Community Columns

By the Book: He’s having his way with wacky wordplay


I’m without a theme or new idea so it’s mixed-grill time again. I like this sort of column — there’s no worrying whether everything hangs together, like in English 101. 

• Guy gets off a plane at Chicago’s airport, finds a taxi and says to the driver, “Do you go to The Loop ?” Driver says, “No, just beep-beep.”

• If you’re a Jack Reacher fan you were appalled when Tom Cruise showed up playing him in the movie. One of Reacher’s hallmarks is that he is 6 feet, 5 inches tall, Tom Cruise is 5-foot-8. They probably thought Mickey Rooney (5-foot-2) was too old, Dustin Hoffman (5-foot-6) was way too smart and Alan Ladd (5-foot-6), of course, had left the building. (Unfortunately, our old friend Rooney has recently checked out, too.) Cruise is probably miffed that he didn’t get the Jackie Robinson role in “42.”

• I saw one of those small signs that you hang in your home: “I don’t want to brag, or make anyone jealous, but I can still fit into the earrings I wore in high school.”

• The slang shouted out by waitstaff in diners to place orders with the kitchen seems to have been 86’d. Adam and Eve on a raft, gimme a shimmy, one on the city and clean the kitchen, red lead — an amusing, ear-catching part of our everyday language — are sadly kaput. (Got them? Two poached eggs on toast, a bowl of Jell-O, a glass of water, hash with ketchup.)

• Guy says to a psychiatrist, “Help me; I keep thinking I’m a dog.” Psychiatrist says, “Lie down on the couch.” Guy says, “I’m not allowed on the couch.”

• Did you know that 50 percent of all people are below average? Did you know that if a vacuum cleaner ad claims it will cut your work in half you should buy two of them? Are you aware that General Wayne has been demoted to Private Property and major improvements will soon follow?

• Here’s a question about the ever-mystifying English language. If we can remove the final “s” from needless and come up with needles, is there any reason we can’t do the same thing with heedless, dauntless and pointless and arrive at heedles, dauntles and pointles? The mind boggless.

• Guy gets off a plane at the Minneapolis airport, finds a taxi and says to the driver, “Do you go to Duluth?” Driver says, “No, just beep-beep.”

• It’s hard to imagine a local clergyman walking our streets with a baseball bat while negotiating with the neighborhood gangs, yet that’s what Sonia Sotomayor remembers Father Gigante doing in her section of the Bronx. Climbing out of this troubled area, she earned a full scholarship to Princeton, graduated summa cum laude, got another full scholarship to Yale Law School and is now a Supreme Court justice, one of just nine people in the country to hold this honor. ‘My Beloved World’ is her memoir, simply told and a tribute to discipline and determination. An astounding woman.

• We end with a short, tender poem:

Mary Jane put on her skates
And on the ice did frisk
Wasn’t she a brave young girl
Her little *

TR050808_book_Case_R.jpgMr. Case, of Southold, is retired from Oxford University Press. He can be reached at [email protected].

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