Apologies are offered in advance to those of you regular readers who possess the gift of literacy. To those who prefer articulated articulation to jabbering gibberish. Those who see good grammar as the only kind, and prefer proper, precise pronunciation perfectly, promptly punctuated. For the rare few who follow the true path of corrective diction. As a writer, an earnest effort is made in this column (and in writings abroad) to follow the literal rules of writing. Staying between the printed lines and following the written rules of the writing road, though occasionally straying, bending and breaking for the sake of comedy.
This week we will do just that, as we wage war against and make a few absurd points within the English language. Not sure where this will lead, but rest assured it’s going to go all over the place; watch me for the changes and try to keep up. You have been warned and now the battle rages for and against the English language beginning with a simple query…
Would you care for a gum? My co-worker, long-time friend and comic book collaborator (it’s all one guy) looked at me strangely. “A gum?” He asked, “Don’t you mean “a piece of gum?” No, I replied, you can have the whole thing… another strange look. Actually, I said digging into my jacket pocket; I have a variety of gums you can choose a gum from. There are purple gums; I think those are grape and green gums…green apple maybe? Or you can just have a regular pink gum… they taste like cotton candies.
“Why are you calling them gums?” he asked rather perplexed. Because that’s what they are. “Why don’t you just offer me a piece of gum?” his perplexity continued. Dude, I already said you could have the whole thing. Why would I just offer you a piece of gum anyway? It’s not like there’s some mass of gum to go and pick a piece from. See, each gum comes in its own little wrapper, expressing its individuality. It’s not “a piece of gum” it’s a whole entity all to itself, thus it is a gum. So…you want a gum?
“OK,” his patience wears thin, “so what if it were chewing gum?” Aren’t all gums for chewing? “I mean like Juicy Fruit or Wrigley’s…“chewing gum” not bubble gum. Since they come in a pack of 5 would you offer me “a piece of gum” then?” No… but I would offer you a stick. But I don’t have any gum sticks now, just the gums I showed you…you want a gum?
He tries a different strategy. “So a single dice is called a die, right.” I guess so, but I wouldn’t offer you a piece of dice if I gave you just one… wouldn’t offer you to die, either. That makes no sense anyway. “Dice” rhymes with “mice,” they’re just one letter different, but we don’t call single mice a mie or one dice a douse. While on the subject, if your use a mouse trap more than once shouldn’t it become a mice-trap? Mice is plural for mouse, I get that, but you wouldn’t call a box of computer mouses a box of mice, they’re still mouses and mouses is not a recognized word in the English language.
Ya know “house” rhymes with “mouse,” they’re just one letter different, but if you own more than one you don’t call them “hice”. Why do we say home sweet home and not house sweet house? I’ll tell you why, because home sounds better: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home!”…house just sounds creepy when you repeat it: “There’s no place like house, there’s no place like house!” Home is a place; a house is an entity… like the Wizard of Oz.
There are times we are akin to Sam I Am and… that other grumpy guy in the Green Eggs and Ham book (FYI – I am Sam, Sam I am). One of us prattles on aimlessly while the other awaits a pause to speak. “What about pants? You have to have a “pair” of pants!” he ah-ha’s at me. Well I certainly wouldn’t wear nor offer you a piece of pants. But how is it a pair? You have a pair of shoes, they are similar but mirrored and each can be a separate item. So what is a pant? To have a pair there must be two and there is only the one item, “pants” and why is it plural? You can tear a whole in your pant leg but where does the pant end and the pants begin? Better yet, where’s the other pants, the second half of the pair? Mathematically speaking, a pair is two, placing an “s” on the end implies more than one, so how many pants are there in our pants? Pants have legs, shirts have sleeves; you put on “a” shirt but have to put on “a pair” of pants? Does a long sleeve shirt qualify as a pair of shirts? A shirt without sleeves is still a shirt but pants without legs are shorts? Nothing we wear makes sense!!!
Sigh, you want a piece of gum? “Oh so now it’s a piece of gum.” he says with a grin of victory. Yeah, I suppose it has to be. I lost all the other gums in all these paired pants, so I’m tearing this last gum in two.
I welcome almost all questions and comments via FOCUS, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Hope to hear from ya, until then try and stay focused. See ya!