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Category: Language

Eaganblog 500
As is my habit, I’d like to pause and reflect about Eaganblog itself. Similar self-reflections have now occurred with every hundredth blog. This one is number 500.

First, let me address the writing itself. I will confess (once again) that there are just too many modifiers in these pieces. Better verbs would help, but finding the right verb is a lot tougher than coming up with some self-important, high-and-mighty, let-the-devil-take-the-hindmost adjective. You see? I did it again.

That tendency is a part of a much larger battle I am waging against lazy writing. All I can try to do is work harder at not being lazy. But before I can do that, I’ll need to work harder at not being too lazy about working harder at not being lazy. As I said, it’s a constant battle.

Let’s move on. This seems like a good time to let go of some topics that have been sitting on the back burner for awhile. Not only am I never going to write these blogs, they have been on the back burner for so long that the saucepans they’re in will also have to be thrown out. Before I do that, though, let me share the topics with you:

• My Pulsating Nodes Theory of space, time, and everything. My fellow cosmologists have long since moved beyond my work in the field and left me choking on their cosmic dust. So be it. They’ll be eating their words once we reach the End of Time.

• Bad sneakers. There was a point at which nearly every new sneaker design was an abomination of awful color and clownish configuration. Those days seem to have passed. There are still plenty of ugly shoes out there that need to be mocked, but sneakers as a particular target are now off the table.

• The cruel, crazy stupids. You know who I’m talking about. I’ve decided not to invest any more energy in these people lest I become one myself.

• Those strings inside bananas. I’m sure you shouldn’t eat them, but my research has come up empty.

• Treason, She Wrote. Sounds promising, but there’s nothing there. Trust me.

• Knute Rockne had acne, Mitt Romney drove an Omni, and David Brinkley was wrinkly. All true, but it doesn’t go nowhere.

• The Pyramid vs. the Web. This was going to be something insightful about the different governing styles of men and women, but it all sounded so sexist I just quit.

I have more themes that have yet to bear fruit as well, but tossing out ideas is not something I do lightly. So, it is still possible that you might discover these themes in future Eaganblogs:

• The slippery slope. Nobody likes these, but it seems that only people who are on the left of the political spectrum are susceptible to them. In some cases, they are even at risk of sliding uphill.

• Elon Musk’s hyperloop invention. Here, the challenge is explaining how it works in as few words as possible for people who are not engineers. Still fine-tuning my eighteenth draft.

• Self-cancelling terminology. This is mostly an exercise in linguistic geekiness, but I am convinced there is word humor platinum to be mined here. It’s just a matter of gearing up to write it all down.

• My Pulsating Nodes Theory of space, time, and everything. Yes, I know that I said I was abandoning this topic, but it just so happens that one of the essential tenets of the PNT is that nothing ever really goes away. So here it is, back on the list.

Hey, you made it to the end! See you at #600!
K
One might think that the letter K does not need anyone to stick up for it. It is, after all, the strongest and most stable of all the letters. If you have ever tried to knock over a K, you know what I’m talking about.

But in spite of its stature (or perhaps because of it) K has always been a target of disrespect and prejudice within the alphabetical community. When I asked K directly about this, it simply shrugged its shoulder and smiled.

If you really want to know, I think the other letters are jealous. Part of the reason seems to be its emphatic clarity. That “kuh” cannot be mistaken for any other sound in the alphabet. Ts and Ds, for example, are both similarly hard-edged, but they are often mistaken for one another. Bs and Ps can be, too, though less often. Vs and Fs are similarly mushy. Ditto Rs and Ws and Ns and Ms. And the vowels are a total mish-mash. I think they look at the distinctiveness of K and are filled with envy.

They seem determined to assuage their own feelings of inferiority by trying to rob K of any chance to show its singular strength. Take, for instance, the word “knock” used in the first paragraph of this piece. I regret even using the word, but it does clearly illustrate my point. It is, in fact, a doubly insulting putdown.

The “kn” in knock uses the K as a silent prop for a completely unrelated sound. K is forced to stand there — at the very beginning of the word! — and do nothing. We blow right by it to pronounce the N and move on without giving it a thought. Even worse is the “ck” at the end. Why has C been allowed to horn in on K’s rightful linguistic territory? K does not need a C next to it to provide its “kuh” sound.

But I don’t want to dwell here on the antics of one sneak thief, lowlife, backstabbing slut of a letter — not when we have K to talk about. And I know that K itself has no interest in participating in the petty sniping engaged in by some of its peers. K is above that kind of thing. It is also quietly confident, self-reliant, and secure in its good looks. It is no wonder that other letters are jealous. And, if challenged, K would be more than capable of taking care of itself in a fight. If could certainly wreak havoc with that massive tusk. Or do some serious butt-kicking with its big front hoof.

But K is way too cool, too nice for that. And maybe that’s the problem. Perhaps K’s reserved manner and noble bearing are being mistaken for aloofness — or even disdain. If true, that would be sad. Anyone who has ever gotten to know K (as I have) can tell you it is as warm and real as any phonic symbol you are ever likely to meet.
Misspelled
I thought that misspelled
Was mispelt
I know I'm misstaken
But that's how I felt
Fluff Not
This Eaganblog marks my 400th, and in keeping with my promise that absolutely no one has asked for, I am taking a look back at what I have done here. As with my 100th, 200th, and 300th, I see mixed results.

First, the writing itself. Once again, I am way over my limit with modifiers — too many adjectives and adverbs are gumming up the works. All those multisyllabic words (see what I mean?) are just bumps in the road on the way to getting my message across. Come to think of it, there have been too many syllables, period. Best to keep it simple, in my view, but it seems that the temptation of syntactical fluffery is still too hard to resist. I resolve to do better. Perhaps better verbs will ameliorate.

My choices of subject matter have been pretty constant, but I am happy to report that I have backed off in the Politics category. (There are, in case you haven’t noticed, categories of blog that have been compiled from Eaganblog. Click on “Categories” to see them.) I don’t have a whole lot left to say, after all, about Drump and his enablers in Congress. All crooks, and not a sincere belief or redeeming human quality among them. I’d call them traitors, but that word has lost a lot of its meaning these days. Anyway, they are a collective blight we will have to endure until we can find the right disinfectant. As to their supporters among our fellow citizens? What the hell are we going to do with these people? When I come up with an answer — even a lame one — I’ll let you know.

Speaking of categories, I am generally happy with the Poems collection. A couple of clunkers in there, but they’re generally amusing in a goofy sort of way. Even the few serious efforts wear well when I go back and read them. There is still no “Epigrams” category, sad to say. I had originally imagined that I might generate a lot of those. But pairing brevity with genuine pith is easier said than done, and the high quality epigrams have just not been happening. I hope to rise to that challenge soon.

I am fond of the Big Picture category, though there haven’t been too many additions to it recently. My very first blog, back in 2012, was a Big Picture entry. Can it be that I have run out of fundamental ideas? Have I exhausted my supply of Truly Important things to say? Am I that shallow? Don’t answer that.

Before I go, one more question: punctuation? In a word, yes. Specifically, yes to parentheses, dashes, and hyphens. Some might say that I overuse these tools, but I have no apologies for those critics even if they don’t exist. I am, at heart, a prescriptivist when it comes to language, but I like the informal, conversational tone these marks can produce. This essay, for instance, has two sets of parentheses and several em dashes. No hyphens, though, at least until I label this an exercise-in-retrospective-self-indugence blog.

You see? Too much fluffery. Again.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon