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Category Archives: proper english

Bagpipes, burials, blunders & septic tanks . . .

To paraphrase Art Linkletter in his old-time television show, Kids say the darndest things, humor can be found in the darndest places. I received this e-mail recently from a lovely retired couple in Florida that migrated from North to South, legally of course, leaving the winters of Ohio and fleeing for the flora and fauna of Florida, going from icicles to iguanas, from shoveling snow to seeking shade, and apparently living and loving every minute of life in the sunshine state.

I freely admit, with not a smidgen of shame, that I took a few liberties with the original e-mail and in my not-so-humble opinion I approved it immeasurably. In the original e-mail, for example, the bagpipe player said he felt badly about being too late for the graveside services.

No, no, no, never—not no, but hell no! If one feels badly, then one has a deficiency in one’s ability to feel, to exercise the tactile sense of touch. Consider this: Does anyone ever say that they felt goodly about anything? No, they say they felt good, not goodly, about whatever the feeling was that generated how they felt. There were numerous other improvements involving wayward commas, failure to capitalize when needed, attempts to reflect regional dialects of Kentucky and redundant terms such as like I’ve never played before—the word never does not need before.

I rest my case, and I now offer the edited e-mail:

Bagpipes at a funeral . . .

As a bagpiper I play many gigs. Recently I was asked by a funeral director to play at a graveside service for a homeless man. The departed had no family or friends, and the service was to be at a pauper’s cemetery in rural Kentucky. I was not familiar with the backwoods and got lost, and being a typical man I didn’t stop for directions.

I finally arrived an hour late and saw that the funeral workers were gone, and the hearse was nowhere in sight. Only the diggers and their equipment remained, and the men were eating lunch in the shade of a nearby tree.

I felt bad about being too late for the ceremony and I apologized to the workers. I went to the side of the grave and looked down and saw that the vault lid was already in place. I didn’t know what else to do, so I started to play.

The workers put down their lunches and gathered around with their hardhats in hand. I played my heart and soul out for that man with no family and no friends. I played for that homeless man like I’ve never played for anyone.

I played Amazing Grace, and as I played the workers began to weep. They wept and I wept, and we all wept together. When I finished I packed up my bagpipes and started for my car. Though my head hung low, my heart was full.

As I opened the door to my car I heard one of the workers say, I have never seen or heard of anything like that, and I’ve been putting in septic tanks for twenty years.

Apparently I was still lost—it must be a man thing.

Postscript: The internet offers several versions of this story by different bloggers—none are better than this one and some, while not necessarily worse, are not as good as this one—take your pick.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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The matron, the maid and the pool boy . . .

I received this joke in an e-mail at sometime in the distant past. For some inexplicable reason—heh, heh, heh—I saved it and now I would like to share it with my readers. It involves a conversation between two women, a domestic maid and her employer, the lady of the house. The maid begins the conversation, and her words are in bold letters—enjoy!

I want a raise.
Why?

For three reasons—the first is that I iron better than you.
Who told you that you iron better?

Your husband told me.
Oh.

The second reason is that I’m a better cook than you.
Who told you that you are a better cook?

Your husband told me.
Oh.

The third reason is that I am a better lover than you.
Really! And did my husband tell you that also?

No, senora. The pool boy told me.
How much of a raise would you like?

Postscript: A special disclaimer for my readers: To defend myself I echo the words shown on the Gadsen battle flag, a historical American flag with a yellow field depicting a rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike, below which are the words DON’T TREAD ON ME. So please, Don’t tread on me. I did not choose the word senora, a Spanish word that identifies a married woman—yes, married. In Spanish an unmarried woman is properly addressed as senorita, regardless of her age. In this instance it refers to a married woman, the lady of the house and the
maid’s employer. The word obviously tells the reader that the maid is of
Hispanic extraction. The maid could have just as easily have said,
Naw, m’am. I heered dat from yore pool boy, or perhaps her reply could
have been couched in Ebonic terms, or with an Oriental accent.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

Supposed has only two syllables, not three—got it?

The world is in turmoil, and our country is currently in the midst of an upheaval caused by a never-ending battle waged by conservatives on one side and on the other side liberals, NOW, communists, fascists, Muslims, progressives, Nazis, abolitionists, various ethnic and racial minorities including blacks and Hispanics, many of the Jewish persuasion, unions, gays, and those that are vertically challenged—short people.

I have, at great length over a considerable period of time, closely observed and analyzed the current problems in the world, problems such as the revolutions underway in the Middle East and in Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and potentially in every state not governed by a conservative, and the wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

Yes, Iraq—anyone that believes the war in Iraq is over is taking the proverbial head in the sand stance attributed to the ostrich, or better still, everyone that believes the war is over has their heads up their collective—sorry, the rest of that phrase escapes me. People in Iraq continue to die by the dozens from explosives-laden vests worn and detonated by morons anxious to meet the seventy-two virgins promised by their religion—die by the dozens has a nice alliterative ring, don’t you think?

At this point I must digress in order to inform my viewers, in the unlikely event that they are unaware that there are only 72 virgins available in the heavenly beyond, that it is not simply a matter of first come, first served, because all arrivals are served—or serviced, so to speak—equally. The same 72 are used by all, but it is written that regardless of the frequency with which those ladies are ravished, they remain chaste—ain’t that a hoot!

I have also considered the plethora of medical problems that plague mankind, problems such as malaria, HIV, AIDS and ingrown toenails, and class warfare and nature’s calamities such as tornados, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods, mudslides, forest fires and the plight of the Snail Darter and the Blind Salamander and the host of other threatened fauna and flora species in our country and across the globe, including Atractosteus spatula calico magna, the snaggle-toothed alligator gar found only in southern states, primarily Mississippi—okay, okay, I admit that I made up the snaggle-toothed part—oh, okay, I made up the entire name—well, most of it anyway.

Having given so much consideration to so many problems, I have selected one, and only one, to discuss on WordPress. It’s one that I can discuss with certainty, and perhaps in some way, in some measure, change the course of that problem and relieve at least one of the many adverse conditions that plague civilization, specifically our supposedly civilized English-speaking nations—please note the four-syllable construction of the word supposedly—I will explain that construction in the next paragraph. The following statement explains the problem I have with the way many people pronounce supposed: The word has only two syllables—not three!

Only two syllables but many, perhaps most, talking heads on television, whether guests or hosts, pronounce the word sup-pos-ed with three syllables. Those people are supposedly well educated, erudite even—at this point please note that the adverb form of the verb suppose has four syllables—sup pos ed ly—but that construction is not a problem—everyone gets that one right.

Many of those people pronouncing the word supposed with three syllables are attorneys, graduates of ivy league universities, many with PHDs, high ranking government officials whether elected or appointed, priests, teachers and school administrators and a multitude of others from every walk of life, people that emulate the pronunciation of the word by people they admire, believing that if they use that pronunciation it must be right, coming from such a supposedly erudite group—and once again there’s that four-syllable construction of the word.

In my survey of the pronunciation of the word by talking heads on cable television, I found those folks on Fox News to be the most frequent offenders, including the gaggle of attorneys that appear on that channel. That’s a real mystery for me—all of them certainly have at least one college degree, and many have several. I will, grudgingly, give Glenn Beck a pass on mispronunciation of supposed because he is not a graduate of any so-called higher institution of learning.

In previous posts I have mentioned a lady that I have known for many years, a lady for whom English is a second language. Her native language will become apparent by my saying that she pronounced the English letter I as an E, thus the term nit picker came across as neet peeker—I suppose it could have been worse in some other foreign language, coming across as neat pecker, for example, or perhaps as gnat pecker.

I mention that lady only because there is a slight possibility that one or more of my viewers may consider me to be nit picking in my effort to educate the public to the correct pronunciation of the word supposed when used as an adjective, as in the term the supposed murderer, or the supposed philanderer, etc.

I am neither neet peeking nor nit picking—my efforts in this venue are similar to the ever ongoing search for the Holy Grail, the vessel from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, and comparable to the search for the Golden Fleece, the fleece of a golden-haired winged ram that was the offspring of the sea god Poseidon, the fleece that was so long and so arduously sought by Jason and his band of Argonauts.

The same people that pronounce the word supposed with three syllables also pronounce the two-syllable word alleged with three syllables, as in al-ledge-ed. I suppose I should make that a separate post, but I won’t bother—it wouldn’t make any difference anyway. May the Grand Protector of Syllables forgive them—I won’t!

That’s it—that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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Revisited: Be aware—be very aware . . .

Readers of this post will note that I discuss, in some detail, the star rating system provided by WordPress. Readers will also note, just in case they wanted to vote, that the voting system is not available, neither for this post nor for any others on my blog. It is not available because a reader rated one of my literary efforts with a vote somewhere less than five stars—four stars, perhaps, but also perhaps only one star. I removed the rating system because I feel that if someone does not like an entry, they should tell why they believe it rates less than five stars, and not hide in the bushes and take pot shots at a blogger. If a reader is not satisfied with an entry on WordPress, then that reader should use the comment feature to criticize. I can only speak for myself, but if the criticism is valid and expressed in good taste, I will cheerfully approve it and cheerfully respond to it. Well, perhaps not so cheerfully, but I will respond, and that response will be in good taste.

As the title indicates, this is a revisit to a previous post—the original is as follows:

Be aware—be very aware . . .

I have just learned a new word. Given the remote possibility that one or more of my viewers may be unfamiliar with the word I will use it in a sentence, for their benefit and to help spread the word far and wide. At this point, in the interests of full disclosure, I must admit that when I first saw the word I figured it referred to some sort of alcoholic drink because of its resemblance to the Spanish word sangria, “. . . a delicious, fruit-based wine “punch” with its traditional heritage well rooted in Spain.

First, the presentation and definition of that word—to paraphrase Sarah Palin, “Here’s a new word for ya!”

san·gui·nar·y (adjective)

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a&gt;

1. Accompanied by bloodshed.

2. Eager for bloodshed; bloodthirsty.

3. Consisting of blood.

1. sanguinary—accompanied by bloodshed; “this bitter and sanguinary war”sanguineous, slaughterous, butcherly, gory bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

2. sanguinary—marked by eagerness to resort to violence and bloodshed; “bloody-minded tyrants”; “bloodthirsty yells”; “went after the collaborators with a sanguinary fury that drenched the land with blood”–G.W.Johnson—bloodthirsty, bloody-minded bloody—having or covered with or accompanied by blood; “a bloody nose”; “your scarf is all bloody”; “the effects will be violent and probably bloody”; “a bloody fight”

Here is the new word (example #2 in bold) properly used in a sentence:

The sanguinary talking heads on cable’s MSNBC, labeled PMSNBC by Rush Limbaugh, comprise a group of professionals, a group in which all, in varying degrees, launch verbal and vicious attacks on everyone and everything they consider to be standing on, or even leaning towards, the political right in our nation’s political spectrum.

I neither condemn nor praise the speakers on MSNBC. In an attempt to understand both sides of political issues, I attempt to devote equal viewing and listening time to MSNBC and another network, a network that claims to be fair and balanced, saying We report, you decide—catchy and lofty phrases, but phrases that one should not accept whole cloth—the facts and opinions expressed on that network should be compared to facts and opinions expressed on other networks.

For anyone that may need their memory freshened on the meaning of whole cloth, the following definition is furnished—the bolding of certain words is mine:

WHOLE CLOTH <a href=”http://www.thefreedictionary.com/sanguinary”>sanguinary</a>

[Q] From an anonymous correspondent: Do you have any information on the meaning or origin of the term whole cloth?

[A] Literally, the phrase refers to a complete piece of cloth as it is first made, as opposed to one which has been cut up to make garments. It goes back at least to the fifteenth century in that sense. Down the years, it has been used in a variety of figurative senses, but in the early nineteenth century it began to be employed in the US in the way that we now know, of something that is wholly fabricated or a complete lie. The implication seems to be that a thing made from whole cloth has no previous history or associations, that it is created from a blank sheet in the same way that a total lie is invented.

And finally this posting has come to its end, or at least it is nearing its end. Whether it is a noble or ignoble posting must be decided by its viewers. Each viewer will have the opportunity to rate the posting at its conclusion with five levels—stars—to use for voting.

Note that a vote to the far right star means excellent, and a vote to the far left star means poor, and I believe that one could surmise that the star in the middle stands for average—the center, if you will.

The positioning and the relative value of the stars is either a startling coincidence or a really well thought out and well developed voting system furnished by WordPress. Color me wary and susceptible to subliminal messages, but I seem to fixate on a particular star for voting purposes, and I rarely deviate from that position. Could it possibly be that the voting system reflects the the far right, far left and center positions on our political scale?

I report, you decide.

You should be aware and cognizant of the stars’ positions and their relative values before you vote. You will not have the option of changing your vote, so please don’t vote erroneously and paint yourself into a corner, so to speak—you may leave a posting with a specific label, other than the one to which you adhere, attached to your lapel—so to speak.

I just noticed that in my typing above I inadvertently omitted the first A in be aware and failed to space, thus combining the words be and aware. I corrected the typos but not before I noticed something significant that resulted from my errors. Can you guess what resulted? I’ll give you three guesses and the first two won’t count.

Give up? Fail to space between the words be and aware and omit the a and the two words are converted to beware. I have just created a maxim, namely that, “If one does not be aware of all possibilities of certain situations, one should beware,” shortened to “Be aware, or beware!

That admonition qualifies as outstanding poster material and should be posted in every work center, on every street corner, on every marquee, on the giant digital billboards in Times Square, on auto license plates, on Hallmark’s greeting cards, on home wall decorations and prominently displayed on ladies purses as a reminder to the lady that purse snatchers prey on women, and as a warning to potential purse snatchers that the lady is very much aware of that fact. The possibilities are endless—as is, apparently, this posting.

How about that? I probably should copyright that maxim and charge for its use—I could profit significantly from my creation! No, not really—as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, and I’m sure my creation is not new—knowing that it is not new does not preclude my claiming to be its discoverer—it’s in my nature!

If this posting garners a significant number of votes, the results may be worthy of a subsequent posting, so I urge all viewers to follow the example of many that vote in our local, regional and national elections:

Vote early and vote often!

I welcome and will respond to all comments, whether positive or negative, but please be gentle.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Postscript: Since posting this dissertation I have deleted, from all my postings, the counter that allowed viewers to vote on the content and quality of my postings. I took this action because a viewer, perhaps more than one viewer, cast something less than a vote of excellence—less than five stars.

 

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Revisited: An historic event? Oh, puhleeze!

Listen up, Fox News—there is no such thing as an historic event, an historical moment, an history book or an history teacher—they do not exist. There are such things as a historic event, a historical moment, a history book and a history teacher. As regards the proper—versus improper—use of a and an relative to preceding words beginning with an h, I made my opinion known to my adoring readers back in February of this year, and I am now generously bringing that opinion up from the Stygian darkness of past postings and into the bright light of today, and once again sending it up the flagpole in an effort to get someone—anyone, but especially the brilliant news readers and personal opinion sharers on Fox News—to salute it. Yes, I know that I used an preceding the h in  the previous sentence, but there are always exceptions to a rule—that phrase, an h, is one of two exceptions that immediately come to mind. The other exception is an hour—those are exceptions, nothing more, and they do not  justify the continuing use of an to precede all words beginning with an h. See? There it is again!

Fox News is the only news channel available on my television, the result of the restrictions placed by my cable provider at my request. I have absolutely no interest in any news outlet other than Fox News. If I can convince the talking heads on Fox News to use the correct article in conjunction with the words history, historic,  historical, etc., my efforts will not have been in vain.

My original post follows:

An historic event?

Oh, puhleeze!

During the recent and still continuing snowfalls across the country, talking heads on television, weather forecasters in particular, have repeatedly characterized and continue to characterize snowstorms and snowfalls as an historic storm and an historical snowfall.

In the storied (and some say fabled) history of our nation there has never been an historic event, nor has there ever been an historical event. Never. Not one. I can clearly remember reading about historic events in a history book—World War II, for example, and the wrecks of the Titanic and the Hindenburg, the solo flight across the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh, and Sir Edmund Hillary’s ascent to the top of Mount Everest. I found all those historic events in a history book, but I have never found one in an history book.

If we insist on dropping the H  and saying an historic event, we should apply that rule to all words beginning with H—that would give us an Hoover for a vacuum cleaner, an Hoover for president, an harp for music, an heaven to which we should all aspire, and on and on, ad infinitum.

I realize that such terms as an herb and an herb garden are firmly entrenched in our English language, in spite of the fact that many distinguished speakers and writers refuse to deviate from the terms a herb and a herb garden. Two of those distinguished people immediately come to mind—both Martha Stewart and I refuse to say an herb—we are sticking to a herb. That’s not one of my neighbors—that is the Martha Stewart, a widely known decorator and gardener, and an accepted authority on everything, including herbs, herb gardens and stock market trades.

If both Martha Stewart and I refuse to drop the h in herb in order to use the an rather than the a, that should provide sufficient reason for everyone else to step out of the an line and into the a line—one only needs to take a teenie weenie baby step to move from an egregious wrong to a resounding right—a step from left to right, so to speak. On serious reflection, such a move would be beneficial in other venues, particularly in the political arena.

Folks in Great Britain speak English, albeit English that in a large measure has not kept pace with the times, has not evolved over time as has our use of English to communicate. English-speaking people in Great Britain tend to drop their aitches, particularly those speakers of cockney descent.

The following joke clearly illustrates that tendency (please forgive me for the joke, but I must use the tools that are available to me):

During World War II an American soldier was strolling on the beach with a lovely British girl he had just met. A strong breeze was blowing off the water and the girl’s skirt billowed up over her waist. This was wartime and many products, ladies undergarments for example, were in short supply, hence this lady wore nothing under her skirt. The soldier took a quick look, but not wanting to embarrass her, quickly looked away and exclaimed, “Wow, it’s really airy!”

The girl snapped back, “Well, wot the ‘ell did you expect? Chicken feathers?”

I realize that returning our population to the proper use of a and an is a task that far outstrips Hercules’ assignment to clean the Augean stables. In comparison with Hercules’ assignment to clean the stables in one day, this one will require a tremendous amount of shoveling. Had we two rivers adjacent to the stables as Hercules did, we could divert the  streams to and through the stables as he did, and thus clear up this problem of deciding whether a or an will precede words beginning with an H.

Alas, we do not have the two rivers available for our use, but we do have shovels. I will continue to wield my shovel as long as the misuse of a and an exists, but I sure could use some help!

Oh, just one more thought—the first objection to saying a herb rather than an herb usually involves and invokes the word hour. I readily agree that nobody ever says a hour—they always say an hour. I accept that, but I do not accept it as justification to say an herb. An hour is simply an exception to the rule, exceptions that all of us must recognize and accept.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 

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The San Antonio Talberts . . .

What follows is a comment I made on one of my daughter’s postings way back in May of 2009. I was somewhat belated in making the comment—her posting is dated almost two years earlier, in August of 2007. Hey, better late than never! I’m bringing the comment out of the Stygian darkness of comments and into the bright light of today to make it available to more viewers, to present a beautiful family to today’s Word Press viewers. I’m proud to be part of this family.

Photos are by my daughter, Cindy Dyer. Click here for her blog at http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/ for some gorgeous photography, with interpretations and descriptions of flora, fauna and a little bit of everything else—no, make that a lot of everything else. You’ll find photos and descriptions of of places all over the United States and various foreign countries including—well, rather than listing all the places, just remember when you get to her home page to click on her Stuff About Me in the right-hand column and get ready to be impressed! I am tremendously impressed by her talents and her work. Of course I am her father and I am supposed to be impressed—but see for yourself!

This is the comment I posted almost two years ago:

It’s 4:00 AM plus 35 minutes here in San Antonio—I’ve been up and on my feet since 2:00 AM plus 13 minutes (actually, I’ve been sitting on my heine at the computer, looking over some of your past postings). Past postings sounds like a food dish—Italian, maybe. Do you perhaps have the recipe?

I am thrilled by these photos of the Talbert family—I must have overlooked them when they were first posted. My heart swells with pride when I realize that through my daughter Debbie, the family matriarch, I contributed to the formation of this gorgeous group. I hasten to add that I was not involved in the formation of the two hairy ones, the one with the beard and glasses and the family member Landen is holding, the devil cat that his mother and his grandmother—my daughter and my wife—call hussy.

I proudly proclaim—a kingly proclamation—that I have, perhaps not full but at least partial, genetic responsibility for the “beauty and brains” displayed and demonstrated by this family except, of course, for the patriarch and the pussy. I am not implying that those two are in any manner limited or deficient in beauty or brains—I simply mean that I was not privileged to contribute to their genetic makeup in any way.

Hey, The Patriarch and the Pussy Cat could well be the title for a television series, a family situation comedy centered around the activities of the title characters. However, that title may cause it to be listed in the adult section of TV listings, so it would probably be best to stick with The Talbert Family a la —in the manner of—The Partridge Family.

According to Google, heine is of Germanic origin—it’s most likely a diminutive for the surname Heinrich. I’m guessing that’s what the hn means in the Google listing below. As Bill O’Reilly is wont to say, “What say you?”

From Google:

Heine Heinrich, 1797-1856, German writer who lived in Paris after 1831. His romantic poems and social essays are marked by his love for the German land and people and derision for many modern German institutions.

How about this? If a son born to a Hispanic mother and Germanic father was unlucky enough to be named James Heinrich, he could legitimately be called Jaime Heine. Phonetic pronunciation would be as follows: Hime Hine, with a long I and the soft accent on the first syllable of each word.

I know, I know—I have far too much time on my hands.

Postscript: The family, including the devil cat, is three years older now and lots of water has flowed under the bridge in that three years. Big sister was just graduated by the University of Texas at San Antonio—UTSA—and little brother is no longer little—he has replaced the curls with an adult haircut, moved up into the rarified air of six feet in height, and is in his second year of studies at UTSA. The pussy cat has not changed—she is still a devil cat!

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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An ode to newlyweds . . .

The comment that follows is one that I posted concerning a photograph of newlyweds my daughter placed on her blog. The middle one of three daughters, she is the one that lives, loves, laughs, labors and lingers with her husband in Northern Virginia (my favorite  daughter and my favorite son-in-law, but don’t tell the others). Click here to see her original post entitled,  After the rain . . .

Before making the comment I e-mailed her for permission to use the photograph and to provide an advance reading of the comment. This is the comment as I posted it:

I have labored long and strong to produce this comment. Brilliant poetry does not come easy for semi-literate persons—it takes a lot of erasing and changing, and I’m submitting it for your consideration. Depending on your decision—to keep or delete—that is the question.

I will either post it verbatim or I will return it to the bowels of my brain and save it for some other use, but mark my words: It will be published, somewhere for some reason, without photos, of course. I may submit it for competition in the search for the world’s best poem.

A beautiful bubbly bride in a gorgeous gown, a handsome, albeit hairless, groom with the Garden of Eden beckoning in the background—one cannot resist speculating on whether at the end of the ceremony the couple will go hence, as did Adam and Eve, into the Garden—into the bushes, so to speak—and if such be the case that gown, already precariously balanced and threatening to succumb to the effects of gravity, will quickly be weighted down with beggar lice and cockle burrs, and that weight added to the pull of the earth’s center and the predictable possibility of the groom stepping on the gown’s train, accidentally of course, will produce predictable results, and from that spurious speculation springs a poetical predilection:

An ode to newlyweds

Hark! What is that I see?
Is that an apple on yon tree?

And does a serpent nearby lurk,
Upon its lips an evil smirk?

And will that tale of Bible lore,
As in the long gone days of yore,

Perhaps repeat itself once more?

Hark! Not from that apple on the tree,
Nor from the serpent hanging ‘round,

Did life began for thee and me,
‘Twas from that pear on the ground.

Anonymous? Not really. I’m guilty. I wrote it. All by myself.

The poem includes one homonym—betcha  can’t find it!

Just a tiny hint: It’s one of a pair of words that sound alike, but are spelled differently and have different meanings—note the word pair in this sentence and the word pear in the poem.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 

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