I Am Not An Artist


Fad words and phrases sweep through newsrooms with the regularity of the tides. We man, not “journal,” but we are quick to embrace phrases such as “no-brainer,” which spread with a rapidity that seemed to be proof of its content.

It happened sometime in 1994, when the word “simple” simply disappeared from the newsroom. Everything self-evident became a “no-brainer.” In the process, we lost not only “simple” and self-evident,” but also obvious,” “logical “clear,” “apparent,” “evident” and “straightforward

Not that no-brainer” didn’t originally have some value as a fresh figure of speech. The wretch who coined it created a term with obvious appeal.

The 500th was merely a hack, however, someone who callously dismissed George Orwell’s first rule of writing: “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print.”

Which is not to say that we should resist any change in the language. As even the flintiest of word purists concede, the beauty of English is its infinite capacity to embrace a growing and changing culture.

Computer technology has enriched English with dozens

Around midnight on July 25, 1956, the luxury passenger liner Andrea Doria collided with the Stockholm in a fog bank 50 miles south of Nantucket Island. Eleven hours later, after most of its passengers, including actress Ruth Roman, had been rescued, the stricken liner turned on its starboard side and sank in 250 feet of water.

Sent to a watery grave along with 46 of its 1706 passengers was a fortune in paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and other artwork, which has lured treasure hunters for more than four decades. Often overlooked, however, has been a priceless piece of automotive history. Locked in the Andrea Doria’s cargo hold was a one-of-a-kind “idea car” from Chrysler, the “Norseman,” which no one but its craftsmen at the Ghia studios in Italy had ever seen. A few publicity photos and drawings are all the public has ever seen of the car. But that may be about to change.

This summer, John Moyer of Moyer Expeditions, which holds the salvage rights to the liner, has decided to dive into the cargo hold in search of what remains

My solution to the Ebonics question is simplicity itself. As far as I’m concerned its proponents can take a flying phucllddyrhc (a Greco-Welsh patois learned at my mother’s knee and other low joints), but I am fascinated by the psychodynamics surrounding the controversy.

Jesse says, “No!”

The moment the media reported that the president of the school board had called black English “genetically based,” honchos of color heretofore famed for their support of any and all things African launched such a swift and unequivocal attack on Ebonics that they sounded like H. L. Mencken. Jesse Jackson called it “an unacceptable surrender bordering on disgrace” and predicted Oakland would become “the laughingstock of the nation.” “The very idea,” Maya Angelou huffed, was “threatening,” and NAACP president Kweisi Mfume contemptuously dismissed it as “a cruel joke.”

This unexpected switch from the excellence of self-esteem to the esteem of the excellent self took white America, and particularly white punditry, by surprise. Among the latter the chief reaction was intense relief, the kind of relief that makes people giddy. While blacks were sounding like Mencken

One of the ongoing threads of readers’ contributions is “The Verbing of America” (as Bulletin Board’s editor ironically dubbed it). Launched as a language lover’s lament about the bowdlerizing of English, this discussion thread has pilloried such slangy coinages as columnize, which you may have winced at in my first sentence.

Lately, however, “The Verbing of America” entries have sometimes taken a fonder view of the colorful phrasings spotted and submitted by readers. For example, one Bulletin Board correspondent recently wrote in to report, with delight rather than dismay: “I was at choir practice last night, and we came to this part in this piece that we’re singing where our choir director, Steve, wanted the chorus to swell and get all … big. He said: `I really want it big. I want it Cecil B. DeMilled.’ ”

Verbs can be tough for non-native English speakers.

True, if you look in even the heftiest, least-abridged dictionary under “Cecil B. DeMille,” you will not see “v.–to make extravagantly large and showy.” But even language purists would have to confess: You know exactly what

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Languages and cultures have been my lifelong passions. Maybe it is because I grew up in Southern California, amid Latino influences. In school, I heard Mexican-American students speaking Spanish. Downtown, I saw blocks of stores, all with signs in Spanish. Rich, wonderful smells permeated the air, and mariachi music poured out into the streets when restaurant doors opened. Inside, musicians strolled from table to table, dressed in the dashing black and silver of caballeros, strumming guitars and bowing violins with romantic finesse.

Maybe it is because my grandmother loved to take my sister and me to places like Chinatown in Los Angeles, where we would hear the timbre of spoken Mandarin and Cantonese, breathe spicy incense, taste exotic food with wooden chopsticks, and finger cool silks and paper fans in dark, mysterious shops. I remember dressing with care in delicious anticipation of these outings, knowing that we would be allowed to indulge our youthful curiosity while momentarily becoming part of the much envied, grownup world of travel and adventure.

There are the normal problems you and I face trying to find the right part at the right price, problems exacerbated by the distribution centers that close the last half of December. Not to mention our employees’, our suppliers’, and our own brains seem to shut down for just about the same period of time. And there are the problems that come naturally when you try to travel on your bike seriously and get 20 percent more work out of an environment `comfortable’ with present production. All these realities contribute to the kind of physical and emotional exhaustion you probably know all too well.

psBy the time Christmas Eve rolls around I make Scrooge look like a party animal! I don’t want to answer the telephone. I don’t want to smile and say `Happy Holidays’. And I don’t want to be surrounded by throngs of people pushing, shoving, bumping, or in some other way invading my private space. All I want is to be left alone, slowly reducing speed so nothing breaks as I quietly come to a complete stop.

After that,