Weak Scrod and Parachute Pants

There are some things in life that while being theoretically possible, their pursuit often seems to be an exercise in futility. You can only pursue them and hope for the best. The three best examples are: planning the next Buffalo Bills Super Bowl Party, explaining the plot of “Eyes Wide Shut”, and getting a benefit from a warranty or insurance claim. I am going to explore the last of these items.

In April of 2008, I purchase a computer bundle which included the computer tower, a monitor, and a printer. In addition, I purchased an extended warranty. I purchased the extended warranty because, like the parachute pants I bought in 1984, it seemed like a great idea at the time. After all, this warranty was being backed by a reputable company which had gained a reputation for its customer service. In an effort to practice good taste, I will not mention the company by name. Let’s put it this way, if you are in a seafood store, you don’t want to get the weak scrod. In other businesses, it is probably best not to buy services from an agency that happens to rhyme with weak scrod.

We enjoyed our computer system greatly over the course of the coming months. Suddenly, without warning, the monitor gave up the ghost. It just stopped working. My wife called the company servicing our extending warranty. They told my wife that our monitor was covered under warranty until April 2010. That was really good news because it was the day before Thanksgiving. April 2010 gave us plenty of wiggle room to get our monitor repaired or replaced free of charge. My wife took the monitor to the store to return it. The man behind the counter then informed her that the monitor was not covered. Doing her best to maintain a cool head, my wife demanded to speak to the manager. The nice man (whose breath reeked of weak scrod) told my wife that when we purchased the warranty, it only covered the computer tower. Neither the monitor nor the printer was covered. My wife explained this to me on the telephone. I looked down and was sure that, for a minute there, I was wearing the parachute pants I bought in 1984. In the end, they wound up recycling our monitor and giving us a $10 gift card.

I shouldn’t be surprised about this. Such things have happened many times throughout history. Scholars uncovered a record of an insurance claim. It appears that a man was looking to receive a benefit from Galilee Mutual Insurance. The man’s claim asserted that while feeding his pigs, he dropped bag of pearls he was holding. The pigs began to eat the pearls and spit them out. The man was then severely hog cut. In addition, a wind storm blew in and destroyed the cages holding his sacrificial turtledoves. The turtledoves flew out and the man’s dog ate them. Sadly, Galilee Mutual Insurance did not cover the man’s claim. Galilee Mutual cited an exclusion in the policy: Matthew 7:6 – “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” They also stated that the cages for the turtledoves would not be replaced as the windstorm fell under the Acts of God exclusion.

Another historical account tells of a man in 1588 that purchased a sextant. The sextant came with a 30 day no questions asked money back guarantee. The man filed a claim to get money back to return the sextant and repair damages to his ship. However, the warranty clearly stated that the sextant (a Vespucci 1600 model) was best used in conjunction with a map and a compass. The man used the Vespucci 1600 by itself and misinterpreted the readings. His ship wound up sailing right in the middle of the Spanish Armada fleet. This accidental placement in battle caused severe damage to his ship. The warranty also stipulated that the sextant is ineffective in British territory. The reason for this is that a sextant is designed to be used at night and the sun never sets on the British Empire.

As anyone can see, history clearly stakes the deck against a successful claim. All we can do is to get everything and writing and read the fine print as they say (whoever THEY are). Otherwise, you may be caught with your parachute pants hanging down and smelling of weak scrod.

What a Wonderful Word

I have always enjoyed learning new words. Some of this is due to the fact that from as early as I could remember, my mother would advise me to “look it up”. I’d grab the family dictionary. This great tome of reference was handy for increasing vocabulary and killing cockroaches. I think my parents figured I would either acquire a large vocabulary and become a great orator or develop huge biceps and play running back for the University of Georgia. Let’s just say no one’s ever confused me for Herschel Walker.

There are some words that I just find amusing. They are legitimate words with legitimate uses. Nonetheless, they sound funny to my ears. Some words even sound like you are deliberately trying to be funny when you use them. I have asked some close family and friends what words sound funny to them. I had no idea such a subject would result in sitting with my two sons; one holding a dictionary and the other holding a thesaurus. My older son even noted the irony that A-OK, alley-oop, and wassup are all in the dictionary but newb is not. I therefore present the following words with the reason why I find them amusing.

  • Annotate – This word came up because my daughter coincidentally called while my sons and I were involved in our vocabulary summit. The word simply means to provide explanatory notes on a subject. Still, I get the image of a 1970’s medicine commercial: Having trouble remembering things? Talk to your doctor about Annotate. Write it down.
  • Behoove – This word simply means that something is potentially advantageous or beneficial. I hear this word and get one mental image: insect shoes. Would it behoove a bee to wear shoes? How can a bee be behooved?
  • Carafe – This word sounds funny to me because a carafe typically has a long neck. It is defined as “a bottle with a flaring lip used to hold beverages” (according to Merriam-Webster). I don’t know what sounds funnier; the word or its definition.
  • Defenestrate – This means to throw someone out of a window. It sounds like a health condition. Mind you, one who has been defenestrated quickly acquires a health condition.
  • Guano – The word simply means bird droppings. I guess the scientific powers that be thought it would not sound offensive if they used a Spanish word. They were right. Now, it just sounds funny.
  • Juxtapose – Come on, now. Why not just say “side by side” and be done with it?
  • Ointment – Chicken pox is not funny. You should at least get a giggle trying to relive the itching. Salve just isn’t funny enough.
  • Onomatopoeia – This is the use of words to represent a sound (The thunder crashed. The snake hissed). Go ahead. Say it to yourself. You just giggled didn’t you.
  • Persnickety – This implies someone is fussy about minor details. If you don’t find this word funny. I might suggest you are a persnickety, picayunish, fussbudget. Say THAT without a giggle.
  • Phlegm – I don’t know why this word sounds so funny. It just does. It’s not a shame to have phlegm. It’s just a shame to share it.
  • Pomegranate – This is a tasty fruit. It brings the image of a magic trick. The magician made the rock disappear when he learned how to pomegranate.
  • Quiche – Real men don’t eat it because they can’t stop laughing.
  • Rubric – A rubric is the way that something can be categorized. To me, it sounds like a word you’d hear Scooby Doo say.
  • Scabies – Once again, the scientific powers that be went for the funny bone. It sounds a lot funnier than saying someone has parasitic mites. Those jerks are snickering as we speak as they develop a new ointment for scabies.
  • Similarly – OK let’s review some of what we covered so far: After insisting that the pomegranate and the ointment be shelved similarly, the persnickety store manager was defenestrated.
  • Spelunker – This hilarious sounding word defines a cave explorer. What strange however, is that in spite of what the word implies there is no verbal component to this noun. A spelunker does not spelunk. He can however be defenestrated.
  • Sycophant – A sycophant is a social parasite; a person who users flattery or a self-effacing appearance to gain an advantage or favor. Again, this word brings a twisted mental image to my mind. The college-aged pachyderm told his parents: Mom, Dad, I’m a sycophant.” OH NO! WHAT WILL THE NEIGHBORS THINK?
  • Wiki – A wiki is a web site that allows visitors to make contributions or corrections for the purpose of reference on a particular subject. From what I understand, the word wiki is Hawaiian for quick. Of course, I read that on a wiki web page so that’s probably not true.

There you have it folks: a list of words which sound funny to me in spite of their legitimate usage. I am certain as time goes on. People will point out words I omitted. They’re just being persnickety.

Hey There, Sunshine

My work day usually starts off with a variety of routine sounds. The first sound comes from one of the four cats that roam our house. It is always the same cat of the four — Sonic. Sonic unfortunately has more respect for routine that he does for the sleep patterns of my wife and me. He jumps on the bed and emits what I have dubbed the Marge Simpson meow. In short, he meows at us; but is so apathetic he doesn’t open his mouth to produce this sound. Sonic then feels it necessary to climb on my pillow and begin nuzzling my face. It’s is usually at this point when I give the cat lessons in Newton’s Law and the Laws of Aerodynamics simultaneously. All of this usually happens about an hour or two before the next sound of the day.

My alarm clock lies across the room. The reason for this is simple. If I have to get up and go across the room to shut off the alarm, I’ll stay out of bed (WRONG!!). I reset the clock to go off in another hour. After all, I should have no problem going back to sleep and that extra hour will make all the difference in the world (WRONG AGAIN!!). The alarm clock emits a sound reminiscent of the Emergency Alert System tone as recorded by a mid – 1980’s punk rock cover band. In spite of this, I endure this sound twice every morning; 5 days a week. What can I say? I can be as much a slave to routine as Sonic.

I then place my hopes upon my bathroom sink. Every morning, I approach the sink with the firm belief that my soul will be revived by the brushing of my teeth and the splashing of water on my face (Morning 3, Shane 0). I head downstairs to the smell of coffee and breakfast lovingly prepared by my wife. I walk into the kitchen to grab my coffee. It is at this point that I hear an ominous growl emanating from the kitchen counter. The coffee maker is hissing at me. It’s almost as if my coffee maker doesn’t like to do mornings and is in need of…well…a cup of coffee. I leave the room. After all, I already HAVE coffee. I am not going to tolerate such a contemptuous tone from a machine (I know; why stop now?).

Finally, I sit on front of the TV to look at some very important developments in the world. Once I see that the roadrunner has AGAIN eluded the otherwise intelligent coyote, I turn to the news and watch for the traffic report. Mind you, I take the same route to work five days a week. There isn’t much short of a black hole in the middle of the interstate that will make me change my route. This is not an issue of routine. It is due to the fact that any alternative route will only further delay my trip. I view the map on the TV and listen to the reporter speak of accidents and construction work. Some roads are red (very slow traffic) and others are yellow (traffic just slightly faster than a funeral procession). Suddenly, something very out of the ordinary happens. The interstate that I take to work is GREEN. Things are looking up.

My dad used to greet me every morning by saying: “Hey there, Sunshine. BOY, DO I FEEL GOOD THIS MORNING.” I decided to try this approach in light of the unusual traffic news. I stood in front of the TV and shouted: BOY, DO I FEEL GOOD THIS MORNING. At this point, the cat and the coffee maker let out a guttural groan. This is followed by the traffic reporter announcing a “rubbernecker delay” on the interstate that I take to go to work. Nevertheless, chanting my Dad’s mantra felt good. Final Score: Morning 4, Shane 1.

Class Dismissive

As young children, we are taught to abide by a set of rules. These rules may pertain to playing a game (spin the dial and the highest number gets the first turn), behavior in the classroom (raise your hand to ask permission to go to the restroom), or addressing an adult properly (Miss B, may I please call my mother for a change of clothes? I REALLY needed to go to the restroom). This leads to the use of words such as etiquette and chivalry. Most people in today’s society refer two these two words as bygone behaviors (“That boy has no manners”) or extinct entities (“Chivalry is dead”). I am here once again to inform and entertain. That being said, let’s examine these two words: etiquette and chivalry.

Etiquette is an unwritten code of behavior for polite society. Many of these are determined by one’s community. The word has a rather unique origin. The word literally translates from the French as “ticket”. Apparently, Louis XIV had a gardener who became quite miffed at passersby who would walk on the lawn as a thoroughfare and even through the garden. The gardener began putting up signs (or tickets) to ward these rude people away. The gardener was apparently not privy to the use of rock salt in a pellet gun. Then again, some would have regarded such a response to be equally rude. Anyway, this lead to signs being posted in French courts as to where people could stand and when they could speak. This would lead to the first formation of the Polite Police. Legend has it that speaking out of turn could get you three days in the Polite Pokey. I find this all interesting because; in modern society disobeying a posted sign (“No Parking This Side…Monday – Wednesday – Friday 8:27 AM – 9:12 PM), you are issued a ticket. Then, you have to go to court and obey more signs as the risk of getting another ticket or worse.

I had a science teacher once who found it extremely rude to chew gum in her class. Any student guilty of such an infraction had to write the following sentence 500 times: “I will not chew gum in Mrs. Douglas’ Life Science class in Room 80 of Quail Hollow Junior High School in Charlotte, North Carolina”. Needless to say, I never chewed gum in her class. After all, I may have flunked her class but I was not a barbarian.

Chivalry is basically another form of etiquette (without as many posted signs). Chivalry derives from French word chevalier (“one who sings in a 1959 Academy Award winning musical”). Chivalry is simply a code of conduct that teaches (and expects) men of all ages to act as gentlemen. People often associate chivalry with a basic level of respect toward women. In short, a gentleman is to treat a woman like a lady (thank you Eddie Cornelius). I took a girl to a dance once when I was a kid. I believe I acted as a gentleman. I presented my date with a corsage. I complimented her about the mint green dress she wore. I then politely asked her mother to pin her corsage for me so that my nervous shaking would not risk given my date a collapsed lung.

Unfortunately, chivalry and etiquette can often result in a frustrating stalemate. It is not uncommon to see two fine Southern gentleman engaged in a fistfight because each insisted on paying the check. After all, the only alternative would be for one of them to compromise their chivalrous integrity — HORRORS!

It is also worth noting that geography sometimes dictates etiquette and chivalry (even in the same country). Back in the 1990’s, I was working in a hospital and approached a nurse I had not met previously. I said: Excuse me, Ma’am. She indignantly responded: “WHAT did you say?” She then ranted about how she hated to be addressed as Ma’am. I explained that it was merely a form of Southern chivalry. She then explained that in the Northern United States, many women interpret being addressed as “Ma’am” as an indicator that they are old. Embarrassed by my faux pas, I said: Duly noted, Toots. It won’t happen again. After all, I AM a Southern Gentleman.