January 10, 2010

Grammar for a change

(Check here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

SOMEONE CALLED “MYSTIFIED,” of Walla Walla, Wash., wants to know why I’m always writing about boats. “People with boats are as intelligent as anyone else,” he writes, “and even though they can talk for hours about their boats, they can eventually get bored with it. So why don’t you write about something else once in a while.”

Well, I’m not so sure about this, “Mystified.” I personally have never met a boat owner who got bored with talking about his boat. He might bore non-boat-owning landlubbers, for sure. But become bored himself? Never.

However, in the interests of experimentation, and just to prove I’m not stuck in a boating rut, I’m willing to treat you to something a little more athletic for your brain.

Let’s tackle some English grammar for a start. You know about collective nouns, I presume. A cluck of hens, a pod of whales, a sneeze of germs, et cetera. Well, here’s a list of scientific collective nouns I’ve been carrying around for decades, waiting for a chance just like this to publish them. Study them well, “Mystified.” You will be required to pass a small test in less than a week and with your new brain power you might be able to get out of Walla Walla, Wash.

— A grid of electrical engineers.
— A pile of nuclear scientists.
— A set of pure mathematicians.
— A galaxy of cosmologists.
— A cloud of theoretical meteorologists.
— A shower of applied meteorologists.
— A knot of nautical engineers.
— A stack of librarians.
— A chain of security officers, and
— A complex of psychologists.
Now here are some definitions of everyday scientific terms:
Coma — A multi-toothed device used by Italian barbers for parting hair.
Commutator — A kid who drives to school.
Conic section — The funnies page.
Corona — An official who enquires into the cause of death.
Cosine — The reverse of “Stop” sign.
Cusp — To use bad language.
Flux — Past tense of the verb to flex.
Gram — To study intensely for an exam.
Graph — Principal item of a cow’ph diet.
Millimeter — A bug like a centipede, but with more legs.
Orifice — Headquarters of a place of business.
Paradox — Two Ph.Ds.
Spectra — A female ghost.
Torque — Anglo-Saxon for conversation.
Watt — Request to repeat that remark.

Today’s Thought
You can be a little ungrammatical if you come from the right part of the country.
— Robert Frost

“Waiter, there’s a button in my soup.”
“Sorry, sir, it must have come off when the salad was being dressed.”

© Copyright John Vigor 2009. All rights reserved. Not to be copied or published without the express permission of the author.

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