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Thursday, June 27, 2013

"Hand me a Tums - I think I'm going to barf."

I was asked to settle a distpute this morning. A co-worker asked me what a single antacid tablet from the "Tums" bottle is called - a "Tum", or a "Tums"?

I thought for a moment and said, "A Tum." She frowned. "But it's a brand name," she said. I frowned, too. She is pregnant and I didn't want to make a wrong turn here and send her into a crying jag or an angry pregnant frenzy. "Good point," I said.

My mind went to work. "Did you Google it?" She hadn't, so I did. I turned to the World Wide Web, which told me that one should not singularize a brand name. I continued to frown. Though it proved her right - and I agreed in principal - it did not feel right to me. "Would you say 'hand me a Tums'?" I asked. "Yes," she said. "That's what I say."

I nodded.

Some things lend themselves to leaving the "S" intact without question. Like Schnapps. One would not ask for a shot of Schnapp. One would be summarily slapped by any bartender worth his salt - especially if the bartender was German. Aside from Schnapps, I cannot think of many trademarked brand names ending in the letter "S" that sound anything less than silly when spoken aloud when asking for a single item from its package. To whit:

  • "Yeah, buddy, a Fig Newtons sounds fantastic right about now..."
  • "My ear is clogged - hand me a Q-Tips, stat..."
  • "My Twinkies is a little light on the delightful cream filling..."
  • "The baby has shit himself - hand me a Wet Wipes! And get me a fresh Pampers!"
  • "I would like a Skittles, please - just one..."
  • I dropped an M&Ms - the rest are in my belly..."
I would like to think that my initial call was spot-on - World Wide Web and its grammar police be damned. As I have said many times, this is a time of change. Revolt is in the air - rebellion imminent. When I am duly elected King (again, apparently not eligible for Pope), we will have grammatical rules based in common sense, which is apparently not so common. While I do not wish to be slapped silly by a surly German bartender, I am equally adverse to sounding like an ignorant hillbilly when I ask for someone to hand me "a Wet Wipes".

Singularize when applicable, I say. And stay strong on the Schnapps.

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Big, Colorful Typewriter

I once considered the computer to be nothing more than a big, colorful typewriter. Then, at some point it became the powerful magic box that through a series of mystifying keystrokes, aided by swift, assured mouse-clicks and atonal humming on my part, had the ability to find any piece of information in the known universe. With photographs, if desired. The computer, and its associated universe – the internet, is the modern-day equivalent to the old, stately home of knowledge, the Encyclopedia Britannica. The internet is an endless storehouse of information, which if printed, bound and stacked as actual books, would stretch from here to the third moon of Jupiter. Twice. This is a fact; I checked on Google.

On my big, colorful typewriter, I can also watch television, listen to music, pay my bills and type instant messages to friends and family across the land. It was one of the watershed moments of my life when I realized that I might never need lick an envelope again, rating right up there with the invention of the self-adhesive stamp, which eliminated the need to ever lick a stamp again. Licking paper was one of the banes of my childhood.

But I digress.

The big, colorful typewriter has evolved into a small colorful typewriter and then a handheld colorful typewriter with tiny little perfect keys. Then my telephone disappeared and was replaced by an even smaller colorful typewriter on which I could now telephone my friends and family across the land, as well as send them succinct text messages with complete sentences and flawless spelling and grammar. I have read that my telephone has more power than the computer that NASA used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon. That makes me giddy. Soon, I imagine I will be fitted with a miniscule chip that will enable me to accomplish a multitude of tasks using little more than thought.

I have watched my children grow up as the computer has developed and adapt to the move into technological savvy and now see a new generation of users that know no different. There is a video on YouTube (I watched it on my computer – the small one) of a baby swiping at a magazine as if he could make the picture on the cover larger by placing his fingers on the page and moving his thumb and forefinger apart, as he would on an IPad. The baby didn’t know to turn the page, which I considered not only a senseless tragedy, but a true sign of the times.

I come from a simpler age and must admit that I miss the sound of the typewriter clacking away and trying to get to the television to change the channel with the telephone cradled between my shoulder and cheek while stretching to the very end of the phone’s cord to reach the knob. My kids will never have to do this. Nor will the babies with their IPads. I could rant a little bit about things “the way they used to be”, but I realize that I never had to chop wood to cook my meals, shoot, grow or pick my food or ride a horse to work. It’s called progress and at my age, it’s “put up or shut up” and we must roll with the changes or be left behind in a cloud of… Well, a cloud of information, because according to Google, that’s where the information lives

Monday, June 3, 2013

My Baby Name List Is Cooler Than Yours.

A friend and colleague at work is having a baby. It's going to be a boy when it emerges and I have, for several months now, made various suggestions as to the moniker of the little tyke, most of which have been met with disdain.

Since the choices I have offered up to this point have been mostly whimsical, I have decided to pen the ultimate Baby Name List, using logic, history and phonetics to come up with the coolest male baby names from which to choose. Girl names are easy - simply avoid names like Edith, Gertrude and  Eloise. And stripper-names - avoid those, too.

The surname of the family with which I have to work is of an excellent naming base. Two syllables, both hard stops - as if it has been clipped neatly from the name-tree. "Richards". This is a fine name for pairing one, two or three syllable first-names, which gives us a broad canvas on which to paint. But let's talk first about the basics of baby-naming.

It seems to me that baby names fall into two logical categories:

"Names Which Ring True" Names Which Ring True are names that elicit reaction as they are spoken, and these fall into several sub-categories, such as "Phonetically Pleasing", which are names that just seem to roll off the tongue in a pleasant fashion. Dana Carvey, Helen Hunt and Mickey Mantle are examples of these. Easy to say with a smile on your face. These names ring true at a visceral level.
"Historically Noble" is another sub-category. Names that are culled from history, such as Alexander, Jesus, Noah and Christopher are practically torn from the pages of history and each name brings a historical figure immediately to mind. This can backfire, however, with names like Adolf, Saddam, Lee Harvey and Milhouse. Make your historically-based choices carefully.
"Sports Figures and Other Celebrities" is the last of the major "Ring True" sub-categories and is probably one of the most popular. Movie stars, characters from movies, books and TV as well as cultural icons all fall under this umbrella. How many babies have been named "Britney", "Justin" or "Lindsay" in the last 15 years, anyhow? You get the point.

"Names of Predisposition" Names of this type are the most dangerous of all. Stripper names fall into this category. "Destiny", "Angel", "Candy", "Raven", "Houston" and "Anastasia" should be avoided at all costs. Since this is a male-based name search, we will leave it at that. Predisposition is almost like a science experiment. Names chosen in this fashion nearly guarantee the profession and life-course of the child. The names "Peabody" and "Poindexter" will most likely make you the proud parent of a librarian or civil engineer. "Jerry Lee" anything will provide your offspring with the likeliest chance of living in a trailer, owning a cache of firearms and taking a potshot at a political, religious or equal rights public figure with the firearms.

Now, down to work on Baby Richards.Here is a logical list, based on our criteria, broken down by group:

Names Which Ring True

Phonetically Pleasing:
  • Kent Richards
  • Blair Richards
  • Brock Richards
  • Phillip Richards
  • Bradley Richards
These names just sound nice - people would enjoy saying them and might always choose to use both first and last names when addressing your son, which is the ultimate show of respect in some countries.

Historically Noble:
  • Grant Richards
  • Beauregard Richards
  • Sherman Richards
  • Lincoln Richards
  • Kennedy Richards
  • Sampson Richards
  • Aristotle Richards
  • Einstein Richards
  • Washington Richards
  • Crispus Richards
These names are regal. Any man would be proud to sign "Beauregard Richards" to any legal document. In fact, I may start doing so immediately.

Sports Figures and other Celebrities:
  • Cassius Richards
  • Babe Richards
  • Frazier Richards
  • Rocky Richards
  • Clooney Richards
  • Pitt Richards
  • Bourne Richards
  • Marlowe Richards
  • Bogart Richards
  • Cary Richards
  • Orson Richards
  • Dino Richards
  • Huck Richards
You get the idea. This is probably the most fun category and I really like "Pitt Richards" - that boy will be an adventurer for certain. Good looking kid, too, most likely.

As a footnote, any Earp is a keen baby name: Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil... All will kick ass and grow a fantastic mustache.

I don't want to get too in-depth on the predisposal - I think this category is a powder keg. That said, if you would like your child to grow up to be a flamboyant piano player, go with the name "Elton", or "Liberace" - "Lee", for short. Or, you could utilize the baby-name double-tap and name the child "Elton Liberace Richards" - this would guarantee for certain that your son will grow up with a penchant for feathers, plumes, capes and gaudy jewelry. And a wicked talent for "tickling the ivories", so to speak.

I hope this helps, or at least gets you started. Jerry Ford, here to help.