machine is fully recovered.
  • A plateau is a high form of flattery.
  • Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end.
  • Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
  • MORE WORD QUESTIONS: Here are some standardized quiz questions for adults.

  • If money doesn't grow on trees, then why do banks have branches?
  • Why do you have to "put your two cents in" ... but it's only "a penny for your thoughts"?
  • Once you're in heaven, do you get stuck wearing the clothes you were buried in for eternity?
  • What disease did cured ham actually have?
  • TODAY'S JOKE: A new employee on the road crew was given the job of painting the white lines down the middle of a highway.

    On his first day he painted six miles; the next day three miles; the following day less than a mile.

    The foreman asked the man why he kept painting less each day.

    "I just can't do any better," he said. "Each day I keep getting farther away from the paint can."

    Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 823-3344 or bill.kirby@augustachronicle.com.


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