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.

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DEAR RICHARD LEDERER: Do you remember these high-flown words to “Three Blind Mice”?:

Three rodents with defective vision,
Three rodents with defective vision.
Observe how they locomote.
Observe how they locomote..
They all pursued the agriculturist’s mate.
She severed their extremities with a kitchen utensil
Have you ever observed such a phenomenon in your existence
As three rodents with defective vision?

-Helen Johnson

When I was a callow youth, my neighborhood buddies and I used to sing a learned lyric that, like Helen Johnson’s “Three Blind Mice” version, played with levels of diction:

Propel, propel, propel your craft
Placidly down the liquid solution.
Ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically, ecstatically.
Existence is but a delusion.

Translated into clear and simple English, our polysyllabic poem turned out to be Row, row, row your boat .

What follows is a list of simple, everyday adages, bromides, quotations, proverbs, saws and general folk wisdom that have been rewritten in inflated, jargonized English. Your task is to translate each sesquipedalian statement back into its original, nonorchidaceous form. For example, “Under no circumstances should you compute the quantity of your barnyard fowl previous to their incubation” emerges as “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” Answers repose at the end of this column.

1. Eschew the implement of correction and vitiate the scion.
2. The policy of being sapient is injudicious where the opposite condition confers felicity.
3. Surveillance should precede saltation.
4. A timorous cardiovascular pump at no time succeeds in acquiring the pulchritudinous distaff.
5. Gramineous organisms are perpetually more verdant when located on an adjacent surface.
6. The stylus is more potent than the claymore.
7. Pulchritude possesses exclusively cutaneous profundity.
8. It is futile to attempt to indoctrinate a superannuated canine with innovative maneuvers.
9. The greatest of need is the maternal parent of the art of original contrivance.
10. A revolving lithic conglomerate accrues no lichen.
11. Everything is legitimate in matters pertaining to ardent affections and international armed conflicts.
12. The temperature of the aqueous content of a metallic receptacle under unremitting surveillance does not attain its level of evaporation.
13. Members of an avian species of identical plumage congregate.
14. Freedom from incrustations of grime is contiguous to rectitude.
15. It is fruitless to endure lacrimation over precipitately departed lacteal fluid.

Answers

  1. Spare the rod and spoil the child. 2. Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. 3. Look before you leap. 4. Faint heart never won fair maiden. 5. The grass is always greener on the other side.
  2. The pen is mightier than the sword. 7. Beauty is only skin deep. 8. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. 9. Necessity is the mother of invention. 10. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
  3. All’s fair in love and war. 12. A watched pot never boils. 13. Birds of a feather flock together. 14. Cleanliness is next to godliness. 15. Don’t cry over spilled milk.

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Next Saturday, December 15, at 10 am, I’ll be speaking at the La Jolla Branch Library, 7555 Draper Avenue. Admission is free and worth every penny. I’d love to meet you there.