Anyway, I was reading Boris Johnson in the Telegraph the other day. Being mayor of London has not stopped him from scribbling — a lot. (He was a famous writer and editor before he became mayor.)
Talking about “transport,” he was saying that trains are now running faster, and with fewer delays, “than they were four years ago (to pick a period entirely at random).”
Johnson, of course, was elected four years ago (and just reelected). How many American politicians would say that? “. . . four years ago (to pick a period entirely at random).” Not many, I wager.
I raised an eyebrow at a phrase in this Associated Press report: “the authoritarian government in Laos.” Laos, of course, is a Communist state — “the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.” Communists like to call the states they control democratic republics.
I looked up “authoritarian” in the dictionary: “favoring complete obedience or subjection to authority as opposed to individual freedom.”
Well, in that sense, then, all Communist states are authoritarian.
To be continued . . .
In a column last week, I wrote about government welfare to the needy (and others): It was once called “relief.” A reader — my mother, specifically — wrote to say, “Welfare in Maine was called ‘Mother’s Aid’ when I was there.” The phrase was uttered “with hushed tones, and with sadness for those who needed the aid — which seemed to me like almost everybody.”
Another dose of family news: The other day, I made the mistake of suggesting to my nephew, ten years old, that he say “lie low,” when speaking in the present tense, not “lay low.” He rebuked me: “No, it’s ‘lay low.’” What does Unc know about language?
The country at large is not helping him. I spotted the following in an AP report last week: “Walker has decided to lay low in Wisconsin.”
Well, maybe it’s an idiom . . . (In fact, I think it is. I hereby give my blessing, not that anyone has asked for it.)
Some more language? Senator Rob Portman was in our offices last week, sharing his plans for deficit reduction — sensible, pragmatic plans. “They’ll never fly,” I thought. “They’re too much like right.”
I had a friend from Waycross, Ga., the son of a sharecropper. Often, I’d hear him say, “That’s too much like right.” Let me think of a sample sentence. Okay: “We’re a twosome, they’re a foursome. There’s no one ahead of them. They could let us play through and never know the difference, but no: That’d be too much like right.”
In my column last Monday, I had some harsh things to say about Chief Justice John Roberts. Those things had some snark in them too. A reader wrote that he thought these comments were “beneath” me. I concede the point. I think that Roberts stumbled badly last summer, but I hope he has a long, illustrious tenure, and I expect he will too. We all stumble now and then, sometimes with serious consequences.
What I ask of Roberts, and all the justices, is this: that they be wedded to the Constitution, not giving a fig about politics or popularity. There’s a reason we give ’em life tenure. Otherwise, we’d have them run for office and reelection, the way we do so many others . . .
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I grew up in golf, once worked in golf — and have heard just about every golf joke under the sun. But once in a blue moon, I hear one new to me. A reader sent me the below, amid a string of others. This joke may not make much sense to non-golfers. But to golfers, it should be damn funny.
Anyway, here we go:
Police are called to an apartment and find a woman standing over a lifeless man. She is holding a bloody 5-iron. The detective says, “Ma’am, is that your husband?” “Yes, it is.” “Did you hit him with that golf club?” “Yes,” she says. “How many times?” says the detective.
The woman pauses, then says, “I don’t know — put me down for five.”
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