by the way...

100 words? 500 words? 700? Who’s counting?


It’s a good thing I came up with the title “By the Way” for this column. That gives me leeway to write about anything. But today I have nothing to say. So go watch TV. Clean out your drawers. I feel like Charlie Brown and friends. The teacher tells them they must write a book report of 100 words. Well, Charlie, I can top that. For more than four years I have written 600 words or so for the Recorder every week. And by the way I hope I haven’t harmed your mind, body, or soul with my 600 words, week after week. Incidentally, the Charlie Brown song, “The Book Report” is a marvelous tonic. I’d forgotten how amusing it is. Do take 5 minutes and watch it on the Internet.
A trick for writers—if you’re in a funk and can’t get a word down on paper—surf the Internet for silly/funny/unusual words or phrases. Where did certain words or phrases come from?
For instance: Going bananas: “John and Mary gave their kids a puppy for Christmas, and the children are going bananas.” Why do we say “going bananas”? Because most monkeys when given bananas jump around with glee and are ecstatic when they get them. Another site talked about the phrase referring to the thought that roasted banana peels resulted in a psychedelic sensation. (Eating them? Smoking them?)
Number 2: Great sufferin’ catfish: Just doesn’t sound right to say “great sufferin’ shrimp” or “great sufferin’ grouper.” According to Wiktionery (a Wiki-based open-content dictionary), it means “an exclamation of disgusted dismay” and dates back to the ‘40s. Or it’s an exclamation of surprise. The catfish industry is sufferin’, but “great sufferin’ catfish industry” doesn’t sound right. In truth I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say “great sufferin’ catfish” anyway.
Number 3: It can be frustrating to try to find how some phrases started, such as when and where did the phrase “underwater basket weaving” come to mean a snap course? It dates back to the ‘50s and is an idiomatic expression meaning a Mickey Mouse elective, or useless course.
Here’s a phrase from “Downton Abby,” that has quietly gone out of our language. “To be unhappy in a marriage is ill-bred.” If that’s the case we have a lot of ill-bred people in this world today, wouldn’t you say?
Have you noticed how words ebb and flow? We are taught the word “well” must not begin a sentence. “Well” is slowly going out of vogue, though sometimes we hear a nervous speaker blurt out a river of “wells.” The new word you hear is “so.” Watch “Shark Tank.” The well-coached entrepreneurs begin sentences with “so” a lot. Other speakers on media are starting to say “so,” instead of “well”. It’s an epidemic.
So, today’s column is 543 words more or less. Do not add up the words; I’ve added and dropped words here and there. My friend and CPA says, “It’s close enough for government work.” (A derogatory phrase meaning not worth perfecting). Ain’t that the truth? “BOY HOWDY!” It’s used as a substitute for “WOW!” (That phrase can be used genuinely or sarcastically.)
Great sufferin’ Chilean bass…