Sunday, August 10, 2008

Nerds and Words

As a lifelong nerd, I have always been fascinated by words. Puns, double entendres, shaggy dogs, obscure words, and other nuances of the language keep my attention.Combine this interest with my habit of shooting from the lip and it makes me highly quotable for desperate reporters. A few stories can illustrate my meaning.

Several years ago, I told a reporter from the Independent Weekly about the SCV. I said "This is a lot of shit to put up with for a history club". You can still Google that quote and turn up a couple of articles.

Our church planted a field of potatoes in the spring and is now harvesting them and donating them to needy families and food banks. I told my wife that they needed to call it "Taters for Tots". Like "Toys for Tots", get it? Work with me on this!

In the fall of 1965, I sat in Mrs. Ora Adams English class at George Washington Junior High in Tampa. As Mrs Adams tried to teach us how to diagram sentences, I wondered of what possible use this skill would ever be. Then 27 years later, Bill Clinton became President. Suddenly, it all became useful. Is oral sex considered sex? "It depends on what the meaning of is is." "I did not have sex with that woman." the list goes on. You had to diagram any statement made by Clinton to determine what it was that he meant. Thank you, Mrs Adams.

My favorite Clinton word story happened after his grand jury appearance where he finally owned up to having sex with Gennifer Flowers. Speaking to a Clinton supporter at work about this, I pointed out that Clinton had finally admitted the Flowers affair. He responded that Clinton had only admitted that he had sex with Flowers once in 1978(?). I explained that he had not been asked about other years, so he didn't offer any other data. The Clinton supporter responded by telling me how good Bill was with language and words. I told him that Gennifer Flowers was right. She said that Bill was a "cunning linguist." He still tells people that story.

One day, a few years ago, in a phone conversation, I told my boss, "There's no need to flagellate ourselves about this." A couple of days later he told me that he had stopped and looked the word up. I'm probably one of the few restaurant managers who keeps a set of dictionaries in the office. Sometimes, while eating lunch, I just open one up and read a few definitions. It's not easy being a nerd.


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