That’s What the Headline Said

“Never mind”

Um, they meant “roles.”

“Roles,” not “holes.”

That’s very different.

“Mr. Jones, What Do You Mean You Didn’t Complete the Assignment?”

That kind of phrase may carry new weight very soon in the Tamaqua Area School District (in Schuylkill County Pennsylvania, serving no town you’ve ever heard of), where the board of education recently approved, by a unanimous vote, a new policy to permit teachers, administrators, and staff members in their schools to carry guns on them at school.

“Are you quite sure you didn’t bring enough to share with the entire class?”

Loaded guns.

Loaded with bullets.

Real bullets.

And when they do, students may soon find themselves feeling a need to respond very differently to phrases like “What do you mean you didn’t complete the assignment?”, “I said I want silence in this classroom right away, people,” and “Are you sure you really want to question the grade I gave you on that assignment?”

A Recurring Fear

The Curmudgeon has this recurring fear that he’s in the supermarket and runs into his family doctor, who proceeds to go through his shopping cart and point out all the things he shouldn’t be eating.

It’s not as far-fetched as it might seem.  She lives in the next town down from The Curmudgeon and the supermarket in which The Curmudgeon shops is in her town, not his.  Also, he ran into her once at a restaurant and she walked behind him and pointed to the section of the menu – the healthy stuff – from which she said he should be ordering.

But the worst part of the dream is that as she’s pointing out the things The Curmudgeon shouldn’t be buying, he’s trying to explain to her that virtually none of those offending items in the cart are for him, that almost all of them are for his wife and his stepson – which, by the way, is absolutely true – but…

She refuses to believe him!

A Real Public Service

If you own a phone, you’re probably tired of telephone solicitation calls.  You signed up for the “do not call” list, you hit “3” if you don’t want to receive any further calls, but receive further calls you most certainly do.  The Curmudgeon only recently learned that he can block incoming calls from specific numbers on his iPhone and is now gleefully playing with his newest toy. It’s not a full-blown solution, though, because he only received constant calls from a few phone numbers and instead faces a continual barrage of calls from new and different numbers.

He fights back in his own small ways.  Sometimes he just hangs up.  If it’s technically a call permitted by law, such as a charitable solicitation or a political message that involves an actual person rather than a recording, he’ll say “I talked to someone from your organization last week,” after which they usually apologize and that’s that.

On occasion, if a phone number appears on his caller ID he goes right to the federal government web site for reporting such illegal calls and reports it – doing so, he must add, with no real hope that anyone on the government’s end is ever going to do anything about it.

Sometimes he informs the caller that he or she is breaking the law.  As part of these calls he may ask “Does your mother know you break the law for a living?” or may break out into a Joe Friday “You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you…” admonition.

He asks them where they’re calling from.  He asks them about the weather there.  And occasionally he resorts to the oldie but goodie “What are you wearing?”

And for kicks and giggles nothing beats the occasional “F- you.”

Occasionally, though, he likes to play with these folks.  Once upon a time, you could say “No, thank you, I’m not interested” and they would just thank you for your time and say good-bye.  Now, though, you can tell that they’re sitting in their little cubicles with call scripts in front of them with ready answers for any objection you might raise.  It’s now virtually impossible to get rid of a solicitation caller politely.  So what’s a boy to do?  Feign interest.  If they’re offering you a better credit card rate or want to talk about installing solar panels in your yard, you just ask a few questions and then string them along a little.  Then, when the time is right, The Curmudgeon just says “Okay, so how did you like it?”  “Like what?” they reply.  “You called me and wasted my time and now I just wasted yours.  So how do you like it that I just wasted your time?”  The responses are fascinating:  some just hang up, some apologize, some are angry, and some start cursing.  It is, The Curmudgeon’s almost certain, the first time he’s heard “f—you” uttered in a number of different accents.

But there’s a young fellow who has The Curmudgeon beat six days a week and twice on Sunday:  he sues the bastards.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently introduced its readers to Andrew Perrong, a fellow who lives just outside Philadelphia who gathers all of the relevant information and takes his solicitation callers to court.

God bless him.

The Inquirer reports that Perrong has filed dozens of lawsuits and won quick settlements from everyone from chimney sweeps and collection agencies to large, evil corporations like Citibank and Verizon.

All without the benefit of a lawyer.  Perrong, you see, is 21 years old and majoring in philosophy and psychology in college and plans to be…a priest.

So we’re not exactly talking about some slick con man.

The lawyers for those he sues, however, aren’t so sure about that, the Inquirer reports.

Says one whiner, Esq., as reported by the Inquirer:

“His litigation history makes plain that he seeks [calls] out and gladly receives them” for his next lawsuit, Ballard Spahr’s Daniel JT McKenna, who represents a Texas utility that Perrong recently sued, argued in October. “The purpose of such conduct is to make Perrong money.”

Because companies that make robocalls, companies that hire companies to make robocalls, and lawyers who defend robocallers and those who hire them certainly aren’t out to make money, right?

A number of people interviewed for the article suggest that Perrong sets up companies to call him and then sues them when they do.  Well, sure he does:

By having a telephone.

The Curmudgeon, for one, says more power to him.  He is fighting the good fight, and it’s hard to imagine anyone who doesn’t have a financial stake in making robocalls, who doesn’t benefit from robocalls, or who doesn’t defend robocallers for a living wishing young Mr. Perrong anything but the best.

A Thought About John McCain

The emergence of conservative talk radio over the past 20 or 25 years has changed the tone of public discourse in this country. We have always had competing political views and objectives but the discourse was generally civil, almost polite, compared to how it is today.  It’s not enough to disagree with our opponents anymore; we must despise them and revile them and ambush them in church or at work or at their kids’ schools or in restaurants with the kind of invective that in days of yore we attributed mostly to sailors.

Until recently, though, that heated discourse was limited to the talkers and their listeners and the protesters.  Our politicians listened to it, benefited from it, and tacitly encouraged it but they didn’t engage in it directly themselves until one transformative event in American history:  on August 29, 2008, newly anointed Republican presidential nominee John McCain chose Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate.

She brought out the worst in so very many people

Palin was in no way fit to run for national office. She was a former small-town mayor who became a small-state governor and had clearly, based on her performance as a vice presidential candidate, never given any meaningful thought to the implications of holding national office.  With no wisdom or insight or even ideas to share with the public, she shared venom and vituperation instead.  She called people names, she impugned their character and integrity, she took a sort of perverse, defiant pride in her ignorance.  Instead of offering us a sharp mind she offered us only a sharp tongue.

Things haven’t been the same ever since.  When the contest was over and Palin returned to Alaska, too bored to continue governing and instead setting her sights on using her new-found fame to get rich while flirting with a run for the presidency that even she, in her cluelessness, must have sensed was a bad idea, the floodgates opened and out poured first more regular people eager to share their unfiltered derision and contempt to any available ear.  It was in this context that the Tea Party emerged to protest the actions of a newly elected president who hadn’t even done anything yet to which to object.  Then their elected officials did the same, following the lead of their constituents instead of leading by a better example.  Ever since, public officials have aired their vile fulminations regularly and seemingly without thought or, heaven forbid, self-reflection, a development that culminated first in the election of Donald Trump and then in a most extraordinary way recently when a Supreme Court nominee brought the judiciary into the fray with his angry, sputtering, furious insistence that he was the victim of a left-wing conspiracy engineered, incredibly, by the Clintons.

It surely wasn’t his intention but it just as surely was his fault

John McCain, even in death, needs to be held accountable for this, because it was his actions that directly led to it.  Yes, it may very well have happened anyway, but his nomination of Sarah Palin was the key that unlocked the door for all of this nonsense.  Sensing that he had little chance of winning the 2008 election – The Curmudgeon recalls a conversation he had with his father that fall during which dad offered his theory that after considering all the trouble the economy was in, McCain was behaving as if he no longer even wanted to be president – McCain acted out of desperation, hoping he could do something so bold, so attention-getting, so apple cart-upsetting that he could light a fire under voters and snatch victory from the jaws of almost certain defeat.  It was an incredibly cynical act borne of naked ambition and cold calculation, an irresponsible deed by a man who professed to put country above all else, and it has given rise to a culture of hatred and fear.  That wasn’t McCain’s intention, but he bears a significant degree of responsibility for it nonetheless.

Yes, John McCain had many fine qualities and for the most part served his country admirably.  We should remember him for that, but we also should remember him for a horrible misstep that changed for the worse – possibly forever – the nature of political discourse in this country.

Mark Your Calendar

Because appearing next Saturday, December 15 at the Borgata in Atlantic City will be…

None other than…

The one…

(Actually, the three…)

The only…

Tony Orlando and Dawn!

They’re coming home, they’ve done their time!

Showtime is 9 p.m.  Let’s hope they don’t nod off in the middle of “Sweet Gypsy Rose.”

 

“Chain Migration”

Yesterday the fools at Fox & Friends spent a few minutes wringing their hands as they told the story of a woman from Honduras who crossed into the U.S. as a refugee as part of one of those nefarious “caravans” and promptly shot out a baby boy moments after she set foot on American soil.  With the help of an immigration lawyer who looked as if she couldn’t believe the degree to which she was compromising her integrity just to be on television for three minutes, The Clueless Trio discussed with her the process the woman and her baby would then undergo.  Eventually they concluded that if the woman’s claim to refugee status was rejected she either would have to return to Guatemala with her baby or she would return to Honduras and the baby could stay here, as a ward of the state.

But here’s where it gets interesting.

They then discussed the possibility that the rejected mom and baby would return to Honduras and the baby would grow into a young man who returns to the U.S. when he turns 21 to claim his rights as a citizen (and, unspoken, to join MS-13, sell drugs, and rape American women).  As part of the exercise of that right, he also would be able to bring his parents and siblings into the U.S. through what is known as “chain migration,” which they all agreed is very, very bad.

The poster child

The Curmudgeon saw this report while riding the stationary bike in the morning.  When he finished and ascended from the basement he described to Mrs. Curmudgeon the story he just heard.

To which Mrs. Curmudgeon replied, with her typical, understated simplicity, “Just like Melania.”

 

 

 

 

A Pet Peeve

You’re in a restaurant.  If you’re a woman, you could be alone or with a group that includes one or more other women.  If you’re a guy, you’re in a group that includes women.  Maybe it’s your wife, your sister, your girlfriend, just a friend.  Your mother.

And the server comes to the table, hands you menus, and asks “Can I start you guys with something to drink?”

Later: “What can I get you guys?”

And: “Is everything okay, guys?”

Finally: “Can I get you guys anything else?”

For today The Curmudgeon will overlook that it should be “What MAY I get you…” and “May I get you…”  He also expresses his gratitude that the greeting was not “Can I start YOUSE guys with something to drink.”

But…

GUYS? Really?  The last time The Curmudgeon looked, his wife, his mother, his sister, and others are clearly, clearly, clearly not GUYS and for the life of him he has no idea why these servers – people of both gender, by the way – insist on addressing them as GUYS.

Whew! That’s a load off The Curmudgeon’s mind.

 

 

Way to Show Integrity, CNN

A number of different kinds of people work on the air at CNN.  Some are reporters, some are hosts, some are sort of entertainers (The Curmudgeon’s talking about you, Anderson Cooper).

And some are commentators:  they’re hired to have opinions and to express them.

Last week one of those commentators, a fellow named Marc Lamont Hill, attended a public event and called for

…a free Palestine from the river to the sea.

Well, CNN didn’t like that opinion.

So it fired him.

CNN fired a guy it hired to express his opinions because it didn’t like one of those opinions.

Way to be fearless, CNN.

 

 

Still More Verbifications

It’s only been a few weeks, but here’s another installment in the never-ending saga of verbifications:  when people who either don’t know better or know better and do it anyway attempt to turn nouns into verbs.  (See previous installmentshere, hereherehere, here, and here.

In a Philadelphia Inquirer article about the new head of an organization that collects food that restaurants and supermarkets would otherwise discard and distributes it to hungry people, the organization’s new executive director described one of his past jobs as “humping desserts” for a major caterer.

Creates quite a mental picture, doesn’t it?

Fortune magazine reported on a company called Zenefits that offers software to help small businesses manage their human resources work.  The company is hiring so many new employees to keep up with all the work it’s getting that “it must onboard them in monthly batches…”

So how does that go?  “Congratulations, Ms. Jones, you’ve got the job.  You’ll be on the Lido deck and we’ll onboard you next Monday, if you can start then?”

In an article in a publication called The Washingtonian titled “The 15-Step, Absolutely Perfect Burger” – side note:  no such thing – the writer wants you to chill the meat before cooking and explains that

…even just fridging the patties for a few hours is vital…

That’s right:  he’s frigging “fridging” his patties.

And then there was the Philadelphia Business Journal headline

9/11 birthed the TSA. 14 years later, it needs an overhaul.

Birthed:  you have to wonder how long the contractions lasted.

In the past, The Curmudgeon pointed out that an ill-fated plan of Philadelphia’s school district to hire a contractor to supply substitute teachers left those teachers earning wages comparable to entry-level help at Walmart.  Never, though, did he stoop to how the Philadelphia Daily News described this situation in an editorial when it asked

Why are we Walmarting the teaching profession?

A Harrisburg Patriot-News headline that declared

Penn State commit Michal Menet plays Cumberland Valley Friday night

The student committed to attending Penn State, therefore he is a commit.

Rhymes with vomit, which is what reading such a headline makes The Curmudgeon want to do.

Shortly before Halloween, a Philadelphia Daily News headline asked its readers

Do you costume your pet?

And we all remember Donald Trump describing Hillary Clinton’s defeat by Barack Obama in 2008 by saying she got “schlonged.”

We’ve heard entirely too much about Donald Trump and his schlong, haven’t we?

The New York Times reported that restaurants are now charging customers who bring their own birthday cakes to the restaurant to serve after a family meal.  The Curmudgeon has no problem at all with the practice, assuming the restaurant in question serves cake, because you don’t bring food into a restaurant and cake should be no different, but he does object to what restaurants are calling this new charge:  a cakeage fee.

Oh no!  Cakeage!

You’ve experienced it many times:  you’ve come to a red light and while you’re sitting in your car, teenagers bearing coin cans come to your window and ask for loose change for some cause.  The Curmudgeon calls that asking for money, or asking for contributions, but the Philadelphia Inquirer called it “canning.”

Really.

In Florida, a plan is afoot to move the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team to a new stadium, and while at least so far it’s been all talk and no action, people are already trying to figure out how best to use the site of the stadium they would abandon after that stadium is razed.  Formal plans for such redevelopments are sometimes called master plans, so maybe The Curmudgeon shouldn’t have been so shocked when the Tampa Bay Business Journal reported that

Fifteen groups are interested in master planning the redevelopment of Tropicana Field

You hear it on the traffic report all the time, during and after rainfall:  a warning to beware of “ponding.”

Now, a brief diversion for a nounification, courtesy of Miss Kate, this blog’s very first subscriber:  “invite.”  As in

Did you receive the invite to the wedding?

No. We don’t attend the weddings of people who abuse the language in such a manner.

This one is probably an adjectivization that The Curmudgeon ran across:  “Save 25 percent on couponable items.” Items that are…couponable?

But back to verbifications.

There was the story about a man describing how he did research on his computer and explaining that “I moused over to the…”

Have you ever heard the expression “Hoist on your own petard”?   It means to be harmed by one’s ownplan to harm someone else or “to fall into one’s owntrap.”  An Atlantic magazine writer, describing the impact of Jon Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show, described Stewart’s accomplishment as host as “petarding the pundit class.”

Petarding.

A Philadelphia Inquirer article described Ivana Trump as having “appled-cheeks.”

USA Today described two Florida beaches as especially good for “shelling.”

Presumably not the kind of shelling that involves dropping bombs.

Sometimes, buildings or places are declared official landmarks, which means any attempt to alter them is subject to some kind of formal review.  The New Yorker, though, describing a pharmacy in that city, wrote that its “…interior had been landmarked…”

Ordinarily The Curmudgeon is more lenient about verbification in speech; after all, we don’t speak the same way we write and don’t have a chance to edit our speech.  But he’s making an exception for this doozy: a mall executive, trying to make the best out of the challenge of replacing a large, anchor store tenant, explained that

So if they become re-tenanted, it could be a net positive for a mall.

Re-tenanted.  Not in a million years would The Curmudgeon have imagined someone creating a word like that.

During the course of research on a possible honeymoon destination The Curmudgeon learned that

Pets on Sanibel Island must be leashed, and should be cleaned up after. 

Leashed.

Vox, the web site devoted to explaining the news and not just reporting it, heralded (and don’t think The Curmudgeon didn’t have to look up “herald,” lest he risk being accused of that for which he ridicules others) late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s rather sudden interest in anything other than celebrities with an article with the subheading

Late-night TV’s premier prankster has learned how to weaponize exasperation.

Weaponize.

A web site called reviewed.com decided to take a look at the appliances Ikea sells.  It noted that Ikea’s line of appliances is modest, is very similar to the typical appliances sold by other appliance companies, but lacks the exterior “badges” of those other appliances.  By “badges” it means “logos”:  you know, the ones that say “Kenmore” or “Amana” or “Whirlpool” or another appliance company.

But after making this point, reviewed.com decided to come back to it and advise its readers that Ikea appliances

…offer a minimalist aesthetic and lack exterior badging…

Exterior badging.

You may recall the case of Freddie Gray, the man who was arrested by Baltimore police and died in their custody in 2015. One of the issues in the trial of officers who were charged with responsibility for his death was their failure to put a seatbelt on Gray before they transported him.  As it turns out, the question of putting seatbelts on those arrested is a matter of some contention:  some think it should always be “safety first” while others believe it’s dangerous to the officers attempting to apply the seatbelts.

But an Associated Press report introduced a different kind of danger to the situation with a headline that read

Baltimore officer says it’s dangerous to seatbelt prisoners.

The Curmudgeon would like to belt the person who wrote that.

The Curmudgeon was prepared to give the story a pass on this and blame the headline writer rather than the reporter, but a closer look at the story made that impossible when he came upon the sentence

Sean Malone, Goodson’s lawyer, says it’s the police department that failed in its duty by failing to inform officers about a new policy that required officers to seatbelt prisoners in the back of the van.

Why oh why oh why oh why???

If you have any taste at all for television cooking programs you’ve certainly heard something like this, taken from Philadelphia magazine:

The grilled prawns came with delicious thick slices of pickled tomato, but the plating was discordant…

Memo to the writer:  the “plating” wasn’t the only thing discordant about your restaurant review.

The New Yorker published an interesting article about a former guerilla in Colombia’s internal wars who was trying to return to regular society.  The guerilla may be going straight but the writer may be beyond salvation:

When I visited, Lozada had spent the previous two weeks helicoptering around the country

When a 19-year-old went on a shooting spree at a Florida high school and killed 17 people, the news quickly emerged that the 19-year-old learned how to shoot at a school club sponsored by the National Rifle Association.  One of the leaders of the school club defended his club and the NRA, noting that some of the students retreated during the attack to a room that had Kevlar sheets used as a backdrop for target practice and that if the shooter had entered that room, the students there could have stood behind those Kevlar sheets and would have been shielded from the bullets.

…the NRA actually bonused us in a way.

When you get out of jail by leaving behind money to guarantee your return for your trial you post bond, but when CNN reported on a teacher who was arrested for threatening her school district’s superintendent, it wrote that

She bonded out soon afterward

Presumably before she bonded with any of her cellmates.

From the Bleacher Report web site on Peyton Manning’s decision not to launch a new career in the broadcast booth:

Peyton Manning will reportedly not help soundtrack Thursday Night Football on Fox this season.

From a web site called “Lifehacker” an article about using third-party chargers for iPhones:

I’ll caveat my advice by saying that I’m hardly an electronics expert like Nathan K. or Benson Leung, but I’ll do my best.

They’re even verbifying in Latin now!

A Washington Monthly review of a new book about General Edward Lansdale, a major figure in American counterinsurgency efforts dating back to the Philippines and going through Vietnam, explained that while Lansdale relied heavily on advisers, infiltration, and subversion in his work, he also sought to develop political support for those who in the country in which he was working had views that mirrored those of American interests.  But it wasn’t enough to say that Lansdale combined these tactics or joined these tactics; no, the review insisted that he “twinned” them.

Words cannot describe…

The New Yorker ran a fairly long piece about one of those guys who had made and lost fortunes several times.  This subject of this article was also a pretty flashy fellow, as the author made clear in the first paragraph:

“Those are the freshest kicks,” a young bro in a dressing gown observed, complimenting Novagratz’s black patent shoes with orange piping and matching tassels.  (‘It’s all about peacocking,” Novogratz later told me, of his sartorial extravagance.’)

So THAT’S what it’s all about:  peacocking.

Bad verbification, bad values.

Veterans hospitals have been in the news a lot in recent years.  There have been some questions about the quality of the care they are providing and even more questions about whether veterans have appropriate access to care when they need it.  One proposed solution to this challenge has been to give veterans the option of seeking care at non-VA facilities.  One way to do that would be to give them vouchers for care at such facilities.  When the Washington Monthly weighed in on this issue, though, it explained that

The VSOs [note:  veterans services organizations] were clearly the biggest obstacle to the conservative dream of voucherizing the VA.

Voucherizing.  The Curmudgeon doesn’t think this idea is particularly a conservative idea and actually thinks it’s a good idea, but under no circumstances would he ever refer to it as “voucherizing.”

The Washington Monthly struck a similar note when it wrote about the movement to create more charter schools.

The truth is that charters have lived up to their billing in some places and been a disappointment in others.  In one city, however, they have fulfilled the vision of even their most ardent supports:  that chartering would not only raise student achievement, but gradually replace the old system.

The Curmudgeon will overlook that last, unnecessary comma and zero in instead on the obvious:  “chartering.”

Okay, we can say we’re chartering a boat or chartering a plane but we should not refer to the process of establishing charter schools as “chartering” a school. Unless maybe that school flies.

Or sails.

This one from 2015 slipped through the curmudgeonly cracks:  Time magazine, in an article about fusion energy as an alternative source, tried to explain the challenges posed by fusion by observing that

You see the difficulty.  Essentially you’re trying to birth a tiny star on Earth.

Notwithstanding Hattie McDaniel’s exclamation in Gone With the Wind that “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ no babies,” it’s not overly burdensome to talking about trying to give birth to a tiny star.

Deadspin reported on an incident at a major league baseball game:

Fan Struck In Forehead By Flying Bat At Red Sox Game, Stretchered Off

Well, maybe it happened right after the seventh inning stretcher.

An article on the web site The Verge told of a new process that might eventually lead to 3D printers producing small, low-cost homes. But will they be any good? The article explains that

Jason Ballard, one of ICON’s three founders, says he is going to trial the model as an office to test out their practical use.

He is going to trial the model, and presumably, he’ll get his verdict.

Food & Wine magazine is a frequent offender when it comes to abusing the queen’s English soThe Curmudgeonwas barely surprised when he saw the line

As one F&W editor said: “Would totally cheese plate these.”

Marco Rubio proved to be no threat politically to Donald Trump in 2016, yet some people think he may pose one in 2020.  Marco Rubio, alas, is not one of those people, telling CBS News that “I’m not primarying the president.”

A member of the Philadelphia Eagles is helping a youth football organization in town and the Inquirer told the story in an article with the headline

Eagles, Zach Ertz gift equipment to Kensington High School and ‘Wolves Youth’ football program.

The Philadelphia Flyers hockey team has a player who may face some legal problems in the near future and the Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia web site, speculating on whether the team would keep the player, wrote that “If the Flyers continue to roster Lehtera, they would be subjecting themselves to a lingering off-ice distraction, with more line of media questioning and an ongoing investigation that could lead to possible charges.”

That will have to do for now; the spell-check function on The Curmudgeon’s computer is groaning in protest over all of these non-existent words.