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The Write Way

26 March 2010

 It's a Boy Thing ...


Last Sunday, we were indulging in our weekly ritual of a stroll through the waterfront markets and then coffee at one of the many cafés along the foreshore. We'd ordered, and our coffees had been promptly delivered to the table, but we were still waiting for the girl to bring our ham and cheese croissants. (A Law of the Universe states that if they're savoury, you don't have to feel guilty about eating croissants ... Really ...)

So there we were, watching the passing parade of our fellows when I spotted a familiar figure walking towards us on the pedestrian crossing a little further up the road. It was the son of one of our ex-neighbours (a bit complicated, I know, but I strive for accuracy at all times).

This young fellow is in his mid-thirties and was doing the Good-Dad thing by holding the hand of his two-year-old son as they crossed the road. Unfortunately, his other hand held his mobile phone to his ear, and he was obviously deep in some very important conversation as he sallied forth across the road. Luckily for his son, other people were crossing, so the traffic had stopped as they stepped out from the footpath.

He was mid-way across the road, when we heard a shriek from a table in the next café, "Peter! (Not his real name ... accuracy can only take us so far in situations like this) Peter! Where's Jamie?"

On hearing the dulcet tones of his beloved wife, our young friend turned a whiter shade of pale, did an abrupt about-turn, and, dragging his son behind him, made a dash in the direction whence he had come.

A few minutes later, he emerged from the public toilet block situated along the waterfront, very sheepishly pushing a stroller containing Son Number Two.

He walked the long walk to his wife, then, spotting us a few tables further up the street, he saw salvation and rushed to greet us after he'd deposited a blissfully unaware 6-month-old and faintly bemused two-year-old with their distraught mother. The Love of My Life could only see the funny side, whereas I, as a mother, was imagining the conversation I'd be having if the same thing had happened to me ...

Obviously relieved to be out of the firing range and sensing he had an ally in the LoML, he laughed it off and explained that when the older child decided he desperately needed to go to the toilet, he'd offered to also take the baby along for a walk. (Don't ask ... it's obviously a man-thing ... Male bonding, perhaps.)

So there he was, waiting while his son and heir was happily engaged in wizzing up the wall, when his phone rang (our friend's phone ... not the child's).

It was a business call, so he adopted his best phone-voice and took himself into the Business Zone (not an easy thing to do when you're watching your two-year-old wizz up the wall in a public toilet). This turned out to be an important call he'd been sweating on getting for the past couple of days, and he soon found himself engrossed in the details of the deal.

Going onto auto-pilot, he turned to supervise as his son washed his hands at the basin, then they both headed for the exit, Dad still talking while Son Number One strode ahead and into the glare of daylight. Dad reached out, took the child's hand and they headed for the pedestrian crossing, which is where our story started ...

He lingered as long as was humanly possible then muttered something about getting back to his family, bade us farewell and went to face his fate.

Which segues beautifully into a story told to me by one of my swimming friends -- a lady who is well into her Prime. It seems that God was pleased with the way Adam and Eve had been behaving in the Garden of Eden, so one day he came to them and said, "You've both done very well, so I'm going to give you each a present."

Adam and Eve hugged each other in excitement, because they'd never had a present before. God turned to Adam and presented him with a willy (I can't use the right word lest your filters delete this).

Adam fitted on the willy and started to wizz up the side of a rock with it. (What is it with men?) Then he made patterns in the sand and generally had a jolly good time. "Gee, thanks, God," said Adam, "this is just the best present ever!"

God then turned to Eve, who was looking a bit left out and said, "I'm sorry, Eve. All I have for you is this brain."

Well, we thought it was funny ... and I think our sorry little tale this week proves it's not all fiction ...

Those of you who've stopped tut-tutting and have looked closer at our story this week, may have noted my use of "bade" instead of "bid." (The word rhymes with "pat" not "made".)

This is one of the forms of the past tense of the word bid (as in "... he bid us a fond farewell" OR " ...he bade us a fond farewell.") Bade tends to be viewed as a little archaic these days, but it's perfectly proper English and deserves an outing every once in a while, don't you think?

This week's Little Something Extra has yet another list of irregular verbs (and we have plenty of them!) plus some fascinating insights into lots of other tid-bits about our common language. Plus there's a new site where you'll find the direction, information, feedback, and ongoing education you require — as well as the motivation, encouragement, and inspiration you need — to set up your web-writing career.

And a little observation our young friend's wife would nod knowingly over:

A woman knows all about her children; she knows about their best friends, romances, secret hopes and dreams, favourite foods, fears and dental appointments.

A man is vaguely aware of some short people living in the house.


This week's quiz:

Since we've been chatting about differences ... match up these words from both sides of the Pond. (It's interesting that here, Down Under, we seem to have taken a sampling from both sides!)

UK: aerial, dummy, biscuit, fortnight, blind, cul-de-sac, grill, handbag, nappy, tadpole


1. pacifier

2. antenna

3. broil

4. two weeks

5. shade

6. pollywog

7. cookie

8. diaper

9. pocket-book

10. dead-end

Q: What's the difference between Investment Bankers and pigeons?

A: The pigeons are still capable of making deposits on new BMW's

Last week's quiz:

For those of us standing outside in the dark with our noses pressed up against the window pane of mathematical knowledge, these terms might just as well be in Klingon, but for the rest of you ... do that thing you do:

congruence, algorithm, perimeter, algebra, polyhedron, extrapolation, composite number, mean, polygon, factor

1. the boundary of a closed shape or curve, also the length of this boundary - PERIMETER

2. the sum of values in a data set divided by the total number of values in the data set - MEAN

3. property of being identical in shape and dimensions - CONGRUENCE

4. a three-dimensional shape whose faces are adjacent polygons; for example, a pyramid is but a cone is not because part of a cone is a curved surface which is not a polygon - POLYHEDRON

5. a process for computation that can be carried out mechanically; a precise rule (or set of rules) specifying how to solve some problem - ALGORITHM (The word algorithm comes from the old English algorisme, from a Latin translation of the name of the ninth century AD Arabic scholar, al-Khwarizmi, who investigated computation using the Hindu numeration system  -- leading to the Hindu-Arabic number system of today).

6. working beyond known data to make predictions; for example, working past the last known point on a graph to predict a value beyond this point - EXTRAPOLATION

7. natural number that divides exactly into a given natural number - FACTOR ( 2 is a factor of 12, since 2 x 6 = 12. The set of all factors of a given number is called its factor set. The factor set of 12 is {1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 12})

8.  the mathematics of generalised arithmetical operations; process of manipulating variables and constants in a mathematical expression according to fixed laws, properties or rules; for example, simplifying an expression or solving an equation; a mathematical structure whose elements and operations satisfy a given collection of laws - ALGEBRA (The word algebra comes from the work of the Arabic scholar, Abu Abd-Allah ibn Musa al'Khwarizmi, who was born about 790 AD near Baghdad, and died about 850 AD. Khwarizmi wrote one of the first books Hisab al-jabr w'al-muqabala on what is now called algebra in 830 AD. Al-jabr refers to the process of moving a subtracted quantity to the other side of an equation while al-muqabala involves subtracting equal quantities from both sides of an equation. In 1140 AD this text was translated into Latin as Liber algebrae et almucabala, from which the word algebra has become part of mathematical language.)

9. a closed plane figure with sides formed by straight lines; for example, triangles, quadrilateral, pentagons, hexagons and the like - POLYGON (Literally "many sides" NOT a dead parrot!)

10. non-zero natural number which has more than two distinct elements in its factor set; for example, 8 has four distinct elements in its factor set: {1, 2, 4, 8}. The number 2 is not since it has only two distinct elements in its factor set: {1, 2} - COMPOSITE NUMBER (With the exception of 1, which has only one distinct element in its factor set: {1}, all non-zero natural numbers are either composite or prime.)

And here's a classic tale that illustrates the difference between men and women. (It's a little long, so save it for the weekend if you're pressed for time at the moment):

A man called Roger is attracted to a woman called Elaine. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else. And then, one evening when they're driving home, a thought occurs to Elaine, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud, ''Do you realize that, as of tonight, we've been seeing each other for exactly six months?''

And then there is silence in the car. To Elaine, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: Oh dear, I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he's been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I'm trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn't want, or isn't sure of.

And Roger is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Elaine is thinking: But, hey, I'm not so sure I want this kind of relationship, either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I'd have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily toward . . . I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Roger is thinking: So that means it was ... let's see ... February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer's, which means ... lemme check the odometer . . . Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here!

And Elaine is thinking: He's upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I'm reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed -- even before I sensed it -- that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that's it. That's why he's so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He's afraid of being rejected.

And Roger is thinking: And I'm gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don't care what those morons say, it's still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather?

And Elaine is thinking: He's angry. And I don't blame him. I'd be angry, too. Gosh, I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can't help the way I feel. I'm just not sure.

And Roger is thinking: They'll probably say it's only a 90-day warranty. That's exactly what they're gonna say, the scumballs.

And Elaine is thinking: Maybe I'm just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I'm sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centred, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Roger is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I'll give them a goddamn warranty. I'll take their warranty and stick it right up their ...

''Roger,'' Elaine says aloud.

"What?'' says Roger, startled.

''Please don't torture yourself like this,'' she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. ''Maybe I should never have ... Oh, I feel so ...'' (She breaks down, sobbing.)

''What?'' says Roger.

''I'm such a fool,'' Elaine sobs. ''I mean, I know there's no knight. I really know that. It's silly. There's no knight, and there's no horse.''

''There's no horse?'' says Roger.

''You think I'm a fool, don't you?'' Elaine says.

''No!'' says Roger, glad to finally know the correct answer.

''It's just that ... It's that I ... I need some time,'' Elaine says.

(There's a 15-second pause while Roger, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)
''Yes,'' he says.

(Elaine, deeply moved, touches his hand.) ''Oh, Roger, do you really feel that way?'' she says.

''What way?'' says Roger.

"That way about time,'' says Elaine.

''Oh,'' says Roger. ''Yes.''

(Elaine turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.) ''Thank you, Roger,'' she says.

''Thank you,'' says Roger.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul and weeps until dawn, whereas when Roger gets back to his place, he opens a bag of chips, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a tennis match between two Czechoslovakians he never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it's better if he doesn't think about it.

The next day Elaine will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyse everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification. They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it, either.

Meanwhile, Roger, while playing tennis one day with a mutual friend of his and Elaine's, will pause just before serving, frown and say: ''Norm, did Elaine ever own a horse?''



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A Little Something Extra

Start your web-writing career here

English irregular verbs here

Regional differences in UK English here

A brief overview of some of the main differences between British and American English here

Oxymoron of the week: leftover wine (This time, it's a girl-thing!)

Word of the week: Trichotillomania (n) a compulsion to pull out one's hair; the compulsion to tear or pluck out the hair on one's head and face and often to ingest it.

This interesting word comes from the Greek tillein 'to pluck hair' and the suffix -mania.

And a Latin phrase that would make an excellent motto ...

Sic friatur crustum dulce

[SEEK FREE-ah-toor KROOS-toom DOOL-kay] 

(That's the way the cookie crumbles)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more: 

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Kind regards,


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