When an unknown voice at the other end of the line asks for your credit card number for some sort of purchase you’re about to make, do you ramble it off in one long stream-of-consciousness flow of numbers, or do you pause between each four-digit array?
Or are you one of those people who needs to get feedback from the disembodied voice, a grunt or “OK” after each set of four numbers is conveyed to indicate that s/he has recorded the digits without which you’d be unable to buy that set of awesome pocket squares you were dying for? “And the expiration?”
“And those three numbers on the back of the card?”
I find that most people taking my order expect my verbal commas and like to chirp “uh-huh” after 4th and 8th digits are read, and add “OK” after the 12th digit. I hope the nation’s psychologists are investigating why this pattern exists.
Also, did I tell you I’m moving?
You may be a young reader unaware of the living, evolutionary quality of the English language, but I’m not so young any longer, and I remember when a person who removed the bones from a chicken would be said to be “boning” the animal. Back then, when I was just a kid in the late 1800s (or so), I used to think: How odd, that removing bones is called boning. Shouldn’t it be called unboning, or deboning?
Then, the other day, I had to prepare my newest favorite dish called sarde in saor (sweet and sour sardines – but you knew that!) and was directed by Jamie Oliver in how to “debone” the sardines. Dear old dad, a debonafide glossophile (Iook it up), is turning in his grave at the thought of deboning replacing boning in common parlance.
Interestingly, m-w.com (Merriam Webster online), which defines the transitive verbs “bone” and “debone” nearly identically (“to remove the bones from”), calls a person who debones meat as a “deboner” but makes no mention of a person who bones meat as a “boner.”
This also makes me wonder if ever, in the history of English literature, a character has been referred to as a “debonair deboner.” Will ask the people at Google to scan their databases for that pairing of words.
I’ve looked at a lot of real estate ads over the last couple of years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that some neighborhoods are highly coveted. You may think you live in an unnoticed little neck of the woods, but it turns out that everyone is salivating over your school’s MCAS results. Whether it’s Revolutionary Ridge in Concord, or Prospect Hill in Lexington, or the Bates neighborhood in Wellesley, you might as well face it that people have an unhealthy and maybe even sinful longing for your leafy streets.
I was commanded as a child not to covet things like wives and asses and other “possessions” of my neighbors. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by wives – I mean you can’t imagine how many wives there were in my neighborhood when I was a kid! – I managed not to be covetous of them. (As it was a suburban enclave, there were no asses to be found, though there was a fair bit of random asininity). However, I don’t recall any directives about not coveting the school district in which one's neighbor resides.
Real estate agents must believe that a neighborhood cannot be classified as something its inhabitants “possess,” as they keep trumpeting which streets and school districts and neighborhoods are coveted in an effort to get you to covet these places as well, the implication being that if God didn’t want you to desire living on a certain street, he’d have etched that information into stone tablets.
Rest assured that I have little desire to possess that 3-bed, 2-bath split-level home on half an acre that’s for sale in your exclusive gated neighborhood. On the other hand, I can’t help but covet that Belgian ale you’re about to uncork.
The meanest person I’ve ever met in my life was the dental hygienist who visited my grammar school once a year back in the 1970s.
She looked nice enough on the surface, smiled when she came in and unpacked her educational toolkit of toothbrush and model teeth, but then she’d ask a question and the answer from one of my half asleep classmates would cause her to snap: “Didn’t I just tell you that teeth are stronger than bone? So how can you tell me teeth are made of bone!?”
There may be no stupid questions, but she was here to let us know that there were plenty of stupid answers. And frankly, she thought our questions were pretty stupid as well. This may be the only thing that she and I ever agreed on: there are stupid questions aplenty, and we kids were famous for asking them.
As the grammar school years wore on, I learned to brace myself for each yearly visit by our ornery dental hygienist, brushing carefully that morning in case my mouth was to be inspected, and reminding myself not to ask a question or answer one unless forced to do so.