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Weekend Wonk

Staying Put

Old joke:
“Lived here all your life, old timer?”
“Not yet.”

You can blame this wonk on Sally.

She has lived all over the place during the last 45 years, both in this country and abroad. Shea, on the other hand, has been hunkered down in Albuquerque since 1969. So in her email to me a couple of weeks ago, she wondered out loud how it might feel to have put down roots as I did. Then she closed with “probably the grass looks greener sometimes from [Shea’s] side, too.”


Readers of this cyber-space (you know who you are) will recall “Sally,” who showed up in a couple of recent wonks. Sally was that fellow grad student at Colorado State who went to Mexico with me over Christmas break in 1964 (“Ford Flathead II”). In “Equus Caballus,” Sally’s derisive laughter assaulted my equestrian skills, or lack thereof. After the Mexico trip, I thought I was in love with Sally and suffered the sorrows of young Werther well into the springtime.

More Pun-ishment

Two questions linger from last week’s discussion of puns: namely, why puns are so often scorned as “the lowest form of humour” (whoever did say that, consensus seems to be that he was a Brit), and how puns are revelatory of deeper rhetorical mysteries. Well, let me and a couple of friends wrestle with those questions. I have a hunch, by the way, that the answers are connected.

A Pun, My Word

“But wait! There’s more!” Department: Now you can see and hear Shea in the cyberflesh, reading vintage wonks! Just go to

Equus Caballus

Who does not love horses? Magnificent animals, are they not? Often I come upon horsemen (and -women—usually women, in fact) when I am running in the Rio Grande bosque. We greet each other cordially and I step aside so they can pass. I usually find something nice to say, along the lines of “Handsome steed you have there, my friend.”

Ford Flathead II

I don’t remember much about that first semester at Colorado State, and maybe that’s for the best. It was a mixed bag, surely. I was on my own for the first time and pushing a barrow-load of insecurities. Too much partying, too much floundering and dithering. To be teaching for the first time was both a heady and a terrifying experience.* But somehow I got through it, and I made friends that I still have these long years later.

Ford Flathead I

I graduated from college in June, 1964, and in late August of that year I lit out for the West to enter the Masters Program in English at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.* I did my lighting out in a 1950 Ford, a black two-door sedan with a stick shift ("three in the tree") and the legendary flathead (or "L-head") V8 engine. First, a word about that engine.

Anniversary Wonk

"You’re all entitled to my opinion."

Says here that my maiden Weekend Wonk column was posted on the 20th of January, 2007. But I didn’t want to break into my three-part wonk on language abuse which concluded last week, so with this marking of the milestone I am, to vary the old phrase, a week late and a dollar short. Still, I do want to mark the milestone, look back a bit, pay some debts, and, well, celebrate. It’s been a wonderful year, pounding out these wonks.

Language, One More Time

Prescriptivists are often seen as obsessives with too much time on their hands. But we are all prescriptivists, rule enforcers, to an extent. These are not grand, all-out battles that we fight, however. “Skirmish” might be a better word. I will give you “on accident” with as much grace as I can muster but will fight to the death to preserve the downfall/pitfall/drawback distinction. I will join in the derisive laughter about split infinitives, but will get exceedingly shirty if you misuse the semicolon and the conjunctive adverb.

On Accident

So the fruit of my loins protests that he broke the goldfish bowl "ON accident," and I blanch, or pretend to. Does Dan’s new wording mean that something is going somewhere in a hand basket? I don’t think so, and that exposes our assumption that language change is always for the worse. Why is this so?

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