Dr. Goodword’s Language Blog

Archive for the 'Slow Lane' Category

I Love Living in the Central Susquehanna Valley

Thursday, January 4th, 2018

A front-page story in the Sunbury Daily Item one day last year was headlined “Three Men Cited in Opossum Abuse Case”. The story that followed reported that the three were fined over $1000. I love living in a region where this kind of story makes front-page news.

Attempted School Shooting with a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

5-year-old Kindergartner with Pink Bubble Gun Suspended from School

By Rick Dandes

The Daily Item

MOUNT CARMEL — A 5-year-old kindergartner who told classmates she was going to shoot them, and then herself, with her pink [Hello Kitty] bubble gun, was grilled for three hours by Mount Carmel school officials without her mother’s knowledge, then suspended, a family attorney said.

The girl was initially kicked out for 10 days in what the school categorized as a terroristic threat,” according to the kindergartner’s mother and confirmed by the family attorney. That suspension was reduced to two days and labeled as a “threat to harm others.”

You’ll have to read the entire article to believe it.

Stroke Recovery

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I am 95% myself six weeks after the operation on my noggin. It involved the left hemisphere which controls the right side of the body and all language functions. As you can see, most of them I have recovered.

I will be back writing on language themes soon.

A Perfect Snow

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The light peeping around the edges of the shades in my room woke me up at 3 AM. I was amazed at what I saw outside. The full moon enlightening the snow-covered garden reminded me immediately of the lines in “The Night Before Christmas”:

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, . . .

I managed to get back to sleep despite the brightness and my excitement, and awoke to what seemed to be a perfect snow. The first sign was that it is falling straight downward—no wind. The other was that it was heavier than a flurry but far from a blizzard. A gentle snow but a snow, not a dusting.

Those signs invited me out into it. I’m from the south, North Carolina. I saw snow only once growing up there. Moving to Pennsylvania introduced me to the grace of this kind, heavenly downfall and I’ve always found it more relaxing than music.

The first thing I notice about this perfect snow was the silence it cast about everything. The chilled stillness of perpendicular snow is entirely different. Snowy stillness is unique, somehow, like the petrichor after a rain. One of those mysterious pleasures we enjoy far too often without realizing it.

Air filtered by snow is also different. Breathing rises from a necessity to a pleasure. It is as though it is clearer, more transparent. It become more crystalline, fragile, and brittle. It comes in and goes out more playfully, somehow, on the very edge of reality. The usual aromas aren’t there: no motor oil, no manure on the farm fields around my house, none of those smells we learn to ignore. Snowy air is air in its purest form, air enervating, bolstering the spirit, driving the mind to a new level of consciousness.

No one else seems to think much about snow in Pennsylvania, except to worry about too much of it. I hope I’m not the only one who enjoys the pleasures of the perfect snow.

Five Arrested for Foodfighting

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane

Life in the Slow Lane was interrupted again by a mass crime perpetrated in nearby town. (It’s getting closer to Smoketown.) This one brings a new word to our attention.

According to the headline story in the Sunbury Deadly Item this morning, five students from a nearby high school were arrested for a premeditated (first degree) food fighting involving the school’s Christmas dinner. That’s right, this food fight was planned in advance, incurring a tip to school security that prevented further damage and led to swift arrests.

The district superintendent was “angry about the food fight, and that students wasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy.” He might have been less agitated had the gravy been left off—it makes the more stubborn stain.

Students will face a yet-to-be-determined sentence of public service, beginning with mopping up (or hosing down) the cafeteria. Other students with food on their clothes are still being interrogated.

I know this was a serious breech of civility reflecting a level of stupidity alarming for any school. The parents of the alleged participants were appalled, too. That the dinner was in celebration of Christmas only made matters worse (unless, of course, you were one of the food fighters). Still, these kids are not responsible for the degradation of the celebration of Christmas that has occurred in the US over the past decades, so let’s not hold them responsible for that aspect of the incident.

Finally, the word foodfight. The editors of the Daily Item are convinced that this is now one word, so they chose to omit even the hyphen (food-fighting), following the lead of the website!) This implies it is derived from a verb, to foodfight. Are we ready for this: I foodfight, you foodfight, he, she, it foodfights. What will the past tense be: He foodfought (a bit yesterday), I suppose. Have they become this accustomed and accepting of food fighting in the fast lane? Zoom on by, please.

A Jolt in the Slow Lane

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

The folks in the slow lane opened their Sunbury Daily Item to a shocking headline last Thursday. (I had planned to write this Thursday afternoon, but then this is what happens in the slow lane.) The huge headline glaring at us from the top of the Sunbury Daily Item last Thursday read:

Bus leaves girl at wrong stop

I don’t think anything this drastic had ever hit the valley before.

Of course, had this been the fast lane, the girl, who was only seven at the time (she is probably around nine now), might have been in grave danger from a fast-lane predator. Here, however, where things are warmer and fuzzier, the girl was picked up by her friend’s father who took them both to a cafe and bought them a lemonade before taking the girl (whose name is withheld for obvious reasons) home.

Anyway, the community was hard hit by the news and I’m only getting back into my old groove myself, still a bit unnerved by the horror those headlines were fraught with. The little girl, whose pouting photo appeared under the headline on page one, has vowed never to ride a bus again. Could anyone blame her?

Porn in the Slow Lane

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

My favorite newspaper, the Sunbury Daily Item, carried an article with this lead sentence last Friday: “A 57-year-old Lewistown man has been charged with stealing $500 raised by middle school students to purchase porn videos from an Internet site.”

This sentence immediately catches the eye because you wonder why middle school students were raising money to purchase porn in the first place. Moreover, didn’t the 57-year-old do us all a favor by stealing the money and keeping porn out of the hands of those children?

Well, reading further we discover that the money was actually being raised for middle school band and chorus activities and that it was the thief who purchased the porn, keeping good and evil in proper alignment. Of course, that is not what the lead sentence says.

The infinitive phrase “to purchase porn videos . . .” in the first sentence is closer to “middle school students” than to “57-year-old Lewiston man” and for that reason goes with the former and not the latter.

Restructuring the sentence to correct it in journalese is a bit difficult and the author probably should have just worked on a different story. It seems to me that this is one of those situations where a passive sentence might work despite the bad reputation this construction has among journalists. “$500 raised by middle school students was stolen by a 57-year-old Lewistown man to purchase porn videos from an Internet site,” is perfectly good English that states the case more clearly.

The active variant would be: “A 57-year-old Lewistown man stole $500 to purchase porn videos on an Internet site from middle school students in Beaver Creek.” This variant lets you pack more information about the middle school kids into the sentence but is a tad clunky.

Anyway, the sentence that went to press wrongly stated the facts by misassociating the infinitive phrase, thereby frightening readers with the suggestion that we had somehow swerved into the fast lane in the not-too-distant past.

Armed Threats in the Slow Lane

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Slow-lane officers in my hometown defused a dangerous situation which, no doubt and unfortunately, will be repeated elsewhere as the demand for more arms on our streets continues to rise. The Sunbury Daily Item reported Thursday that an armed gunman entered the Lewisburg courthouse insulting the local constabulary and threatening to rob a bank. (No doubt he intended to ask directions to one, too.)

Sheriff Ernie Ritter reported, “We made sure the area around the situation was safe, and then we began to move in,” Ritter said. “We assisted the man to the ground without incident and found a .45 Springfield Armory handgun with multiple magazines on him.”

Exactly why the man wanted to be on the ground was not made clear but then we in the slow lane can live with fuzzy details. Protection from himself, no doubt, was high on his mind. The important thing is that the man was neither thrown nor wrestled to the ground but merely assisted there. The reponse was the helpful, more Samaritanical and, hence, more appropriate to the simple and gentler life we are accustomed to here in the Slow Lane.

Upskirting: Sex in the Slow Lane

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

The Sunbury Daily Item this morning reported the arrest of an out-of-state visitor in the Susquehanna Mall for upskirting. (The online edition changed the headline so as not to unintentionally encourage its readership). Upskirting, according to the Deadly Item (as it is fondly called by those of us who adore it), is bending over to take a digital photograph up a lady’s skirt (or a naughty girl’s, for that matter). Given the length of skirts these days, I have difficulty visualizing this, since either the man is something of a contortionist or the skirts involved were very short.

The important point, however, is that the perp is from out of state, Missouri, to be exact. Readers in that state should be on guard! Another important point—aside from the one on this guy’s head—is that upskirting is not yet listed among the crimes in Pennsylvania, so the district attorney has to decide whether the actual crime is disorderly conduct or harrassment, neither of which carry stern penalties.

Here at alphaDictionary, of course, we are more interested in the fact that this new verb has reached the area. To upskirt, according to the Urban Dictionary, has been around since 2006, along with the misuse of photographic cell phones itself. Since the verb to skirt means “to go around, circumvent”, I would have expected to upskirt to mean “to circumvent by raising to a higher level”, as to upskirt an insult with a compliment to the insulter. Apparently, that is not the case.

Anyway, this brave new step into sexual perversion and the vocabulary it shleps with it has us all talking in appropriately hushed tones here in centrally isolated Lewisburg. Who knows where it will lead to next: peeking at girls in bikinis at the beach, no doubt. What’s the world coming to?

Life in the Slow Lane Stumbles on

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

Lewisburg now has a new diner, replete with waitresses that call eveyone “hon.” Like true diners, where the cuisine never exceeds the flavor of the meatloaf, its menu is traditional diner food cooked in traditional diner ways by two recent immigrees from Mexico (no, not Mexico, PA—the original one). Since Lewisburg is a cultural center of Central Pennsylvania, however, our diner has been experimenting with some new creations.

You wouldn’t want to miss the meatloaf cordon bleu: meatloaf with several slices of chopped ham slatered with Cheez Whiz. It could also be called a Philly chopped steak. I tried it and was surprised to discover that it tastes like—last week’s meatloaf. I guess Cheez Whiz doesn’t cover up as much flavor as it once did.

Next time I want to try the Monte Crisco sandwich. They don’t use mayonaise on this one, so it shouldn’t break my diet. And guess what they warm up the meatloaf in.

I thought I would just drop this brief note to let everyone know that life in the slow lane isn’t speeding up.