Monsters Unchained!

American Trivia Quizzes

Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site. Dr. Lederer and Caroline McCullagh’s American Trivia quizzes currently appear on page 2 every day.

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Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

The following drastic measures were inadvertently taken in notes written by parents to excuse their children’s absences from school:

“My son is under the doctor’s care and should not take P.E. today,” wrote a parent. “Please execute him.”

“Please excuse Mary for being absent,” wrote another parent. “She was sick and I had her shot.”

Slaughtering the English language is a practice that is not limited only to students. An astonishing number of grown-ups blithely go about murdering the King’s English without any inkling that they are committing a serious crime. Here are some actual excuse notes miscreated by actual moms and dads and received by actual teachers:

• Please excuse Roland from P.E. for a few days. Yesterday he fell out of a tree and misplaced his hip.

• Mary could not come to school because she has been bothered by very close veins.

• Stanley had to miss some school. He had an attack of whooping cranes in his chest.

• Please excuse Jimmy for being. It was his father’s fault.

• Please excuse Harriet for missing school yesterday. We forgot to get the Sunday paper off the porch, and when we found it Monday, we thought it was Sunday.

• Please forgive Clarence for being absent from school the past few days. He was home recovering from being serpent sized.

Now have a look at some excuse notes written by the parents of students who became famous or infamous. While the previous notes are real, these pun-in-cheek examples are made up:

Real students

• Please excuse George Washington from school. He had to go to the dentist to get his wooden teeth re-lacquered, and then he had to load up and bring in the cherry tree limbs from our backyard so we could use them as firewood.

• Kindly excuse Abraham Lincoln for the rest of the year. He has moved to a Gettysburg address.

• We request that you excuse Ralph Nader from school for the rest of the year. He has determined that the school bus is unsafe at any speed.

• Please excuse Peter Roget for missing school yesterday. He was sick, ill, unwell, stricken, nauseated, run down, feverish, queasy, yucky, punky, barfy, under the weather, down in the mouth and green around the gills.

• Please excuse Isaac Newton from school for a few days while he recovers from a mild concussion. An apple fell on his head.

• We apologize that Salvador Dali was late to school. His watch melted, and he couldn’t read the time.

• We must explain why Rin Tin Tin failed to hand in his book report. He ate his own homework.

Imaginary students

• Please excuse Rip Van Winkle for missing the past 20 years of school. He overslept.

• Please excuse Goliath for his absence from school yesterday. He got stoned and developed a terrific headache.

• Please excuse King Kong for missing the past few days of class. He had to catch a plane.

• Please excuse Batboy from school for the rest of the week. He has to save Gotham City.

• Please excuse Spider-Boy for not handing in his homework. He got caught up exploring the Internet and surfing the Web.

• Please excuse Dracula for missing the entire school year. We can’t seem to stop him from staying up all night, and it’s impossible to wake him up in the morning.

• Please excuse The Invisible Boy for his absence yesterday. We couldn’t find him to send him off to school.

• Please excuse The Wolfboy from school for the next week. He is suffering from Irritable Howl Syndrome.

Please send your questions and comments about language to richard.lederer@utsandiego.com