October 26, 2006

New Cliches

Filed under: pedantry — Brian @ 7:42 pm

I get tired of overused cliches.

“To run roughshod over” — of the people who use this, how many know what “roughshod” means? And isn’t the utility diminished when nobody normally speaks of being “shod” at all? Rough or otherwise?

“To avoid like the plague.” Yes, indeed. Like that plague we had last week, which everyone assiduously avoided, to their enduring credit and the benefit of their heirs.

“Sick as a dog.” In my experience, dogs are healthier than people.

Surely some were once useful. Somewhere, far back in our history, these phrases elicited a clear and useful picture in our minds, substituting vivid and potent imagery for a workaday description of a matter. But no more. I’m not among the first to point out that these have become (or always were) crutches for the inarticulate, spoken or written as though they were one word in many cases. A hand wave over an idea. The written equivalent of ending a poorly constructed sentence with, “you know what I mean.”

So I was thrilled to find this new one the other day, after wandering (in a way) around Midland, Texas.

“As useful as a uranium-enriched chocolate teapot.”

Such a thing is at once both useless and anti-useful. A chocolate teapot would simply fail as a teapot, but could be something else. Something cute. A confectionary novelty. But a radioactive one – now we’re talking. This is a thing that not only fails at its intended purpose, but brings with it entirely new and vastly more significant problems. Not only can you not use it to prepare that relaxing hot drink you may want, but simply being near it long enough will kill you.


This, from the fourth paragraph of this. Four paragraphs being about as far as I can get reading anything that’s glowing white text on black background.

October 24, 2006

Ah, Public School…

Filed under: fatherhood — Brian @ 7:36 pm

So I’m tucking my 6 year-old son into bed tonight. I’ve been doing bedtime prayers with him for a few weeks, and I’ve started asking him to come up with things he can either say thanks to God for, or things he might ask God for help with.

He’s struggling with ideas. Tonight he said he’s got nothing to be thankful for. I assured him he had plenty to be thankful for. He insisted otherwise, so I started in on the perennial list of things parents think kids should be thankful for:

“You have a warm bed in your own room to sleep in. You have friends to play with. You’re able to get up and walk around on your own legs, which some kids can’t do. You have a family that loves you…” and he chimes in with “yeah, and no drugs.”


“No drugs. We talked about that at school today.”

“Oh. Right. You don’t have a drug problem, and nobody you know does either. That’s something to be thankful for, because drug problems can be pretty awful…”

“No. Someone does.”

“What? Who?”



“Yeah, you.”

“What is my drug problem?”

“You drink beer. That has alcohol in it.”

OK. Now I know “kids grow up fast” and all, and most parents are more likely to start talking about sex, drugs and rock-n-roll too late rather than too soon, but let’s follow this through.

The following drugs were discussed in his first grade class today as “drugs,” wherein “drugs” = “bad”: Alcohol, prescriptions, cough medicine (unless you have a cough), and aspirin (unless you have a headache).

No mention of cigarettes.

No mention of street drugs. I asked about a few by name, and he just looked at me puzzled.

Thank you, dear local schools, for teaching my son that an adult having a beer with dinner constitutes a “problem,” but cigarettes and street drugs aren’t worth talking about.

I wonder when they’ll get to the evils of hydrocortisone.

October 1, 2006

Which is better?

Filed under: whatever — Brian @ 9:03 pm

I’m not sure what to think about this, but it does have me thinking. From “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert (which I got from my father and have just started reading), this quote of John Stuart Mill:

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, are a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question.

I don’t know if I agree with that or not. Sometimes I envy my golden retriever, that she’s always happy, no matter the kind of day she’s had, or what pleasures we’ve afforded her recently.

Other times, not so much.

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