Indigo Insights

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Total unmitigated dereliction of duty!! But with a cover story that would make Dan Rather proud. Thanks be to the Universe, the work on the house was completed yesterday! If summer officially began June 21 and fall began September 21 (thereabouts), it took the whole darn summer to get the workmen out of my house. Even the ever-patient Janis Gore would be nonplussed, I bet.

The island across from my house and the Atlantic Ocean beyond can be seen again. That's a nice thing. Hurricanes get the television coverage, but a severe Nor'Easter winter storm, with wind gusts up to 85 mph, are quite destructive here also. Wind force of such a storm broke the seal on the large double-paned window last winter, and since then the view has been blurred with condensation between the panes. Fred-the-Fix-It-Guy replaced the entire big window and we again have a true "picture" window, framing a lovely beach scene.

An outside storage barn is no longer the eye-sore of the neighborhood. Fred covered the chipping paint with vinyl siding. End of problem and another big plus. No longer a depressing view from my back door. Since I have to look out the back door ten or more times a day for zoo traffic, no wonder I've been down all summer! Thanks to Fred, I can now enjoy a nice-looking barn while the dogs squat.

And no, that amount of work should not have required three months. There's lots more I've not mentioned -- including three hurricanes, each of which caused a week's delay.

Rant Among Yourselves

Dear Word Detective: The word "nonplussed" is so misused that it should be banished from the English language. This would be, however, a terrible shame, because it is an absolutely fabulous word, if one understands its origins and what it actually means. The sad fact, however, is that 9 out of 10 times it is used, its intended meaning is the exact opposite of its dictionary definition. The only consolation of this sad fact is that it does occasionally make for interesting conversation when someone misuses it. My favorite story about this word is the time I was driving through Nebraska listening to a pompous right wing idiot on AM radio; luckily I was near a rest stop so I was able to pull over and call the 800 number and set him straight. Ha! My question is this: given that language is a dynamic force and given that the word has apparently evolved to mean the exact opposite of what it used to mean, do we now say that the word has both meanings? -- Andrew Sinning, Minneapolis, MN.

Word Detective: Ha, indeed. At the risk of inciting a sudden upsurge in my reader mail, I am moved to wonder whether "pompous right-wing idiot on AM radio" might, in fact, be redundant three or four times over.

"Nonplussed," to bring the rest of the gang up to speed, means "perplexed or embarrassed," and comes directly from the Latin "non plus," meaning "not more" or "no further." Someone who is "nonplussed" has been stymied or brought to a halt. But for some reason, many people have decided that "nonplussed" means "unperturbed" or "impassive," which is, of course, exactly backwards.

So should we cave in to the yahoos and let this fine word slide into the muddle of misunderstanding? Not on my watch, bucko. I happen to like "nonplussed." Besides, if we surrender the distinction now, what will we use to nonplus the pompous idiots?


Is imitation, so here's an imitation of Random Fate's Quotarama yesterday:

The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field of endeavor. ~ Vince Lombardi

Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened. ~ Billy Graham

Each day we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. ~ Charles Swindoll

The commonest fallacy among women is that simply having children makes them a mother - which is as absurd as believing that having a piano makes one a musician. ~ Sydney J. Harris

When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food, and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies with yourself. ~ Tecumseh, Shawnee Chief