What Could Possibly Go Wrong?


This old spot just never seems to go out of date. The government run National Health Service in the U.K. reports: about 20 percent of those trying to schedule an appointment with a G.P. can’t get one within seven days; over 11.3 percent can’t get an appointment at all; over 27 percent said they had problems simply reaching a doctor’s office by telephone.

Filed 7/21/17

Foody Frivia


Do you like cold pizza? Some do, some don’t. For us, pizza fresh out of the oven, yummy; Pizza fresh out of the fridge, yuck. Is it just the temperature, the texture, the look? Not really.

Despite being the same ingredients in the same arrangement hot pizza and cold pizza tastes different. But it’s not the pizza, it’s us. Taste receptors work differently at different temperatures. That’s why many things need to be spiced up a bit when eaten cold. Like leftover fried chicken. Just needs a little more salt and pepper, right? Or is that just us?

Know what else makes a difference? Packaging. The French gave experts the exact same wine poured from a high-price brand bottle and a low-price brand bottle and the experts declared the high-price brand wine was better. So then, you can feel better for buying that store brand box-o-wine. Just decant it into a fancy bottle and, “Voila, tres magnifique.”

One more trick. Want diners to laud your culinary offerings? Give it a fancy description. Folks will compliment the chef’s herb-crusted calamari, but will rate lowly the fried squid. Same dish, different name. Guess Shakespeare got it wrong. A rose by any other name… stinks.

Filed 7/19/17

Happy Anniversary


A 2011 art spot from the Fortean Times “Strange Deaths” file. For which strange death? Take your pick.

A devoted couple married for 56 years died within a minute of each other. Donald Dix, 85, a retired steelworker, collapsed at home in Cardiff and his wife Rosemary dialled 999 for an ambulance. Mrs Dix, 76, stayed at home to call their two daughters with the bad news as her husband was driven off – but she was found dead with the phone still off the receiver. Mr Dix died in the ambulance on the way to hospital at almost exactly the same time Mrs Dix died. “They didn’t know how to live without each other,” said their daughter Jacqueline. The couple met at a dance in Nottingham, married in 1956, and were buried together.

Another devoted couple who were inseparable for more than 70 years died on the same day. Bert and Doreen Swan met in Birmingham in the late 1930s, married in 1941, and had three sons. Mrs Swan, 91, died at the nursing home in Marlborough where they both lived at 11:30am while Mr Swan, 93, who was not told of his wife’s death, died in hospital of a chest infection at 10:30 that night. He had been a pioneering metallurgist. The couple retired in the 1980s and spent their time ballroom dancing and tandem riding.

In October 2008 Robin Rothwell was travelling to visit his 90-year-old father George in a nursing home when he got a call saying he had died of pneumonia. Then his phone rang again, with the news that his mother Kate, 89, had been found dead at the couple’s home in Torbay, Devon. Neither knew the other had died. Another couple died within hours of each other the following month, after being married for 60 years. Farmer Austin Debenham and his wife Jean were in different hospitals. Mr Debenham, 82, died of bronchial pneumonia at 11pm on 7 November. Mrs Debenham, 79, who had a heart operation, passed away at 2am that night, not knowing her husband had died.

Frank Kemp, 79, father of Martin and Gary Kemp who found fame in the Eighties band Spandau Ballet, died of a heart attack in Bournemouth Hospital in January 2009. His wife Eileen, 77, who was in the same hospital after a heart bypass, died 48 hours later “of a broken heart”. They had been married for 55 years. Kevin and Liz O’Connor had been married for 35 years. Mr O’Connor, a 61-year-old store manager, had a fatal heart attack near his home Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, in February 2009 after popping out to the corner shop. His wife, 58, collapsed with breathing difficulties after hearing the news and died later that day in hospital.

Ronnie and Connie Pilling of Emley, West Yorkshire, were married for 67 years. Mr Pilling, 86, died of pneumonia on 16 May 2009 with his wife at his bedside. She died at home the next morning of a suspected blood clot. Olga Whitfield, 61, had a heart attack at 10pm on 18 October 2009. Her husband Stewart Whitfield, 56, dialled for an ambulance but also suffered cardiac failure. Shortly afterwards, paramedics found them both dead at their home in West Boldon, South Tyneside. Fred Launder, 95, and his wife Dorothy, 93, died at home in Newport, Isle of Wight, on the same day in December 2009 after 69 years of marriage.

A widow died at the exact moment the funeral began for her husband of nearly 70 years. Irene Edwards, 88, was in hospital for a broken hip and the night before the service she checked: “It’s 11 o’clock, isn’t it?” She died at exactly that time the next day as her beloved husband Fred, 96, of Stourport, Worcestershire, was laid to rest.

Filed 7/17/17

What’s This?

no1 zenniB
no2 zenniC
no3 zenniD

What are we looking at above? Are they black squares with blue stripes or blue squares with black stripes? What if we remove the black?

Mouseover box 1: Do we still have squares and stripes or just some triangles and slashes? Let’s go another step and add more bits.

Mouseover box 2: Are we seeing anything but squares, stripes, and triangles? Is there something more to it? Finally, let’s add a black background all around.

Mouseover box 3: Aha! Now we can see it easily. It’s not a bunch of iconundrums, it’s type. ZENNI.

The reader might still be asking what’s this. Or maybe what’s that. It’s the trademark for a brand of eyewear. We just thought their typography was rather clever. And it shows how the human eye can read the most abstract letter forms. Which is also pretty clever. Can a computer optical reader do it? Nope. That’s why online forms use those twisted up numbers and letters to test if someone is a real person or a bot. Computers might be very powerful, and perhaps smart, but they aren’t very clever. But then, there are people like that, too.

One more thing. Once you see it as type it’s hard to unsee it. They’ll always be boxes and stripes and shapes and letters all at the same time. Try it and see.

Filed 7/14/17

Another Damp and Desultory Day in Motor Town


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Raining a lot hereabouts this year. Keeps the garden green. That’s good. Rather dampens getting out in the fresh air on the scooter and whatnot. That’s not so good. Meaning the terry colon dot com staff lolls about inside our global headquarters lacking for something to do. We haven’t been reduced to luggage spotting, as depicted in this old mystery art spot from 2000. Still, we wouldn’t object to getting outside more. Even if it were only to mow the lawn or clean the garage. Something. Anything.

Instead we’ve settled on penning this drizzly day blog babble packet of piffle. A sentence we guarantee you’ll never read anywhere else. Lucky you.

Filed 7/13/17

Motor Sport Old News


Being the Casual Sportsman we admit to not following the sports ticker daily. (Is there even a sports ticker?) In place of daily we might substitute the word accidentally. Which is more-or-less how we stumbled upon the following items.

What happens when a chicken farmer puts a pickup truck engine in a twenty year old chassis from a company making wheel­chairs? You win Le Mans and dethrone Ferrari as GT world champion. In other words, you get the Shelby (AC) Cobra.

Cobra Ferrari Wars

Something that happened over fifty years ago is beyond old news, it’s history. Something that happened last year is old news. Combine the two and you get the story of the triumphant return of the Ford GT to Le Mans on the fiftieth anniversary of its one-two-three finish in 1966.

Ford Returns to Le Mans

One bit of trivia while we’re on the subject. The now traditional wildly spraying the big bottle of champagne all over was started spontaneously by Dan Gurney after the GT 40s second Le Mans victory in 1967.

Filed under The Casual Sportsman 7/10/17. Though perhaps we’ve gone beyond that to The Nostalgic Sportsman.

A-a-a-h-h-h, Choo


Bit of an unplanned break there as the entire terry colon dot com staff (of one) was under the weather, as they say. Why they say that we don’t know, not seeing how the weather has anything to do with it. Anyway, we’re back in the saddle. In a chair, actually. Or on a chair. Either one. Can you be on the saddle or only in it? We know you can only be on the couch and not in the couch. Same for a stool and bench; for sitting on only, not in. Though a pew is a bench you can sit in or on…

All this inane on/in blather suggests we’re not quite back up to snuff. Up to snuff, another peculiar turn of phrase. Though for this one we have a derivation. In which you’ll find the smart drug of the past was tobacco. Ah-choo.

Up to snuff

Filed 7/10/17

Fourth of July On Tap


Since declaring independence from Britain two hundred and whatever-it-is years ago tomorrow, America has become a land of plenty. And there’s plenty of plenty beyond milk and honey to go around. Even excess. Some of it good, some of it not so good. But we’ll leave others to debate those points. The plenty we concern ourselves with is foodstuffs since that’s what we’ll stuff ourselves with at Fourth of July barbecues from coast to coast. Which sort-of leaves out Hawaii, but they can have a luau so it’s all good.

There’s really not much more for us say, the picture should speak for itself. Not literally, that’s just a figure of speech, you will have to read the callouts.

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Now then, if we hadn’t split with Britain what would we be barbecuing? Fish and chips, bangers and mash, bubble and squeak, haggis? Nah. Likely pretty much the same as now, great slabs of meat and burgers and such. We know they barbecue over the pond, but they’re not exactly famous for it so we don’t know what they make. One also wonders about continental barbecue, too. None of the cooking shows of TV seem to feature Euro-BBQ. Caribbean, South American, Asian, yes; European, no. Just what do they barbecue in France, Germany and Italy? It’s a mystery to us.

Filed 7/3/17

A-a-a-a-h-h-h, July


It’s fairly widely known July and August were renamed after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar respectively. Quick quiz: what were the names of the months they replaced?

July was originally Quintilis, August was originally Sextilis. These fell into the whole month name by number business: September, seventh month; October, eighth month; et cetera. If you know your Latin number prefixes you can tell that Quintilis meant fifth month and Sextilis meant sixth month. (If we knew Latin we might explain why it was Quintilis and not Quintember, but as we don’t know Latin we’ll just have to let it slide.)

But wait, isn’t July the seventh month? Well, yeah. Thing was, the original Roman calendar had only ten months and lasted 304 days with unaccounted for days in the winter. We don’t know how that was supposed to work. Neither did the Romans really because it didn’t. Which is why they added January and February in about 700 BC. They tacked these new months on the beginning of the year and so the numerical month names didn’t make sense any more.

Even then the Roman calendar didn’t add up and the seasons got out of whack. So much so they sometimes added a thirteenth month, Intercalaris, to try to rejigger the seasons back in line. Then the two Caesars got involved and reformed the thing to the calendar we enjoy today. If you don’t enjoy it, that’s on you.

The Roman Calendar

Filed 7/1/17

Follow-up Article on Articles


Continuing the topic of the use of articles in language, or lack of use in the case of Russian, there’s some curious variations in how it’s done. For instance Basque puts the article after the noun. Which would be something like, “Basque puts article the after noun the.” Sounds pretty strange, and it is if you were speaking English, but not if you were speaking Basque where it’s normal.

In other languages the article can become part of the noun as a prefix. For instance in French “an airplane” becomes l’avion. In other cases (Finnish we think but don’t hold us to that) the article becomes a suffix. Which would be along the lines of, “Articlethe becomes suffixa.” Weird here, but not there.

English, of course, doesn’t do that sort of thing. Or does it? Take the words today, tonight, and tomorrow. In Scots English those are the day, the night, and the morrow. English English writers will sometimes use “the morrow” in place of tomorrow. So then, is ‘to’ in tomorrow an article prefix equivalent of ‘the’? Might that explain why those words used to be spelled to-day, to-night, and to-morrow?

Could it be the word today was “the day” shortened in speech to th’day to t’day and finally wound up as today? We actually kind of say it as t’day, right? Too much of a stretch? Our hypothesis certainly can’t account for yesterday. Unless we go out in left field and say yesterday was from the phrase “erst the day.” Erst is an archaic word meaning formerly. (As in erstwhile.) Could be yesterday once was something like “formerly the day.” Sound plausible? We have absolutely no evidence that’s the case, but it is fun to speculate. Folk etymology at its finest.

Folk Etymology Folks Invent From Whole Cloth

Filed 6/28/17

To Sound Like (a) Russian Omit (the) Articles


By our reckoning German has an excess of articles: ein, eine, das, die, der, dem, etc. English gets by fine with three: a, an, the. But to a Russian speaker that might seem too many. That’s because Russian has no words for a or the. Which means you can have a perfectly coherent language without these articles. This is why Russians speaking English some­times don’t include them, they just don’t come naturally. This quirk is used in lots of old jokes when Russians are speaking. As in…

Cosmonaut: In Russia we have world’s greatest space program. In one year we go to sun.
Astronaut: You can’t go to the sun, you’ll burn up.
Cosmonaut: This is not problem. We go at night.

Filed 6/27/17

Pointless Trivia Monday

cement1 cement2 cement3
Infrequently Answered Question #117: What’s the difference between cement, concrete, and mortar?

A: Cement can be a synonym for paste or glue, as in rubber cement and contact cement. But in the question we know we’re talking about a specific product used in pavement and such which isn’t acting as some kind of adhesive. Though is does harden and cling, but not in a glue-like way. But enough of that.

Cement was actually used by the Romans two thousand years ago. How close it was to modern cement we don’t know. Who exactly invented it is unknown, there are no patent records from back then. Modern cement was reinvented in England in the nineteenth century by Joseph Aspdin of Leeds. It is often called portland cement because Mr. Aspdin likened the color to the stone from the quarries on the coastal island of Portland. These days portland cement remains the most common cement used. It is a type of “hydraulic” cement, meaning that it sets and hardens when combined with water.

Cement is the binding ingredient in both concrete and mortar and is usually made of limestone, clay, shells, silica sand and other materials. These materials are crushed and then combined with other ingredients (including iron ore), and then heated to about 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit. This material, called clinker, is ground into a fine powder. Then it’s cement.

Concrete is cement plus sand and gravel. Traditionally the gravel was quarried natural gravel, you know, stones, pebbles, whatever. Nowadays it is often aggregate, crushed rock and pulverized old concrete. This is basically cheap filler that makes your cement go further. They can control how hard or how smooth the concrete is by how much sand it contains and the size of the aggregate.

Mortar is cement plus sand and sometimes aggregate, finer than in concrete. Mortar has more sand than concrete so it’s not as hard, and for good reason. Mortar cements masonry together, you know, bricks. When it gets hot both expand. If they expand too much things can break and it’s better to have the mortar break than the brick. If the mortar breaks you have to replace the mortar. If the brick breaks you have to replace the brick. Which means taking out the mortar around it and replacing that, too. If the mortar has enough give to it, nothing breaks. Though if it has too much give the wall falls apart. Still, masons have figured out the right formulas for the type of bricks or stones or cinder blocks and your house, foundation, or wall doesn’t fall apart too easily.

Anyway, folks often call concrete cement. While it might not be exactly accurate, there is cement in concrete so, what the heck, call it either one. We don’t mind.

Filed 6/26/17

The Operation Was a Success But…


If you discover one of these real notations from medical transcriptions on your own record, maybe it’s time to get a second opinion. Or perhaps a rewrite. Or a refund. Something.

Though if you want real dubious medical commentary, toss a lawyer into the mix.

Lawyer from court records: Now, Doctor, isn’t it true that when a person dies in his sleep, in most cases he just passes quietly away and doesn’t know anything about it until the next morning?

Yep. We’ve also heard it’s hard to solve some murders because the victims won’t coöperate.

Filed 6/23/17

A-a-a-a-h-h-h, Summer!

summer171 summer172 summer173

Yes, summer started yesterday, but today’s the first full day and that’s what counts by our reckoning. Besides, what does it matter? Most people don’t come here for calendar news. Heck, most people don’t come here for any reason whatever. At any rate, spring cleaning is over and now we can proceed to our summertime to-do list. Though we got some of it done already. Might be the first year we run through the entire list. Though things keep getting added. Funny how that is. Just like summer. There’s another one every year.

Filed 6/22/17

See Run Run. Run, Run, Run.


It’s curious, to us at least, how one word can have so many completely different meanings and not be confusing when it crops up. There are lots of such words. In fact, the word lots is one. “He owned lots and lots of lots.” Lots can mean many, or parcels of land. It can also be chances, as in drawing lots. Still, the quote is not confusing as to what lots means in each instance. Still is another such word. Still is unmoving or something for brewing hootch or means yet. Yet has multiple meanings… we could go on and on. On is another. It’s maddening.

On the other hand, we have the reverse case. That is, one meaning with multiple words. We have a term for that, synonym. What’s the term for the the other? We’re not entirely sure, but there is this:

homograph (hŏm′ ə-grăf, hōm′ ə-grăf) noun, a word of the same written form as another but of different meaning and usually origin, whether pronounced the same way or not, as bear “to carry; support” and bear “animal,” or lead “to conduct” and lead “metal.”

As you can see as in the word lead, a heteronym is a homograph, though not always the other way around. (You just knew we’d squeeze heteronym in here one way or another.) Then there is…

polysemy (pŏl′-ē sē-mē, pə-lĭs′ ə-mē) noun, a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation.

Think of the phrase, “all over.” Which could mean everywhere or totally finished.

English Words with the Most Multiple Meanings

Whether the words at the link qualify as homographs or not, we’re not entirely clear. Nor do we know what you call a word that can be pronounced more than one way. Though, considering accents and dialects, that might include half the dictionary.

Filed 6/20/17

A New Old Pic from Diablo Magazine of 1999


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Because there’s just not enough cooking shows on TV. At least no witch cuisine show. Or medieval cooking shows, for that matter. That would be the true all natural cooking, eh? Pass the health gruel, please.

Filed 6/19/17

On the Horns of a Di-llama


A goofy follow up to a previous post with a Dr. Doolittle twist. Proving we can be as silly as we want. We are the editor and art director and publisher and bottle washer and everything else. We answer to no-one. Which is a mixed blessing of total freedom combined with absolutely no responsibility whatsoever. And that, dear reader, sums up the web in a nutshell.

Filed 6/15/17

Pointless Inanimation


You may have noticed the activity hereabouts lately has slowed to a snail’s pace. How slow is that? The desert snail can sleep for two years at a time. Wonder how they tell it’s asleep. Studying snails can’t be the world’s most exciting job, can it? Lot of down time, we imagine. “Call me when it wakes up.”

Filed 6/14/17

A-a-a-h-h-lmost Summer


Hot today, hot yesterday. Feeling summer-like. Windy, too. Maybe it’s just us, but there seems to be a lot of windy days around here this spring. Maybe the wind gods are angry. Or would they be happy when it’s windy? Anyway, just to keep our hand in, here’s an old spot from Chicago magazine that more or less fits the bill. Minus the windy part.

Filed 6/12/17

On the Horns of a Dilemma


OK, we admit the visual pun, or whatever you’d call it, is an idea stolen from Mad magazine’s “Horrifying Clichés” bit. So sue us. Though it won’t do you any good because they didn’t originate the idea of literal depictions of figures of speech as a gag. That goes back to an Italian cartoon strip Bilbolbul begun by Attilio Mussino in 1909.

A dilemma is a choice between two equal options. Latin, from Greek dilēmma, DI- (double) plus lēmma, proposition. These might be equally good or bad options. Though for a pessimist equally good is equally bad since you are going to miss out on one good option no matter what. Vice-versa for an optimist.

Life is full of dilemmas, unclear choices and trade-offs with upsides and downsides. Many have multiple choices and so might actually be trilemmas, quadralemmas or dodecalemmas. But it’d be ridiculous to have all those specific words when dilemma fairly well fits the bill for them all. Anyway, you could simply substitute the word quandary instead. You have two equal options. Not much of a dilemma, but there you go.

Filed 6/9/17

Making the World Safe for Kleptocracy


Another Reason magazine “Brickbats” rerun, anyone?

In Worcester, England, Bill Malcolm put barbed wire around his tool shed and vegetable plots after thieves struck three times in four months. Shortly after that, local officials ordered him to remove the fence because burglars might get hurt climbing over it.

One wonders if he was allowed to keep the oh-so-dangerous-when-broken glass in the windows.

No thieves were harmed in the making of this post.

Filed 6/8/17

It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time; Not


“The purpose of thinking is so our ideas can die instead of us.”  –Karl Popper

Filed 6/7/17

We’re Oblivious All the Time


Infrequently Answered Question #116: Are you one of those people who take everything for granted?

A: Of course. Everybody is. For the most part. That’s because you have to be or you’d probably worry yourself to death or go raving mad with distraction in short order. You can’t pay attention to everything. Think about it, everything, every thing. That’s a heckuva lot of things. You pay attention to what matters at the moment and ignore the rest. The rest being 99.999…% of everything.

Right now, are you aware of every sound in the room? How about how the room smells? Are you noticing what your feet are doing? Are you paying attention to your breathing and heartbeat? As long as all the objects in the room aren’t acting up like something from The Exorcist or singing and dancing as in Cinderella you don’t give them a second thought, eh? You’d never dare go for a walk if you didn’t take it for granted people would drive their cars on the road and not the sidewalk.

We simply haven’t got the brain power to keep track of everything, or even a lot of things. So we ignore most everything. Which works because most of the time most of everything works as expected and so can be ignored, taken for granted. Taking nothing for granted, mistrusting everything and everyone is insane. We have a word for that, schizophrenia. How well does that work?

Filed 6/5/17

June First Musings


Who came up with alphabetical order? Why is it in that order? Why didn’t they include more vowels? There are five vowels for twenty English vowel sounds. Aren’t we short fifteen letters?

Perhaps this is one reason English will never be written phonetically. Besides, which accent’s pronunciation would be the standard? Or would you spell differently depending where you lived? For example, while a Canadian says been as bean, Americans say been like ben or bin. We’d have to translate texts from American to Canadian to Yorkshire to Cockney to Cornish to… you get the picture.

This leads us to a bit of language use trivia hockey fans might be familiar with. And soccer fans, too. Which is Canadian and English announcers treat team city names as plural while Americans don’t. For instance, all would say, “The Maple Leafs are playing well.” Or they might, depends on the game. But we digress. On the other hand Americans would say, “Toronto is playing well,” while a Canadian or English announcer would say, “Toronto are playing well.” Not that there are many hockey announcers from England, so just apply that to soccer. Same deal.

Which way is better? Both are clear in meaning, yet perhaps the Canadian and English way is more proper. That’s because they aren’t referring to the city itself, which would be singular, but to the team, the Maple Leafs, which is plural. Then again, the plural of maple leaf is maple leaves, but that’s another story.

Filed 6/1/17