December 13, 2017

Words are the Horses a Writer Rides

Just as a jockey wonders about and studies horses, so should a writer study words; for words are the horses a writer rides. Language that was perfectly acceptable a couple of hundred years ago has fallen into disuse and I wonder why. Take the word thither for example. I will never have the opportunity to say, “I shall hasten thither to the Seven-eleven for a Slurpee.” I suppose the reason is that all too often it comes out: “I thall hasten thither to the theven-eleven for a thlurpee,” but that’s not reason enough to kill off a perfectly good word…

Business Opportunities!

Listen to the radio and you have to be impressed with how many business opportunities are out there. There seems to be no end to the sure-fire schemes people are hawking on the air waves. Let’s face it. How good can it really be if the people promoting it have to beg you to get started? Do you really want to squander your life savings on a phone card business? How about stuffing envelopes? Wow! Medical billing. There’s an exciting and lucrative career. I, on the other hand, have come up with a system that CAN’T FAIL! What do successful…

Heavy Petters!

Profound and unique insight: You’re never too old to learn! The other evening I was porch settin’ with my cat, Buckshot, when he turned to me and asked why I hadn’t used my petters on him lately. Intrigued, I asked what in the world did he mean by “petters?” His answer provided a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the feline mind. It seems that cats are very much aware of the differences between themselves and humans. That awareness includes realizing that we have things at the ends of our arms that are different from their paws. These things we call…

French Lingeaux!

It has been said that the greatest accomplishment of the French people is their mastery of their own French language. This observation is attributed to a student studying for a final exam in – of all things – French class. There is no truth to the rumor that French is difficult to learn. The French language derives from Latin, which is the language spoken by Latinos. Therefore if you speak some English and want to learn French, you should hang around people from Mexico, Cuba and Puerto Rico. What could be simpler? For those of you who are unwilling or unable…

Word Perfect!

Good reading is one of the pleasures we enjoy without giving it too much thought. What you guys out there don’t realize is that good reading can’t happen without somebody first doing some good writing. There can never be too much good writing in the world. So, in the hopes of inspiring some of you, I’m going to teach you a few fundamentals of good writing. First, you must learn that writing is made up of words. These words have names according to the jobs they do. Words can be nouns or verbs or adverbs, etc. These names are called…

The Wino’s Geek Speak

All professions have their own language. Call it jingo, jargon or whatever other term you desire. Few are as incomprehensible as legalese, but they can still befuddle the uninitiated and unfamiliar. The wine world is no exception. Most people would simply stare at me with an odd look if I handed them a Syrah and said, “It’s a little reductive.” You can even confuse those within a profession as the slang tends to get regional. For instance, if I were in Western Australia, that same Syrah would be pongy, not reductive. What’s the point of mentioning this to you? Well,…

Geography!

Guess what there’s probably more of in the world than anything else? No, not beer. Not poison ivy either. The answer is geography. Geography is everywhere, all around this big ol’ world of ours. In fact, you could say the world is made of geography. The next time you look at a map of the world, take a moment to appreciate how much geography there is. You can’t find any place on the map that doesn’t have some. The word “geography” comes from the Latin: “geo,” which is a kind of car, and the word “graphos,” which those Latin folks used…

Life in the 1500s

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and still smelled pretty good by June.  However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor, hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water,  then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children, last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually…

You Say Syrah, I Say Shiraz

One of the more confusing things for people about wine is the fact that the same grape may have many different names depending on where you are in the world. Grigio vs. Gris The current trendiness of Pinot Grigio is a great example of this. If you come from Italy, it’s a dry, crisp white wine that goes great with all sorts of seafood. Raise your hand though if you’ve seen it on the shelf next to other wines called Pinot Gris and been confused. It’s OK to admit it. Pinot Gris is the exact same grape, it just happens…

The South is All Them Red States

They measure distance in minutes. They’ve often had to switch from heat to a/c in the same day. You’ll see a car running in a store parking lot with no one in it no matter what time of the year. They use “fix” as a verb. Example: I am fixing to go to the store. All the festivals across the South are named after a fruit, vegetable, grain, insect or animal. They install security lights on their houses and garages and then leave both unlocked. They carry jumper cables in their car… for their OWN car. They know what “cow…

Politically Correct Guys & Gals

1. She is not a Babe or Chick – She is a Breasted American. 2. She is not a Screamer or Moaner – She is Vocally Appreciative. 3. She is not Easy – She is Horizontally Accessible. 4. She is not Dumb – She is a Detour Off The Information Highway. 5. She has not Been Around – She is a Previously Enjoyed Companion. 6. She is not an Air Head – She is Reality Impaired. 7. She does not get Drunk – She gets Chemically Inconvenienced. 8. She has not had Breast Augmentation – She is Medically Enhanced. 9….

The Spanish Computer

A Spanish teacher was explaining to her class that in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine. “House” for instance, is feminine: “la casa.” “Pencil,” however, is masculine: “el lapiz.” A student asked, “What gender is ‘computer’?” Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether “computer” should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation. The men’s group decided that “computer” should definitely be of the Feminine gender (“la computadora”), because: 1. No one…

Words Women Use

“FINE.” This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up. “FIVE MINUTES.” If she is getting dressed, this is half an hour. Five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given 5 more minutes to watch the ball game before helping around the house. “NOTHING.” This is the calm before the storm. This means “something,” and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with “Nothing” usually end in “Fine.” “GO AHEAD!” This is a dare, not permission. Don’t do it! <LOUD SIGH> This is not actually…

For Lexophiles (Lovers of Words)

1. A bicycle can’t stand alone; it is two tired. 2. A will is a dead giveaway. 3. Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. 4. A backward poet writes inverse. 5. In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes. 6. A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion. 7. If you don’t pay your exorcist you can get repossessed. 8. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress. 9. Show me a piano falling down a mine shaft and I’ll show you A-flat miner. 10. When…

What’s the Word for It?

One of my favorite things to poke fun of in the wine world is the critical review. I find many of them comical because it seems that the writers try to find the most obscure phrase possible. While characters of earthy morning dew from a Tuscan field may sound adventurous, it doesn’t really tell you much about the wine. The sensory teams in winemaking try to evaluate their wines in clear and concise terms. Esoteric descriptions are to be avoided as best as possible, but that’s not to say that exotic terms aren’t still valid descriptors. Lychee for instance is…

Sulfate, Sulfite, Sulfide

One of the positive trends in the agriculture industry is the push toward natural farming and food production methods that are environmentally friendly. They promote healthy soils, and limit the potential for exposure to toxic chemicals in the food chain. The wine industry has been on the leading edge with organic farming methods, as well as low impact wine making in the cellar. One substance that leads to mass confusion is sulfur. I see this frequently in dealing with consumers, so this month I will address the role of sulfur in wine making, and why in limited amounts it’s considered…

Hand Selected, With Predicate

Do you know the difference between spätlesen and auslesen? How about QmP versus QbA? German wines have been on the rise recently, thanks in large part to the renewed popularity of Riesling. Let’s break down German wine labeling to help you understand. Germany uses a meticulous labeling system that designates the factors used in producing the wine, some of which include region, if sugar was added, and how ripe the grapes are when picked. Wine is broken down into four major categories: table wine (tafelwine), country wine (landwein), quality wine (qualitätswein), and top quality wine (prädikatswein). Tafelwein and Landwein Tafelwein and…

Measuring Things

How do you measure things? By the inch? By the pound? By the second or minute? Obviously, we all use these measurements and many more to function in today’s complex world. Units of measurement abound. In the metric system, there’s the centimeter, gram, kilogram, hectare, etc. In our English system, we have inches, feet, pounds, miles, etc. Scientists use units with names like watt, slug, radian, ohm, mho, farad and many others. It may surprise you to learn that even with the broad array of units of measurement out there, more are needed. I, therefore, propose adoption of the following…

Understanding the Old World

One thing I’ve noticed that causes confusion among wine consumers is how to decipher European wine labels. Consumers from the US and other developing wine markets tend to understand wine based on the predominant grape, meaning you buy a Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, etc. The vast majority of Europe, however, traditionally names wines after the region the wine is produced: Bordeaux, Burgundy, Chianti, etc. The main problem this presents for consumers is that they’re often not familiar with what the wine regions of Europe have to offer in the bottle. Just what is Chianti? What are you drinking when you…

Aggravated Robbery

CREATIVE CRIME NEWS: A man who robbed a New Zealand bank recently was so disappointed with his haul he tried again–this time by phone, Wellington police said. Authorities traced the calls and arrested a man, charging him with aggravated robbery and demanding money with menace. He got the idea from the Psychic Predictions Hot Line. PRENUPTIAL BLUES NEWS: A 38-year-old man stood in flames on a 10-foot platform in Grants Pass, Ore., July 4th before plunging into a pool. After emerging from the water unscathed, he dropped down on one knee and proposed to his girlfriend. Obviously also lacking the…