Saturday, January 17, 2009

Words can be so darned funny

After my last column appeared, Reader Amanda said, “I have to give you the title.” What title, I dutifully asked. “My curmudgeon title. I think you’ve earned it.” What? Me? Oh — you mean my complaining just a little bit, here and there, about the occasional use of language that makes me want to scream. Oh, that.

Then Reader Cheryl hinted that the column was a little, um … I think “dense” was the word we agreed on. Any way you look at it, the result is that I might have complained a step too far for some readers. So today’s column will be — ta da! — filled only with smiles and laughs, just for you who want to see how language is still the cornerstone of our humor (unless there’s an available banana peel).

Most of these language laughs — none of them written by me — have been circulating electronically for quite a while, but I’m hoping that at least some of them are new to you.

Try these definitions, reflecting our current society. Cube Farm: An office filled with cubicles. Prairie Dogging: When someone yells or drops something loudly in a cube farm, and people’s heads pop up over the walls to see what’s going on. Ohnosecond: That minuscule fraction of time in which you realize that you’ve just made a BIG mistake (like after hitting “send” on an email by mistake). WOOFS: Well-Off Older Folks. Irritainment: Entertainment and media spectacles that are annoying but you find yourself unable to stop watching them.

Of course, words don’t have to be new to be amusing. Try these thoughts: In a democracy it’s your vote that counts; in feudalism, it’s your Count that votes. A chicken crossing the road: poultry in motion. With her marriage she got a new name and a dress. Local Area Network in Australia: The LAN down under. A boiled egg is hard to beat. He had a photographic memory that was never developed. Those who get too big for their britches will be exposed in the end. When you’ve seen one shopping center you've seen a mall. When she saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she’d dye.

Is this fun? Do you prefer it to my saying “Next time you hear someone say ‘Thanks for inviting my wife and I’ you need to yell STOP IT!”? In case you’re enjoying the humor, here are some more smiles, many of them attributed to George Carlin, some to be found on T-shirts, all using language for amusement: One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. Atheism is a non-prophet organization. I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose. If a deaf person swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap? If someone with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is it considered a hostage situation? Is there another word for synonym?

Where do forest rangers go to “get away from it all”? What should you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant? If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages? Would a fly without wings be called a walk? If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked? If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent? One nice thing about egotists — they don't talk about other people. How is it possible to have a civil war? If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown too? If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done? Why is there an expiration date on sour cream? (What happens after that date? Does it turn sweet?)

Finally, let’s look at some signs that the online community has made well known. Are they real? Who knows? They use language as the basis of their humor, so here we go.

In a podiatrist's office: Time Wounds All Heels
On a plumber's truck: We Repair What Your Husband Fixed
On a maternity room door: Push. Push. Push!
At an optometrist's office: If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place
At a propane filling station: Thank heaven for little grills
In a veterinarian's waiting room: Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!

There, that’s it for the laughing stuff — the next column will be All Curmudgeonly!