Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Ultimate Error

If you watched or attended a World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) event in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s and the Ultimate Warrior was on the card, you knew when his match was about to begin. The instrumental strains of Jim Johnston’s “Unstable” would kick in, followed immediately by the anticipatory roar of the crowd. The din would crescendo as the Warrior sprinted from the bowels of the arena and entered the ring, screaming and shaking the top rope violently as he did, his signature neon tassels swaying from his cartoonishly large biceps as he huffed and puffed. It was a show before the show — a shot of adrenaline.

The Ultimate Warrior, born James Brian Hellwig in 1959, adrenalized wrestling crowds at every event — but if you were at the concession stand or in the restroom while he grappled, you failed to get your fill of energy, because a Warrior match, like a sunset, occurred only once that day. He’d enter the ring enthusiastically, fight, win (most of the time) and call it a night, his professional work producing a weakened Warrior. The man who distinctively decorated his face didn’t do double duty, applying two coats of paint per event. Who has that kind of energy?

The back of the case for the Ultimate Warrior: The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray (pictured) and DVD suggests the Warrior does. The black “INCLUDES” panel lists four matches. The Ultimate Warrior fought Hulk Hogan at WrestleMania VI in 1990. The Ultimate Warrior faced “Macho King” Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII the following year. In 1989, the Ultimate Warrior battled Rick Rude at SummerSlam and Andre the Giant at … SummerSlam? The descriptions and dates of those 1989 matches match. What the Hellwig? (That’s the, ahem, Ultimate question.)

The Ultimate Warrior and Rick Rude did face each other for the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam on Aug. 28, 1989, but the Warrior and Andre the Giant did not. Those two fought for the same belt exactly two months later, Oct. 28, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

This case is in serious need of a WWE smackdown. We must slay the “Giant” error, which is as painful as one of Warrior’s patented gorilla press drops.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Going Down in History

In preparation for an earth-shattering, life-altering, laugh-inducing post of epic proportions — and I’m not overstating things — I’m calling my old friend Comma, a pausing punctuation mark I met when I was in grammar school. If he gives me the information I’m after, get ready for one doozy of a post. In the meantime, I’ll allow you to listen in on our conversation.

[Owen speed-dials Comma. Phone rings.]

COMMA: Hello.

OWEN: Hey, Comma, it’s Owen. According to my sources, you and ago, having reached the end of the line, parted ways, and now you’re on the cusp of history. Can we discuss it? I’d like to blog about these surprising developments on When Write Is Wrong.

COMMA [in a curt tone]: I have to go. I’m on the other line.

And that, readers, was the last time I ever spoke with Comma. I failed to keep him in line and, as they say, the rest is ,history.

Friday, August 22, 2014

"The" Vanishing

The. Few words in the English language are more common. Heck, in the pictured sentence it shows up three times. Well, two and two-thirds times. In its final appearance, the middle letter has made like the cheap dinner-party guest when the bill arrives and disappeared.

Often Ive typed the so fast its come out as teh. Spell check fixes it automatically. (Thank you, spell check!) Im not sure Ive ever omitted the h though. If I did, spell check would notify me. Id have to fix the mistake on my own, but I think I could handle it. Thats te truth.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Don't Come In!

See it? It’s a blemish on the surface — an unusual marking at the epicenter of this epidermal sentence.

Something has suddenly come up. It’s come. Come? How come? I’m not sure. All I can say with certainty is that the sentence doesn’t come off well having come come along. It won’t “dye” a natural death, so we must be proactive. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a solution that’s cheaper, quicker and less painful than a tattoo removal.

We’ll perform our own version of a skin graft, if you will. We’ll get a skilled editor to remove come and transfer it to a new area, where it’s needed.

Surgery is scheduled for, well, now. (Yes, the time has come.) I have faith the editor will come through.

Come, you’re through!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oblivious to His Error

Now drift over to the image at the top right. I’m going to put you on the spot: Can you spot the words that aren’t in the right spot? Go on — give it the old college try. (1)

When paragraphs, words or even letters are, like a vending machine at a fleabag motel, out of order, meaning is lost. It might as well have its picture posted on telephone poles around town. (2)

Don’t be that guy. Nobody likes him; he makes everyone uncomfortable. Put him in his place. While you’re at it, put college in its place. That’d make me happy. My disposition improves when positioning improves. (3)

Today’s post will be presented in such a way that the lead, like a Mob-hit corpse, will be buried. It’s part of my plan to show that all elements must be in their proper place. Otherwise, confusion reigns. (4)

Did you guess college and among? Spot on! In this example of “disorderly conduct,” college and among have been transposed. This simple swap has created an unpleasing arrangement of parts. Harmony is lost. The sentence no longer makes sense. It’s your drunken uncle at Christmas. (5)

There is a place for everything, and everything in its place. The calm comes before the storm. The Prisoner of Azkaban comes after The Chamber of Secrets. Appetizers come ahead of the main course. You try something, and then you knock it. Looking comes before leaping. Autumn follows summer. First comes love, then comes marriage. The wedding precedes the honeymoon. The chicken comes before the egg … or maybe not. I’m not so sure about that last one. But you catch my drift. (6)

Editor’s note: To make sense of today’s post, read the paragraphs in the following sequence: 4-2-6-1-5-3. That’s an order!

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Curious George

Boy, George, I’m sorry about what the Houston Astros did to you on your first day as a Major League Baseball player. I doubt it was intentional, some sort of public rookie hazing. Give them time to realize their crime. I don’t think they really wanted to hurt you, really wanted to make you cry. After all, there’s no crying in baseball.

The Astros called up George Springer from the minor leagues on April 16. He started that evening against the Kansas City Royals, batting second and playing right field. Springer went 1 for 5 in his debut with a single and a walk in an extra-inning loss. His first big-league hit was a dribbler down the third-base line.

“I didn’t really hit it all that well, but I will take it,” he said. “Now I can relax, breathe a little and just have some fun.”

Some fans in attendance that mid-April day had some fun when they glanced up in the third inning, during Springer’s second at-bat, and found the Minute Maid Park scoreboard to be a laugh a minute.

In many ways, it reminded me of a laugh-a-minute sitcom, Seinfeld. Springer’s namesake, George Costanza, had a baseball connection. He worked for the New York Yankees, and once even met with Astros representatives who were in the Big Apple for discussions about interleague play. He also wanted to name his first child Seven, after Hall of Famer Mickey Mantle’s uniform number.

Costanza didn’t get Seven, which had “cachet up the yin-yang.” Springer did — in a way. Check out the number of letters in the Jumbotron version of the Houston rookie’s first name.


The Astros, a subpar team known for racking up L’s, managed to tack an extra R on the board. But not the R, in scoreboard parlance, familiar to baseball fans. They didn’t score another run. They parked an extra R in the Gerorge. Allow me to mimic an umpire: Strike one!

Perhaps Costanza could reconnect with those Astros reps and convince them to shift into R and spring a letter from Springer’s first name. If the former assistant to the traveling secretary for the Yankees taught us anything, it’s that a George divided against itself cannot stand.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dead Ahead

Today’s post is a matter of life and death.

My mother noticed something dead wrong in this death notice. The opening “death sentence” is this obituary’s fatal flaw … and the reason I wish we could edit that obit a bit.

When Rose Barone, a civic-minded and charitable presence in my hometown for decades, passed, my local paper failed. If she died two weeks from today, as the paper claims, how do we know about it when we live in a world devoid of Skynet, flux capacitors or mysterious Lake House mailboxes? Barone passed in the past, of course, as dead people are wont to do. This particular august Rose withered on July 27, not a month hence. August should be a thing of the past, not a thing of the passed.

I could go on — I have many more death-related puns in my quiver — but I must let go of August 27, 2014.

It’s in the past.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark! O, No!

Let’s dip our toes into the Shark Week waters with a riddle: Where are you standing if you are where two walls meet in a room where a government official confirms and certifies deaths? You’re in the corner of a coroner’s office, of course. I bet you’re wondering what this has to do with sharks. Read on.

Jaws is a classic, one of my favorite movies. Director Steven Spielberg didn’t rely solely on his “star,” the shark, to frighten us. Three full-sized sharks were constructed for the film, each weighing hundreds of pounds, though none of these elaborate props had to be on-screen to instill dread. Spielberg paired suggestive imagery with John Williams’ ominous score, and counted on us to imprint our own fears. We did.

Another prop, one tipping the scales at about 4.5 grams, couldn’t rely on mental imagery to let moviegoers know something was wrong. It had to project suffering. That’s why, about 10 minutes into the film, its dismemberment is displayed in black and (great) white. You can’t miss its weak Jaws line.

When the first victim, Chrissie, is found on the beach, Chief Brody returns to his office to fill out a police report. He punches the keys on his manual typewriter, entering the probable cause of death: SHARK ATTACK.

I know it’s difficult to avert your gaze from a SHARK ATTACK, readers, but you must. Sink your large, triangular, serrated teeth into the rest of Brody’s police report. It, like the mechanical sharks used in the 1975 blockbuster, has some glitches. If you want to examine Chrissie’s body to see if Brody’s report is accurate, you’ll have to head to the CORNERS OFFICE. There you’ll find missing parts. Not arms and legs. Letters and punctuation marks.

Our mandibular autopsy reveals that once Brody typed that N, he backed himself into a CORNER, figuratively and literally. He jumped the shark when he skipped the second O, and the Jaws-dropping run continued when he omitted the apostrophe.

CORNERS? Corrupt. CORONER’S? Correct!

Come on in, O and apostrophe, the water’s fine!

Duh-nun … duh-nun … duh-nun … duh-nun, DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN, DUN-DUN…

Friday, August 8, 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Period of Adjustment

We’re all familiar with the period, a point used to mark the end of a declarative sentence. Each such sentence should possess one — and only one. Why, then, do two periods dot this particular sentence? Jeter is beside the point, which is relevant, because as the sentence’s opening word he should be as far removed from a period as possible. So, like a truant high school kid, let’s skip (the) first period.

I tracked down a truant officer, and I eavesdropped on his brief tête-à-tête outside the school with the wayward punctuation mark. Here’s what I heard:

Hey, period, you’ve irresponsibly replaced a comma. Allow me to reiterate, emphatically: Period, you should be a comma — period! It’s time you made an attitude adjustment and a physical adjustment. Take a point break. Add a crescent-shaped tail and I’ll allow you to “comma” back in and hang out near Jeter.

The officer wasted no time, getting to the point immediately, if not punningly. Here’s hoping that the first period gets the point. Pausing, comma-like, to consider the ramifications of his actions has never been his strong point.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Shadow of Your Former "Selfie"

Fox & Friends, take a good, long look at your selfie, which is reminiscent of the guy — let’s call him Mr. Cool — who extended his left arm out the car window and snapped a self-pic while high-speed driving. (Visual proof exists on the ‘Net. Google it.) It is, as Millennials and the iGeneration might say, an epic fail, destined to join the long, growing ranks of selfie failures, including these:

Nolan Harrington

In the age of social media, who isn’t familiar with the phenomenon — a rather vain and narcissistic one, in my humble opinion — of posing for a camera … that you’re holding with your extended arm? Pucker those lips; it’s time to take a photo of yourself. You know what it’s called. Everyone does. No one lacks selfie awareness.

Everyone from the tween next door to the POTUS takes selfies. Most have the impact of a BB gun against Godzilla, though others, like the one Bradley Cooper took for Ellen DeGeneres during the 2014 Oscars, capture the logged-on nation’s attention.

Ellen DeGeneres @TheEllenShow

The term selfie has been part of the vernacular for more than a decade, but only in the last few years did it make mainstream inroads. In 2012, Time magazine named selfie one of the year’s “top 10 buzzwords,” and Oxford Dictionaries deemed it the “word of the year” in 2013. Oxford Dictionaries traced selfie back to an Australian online forum in 2002. In explaining the evolution of the word, editorial director Judy Pearsall said: “In early examples, the word was often spelled with a -y, but the -ie form is more common today and has become the accepted spelling. The use of the diminutive -ie suffix is notable, as it helps to turn an essentially narcissistic enterprise into something rather more endearing. Australian English has something of a penchant for -ie words — barbie for barbecue, firie for firefighter, tinnie for a can of beer — so this helps to support the evidence for selfie having originated in Australia.”

Knowing what we now know about the word’s etymology, it shouldn’t surprise us to see it spelled with a y at the end from time to time. Instead of a y or the ie blazed Down Under, however, Fox & Friends went down under the water, so to speak. In a segment about 150 words being added to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (including hashtag, spoiler alert, Yooper, turducken and fracking), the news program transposed a couple of letters on its graphic along the bottom of the screen, which in the industry is known as a lower third. The result? Something akin to warty comb jellies, saber-toothed whales, sea cucumbers, hairy frogfish, bristle worms, goblin sharks, glass sponges and, for the believers out there, the Loch Ness Monster. We’ve encountered strange selife.

Fox & Friends would be wise to keep that spelling, like a selfie-taking smartphone, at arm’s length.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Down for the Count

No, the website is not down. This isn’t a temporary error of the HTTP variety. It’s something more … puzzling.

When I came across 4-Down in this People magazine crossword puzzle, I tried my best to come up with an answer, but like a forgetful artist, I drew a blank.

The clue for 4-Down is “503 for Seneca.” Seneca, also known as Seneca the Younger, was a Roman philosopher and adviser to emperor Nero. People, in its sneaky, roundabout way, sought 503 in Roman numerals. Off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember what letter was used for 500 in Roman numerals. (It’s D, by the way.) I did, however, know that any Roman numeral for a number with 3 as its final digit ends with III. Thirteen is XIII, 73 is LXXIII, 203 is CCIII, 1,133 is MCXXXIII and so on. Yet the People Puzzler grid provides only three white boxes for 4-Down. We have room for DII, but DIII’s a crowd. Perhaps hitting the F9 key will fix things.*

The grid is fixed, in the sense that it’s in an unalterable form. We can’t change that shaded square to the right of 18-Across into a white, letter-receiving cell. The solution? Change the clueless 4-Down clue, which is off by, um, I. When it reads “502 for Seneca,” that’ll be the day that I DII.

* Get it? F9? In Roman numerals, that’d be FIX.

For those DII-ing for answers, here is the completed crossword.