Quiet Desperation

Just a little something to strike up conversation


There’s no need to go to Disney World to have fun. Just go to the dictionary. It’s cheaper and no one will throw up on your shoes.

In baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

In bowling, three strikes in a row and you’re doing great.

If the garbage collectors go on strike, it’s a problem.

If lighting strikes you, it a bigger problem.

If George Gershwin tells you to “Strike Up the Band,” you’d better do it.

“Lucky Strike means fine tobacco.”

“Lightnin’ Strikes” was a number one hit in 1966 for Lou Christie.

The three men in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” strike gold.

The English language means more to me than the paisley shawl I inherited from my grandmother.

I was one of her heirs. Some of her heirs are airheads.

If you say, “Johnny went to the head,” it means one thing. If you say, “Johnny went to the head of the class,” it means another.

If you say, “Johnny went to the john,” it means the same as “Johnny went to the head.”

My therapist, Barb Dwyer, explained, “The reason you don’t have any friends, Mr. Smith, is that you make a word game out of everything someone says. Do you see?”

“`I see,’ said the blind man to his deaf wife, as he took out his hammer and saw.”

One of my favorite old saws is, “Haste makes waste.”

An old saw is what’s known as an idiom.

Every village has an idiom. Some villages, like Washington, D.C., have more than one idiom.

Idioms, most of them, are clichés, and as you know by now I avoid clichés like the plague.

You’d better read between the lines before using a cliché around C. Marshall Smith because I’m bad to the bone.

As everyone knows, “waste” and “waist” are homophones.

Some words have more homophones than others.

Rose rose and watered her rows and rows of roses.

As many of you may know by now, Merriam-Webster has removed the word “awesome” from its 2021 edition dictionary.

The reason given? “Overused and misused to death,” according to spokesperson Anne Teak.

“`Awesome,’” Teak continued, “has over 100 perfectly good synonyms that rarely get used. It’s just not cool.”

We were so poor when I was growing up my mother and father could only afford one book and that was a dictionary.

On Saturday night, my mother would sit my sister and me down in front of her and make up a story by flipping from page to page.

“Measles ... the ... inarticulate ... goat ... ate ... guardrail.”

Rarely did her stories make any sense, but because of them I learned to comprehend art critics.

I never get tired of words.

How many words are there in the English language?

The Oxford dictionary has 273,000 words (171,476 in current use; 47,156 being obsolete; and around 9,500 derivative as subentries).

The English language is an ever-changing organism. Some once popular words such as “bumbershoot” make way for others such as “pooka.”

John McWhorter, associate professor of comparative literature at Columbia, reminds his students language is always adding and subtracting words.

Certain words become archaic (“betimes”) as new words (Merriam-Webster added “detectorist” in 2019) are infused. “Infused” is a good example of a newly popular, long existent, word.

The English language is ... wondrous.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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