Silly Things People Say

I love words.  I love language.  I love linguistics, although I don’t really know much about it other than language families, dialects, and other simple, basic concepts.  Any linguists out there who are reading this now are thinking to themselves, “This guy doesn’t know anything about linguistics!”  Well, they’re right.  Oh, well – save it for the comments below, Mr. or Ms. Linguistics-Person.

Anyway, some things that people say, self included, don’t make a lot of sense.  When I hear them, I wonder if they really know what they’re saying, or if they just say it because they’ve heard other folks say it.  Here are some idioms, phrases and words that come to mind:

I could care less.

People usually say this to mean I don’t care at all.  But, that’s not what it says.  What they are actually saying is that they do care, and that there is some amount of care that is less than they currently feel.  What they really mean is I couldn’t care less.  See, now it says that they care so little that they couldn’t possibly care any less than they do.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Say what?  Why can’t I?  Let’s say I sit down and am helping myself to a piece of cake.  Now, I’m not a big cake eater – it’s OK, but I don’t have a sweet tooth.  Anyway, let’s say that, as I’m eating my cake, my wife calls out to me, “Hey, Stud, what are you doing?”  (OK, she never calls me Stud, but this is my story, just go with it.)  I’d answer, “Well, Sweet Mama (again, I don’t call her this), I’m having cake!”  See!  I’m having cake.  AND I’m eating it, too!  What do you say to that, huh?  Don’t tell me what I can or can’t do!  In fact, if I don’t have the cake, I can’t eat the cake.  It’s at this point that my wife would say, “What?  You have cake, and you didn’t get me any!”  Uh-oh, now I’m in for it.

Bite your tongue!

People say this usually to mean, “Be quiet!  Don’t say anything!”  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I bite my tongue, I am anything but quiet. Usually, I cry out loudly, followed up with a string of not-so-nice words.  So, I just don’t get the saying.

There’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Really?  Is there?  If so, how the heck did you come about this knowledge?  Wouldn’t the SPCA or PETA hunt you down for doing this?  I’m pretty sure it’s illegal in many states and municipalities too.

Flip the bird.

Extending your middle finger to a person looks nothing like a bird to me – at least, not any bird that I’ve ever seen in real life or pictures.

Buy One, Get One.

I don’t get this, not at all.  If I buy one item, I dang well better get one item!  Sheesh!  What would I do instead, buy two to get only one?!  It’s all in the marketing, I reckon.

Great minds think alike.

Excuse me, but I think that mundane minds think alike.  Otherwise, we’d be buried in a plethora of great ideas.  No, I believe that Great minds think differently.  That’s what makes them great.

Plain vanilla.

Plain vanilla?  Really?!  Have you ever tasted vanilla?  It’s anything but plain!  Every vanilla flavored ice cream tastes different from the last.  Vanilla is a fine flavor, and one of my favorite.  Honestly, it’s chocolate that’s boring – it’s just chocolate, the same flavor over and over again.  Sure, add sugar, or cream, or salt.  But, it’s still just chocolate.

If it isn’t one thing, it’s another.

Well, duh.  It either is this thing, or it is not this thing.  This isn’t rocket science here.

It’ll be in the last place you look.

This is another duh statement.  Who the heck keeps looking for something after they’ve already found it?

Your guess is as good as mine.

No, mine is better, because I’m smarter than you.

How about you?  Are there any phrases that strike you as odd, ridiculous, or just plain wrong?

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Death To The Penny!

OK, let’s get serious here, folks.  I want to propose something that’s been on my mind for at least 20 years now.

I want the United States mint to stop making pennies.  I am dead serious about this, too.

Impractical And Inconvenient

When you go to the store and pay with cash, your change almost always includes those coins that are 97.5% zinc and 2.5% copper with a value of one one-hundredth dollar – the penny, the cent, the Lincoln head.  Now, what do you do with those pennies?  Do they even make it out of the store, or do you throw them into the little “Need One, Leave One” tray at the counter?  If the former, once you get them home, do you put them somewhere where you use them again in a future transaction, or do they just go into some container where they’ll stay until they get too numerous forcing you to bring them to a change counter somewhere?  I took a scientific survey* which shows that 91.3%* of people don’t ever use pennies for a purchase unless they happen to have the right amount on their person to avoid receiving more pennies.

So, pennies are a nuisance, for the most part.  They have no value for purchasing.  Go to a store – any store.  Look around for a product you can purchase that costs one penny.  Go ahead – I’ll wait here until you return…

So, what do you have?  What’s that?  “Nothing?”  Thought so.  There’s even no more “penny candy,” at least not for as long as I can remember.

Now, how about another experiment?  Go to a city.  Walk around until a person asks you for some spare change.  Hand them a penny.  How did they react?  I’d bet you a nickel that they were angry to some degree.  Once you wiped the spit off your face, did they seem grateful at all?  Probably not.

Here’s the thing – inflation has rendered the penny all but useless.  People not only can do without them, but also don’t really want them.  They’re used simply because they’re here.

The Penny

One US Cent

Cost More Than Their Value

So, aside from their impracticality, why else get rid of the penny?  How about cost?

According to the United States Mint, in 2010, the cost to mint one penny was 1.79¢ (Click the link and look at the first table on page 29).  Think about that for a minute… to make a penny, the US government spends almost 2 pennies.  In 2010, the US Mint shipped 3,487,000,000 pennies (Page 28 in the last link).  That’s three billion, four hundred eighty-seven million of them!  So, US taxpayers (of which I am one) spent $62,417,300 to make pennies worth a market value of $34,870,000!  I know that’s a lot of zeroes, folks, but stay with me for another minute.  We wasted $27,547,300, over 27.5 million dollars!  That’s right, we just threw it away, for a coin that is impractical and, really, unwanted.  We can add “unnecessary” and “wasteful” to the list.

So, if we get rid of the penny, what changes with our spending?  Well, not a whole heck of a lot, really.  If we can’t slice the dollar down to its hundredth portion anymore, we merely have to round those pennies to the nearest twentieth dollar.  That’s the nickel, my friends.

Rounding Numbers

Every time I discuss this with people, I get a funny look, and the question, “How can you do that?”  Simple, really.  You know how to round to the nearest ten, hundred, thousand, etc., yes?  Well, it’s the same thing, only in divisions of five.  To make it easier, I’ve made this table:

If The Cent Is: Round:
0 Nothing; keep the same
1 Down to the nearest dime
2 Down to the nearest dime
3 Up to the nearest nickel
4 Up to the nearest nickel
5 Nothing; keep the same
6 Down to the nearest nickel
7 Down to the nearest nickel
8 Up to the nearest dime
9 Up to the nearest dime

This is simple, really.  If a sale comes to $27.32, it rounds down to the nearest dime, or $27.30.  If a sale comes to $2.77, it rounds down to the nearest nickel, or $2.75, and so on and so forth.

Learning From History

This wouldn’t be the first time the US has changed its currency in this manner.  You may have heard of the hay penny, also spelled ha’penny.  It was the half-cent.  The US minted them from 1793 to 1857.  Why did they stop making them?  Because the value of a half cent became worth less and less, and its continued use became impractical.  In other words, for pretty much the same reasons I am using to make my case to kill the penny.

Penny For Your Thoughts?

What do you say, folks?  Do you think the time has come to kill the penny once and for all?  Let me know in the comments below.

* – By “scientific survey,” I do not mean scientific in any way at all, nor a survey by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m really just stating my own personal opinion, agreed upon by a few of my friends.

** – Uncertainty of -91.3%/+8.7%

Fixing The Alphabet

I have a beef with the alphabet.  Not all of it, mind you, but there are more than a few things that annoy the heck out of me.  Here, I will air my grievances about two letters.

In particular, I present my argument to remove the two letters from the alphabet completely.  What letters are they, you ask?  Good question!

First On The Chopping Block – The Letter X

It marks the spot.  It represents the first unknown number in algebra.  It tells you, “YOU ARE WRONG” on a test.

PHOOEY!  Who the heck needs that?!?  It can easily be replaced with “ks.”  Oh, no, wait, it can’t… if it’s at the start of a word.  What then?  Well, obviously it sounds like… um, well…

THAT’S THE PROBLEM! Nobody can say what the sound should be when X is the first letter of a word!  Does is make a “Z” sound?  Or do you say the name of the letter, followed by the rest of the word?  Case in point:

Xavier: zay-vee-air; or eks-a-vee-air?  NO ONE KNOWS!

My proposal: Remove X from the alphabet completely!  Replace it with “ks” when it’s at the end of a word; replace it with “z” or “eks” at the beginning.  Finally, we will know how to pronounce the damn letter!

Oh, what about in algebra?  No problem: use “w” for the new unknown.  It is the first letter of “what,” as in “what the heck this this number?”

Next Victim Of The Axe – The Letter Q

That’s right – the letter Q.  It’s not fooling me – oh, no, not one bit!  It’s in vowel drag, pretending to be an O, but everyone can see the little appendage.  Come on, now, Q, you’re not getting away with that!

You can’t even stand on your own.  You NEED a vowel after yourself to make any sense at all.  Even then, the two of you sound exactly like “kw!”  Seriously!  You have no unique sound!

What if you go without your little “U” companion?  Most of the time, you sound like a “K” anyway!  And if anyone is unsure how to pronounce you, they fall back on “U” and say “KW” instead.  How lazy can a letter get?!?

Here’s my proposal: Kill Q, and replace it with “KW,” unless it doesn’t have a following “U.”  In that case, replace it with “K.”  Now we all will know how to pronounce this useless letter.

End Result

 So, with the well-deserved death of these two useless letters, how does the alphabet benefit?

Well, besides the instant pronunciation clarification, we have the beauty of math.  If you stick with this blog, you will eventually see that I am a very mathematical person.  But I digress….

We rid the alphabet of two letters.  We now have 24 letters.  24 is a more beautiful number, for several practical reasons.

26 can be evenly divided into two pairs of factors: 1×24, and 2×13.  It causes problems if you have to divide it further – you’ll always have a few stragglers.

Now 24… THAT is a beautiful number.  How would you like to divide it?  1×24?  2×12?  3×8? 4×6?  Switch those numbers around for the rest of the options.

I ask you, how many teachers would benefit from this?  You can make eight tables of the letters of the alphabet in perfect rectangles!  Offices can have filing cabinets or filing systems without having to group letters together.  Add to that the confidence one will gain by knowing the proper pronunciation of a new and/or exotic word, and this is a winning proposal!

So, what do you think?  Will you join my campaign to remove the letters X and Q from the alphabet?  Can I ask for a pledge to write Oxford and Webster?  Will you promise to banish the use of these useless letters in your daily spelling?

I leave it to you, dear reader, to answer my kwestions.  Think outside the boks, and join me in my noble kwest!

Postscriptum

As a lover of math, I am fascinated by prime numbers.  Despite the beauty of the number 24, I might be persuaded to go with 23 letters.  In that case, I’d have to pick one more letter to kill…

C… I’m looking at you.  Make up your mind: are you a “K,” or an “S?”

You just watch yourself, C.

The Fence