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.

 

Because we English speakers seem to have our heads screwed on backwards, we constantly misperceive our bodies, often saying just the opposite of what we mean. For example, I keep seeing signs on low doorways that warn Watch Your Head, but I haven’t figured out how to follow that instruction. How does one actually watch one’s head? Trying to watch your head is like trying to bite your teeth.

Here are more instances of ass-over-tea kettle body language:

They’re head over heels in love. That’s nice, but we do almost everything head over heels. If we are trying to create an image of people doing cartwheels and somersaults, why don’t we say, “They’re heels over head in love”?

He’s got a good head on his shoulders. What? He doesn’t have a neck?

Put your best foot forward. Now let’s see . . . We have a good foot and a better foot, but we don’t have a third — and best — foot. It’s our better foot we want to put forward. This grammar boo-boo is akin to May the best team win. Usually there are only two teams in the contest.

His feet are firmly planted on the ground. Then how can he get his pants off?

Keep a stiff upper lip. When we are disappointed or afraid, which lip do we try to control? The lower lip, of course, is the one we are trying to keep from quivering.

I’m speaking tongue in cheek. So how can anyone understand you?

Skinny. If fatty means “full of fat,” shouldn’t skinny mean “full of skin”?

They do things behind my back. You want they should do things in front of your back?

They did it ass backwards. What’s wrong with that? We do everything ass backwards.

***

Next weekend I’ll be attending my (gasp!) 60th class reunion at Haverford College, where our motto is “We haven’t heard of you either.” Weep weep, sob sob, honk honk! My classmates have grown so old that they won’t even recognize me.

***

 I’m a fanatical fan of “Saturday Night Live” and have watched many a show since the birth of the program in 1975 Recently, I enjoyed an SNL skit titled “The Ladie’s Room” but was put off by the prepostrophe in the title. Throughout the action a neon sign over a doorway kept blinking “The Ladie’s Room.” Yuck! A possessive apostrophe informs the reader about of or for what comes before it. In this case, the room is for ladies, so the title and sign should have read “The Ladies’ Room.”

***

A few weeks ago, Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, began a three-year incarceration in a Club Fed facility. It was reported that “on his way to prison, Cohen took a parting shot at President Trump.”

A parting shot is a final remark, usually cutting or derogatory, made just before departing. The Oxford English Dictionary and other sources trace parting shot way back to the Parthians, ancient warriors from north-east Persia. They were superb archers who were famous and feared for their skill in confusing their enemies by pretending to flee the scene of a battle while firing arrows backwards as they retreated on a galloping horse. The tactic must have been successful as in first century B.C. Parthia stretched from the Euphrates to the Indus rivers, covering most of what is now Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s but a short leap from Parthian shot to parting shot.

***

Sue Linder, Mark Newman and Inge Jodka have asked me to discuss common redundancies, such as unexpected surprise, complete stop and stupid idiot. To tell you the honest truth, which is more honest than the dishonest truth, I’ll cover such repetitive redundancies in next week’s column and in a follow-up installment about a month later.

I’ll start here with simple initials that generate the letter-imperfect redundancies  ABM missile, AC current, CNN network, PIN number, ISBN number, VIN number, MAC card, HIV virus, OPEC country, SALT talks (or treaty) and SAT test. In each of these initialisms, the last letter is piled on by a superfluous noun. ATM machine is a double redundancy because machine repeats the M, and the M, “machine,” repeats the A, “automated,” AT, standing for  “automated teller” would do just fine. If you agree with my observation, RSVP please.