Idiot’s Guide to Englesh

December 11th, 2008

Quoted from a 2003 Dave Barry column, “Idiot’s Guide to Englesh”:

It is time once again for Ask Mister Language Person, the column that provides you with the grammar, punctuation and vocabulary skills you need to verbally crush your opponents like seedless grapes under a hammer.

Today’s language questions…:

Q. At least once a day, my phone rings, and I answer it, and the person on the other end — the person who called ME — starts the conversation by asking: ”Who is this?” Is that rude?

A. It most certainly is, because this person is committing the grammatical ”faux pas” (literally, ”bat spleen”) of using a pre-emptive connubial pronoun in an infricative phrase. The proper wording is: ”Whom is this?” Or, more formally: “Just exactly whom the heck is this to whom I am speaking to?”

Q. I would like to use the word ”synergy” more often. What does it mean?

A. ”Synergy” is one of the key words used by business professionals to indicate that they have no clue as to what business they are actually in. (”The Harbingle Organization: A Paradigm of Synergy”)

Q. Is it time now for examples of actual language usage sent in by alert readers?

A. Yes.

–Veronica Peterson sent a newspaper ad for a Watertown, N.Y., dental clinic offering “Personalized Dentures.”

–Bob Emerick sent an ad for a fundraising dinner in Tampa, Fla., with this headline: “Shaquille O’Neal Attacks Literacy.”

–Ed Lacy reports that he saw a sign in the men’s room of an Office Depot that said: ”EMPLOYEES MUST WASH YOUR HANDS.” (Ed writes: ”I waited 15 minutes for someone to wash my hands.” )

–Susan Tudor sent an article from the Anderson, Ind., Herald Bulletin, headlined: “MINORITIES IN SHORT SUPPLY.”

–John Noren sent an informational document from the Internal Revenue Service containing this statement: “The definition of a child living at home is a child who lives at home.”

–Bill Belt sent a letter that his elderly mother received from BlueCross BlueShield that begins with this cheerful and personal salutation: “Dear Catastrophic Member.”

–K. Houser sent an article on shark attacks from USA Today, quoting a shark expert as follows: “To have shark attacks, you have to have people together with sharks in the water.”

Q. You need BOTH?

A. Yes. To create synergy.


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One Response to “Idiot’s Guide to Englesh”



  1. doris |

    love it,my bank changed it’s name to Paradigm Bank for a few months then to Prosperity,no one knew what it meant or how to pronounce it.
    paradigm???


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