Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

A Fifth (Advice) Column

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Dear Thag:

I am writing a political screed that includes a threat to assassinate the President. Which of the following formulations is preferable?

“If Obama dares to show his face anywhere near Idaho, we Free Earth patriots will be ready to show him the quickest way to Hell.”


“If Obama dare’s to show his face anywhere near Idaho, we Free Earth patriot’s will be ready to show him the quickest way to hell.”

Anonymous in the Northwest

Dear Animus:

You’re best off going with the second option – not because it’s correct, but because you stand less of a risk of being hunted down by the authorities if the authorities read your screed and dismiss it as the ravings of an ignoramus.



Dear Thag:

Can you please explain the difference between “just between you and me” and “just between you and I”?


Dear Concussed:

Use “just between you and me” when you wish to inform the person to whom you speak that the information you are about to divulge must not be shared any further. Use “just between you and I” when you wish to inform the person to whom you speak that you are too stupid to know the difference between “I” and “me” in a sentence.



Dear Thag:

When I want to come off as more sophisticated than I actually am, I pepper my speech with all sorts of Latin phrases. What would be a good Latin phrase that conveys exactly what makes me superior to the people around me?


Dear Pompous:

The phrase you are looking for is “merdum equus”. The best way to use it is to find a way to casually drop the following sentences into your conversations: “I am naturally well endowed with merdum equus.”



Dear Thag:

I want to make sure everything is just right when I propose to my girlfriend. When I get down on one knee on the Bedford-Stuyvesant subway platform and present her with the ostentatiously expensive diamond ring at two a.m. – our special time – I want it to come out perfect. What words should I use?


Dear Dumbo:

The words are one thing; the venue is an entirely different story. You might want to explore the possibility of putting yourself in a vulnerable position in a more suitable place at that hour, such as Morningside Park. Alternatively, since you’ve demonstrated with the ring that money is no object, a cruise to Gaza City. I understand getting in there can be tough if you don’t know the right people. I recommend brute force against the Israeli naval commando bouncers as a way to demonstrate your determination and love.

Once you’ve gone through with arranging matters, the proper words are any that can be said without teeth.



Dear Thag:

My mother always tells me, “‘Aint’ ain’t in the dictionary.” But I just looked in a bunch of dictionaries, and there it is. She told me to ask if the dictionaries are wrong, or if she is right?


Dear Beaten:

You’ve written to the right person. I have vast experience in both language and parenting, and I can tell you without hesitation that your mother is right.

Most dictionaries are “descriptive,” which means they simply record what people are saying, not what real English is supposed to look or sound like. So the dictionary might tell you that “cock” means something vulgar, but in fact all it means is a rooster – just that some vulgar people started misusing the word. Feel free to bandy it about, knowing you’re using the word properly, as in, “My father keeps his cock hidden and takes it out when he wants to surprise my mother.”

The same idea applies to “fagot” (bundle of sticks) and “tit” (a kind of bird).



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