Monday, November 11, 2019

Five Guidelines for Living

Number 16 presents five guidelines to help you cope with the vicissitudes and difficulties of life.  Keep in mind that there are many more and that these are just a small sample.


1.  Groundhog Day is just a movie.  There are no dress rehearsals in real life.  Sometimes we are given chances to do better, but we can never go back in time and completely erase our original mistakes.  What's done is done and we have to live with the past and move on.  Time is not a renewable resource.  That is why the wisest among us learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

2.  To err is human, but there are many things we can do about our most egregious mistakes and shortcomings.  We can acknowledge them, learn from them, apologize for them, atone for them and try not to repeat them.  What we can't do or shouldn't do is pretend that they didn't happen.

3.  Some mysteries are beyond human comprehension and human understanding. No one has an answer or an explanation for everything.

4.  Try to look at all sides of an issue, even opinions you disagree with.  That doesn't mean you have to change your mind.  It just means you should not be so rigid as to refuse to give other views a thought, even those which are immoral and reprehensible to you  It is worthwhile to ask yourself why some people hold such opinions.  You should continually examine your own beliefs and those of others.

5.  Try not to panic.  In times of crisis, we always fare better when we remain calm and in control.  Panicking never put out a fire.

- Joanne

Friday, November 1, 2019

The language of Donald Trump


'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”     

- Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), English writer of fiction
From Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

In Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme egg.  In the course of their conversation, Humpty expresses his philosophy about words and language.  He boldly declares that when he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean.

U.S. President Donald Trump's espouses the same philosophy as Humpty Dumpty in Looking Glass.
Trump is a master at using language to mislead and misinform.  He endlessly repeats words and slogans until his supporters are so completely brain-washed that they repeat his chants in a cult-like fashion.  How many times have we heard "witch-hunt" and "treason" and "no collusion?"  It's brain-numbing, exhausting and extremely annoying.

Let's examine two of Trump's favourite words - "witch-hunt" and "treason."

In its historical sense, a witch-hunt is a hunt for and subsequent persecution of persons accused of being witches, as in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts.  In a more informal sense, it is a campaign against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular opinions.  Since this is not the 17th century, and no one is accusing the president and his followers of being witches, Trump must be referring to the more informal meaning of the term "witch-hunt."  However, Trump and his followers are free to express their opinions as much as they want in a democratic country.  They are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.  The press regular reports on his rantings and he tweets to his heart's content. 

The truth is that what Donald Trump calls "witch-hunts" are the legitimate and necessary investigations into his criminal behaviour and activities.  Special Investigator Robert Mueller, in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, found evidence that Trump obstructed justice.  That is a crime.  Trump is now facing impeachment because he has admitted to calling a foreign leader (Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky) and asking him to dig up dirt on a political opponent - Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter.  According to a whistleblower, the call was made as part of a campaign by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. 

Alexander Vindman, a decorated U.S, Army officer and top White House Ukraine expert, told congressional investigators that Trump was blocking $400 million in security aid to force that country to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son.  That is against the law.

Now, let's look at the word "treason."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines treason as "the offense of attempting overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family"  It is a very serious offence, but President Trump justs throw around the word.  It's as if anyone who criticizes him or is disloyal to him is guilty of treason.  Treason involves disloyalty to the state or an attempt to overthrow the state.  Donald Trump is not the state.  He is not America. 

Donald Trump has broken the  law, and contrary to what Trump believes, an American president is NOT above the law.  That is why the process of impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  A president must be accountable for "high crimes and misdemeanors.'  In addition, Trump and the White House have continually attempted to stonewall investigations by withholding information and ignoring congressional subpoenas.

Humpty Dumpty's theory of language, echoed by Donald Trump, is very dangerous to society and to democracy.  If words can mean anything, then words mean nothing.  They lose their meaning.  A drastic loss of communication ensues.  It can become downright Orwellian as in Nineteen Eighty-Four's "Newspeak."  Therein lies the path to authoritarianism or totalitarianism.

Below is an image of Donald Trump as King Louis XIV of France, known as the "Sun King."  Louis famously stated "L'etat c'est moi." ("I am the state.).

- Joanne

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Vocabulary Test #5 (Ten words beginning with the letter "S")

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #5 
Ten words beginning with the letter "S"

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  scintilla (noun)
A.   A spicy Mexican dish

B.  A Spanish coin

C.  Dust

D.  Spark, trace

E.  A South American cocktail

2.  septuagenarian (noun)
A.   A person who was born in July, the seventh month of the year

B.  A person whose age is in the seventies

C.  A person who believes the number seven is lucky

D.  A person who dies  at 70 to 79 years of age

E.   The seventh child born into a family

3.  soporific (adjective)
A.  Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy

B.  Causing or tending to prevent sleep, such as drinking caffeine at night

C.  Not professional, amateurish

D.  Quiet and soft-spoken

E.   Very talkative and garrulous

4.  solipsism (noun)
A.  A witty remark; a quip

B.  A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

C.  A kind of poem with an unusual rhyming scheme

D.  A deep scar

E.   A word that is commonly mispronounced

5.  serpentine (adjective)

A.  Fast-moving and nimble

B.   Of or resembling an insect (as in form or movement)

C.  Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement)

D.  Magical and mysterious

E.   Thin and gaunt

6.  sycophant (noun)
A.  One who is cunning and devious 

B.  A fruit merchant

C.   A devoted friend

D.   One who is poverty-striken

E.  A servile self--seeking flatterer

7.  supplicate (verb)

A.  To replace one employee with another

B.   To delegate responsibility

C.   To delay intentionally in order to prevent something from occurring 

D.  To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God

E.   To actively hide the truth

8.  serendipity (noun)

A.   The quality of having a wild or creative imagination

B.  The feeling of having a beautiful thought

C.  The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for

D.   A loud and disturbing sound

E.    The feeling of triumph after overcoming a difficulty

9.  supine (adjective)

A.  Having an arrogant and dismissive manner

B.  Something that is delightful and pleasing to the senses

C.   Supple, not stiff; easy to bend

D.   Standing in an upright manner

E.  Lying on the back with the face upward

10.  sashay (verb)

A.  To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner

B.  To do needlework

C.  To run back and forth

D.  To deliberately attempt to attract the attention of a celebrity or a dignitary

E.   To leave a room quickly and quietly

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  D
scintilla (noun): Spark, trace, as in not a scintilla of doubt.

2.  B.
septuagenarian (noun): A  person whose age is in the seventies, as in The septuagenarian is fit and healthy.

3.  A
soporific (adjective): Causing or tending to cause sleep; tending to dull alertness or lethargy as in This medication is soporific, so do not drive after taking it.

4.  B
solipsism (noun): A theory holding that the self can know nothing but its own modifications and that the self is the only existent thing; extreme egocentrism

5.  C
serpentine (adjective): Of or resembling a serpent (as in form or movement). as in The restaurant had a large sepentine-shaped bar.

6. E
sycophant (noun):  A servile self--seeking flatterer, as in The sycophant paid his manager compliment after compliment, trying to win his favour and gain access to his social circle.

7.  D.
supplicate (verb): To make a humble entreaty: especially to pray to God; to ask humbly and earnestly of, as in The homeless man was not too proud to supplicate for change to buy foodThe ill woman uses her nightly prayer to supplicate for strength.

8.  C.
serendipity (noun): The faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for, as in We have all experienced the serendipity of relevant information arriving just when we were least expecting it.  

9.  E
supine (adjective):
Lying on the back with the face upward, as in Not all abdominal exercises need to be performed in the supine position.

10.  A
sashay (verb): To strut or move about in an ostentatious or conspicuous manner, as in She sashayed around the room as if she were a queen.

-  Joanne

Friday, October 18, 2019

16 Riddles: What do you get when you cross . . .?

Do you need a bit of humorous wordplay in these troubled times.  Well, you've come to the right website.  Here are 16  "What do you get when you cross . . ."  riddles  from Number 16.


1.  What do you get when you cross a fish with an elephant?


 A swimming trunk

2.  What do you get when you cross a lawyer and a skunk?


Law and odour

3.  What do you get when you cross a shark with a snowball or a vampire with a snowman?



4.  What do you get when you cross a sheep and a bee?


A bah-humbug

5.  What do you get when you cross a dyslexic, an insomniac, and an agnostic?


Someone who lays awake at night wondering if there is a dog

6.  What do you get when you cross a kangaroo with a skyscraper?


A high jumper

7.  What do you get when you cross a clown with a goat?


A Silly Billy

8.  What do you get when you cross a vampire with a mosquito?


A very itchy neck

9.  What do you get when you cross a cow with a trampoline?


A milkshake

10.  What do get when you cross a lemon and a cat?


A sourpuss

11.  What do you get when you cross a chicken and a chihuahua?


Pooched eggs

12.  What do you can when you cross a monster and a pig?



13.  What do you get when you cross a hula dancer with a boxer?


Hawaiian Punch

14.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a ghost?



15.  What do you get when you cross Bambi and a ghost?



16.  What do you get when you cross a chicken with a centipede?


Extra drumsticks

- Compiled by Joanne

Great first lines from great novels

"All great authors know that a killer first line is almost more important than the first few pages, and authors put in hours of work just to get the right sentence on paper."

- Mary Jane Hathaway
Huff Post, December 18, 2015

Not all great novels have memorable opening lines but most do.  Opening lines are like a fishing rod.  They hook the reader and reel him in.  I have pondered the first words of many great works of literature and they have inspired me, intrigued me and delighted me.  Here are some of the best opening lines from some of my favourite novels.  There are many more, of course, and this is just a small sample.

Some of the Best Opening Lines in Literature

lt was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all gong direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

- Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English writer and social critic

From A Tale of Two Cities [1859]

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

- George Orwell (1903-1950), English novelist, essayist, journalist and critic
From Nineteen Eighty-Four {1949}

All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.

- Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910), Russian writer
From Anna Karenina [1877]

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.

- Jane Austen (1775-1817), English novelist 
From Pride and Prejudice [1813]

It was a pleasure to burn.

- Ray Bradbury (1920-2012), American writer of science fiction, horror and mystery
From Fahrenheit 451 [1953]

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since.  "Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."

- F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940), American author
From The Great Gatsby [1925]

- Joanne

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Oxymoron: Meaning and Examples

OXYMORON (noun) : a combination of contradictory or incongruous words (such as cruel kindness)
broadly : something (such as a concept) that is made up of contradictory or incongruous elements

- Merriam-Webster Dictionary

* The plural of oxymoron is oxymorons or oxymora.

An oxymoron is a figure of speech.  It is used as a rhetorical or a literary device to create humour or satire or irony.  It usually consists of one or two words which seemingly contradict each other, yet appear next to each other.  It is interesting to note that the word "oxymoron" is in itself contradictory.  The word is derived from two ancient Greek words, oxys, meaning "sharp" and moronos, meaning "dull" or "stupid."

There is a difference between an "oxymoron" and a "paradox."  A paradox consists of a statement or a group of statements, while an oxymoron consists of two contradictory terms.  Merriam-Webster defines a paradox as "something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible." - Example:  In a paradox, he has discovered that stepping back from his job has increased the rewards he gleans from it.

List of oxymorons

absolutely unsure
accidentally on purpuse
agree to disagree
almost exactly
alone in a crowd
alone together
awfully nice
civil war
clearly confused
confirmed rumour
cruel kindness
deafening silence
found missing
growing smaller
jumbo shrimp
lead balloon
liquid gas
minor crisis
new classic
old news
only choice
open secret
original copy
plastic silverware
pretty ugly
small crowd
working vacation

List of satirical oxymorons

Satirical oxymorons are composed of words that are not inherently contradictory but express the opinion that the two do not go together.

airline schedules
American culture
business ethics
just war
maternity fashion
military intelligence
political leadership


"All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king."

- J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), English writer, poet and academic
From The Lord of the Rings


Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.  Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say he is brave; it is a loose misapplication of the word.

- Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar

It is curious - curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

Mark Twain (1835-1910), American writer, humorist and lecturer
From Eruption; Hitherto Unpublished Pages About Men and Events (1940) edited by Bernard DeVoto

- Joanne

Monday, September 23, 2019

Vocabulary Quiz #4 (Phobias)

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #4

Ten Phobias

PHOBIA (noun): an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation

The word "phobia" comes from the Greek word phobos, meaning fear or horror

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz on phobias.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  technophobia (noun)

A.  Fear or dislike of the internet and social media

B.  Fear or dislike of computer nerds and information technicians

C.  Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

D.  Fear or dislike of computer viruses

E.  Fear or dislike of excessive email

2.  hydrophobia (noun)

A.  A morbid dread of being electrocuted

B.  A morbid fear of thunder and lightning

C.  A morbid fear of hydro poles

D.  A morbid dread of water

E.  A morbid fear of freezing

3.  triskaidekaphobia (noun)

A.  Fear of the number three

B.  Fear of the number 13

C.  Fear of the number 30

D,  Fear of the "Three of Spades"

E.  Fear of Thursday

4.  panophobia (noun)

A.  A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear

B.  A fear of forests and trees

C.  A fear of darkness

D.  A morbid fear of being lost or abandoned

E.  A fear of loud voices

5.  nomophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of famous people

B.  Fear of  public speaking

C.  Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

D.  Fear of security guards and police officers

E.  Fear of very tall people

6.  pyrophobia (noun)

A.  Morbid dread of pirates

B.  Morbid dread of funerals

C.  Morbid dread of torches

D,  Morbid dread of swords

E.  Morbid dread of fire

7.  photophobia (noun)

A.  Intolerance to light

B.  Fear of cameras

C.  Aversion to having one's picture taken

D.  Fear of selfies

E.  Fear of darkness

8.  ophidiophobia (noun)

A.  Abnormal fear of birds

B.  Abnormal fear of bees and wasps

C.  Abnormal fear of snails

D.  Abnormal fear of snakes

E.   Abnormal fear of jelly fish

9.  amathophobia (noun)

A.  Fear of foreign languages

B.  Fear of mold and mildew

C.  Fear of mathematics

D.  Fear of dirty laundry

E.  Fear of dust

10.  cynophobia (noun)

A.  Pathological fear or loathing of drums and drumming

B.  Pathological fear or loathing of dogs

C.  Pathological fear or loathing of the colour red

D.  Pathological fear or loathing of cymbals

E.   Pathological fear or loathing of chipmunks

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  C
techophobia (noun): Fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers

2.  D
hyrophobia (noun): A morbid dread of water, also known as "aquaphobia"

3.  B
triskaidekaphopia (noun): fear of the number 13

4.  A
panophobia (noun): A condition of vague, nonspecific anxiety: generalized fear - the fear of everything or that something terrible will happen

5.  C
nomophobia (noun): Fear of being without access to a working cell phone

6.  E
pyrophobia (noun): Morbid dread of fire

7.  A
photophobia (noun):  Intolerance to light, especially pain sensitiveness to strong light

8.  D
ophidiophobia (noun):  Abnormal fear of snakes as in "The fear of snakes, called ophidiophobia, is a common phobia."

9.  E
amathophobia (noun): Fear of dust, derived from the Greek word amathos meaning sand

10. B
 cynophobia (noun): Pathological fear or loathing of dogs as in "If a person were bitten by a dog, the experience could lead to cynophobia."

- Joanne

Thursday, September 12, 2019

When to use "every day" and "everyday?"

Sly and the Family Stone

Sometimes I'm right and I can be wrong
My own beliefs are in my song
The butcher, the banker, the drummer and then
Makes no difference what group I'm in

I am everyday people, yeah yeah . . . 

- Lyrics from the song "Everyday People"
By Sly Stone

Back in 1969, Sly and the Family Stone had a big hit with the song "Everyday People."  They proclaimed loudly that they were part of the whole of humanity.  In reference to the song title, "everyday" is single word and an adjective.  It modifies a noun, and it is used to describe something as normal and commonplace.  "Everyday" people are ordinary people.  Your ordinary routine is your "everyday routine."

Does that mean that "everyday" as a single word is always correct?  No, it does not.  "Every day" (two words) is a noun phrase, consisting of the adjective "every" PLUS a noun "day." as in "The athlete runs every day between 10 and 11 a.m."  "Every day" provides information about time.
When it describes time, it usually appears at the beginning or end of a clause.

So, what is a quick way to remember whether to use "every day" or "everyday?"  Well, keep in mind that "every day" is synonymous with "each day."  If you can replace "each day" with "every day" and it makes sense, then you are on the right track.  If it doesn't look right, then use "everyday."

Here are some sentences in which "everyday" and "every day" are used correctly.

I get up early in the morning and jog.  That is my everyday routine.

I eat a healthy breakfast every day.

Those are just my everyday shoes.  I don't wear them on special occasions.

That's an everyday occurrence in our house. (meaning "daily")

Every day, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. (meaning "each day")

Note: A hyphen between "every" and "day" should not be used.

Literary Quote of the Day

From:  The Scarlet Letter

“No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.”

Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), American novelist and short story writer
Published: 1850 
Nathaniel Hawthorne

- Joanne

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Fun with words: Malapropisms are amusing

Definition of malapropism from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary

malapropism (noun): the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase especially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context 

Example of a malapropism: "Don't is a contraption." (rather than "a contraction")

According to teacher Gay Miller of North Carolina on the website Book Units Teacher: Educational Material for Upper Elementary, the definition of "malapropism" has been clarified.  A malapropism must contain the following three features:

1.  The new word replacing the original must have a different meaning.

2.  The substituted word must have a similar sound to the original word.

3.  The word must be recognized in the speaker's native language.

Origin of malapropism

The word comes from a character named Mrs. Malaprop in the play The Rivals (1775) by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816), an Irish satirist, playwright and poet.  Mrs. Malaprop is a humorous aunt who becomes involved in the schemes and dreams of young lovers.  Throughout the play, she.  uses incorrect words to express herself.  Mrs. Malaprop's name is derived from the French term malapros, meaning "inappropriate."  The popularity of The Rivals led to the creation of the literary term "malapropism," meaning the use of an incorrect word, whether by accident or design, that sounds similar to the appropriate word.  The character committing the malapropism is usually somewhat silly or uneducated.

Richard Brimsley Sheridan

Here are some examples of Mrs. Malaprop's malapropisms:

". . . promise to forget this fellow. - to illiterate him, I say, quite from your memory." (obliterate)

". . . she's as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of Nile." (alligator)

"He is the very pine-apple of politeness." (pinnacle)

". . . behold this very day, I have interceded another letter from the fellow." (intercepted)

Malapropism is also referred to as Dogberryism, after the constable Dogberry, a comical character in William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.  In the play, he is the leader of a group of bumbling police watchmen and he frequently uses malapropisms.  For example  Dogberry says, "Our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons."  He means to say "apprehended two suspicious persons."

Below is a depiction of Dogberry by English artist Henry Stacy Marks.(1829-1898).

Other examples of malapropisms:

"For all intensive purposes" instead of "For all intense and purposes"

"Texas has a lot of electrical votes," - Attributed to baseball great Yogi Berra.(1925-2015)
(Although Yogi is given credit for many errors of the English language, he is also credited with many remarks that he never uttered.  He allegedly made the comment about Texas to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who was running for president and was throwing out the first pitch at a Houston Astros game (Yogi was then a coach for the Astros).  According to the story, Bush told Berra  that Texas is very important. and Berra replied, "I know, Texas has a lot of electrical votes," mistaking "electrical" for "electoral."  However, this conversation was never recorded in the Houston Chronicle or in any other newspaper.  The accuracy of the quotation remains uncertain and unverified).

Yogi is credited with the following malapropisms:

"He hits from both sides of the plate.  He's amphibious," rather than "ambidextrous."

"Take it with a grin of salt," rather than "grain of salt."

"He had to use a fire distinguisher," instead of "extinguisher."

"He's a wolf in cheap clothing," rather than "sheep's clothing."

"My friend has extra-century perception," rather than "extra-sensory perception."

"I need five more to make my quotation for the month," instead of "quota."

"Michelangelo painted the Sixteenth Chapel," instead of "Sistine Chapel."

"My brother takes me for granite," rather than "takes me for granted."

"Isn't that an expensive pendulum around that woman's neck?" rather than "expensive pendant around that woman's neck."

"Jesus healed the leopards," rather than "lepers."

"The doctor administered the anecdote," rather than "antidote."

"The computer was invested with viruses," rather than "infested with viruses."

Here is a selection of malapropisms from George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States

"We are making steadfast progress," instead of "steady progress."

"It will take time to restore chaos and order," rather than "law and order."

"The law I sign today directs new funds . . . to the task of collecting vital intelligence . . . on weapons of mass production," rather than 'weapons of mass destruction."

In the 1933 film, Sons of the Desert, comedian Stan Laurel refers to a "nervous shakedown," rather than "nervous breakdown."  He also calls "the exalted ruler, "the exhausted ruler." 

Oliver Hardy (left) and Stan Laurel in "Sons of the Desert"

Archie Bunker, as played by Carroll O'Connor, on TV's All in the Family, was in the habit of using malapropisms.  Here are some sample's of Archie's way with words:

An "ivory shower" (rather than an ivory tower)

A house of "ill refute" (rather than ill repute)

A "pig's eye" (rather than a pig sty)

"Nectarines of he god" (rather than nectar of the gods)

- Joanne

Friday, September 6, 2019

Is there a difference between "crucial" and "critical?"


The words "crucial" and "critical" are used interchangeably.  Yet there is an important distinction between them.  One of the meanings of "criticaL," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is "TURNING POINT," as in the following:

CRITICAL: of relating to or being a turning point or specially important juncture

a critical phase such as
relating to or being the stage of a disease at which an abrupt change for better or worse may be expected..

also: being or relating to an illness or condition involving danger or death.
critical care

a patient listed in critical condition

Crucial and critical are adjectives relating to something important, significant or vital.  However "critical" implies something much more serious.  We say that after a heart attack, a person is in "critical condition" NOT "crucial condition."  The outcome of a particular basketball game is "crucial" for a team's chances of making the playoffs, but it is NOT "critical."  It is not a matter of life or death.

The difference betwen "crucial" and "critical" is a matter of degree, but there is a distinction.


From: On The Road

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”

Author: Jack Kerouac (1922-1969), American novelist and poet
Published: 1957

Jack Kerouac

From: Invisible Man

“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat."

Author: Ralph Ellison (1914-1994), American novelist, literary critic and scholar
Published: 1952

Ralph Ellison

- Joanne

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Vocabulary Quiz #3 (Ten words beginning with the Letter "A")

Number 16 Vocabulary Quiz #3

Ten words beginning with the letter "A"

Number 16 presents a multiple choice vocabulary quiz.  Choose the correct definition of each word listed.  There are ten words for you to define.  Ready, set, go!

1.  angling (verb)

A.  Teasing

B.  Struggling, having difficulty

C.  The action or sport of fishing with hook and line

D.  Marching in a parade

E.  Munching on food

2.  abstruse (adjective)

A.   illegal, criminal

B.   Poverty-stricken, down and out

C.   A description for a kind of triangle

D.  Sharp, biting, acerbic

E.  Difficult to comprehend

3.  avuncular (adjective)

A.  Round, circular

B.  Suggestive of an uncle, especially in kindness or geniality

C.  Heavy, a burden, difficult to transport

D.  Uninformed, lacking knowledge

E.   Happy-go-lucky, jovial, personable, easy to get along with

4.  apostasy (noun)

A.  An act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith

B.   An act of abandoning a ship or crew, mutiny

C.   Paganism

D.  The act of betraying one's country by accepting bribery for personal and financial gain

E.  Voting in an election under false pretenses.

5.  ascertain (verb)

A.  To ignore the truth or that which is certain

B.  To conceal the truth

C.  To find out or learn with certainty

D.  To accidentally discover

E.   To argue that something is absolutely certain or true

6.  abstemious (adjective)

A.  Fasting often and for long periods

B.  Completely abstaining from drinking alcohol, as of a teetotaller

C.  Consuming a great deal of food and alcohol

D.  Marked by restraint, especially in the eating of food or the drinking of alcohol

E.  As of a person who has quit drinking due to alcoholism

7.  adherent (noun)

A.  A particular glue or sticky substance

B.  A follower of a leader, party or profession; a believer in a particular idea or church

C.  A frequent churchgoer

D.  A political protester

E.   One has always lived in the same city

8.  affront (verb)

A.  To insult especially to the face by behaviour or language, to cause offence to

B.  To shun someone by avoiding them or not responding to their phone calls or messages

C.  To become involved in a cause or a project

D.  To face someone after an awkward or embarrassing incident

E.  To imitate someone

9.  apocalyptic (adjective)

A.  Relating to an unpleasant time in one's life

B.  In sports, relating to a great contest, game or competition

C.  The performance of magic to prevent a disaster

D.  Foreboding imminent disaster or final doom

E.   The fulfilling of a great prophecy

10.  apoplexy (noun)

A.  A state of fearfulness and extreme anxiety

B.  A state of deep depression

C.  A state of intense and almost uncontrollable anger

D.  Severe acne

E.   A state of being very energetic

(Note:  The definitions for the correct answers have been taken from the Merriam-Webster dictionary or thesaurus)

1.  C
angling (verb): The action or sport of fishing with hook and line

2.  E
abstruse (adjective): Difficult to comprehend, as in "an abstruse theory or idea."

3.  B
avuncular (adjective): Suggestive of an uncle, especially in kindness or geniality

4.  A.
apostasy: An act of refusing to continue to follow, obey, or recognize a religious faith

5.  C
ascertain (verb): To find out or learn with certainty, as in "ascertain the truth."

6.  D
abstemious (adjective): Marked by restraint, especially in the eating of food or the drinking of alcohol
as in "an abstemious drinker" or "an abstemious diet."

7.  B
adherent (noun): A follower of a leader, party or profession; a believer in a particular idea or church, as in "adherents of Sigmund Freud," "adherents of conservatism," "adherents of Christianity."

8.  A
affront (verb):
To insult especially to the face by behaviour or language as in He was affronted by her rudeness.  To cause offence to, as in "laws that affront society"

9.  D
apocalyptic (adjective): Foreboding imminent disaster or final doom, as in "apocalyptic warnings," PROPHETIC

10.  C
apoplexy (noun): A state of intense and almost uncontrollable anger, as in The politician's speech caused apoplexy among the members of the audience.

- Joanne 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Do "convince" and "persuade" mean the same thing?


Welcome to our new format!  Number 16 is changing.  As of today (September 1, 2019),  its focus will be narrower.  It will become a site devoted to language, including vocabulary, quotations, grammar and literature.  I started this website back in 2010 and I have enjoyed writing it immensely.  It has dealt with a wide variety of topics over the years, but the time has come to concentrate on one major area of interest.

All my writings will remain archived as well as the material on the tabs.  I will continue with my monthly quotes and there will be vocabulary quizzes.

- Joanne


Are "convince" and "persuade" synonyms?  Should they be used interchangeably?  Although people commonly do so, the answer is no.  There is a distinction.  They are not exactly the same.  The best way to understand the difference between the two words is to remember the following rhyme:


I can "convince" you of something based on facts and reason.  I can persuade you to do something.  "Persuade" has to do with action., while "convince" has to do with the mind.


I convinced him of my sincerity.
I persuaded her to walk to the park with me.

The infinitive is used with persuade - "to walk."

It is extremely common to use "convince" and "persuade" interchangeably.  In fact, most people do.  It t is still preferable, however, to make the distinction.


"No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and dear to his heart and eye the morning can be."

- Bram Stoker, (1847-1912), Irish author
From Dracula [1897]

"Reducing inequality should be a primary goal of public policy.  The measure of a society is the quality of life throughout the pyramid, not just at the top, and a growing body of research shows that those born at the bottom today have less chance than in earlier generations to achieve prosperity or to contribute to society's general welfare 

This is not just bad for those who suffer, it is bad for the affluent too.  When wealth is concentrated in the hands of too few, studies show, total consumption declines and investment lags."

- Benjamin Applebaum
The New York Times, September 1, 2019


Edgar Rice Burroughs was an American author of science fiction and adventure.  He was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 1, 1875 (144 years ago today).  He is best known as the creator of the jungle hero, Tarzan.  Another of his characters was John Carter, a heroic Mars adventurer.

Burroughs died of a heart attack on March 19, 1950 at the age of 74. 

- Joanne

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

If Leafs lose Mitch Marner, it's their own fault

Mitch Marner
If the Toronto Maple Leafs lose Mitch Marner, they have only themselves to blame.  Marner isn't saying much, only that he is trying to enjoy the summer.  In July, however, the 22-year-old restricted free agent indicated that he would refuse to go to training camp without a contract.  Well, July has turned into late August.  September and Labour Day are fast approaching.  As of this writing, there is still no agreement between Mitch and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If negotiations continue to stall, the talented right winger may practise with the Zurich Lions of the Swiss League  According to the Lions, an agent has inquired about the possibility of Marner training with the team if contract talks with the Maple Leafs do not progress.  So, there is a very real chance that Mitch may be heading to Switzerland this fall, although the Zurich Lions tweeted that whether and when Mitch will train with them, "is not decided yet."

It appears that Marner is ready to play hardball and hold out for what he wants, otherwise he'll walk.  Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas has stated that if Mitch Marner or any other Toronto free agent signs an offer sheet with another team, the Leafs might let the player go.  Of course, this may be just posturing on the part of both parties in order to speed up the process.

Even so, Marner may not back down on his demands and the Leafs have a cap limit.  This is all too reminiscent of last year's dispute with William Nylander.  The Swedish forward held out, but eventually acquiesced to a six-year $45-million contract in December of 2018.  The Nylander agreement carries a salary cap hit of just over $6.96 mullion for the next five seasons.

My question is this: Why did the Maple Leafs agree to invest so much in William Nylander, especially when they knew they would have to deal with Auston Matthews and then Marner?  In February of  2019, the Leafs signed Matthews to a five-year contract extension with an annual average value of $11.634 million.  At least Matthews had proven something.  In 2016-17, for example, he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL's Rookie of the Year.  He played 82 games and established Maple Leaf rookie records for goals (40) and points (69) in a season.  In 2017-2018, he played 62 games and recorded 34 goals, and 29 assists for 63 points. In 2018-19, Matthews appeared in 68 games, scored 37 goals and registered 73 points.

Mitch Marner has also proven his value,  Last season, he played 82 games, scored 26 goals and recorded a whopping 68 assists for 94 points.  William Nylander, on the other hand, demanded a great deal before he had even proven his worth.  The Leafs actually played well during the time he sat out.  When Nylander finally returned, his play was laclustre and mediocre.  He certainly has potential and will most likely have a better season this year.  Still, I don't think he'll ever have the skill and finesse of a Mitch Marner.  If the Leafs hadn't made that lucrative deal with Nylander, they would have enough cap to afford Mitch Marner.  I hope they haven't lost Marner for Nylander's sake.  If Toronto had to give up one of those three young players due to the salary cap, it should have been William Nylander.

EDITOR'S UPDATE:  Fortunately, the Maple Leafs were able to reach an agreement with Mitch Marner on Friday, September 13, 2019.  He signed a six-year contract with an average annual value of $10.893 million.  It will be good to see Number 16 in a Leafs uniform again.  I am also pleased that the Leafs will finally select a captain.

- Joanne

Monday, August 19, 2019

America and guns

Here's how President Donald Trump has responded to recent questions about gun control:

"So, Congress is working on that. They have bipartisan committees working on background checks and various other things. And we'll see. I don't want people to forget that this is a mental health problem. I don't want them to forget that, because it is. It's a mental health problem. And as I say -- and I said the other night in New Hampshire; we had an incredible evening -- I said: It's the people that pull the trigger. It's not the gun that pulls the trigger."

"I'm also very, very concerned with the Second Amendment, more so than most Presidents would be. People don't realize we have very strong background checks right now."

- Donald Trump
August 18, 20119

Does that sound like a president who is going to get serious about gun control?  Does that sound like a man who is going to stop all the gun violence and mass shooting in the United States? Just days after a mass shooting at a garlic Festival in Gilroy, California,, a 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas.  The El Paso massacre left 20 dead and 20 injured.  Hours later, it happened again, another mass shooting at a bar in Dayton, Ohio.

President Donald Trump's response to this gun violence and shedding of innocent blood is woefully inadequate.  It is especially galling since Trump has been stoking the flames of white nationalism.  He is also a strong supporter of the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The president's reaction to mass shootings is always the same.  He offers his support and prayers to the grieving families.  However, he and his Republican lackeys will never do what really needs to be done in order to protect innocent lives.  They won't do it because they need the support of the NRA and right-wing conservatives to win re-election in 2020.  Trump and the Republicans have to save their political skins, which seems to be more important to them than protecting Americans from gun violence.

This can't go on.  It is a scourge and it has to stop.  Most Americans know it.  Still, Trump and his cohorts refuse to address the problem.  They refuse to do what must be done.  Assault weapons and high-capacity magazines have no place on the streets of America or on any city streets.  They should be banned PERIOD.

Trump stated that the U.S. already has strong background checks now.  If so, why are there so many incidents of gun violence?  Why are so many weapons falling into the hands of mentally ill people and white supremacists?  Why are so many Americans, young and old alike, rich and poor alike, living in fear of mass shootings?

Donald Trump has blamed video games and mental health for the shootings.  Yet, he refuses to take any measures to prevent guns from getting into the hands of people who are mentally unstable.  He and the Republican-controlled Senate refuse to back legislation allowing stringent background checks.  Of course, Trump will never acknowledge his own complicity in the mass shootings, nor will the Republicans, nor will the NRA.  They just keep on repeating the specious argument that "guns don't kill people" ad nauseum.  Yes, people pull the trigger, but people also allow guns to be sold to the mentally ill and to  militant white supremacists.  More guns always equals more gun violence.  That's why countries with stricter gun laws have fewer shootings.  People who have to keep guns out of the wrong hands.  Guns can't do that.

The latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll shows that:

89% of Americans favour expanded background checks for gun purchases.

76% favour "red flag laws" to identify dangerous persons and deny them guns

75% favour a voluntary buyback program in which the government would purchase firearms from current owners.

62% of Americans favour a ban on the sale of semi-automatic weapons.  (Why isn't that number higher?)

Only 25% favour the banning of handguns and 46% of Americans say someone in their household owns a gun.

For comparison, here a recent poll on gun control and gun ownership in Canada.  According to an Angus Reid poll (released May 24, 2019), found the following.:

* Half of Canadians (50%) consider gun violence a serious problem for the country, while half say political and media coverage of this has been overblown.

* 75% of Canadians would support a complete ban on assault weapons.

* 61% wanted to see a complete ban on handguns in Canada (support for the ban is considerably higher in rural areas than urban areas).

* Of those surveyed, 77% said they've never owned a gun, while 14% currently owned a gun.  9% had owned a gun in the past.

* Two-thirds of Canadians (65%) said they would support a tax
funded buy-back program for gun owners if the government banned handguns, assault weapons or both.

 - Joanne