Ban These Words & Phrases (Because We’re Sick of Them)

Once again, Lake Superior State University has released its List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Misuse, Overuse and General Uselessness. This tradition began in 1976 and has continued as a service to word lovers everywhere.

Following is the 2014 list with my thoughts on each word/phrase LSSU suggests banning, because we are collectively sick of hearing them:

Selfie. I remember when I finally got a smartphone that allowed me to flip the lens so that I could more easily take a picture of myself. No longer did I have to hold my arm out to Timbuktu, pray that I got the angle right, and snap a less-than-flattering photo to upload to social media or send to a friend. Because of course, someday, for some reason, you have to take a “selfie” — a self-snapped photo of yourself. Especially if you’re prime minister of Denmark and sitting in between the POTUS and the British prime minister.

Obama selfie

Twerk. Do we just get to banish the word or the whole practice of twerking? Miley Cyrus brought the spotlight to this word in 2013, with her wild performance at the MTV Video Music Awards as she “danced” with Robin Thicke. But my favorite story of twerking in 2013 involved Jimmy Kimmel, and the unbelievable scam he and his crew pulled on YouTube watchers and news media everywhere.

Hashtag. Thanks to Twitter and other social media sites, hashtags turned the pound sign (#) into something entirely different. Companies, organizations, celebrities, and party people come up with hashtags that range from product titles to profanity. And it’s even moved into conversation, with people trying to emphasize a point by prefacing it with “hashtag.” Seriously? Not everything should be a hashtag.

Twittersphere. I’m not sure why Twitter got picked on. There’s been a movement to make everything into a “sphere” these days: the blogosphere, the Twittersphere, the Facebooksphere, the atmosphere (oh wait, that’s a real one). But you get the point.

Mister Mom. I didn’t know this was overused. Or even used. Indeed, the last time I’ve really considered this phrase is when Michael Keaton put out a film by that title in 1983.

"Mr. Mom" movie poster

T-Bone. This is a verb description of an automobile accident, apparently overused in news reports. I guess it’s overused in traffic reports, though I don’t listen to those since I work from home and don’t commute. But now, this is overuse of “t-bone”:

___ on Steroids. If something is super-big, it’s obviously on performance-enhancing drugs. Didn’t we learn that with Barry Bonds home run record and Alex Rodriguez’s ego?

-Ageddon and -Pocalypse. These endings get added to words to manufacture a sense of crisis. But as I’ve pointed out, “Armageddon” and “Apocalypse” have real backgrounds in all of that end-of-the-world, grab-your-granny-and-hide stuff. Whereas running out of chocolate should not create a “chocopocalypse”; you’ll be okay.

Intellectually/Morally Bankrupt. This phrase occurs often in the world of politics. Thus, its unbelievable overuse.

Obamacare. It’s going to be difficult to keep away from this one, since this health care bill finally goes into full effect this year. Actually, I’m in favor of all bill titles having a character limit, like what exists in the Twittersphere. If you name something the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” you should expect others to give it a nickname that will actually fit in a hashtag.

Adversity. Specifically used in sports. The objections to its constant use apparently involve frustration that athletes are said to overcome “adversity” to make the professional leagues, when some feel their stories don’t ring as true on the adversity scale as, say, starving children and wounded soldiers. I can’t say this one bugs me so much, but that’s probably because I haven’t watch a full game of anything in maybe two years.

Fan Base. The problem here is the word “base” — like fans are all gathered a base camp awaiting their hero. Certainly, “fans” gets the point across and saves you one word. So I can see why this phrase would irritate some.

Be sure to check out the 2014 list with comments from its creators and their lists from previous years. It’s fun to see what they’ve suggested banning, and I mostly agree with their lists. LSSU also takes nominations of overused words and phrases all year long, so if you’ve got a word or phrase you’re sick of hearing, go ahead and nominate it for the next list!

What words were you glad to see on Lake Superior State University’s Banished Words list? What words would you like to add?

If Wilde Tweeted

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover. It’s too bad that some of the most quotable figures in history didn’t have access to Twitter. Thus, I’ve had real fun presenting memorable quotes, in 140 characters or less, of such wordsmiths as Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, Plato, and Calvin (of the inimitable Calvin & Hobbes). Oscar Wilde is another favorite.

Photo of Oscar Wilde
Photo by Napoleon Sarony [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Oscar Wilde was an Irish writer, poet, and playwright. He is most famous for his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and his masterpiece play, The Importance of Being Earnest. In addition, Wilde was a witty man, easily quotable. He would have thrived on a medium like Twitter. So here are twenty of Wilde’s “tweets” — quotations of 140 characters or less.

  1. Women are meant to be loved, not understood.
  2. Thirty-five is a very attractive age; London society is full of women who have, of their own free choice, remained 35 for years.
  3. I have very simple tastes. I am always satisfied with the very best.
  4. I sometimes think that God, in creating man, rather overestimated His ability.
  5. The proper basis for marriage is mutual misunderstanding.
  6. I have always been of the opinion that a man about to get married should know either everything or nothing.
  7. Only the shallow know themselves.
  8. Anyone can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend; it takes a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend’s success.
  9. Democracy is simply the bludgeoning of the people, for the people, by the people.
  10. A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing.
  11. The good end happily and the bad unhappily; that is what fiction means.
  12. We are all in the same gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
  13. Experience is the name we all give to our mistakes.
  14. The only thing worse in the world than being talked about is not being talked about.
  15. The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.
  16. In this world there are only two tragedies: one is not getting what one wants, the other is getting it.
  17. I can resist everything except temptation.
  18. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
  19. Some cause happiness wherever they go; some whenever they go.
  20. My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has got to go. (Purported to be Oscar Wilde’s last words.)

Which one is your favorite? Do you have other Oscar Wilde quotes to add?

Sources: Brainy Quote; Wikiquote; The Quotable Oscar Wilde by Sheridan Morley

7 Ways to Say I’m on a Blogging Break

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what we can discover.

As usual, I rushed into summer with big plans of how much I could accomplish, and halfway through I’m looking around at the piles and thinking, “When will I ever get to all of it?” Since summer blog traffic tends to be less, and since my plate is full, I will be taking a break from blogging. But I can’t just leave y’all hanging.

So here are some words to describe what I’m doing.

Beach scene
On a Blog Vacation

Blogcation. Oddly enough, this neologism has not yet been defined in the Urban Dictionary (where I expected to find it). But it’s used by plenty of bloggers to describe a temporary absence from blogging while they focus on other tasks or personal recreation. I’m not crazy about the word, though, simply because it’s somewhat difficult to enunciate.

Furlough. This term is most often connected to military or government workers who are given leave for a time. It comes from the Dutch word verlof which literally means “for permission.” The second part of the word (-lough or -lof) is related to the word translated as “leave.” So a furlough is simply an allowed absence. (Y’all will allow me to take a break, right?)

Holiday. Originally, this was a “holy day,” meaning a day given special meaning for its religious implications. The word dates from the Middle Ages. And now it’s known as the title of Madonna’s cutesy party song. There will not be anything particularly holy about my not blogging, but since one of the reasons for taking a summer break is church volunteer work, maybe I could stretch that connection.

Leave of absence. This is the combination of the Old English leafe (permission) and the Latin word absentia (to be away from). So a leave of absence is permission to be away. I won’t be entirely away, but I won’t be here quite so much. Think of it like a Gone Fishin’ sign hanging on my blog.

Recess. As a child, this word had the awesome connotation of getting to play outside. As a adult, it’s what I hear Congress takes when it decides to stop screwing stuff up and go home for a while. This word is first found in English usage around the mid-1500s. It comes from the Latin word recedere, which means to go back. The noun form is recessus. Why it began to be applied to playtime at school, I have no idea.

Sabbatical. The Greek word sabbatikos means “of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is the seventh day in Mosaic law on which Israaelites were commanded to rest and worship God. Religious Jews still practice a Sabbath, and Christians sometimes refer to their Lord’s Day (Sunday) as a Sabbath time as well. The meaning of a professor taking time off was first recorded at Harvard in the 1880s. I will not be taking a full year like professors do, but the principle remains the same.

Vacation. From the Latin word vacare, which means “to be empty, free, or at leisure” to “to be unoccupied.” Hmmm. I don’t know about being empty, but free, at leisure, and unoccupied sound pretty good. However, I probably won’t be any of those. I’ll just be juggling other balls.

When will I return? Actually, I’ll still be posting quick ROW80 updates about my writing goals progress, but those won’t be long posts. Otherwise, I’ll be back in about a month–around mid-August.

What are you doing this summer? Have you taken a break from blogging or other normal activities? What do you call it when you step away from your usual duties?

Sources: Online Etymology Dictionary; Oxford Dictionaries

Naming Your Car

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and see what interesting things we can find. Today we’re heading out to the highway, parking lot, or your garage and thinking about cars. How many of you auto owners have named your car?

I recently purchased a new car to replace my 13-year-old Honda Civic, which was named Keiko. Now I’m looking for a nickname for my Toyota Camry. So how does one choose a name?

Here are some ideas:

Proper name. You can pick a first name for your vehicle. Cars are often considered female, though not always. Where I live, proper-named cars often sound like Southern belles: Bessie, Mary Beth, Emma Lou. If you’re looking for inspiration, though, you can check out the Social Security Administration’s website with the most popular baby names for any year from 1880 to the present. If you named your car Sophia or Jacob, then it’s right up there with the top baby name for 2012. Now you might recognize this car with a proper name:

Herbie the
pic credit: Loadmaster (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Color. You can consider the color of your car when naming it. You can opt for a straightforward reference to its hue, like calling the car Scarlet or Ebony. You can use it in the description with another word, like Gray Ghost or Green Machine. The color also might inspire a connection to another word, like a black car that you name Licorice or a red car that you refer to as Apple. One interesting example I found on the Internet was a man who owned a pink car; he named it Floyd.

How it looks. There was a guy at my high school who drove a vintage truck. It looked similar to this, and everyone called it The Goose.

1954 Chevrolet Pick-up Truck
pic credit: Andrew Duthie from Nashville, TN, USA, via Wikimedia Commons

Then there was my high school friend whose car was completely falling apart, and she referred to it as the Bomb. (Truly, we had no idea when that thing might go kaboom!)

So the way it looks could inspire a name–anything from Monster to Snug Bug to Bruiser. Whatever represents the appearance of your car can become its name.

How it drives.

Greased Lightning car
Greased Lightning from Grease

Why, this car could be systematic
Why, it could be Greased Lightning!

C’mon, you had to know that was coming. If you never saw the 1979 classic movie Grease, you may have at least seen Pixar’s Cars with Lightning McQueen. How your car maneuvers–or how you wish it would maneuver–might inspire the perfect name for your vehicle. Maybe you’re driving the Bullet or the Beast or even Pokey.

Famous rides. Your car can conjure up a familiar name–a famous ride of one kind of another. It could be a horse like Trigger or Black Beauty. Or watercraft like the Love Boat or the Titanic.  Or maybe a spaceship like the Enterprise or the Millennium Falcon or Firefly (the ship was actually the Serenity). Plenty of cars are named for famous rides in real life or in fiction.

Another famous car. I already referred to Greased Lightning, T-bird Kenickie’s refurbished car. But there are a few other cars you might recognize and want to borrow their sweet name for your own vehicle. Let’s take a look:

Knight Rider car, KITT
KITT from Knight Rider
Christine from Christine movie
Christine, from the movie of the same name
General Lee, Dukes of Hazzard
General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard
Batmobile from original TV series
Mystery Machine, Scooby Doo
The Machine Mystery from Scooby Doo

Of course, you can call your car anything you want. It’s not like your automobile will object to being named anything from Fluffy to Mrs. Danvers.

So have you named your car? What other tips do you have? And if you want to suggest names for my car, go right ahead!

What Are You Drinking? Soda Names

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of language and discover something cool about words. Today’s inspiration came courtesy of my caffeine addiction. As I sat here wondering what to write about, I was staring at my bottle of Dr Pepper.

Dr Pepper 10

Why is it called Dr Pepper? (And by the way, yes, it is without the period.)

So let’s talk soda names.

Coca-Cola in a Glass
By Summi from German Wikipedia via Wikimedia Commons

Coca-Cola. Way back in 1886, a pharmacist in Atlanta, Dr. John S. Pemberton, mixed up a caramel-colored syrup that tasted pretty darn good when combined with carbonated water. He took it down to Jacobs’ pharmacy in his neighborhood, where it was pronounced delicious and sold at the soda fountain for 5 cents a glass. Dr. Pemberton didn’t name it, though. It was his partner and bookkeeper, Frank M. Robinson, who came up “Coca-Cola”–which he wrote in that distinctive script which is still used today. The Coca is for the coca leaves included in the original formula (yep, the same stuff that produces cocaine) and Cola is a respelling of kola for the kola nuts used in the formula (kola nuts contain caffeine).

Pepsi. You could have been drinking a “Brad’s.” In 1893, pharmacist Caleb Bradham of New Bern, North Carolina, created drinks for the soda fountain customers in his drugstore. His biggest seller was “Brad’s drink,” which contained carbonated water, sugar, vanilla, rare oils, pepsin and cola nuts. Yeah, you can see where this is going. The drink was renamed Pepsi-Cola, after its ingredients, in 1898. Unfortunately, Bradham and Pepsi went bankrupt in 1923. The company was bought out, and the drink has since be reformulated.

Dr Pepper can
from Wikimedia Commons

Dr Pepper. Charles Alderton worked at Morrison’s Old Corner Drugstore mixing up both medicines and soda fountain offerings. He experimented with mixtures of fruit syrups until he came upon a formula he liked and offered it to his boss and (after the boss’s thumbs-up)  to customers. It was Waco, Texas, 1885, and customers would come in and request Charles’s special drink by asking him to “shoot them a Waco.” Morrison himself definitely renamed the drink “Dr. Pepper,” but here’s where an etymology fan like me gets disappointed with the research: “Unfortunately, the origin for the name is unclear. The Museum has collected over a dozen different stories on how the drink became known as Dr Pepper.” That’s according to the Dr Pepper Museum, but the Texas State Historical Association asserts that Alderton named the drink after a former boss in Rural Retreat, Virginia–a Dr. Charles T. Pepper. By the way, the period was dropped in the 1950s.

Sprite. Here’s a real mystery. Coca-Cola introduced a lemon-lime flavored soda in 1961 to compete with the popular 7-Up brand. Although some have suggested that the name derived from a cartoon-like sprite used in Coca-Cola commercials in the 1950s, Coca-Cola denies this suggestion. But it doesn’t offer an alternative. The best explanation is that the Houston Coca-Cola Bottling Company sold not just Cokes but also fruit-flavored drinks which were named “Sprite.” Now who thought up that name up is anyone’s guess. But the name seems to have come from a specific bottling company and was then adopted by Coca-Cola as a whole.

Mountain Dew can
By Liftarn (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Mountain Dew. Today’s ad efforts are aimed at making Mountain Dew look hip and sporty, but its history is quite different. Brothers Ally and Barney Hartman mixed up a lemony soda as a spirits mixer for the moonshine liquor they produced in the Appalachian stills of Tennessee. They trademarked the name in 1948, and early bottles showed a gun-toting hillbilly chasing a federal agent from an outhouse. When PepsiCo purchased the brand in 1964, its first TV ad used the slogan: “Ya-Hoo Mountain Dew. It’ll tickle your innards.” Have you ever mixed that dew from the Appalachian mountains into your moonshine?

7UP. C.L. Grigg, the founder of the Howdy Corporation in St. Louis, Missouri, had met with some success in producing the Howdy Orange drink. He thought he’d give lemons and limes a shot, and in 1929 produced the 7-Up formula. It was originally named the Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda. (Seriously? From “Howdy Orange” to that?) Eventually, someone came to their senses and suggested a name change based on the 7 flavors mixed up to make the lemon-soda: 7UP. Which spawned this lovely slogan: Make 7UP Yours.

So what’s your favorite soda? Where you surprised by the origin of any of these names? What would you name a soda if you could?

Sources: World of Coca-Cola;; Marietta Soda Museum;;; Dr Pepper Museum; Texas State Historical Association; NBC News – America’s Top 10 Brands of Soda; Historic Brazoria County-An Illustrated History;; Was the Sprite Boy?;;

The Language of Wine with Christine Ashworth

Smoking Loon Pinot Noir Label

Welcome to Amazing Words Wednesday! I have a treat for you today. I met paranormal romance author Christine Ashworth sometime ago in a WANA blogging course. One of the features that keeps me coming back to her blog is her posts on finding good, inexpensive wine. She taste tests, rates wines, and makes recommendations.

Since I enjoy a nice glass of wine and I enjoy Christine Ashworth, I asked her to come on and talk about the unique language of wine. If you’ve ever wondered what “bouquet” or “vintage” means or what a “tannin” is, read on.

Wine connoisseurs seems to have their own language at times. It can be confusing for newbies to hear about a drink being dry or full-bodied. So help us out with a few of the basics. What are the most common words used to describe different the taste of wines and what do they mean?

Christine Ashworth PhotoCA: Dry usually means it doesn’t have much sugar in it. Sweet wines have a thickness to them; dry ones, not so much. Wines can also be thin in taste, or full-bodied. Thin can mean astringent, or maybe just not a lot of flavor. Full-bodied, to me, means it has a nice, big, round feel in my mouth. Thin wines tend to be popular in the summertime.

What are tannins? How do they affect the taste of wine?

CA: Good damned question. You know what? I didn’t have a clue, except that people tend to be allergic to them, or that’s the part of wine that gives us a headache. (Funny, I always thought it was the alcohol content. Stupid me.) However, I did some research. Here’s what Wikipedia says about tannins…

A tannin (also known as vegetable tannin, natural organic tannins or sometimes tannoid, i.e. a type of biomolecule, as opposed to modern synthetic tannin) is an astringent, bitter plant polyphenolic compound that binds to and precipitates proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids.  Here’s another site I went to – I highly suggest your readers go here to find out more about tannins in wine. 

In a floral shop, we know what a bouquet is. What is a “bouquet” regarding wine?

CA: Basically, it’s the same thing. How does the wine smell? Can you smell the fruit? The spice? Pepper, or soil, or flowers? Citrus? All of these scents can be found when you smell wine. It’s all in how you approach it. Also, it helps to take a class. For what it’s worth, though, I usually smell grapes, and earth, and maybe sun and citrus for white wines. Rarely does my nose take me down twisty paths of green pepper or sun-baked tomatoes.

But how do you smell the bouquet? Pour a little bit of wine into a fairly large, open mouthed wine glass and swirl the wine around the glass. Sniff lightly, move the glass away from your nose, then take a deeper sniff of the wine. What do you smell? If the label on the bottle gives you scents, such as peach or berry, then see if you can smell the peach or the berry notes.

I’ve seen the term “appellation” on a wine label. What does it mean?

CA: Appellation is referring to where the wine was grown. Wikipedia

has this to say: 


The tradition of wine appellation is very old. The oldest references are to be found in the Bible, where wine of Samariawine of Carmelwine of Jezreel,[1] or wine of Helbon[2]are mentioned. This tradition of appellation continued throughout the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, though without any officially sanctioned rules. Historically, the world’s first exclusive (protected) vineyard zone was introduced in ChiantiItaly in 1716 and the first wine classification system in Tokaj-HegyaljaHungary, in 1730.

So there’s that.

What does “vintage” refer to? How is that helpful in choosing a wine?

CA: “Vintage” refers to the date the wine was bottled, and not the date it was put up for sale. For instance, most wine bottled in 2012 won’t be put up for sale until 2014 at the earliest. However, the closer a red wine is sold to its vintage date, the iffier it is (in my opinion). Since we’re in 2013, I like drinking 2009 and 2010 wines.

Red wine needs to “breathe.” Of course, we know that isn’t a reference to respiration, so what is it? Why do red wines need to breathe?

Glass of red wine
By André Karwath aka Aka (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

CA: Letting a wine breathe just means to give the wine as much exposure to oxygen as possible. When wine mixes with air, it warms the wine, allowing its scents to come out, and often oxygen will soften the flavors of the wine as well. You can do one of three things to aerate a wine. First, just pour it into a wine glass and let it sit. Second, pour it through an aerator (or, alternatively, blow bubbles through a straw into the wine. But restaurants tend to frown on this.). Third, decant the wine into a fancy decanter, or into a pitcher if that’s what you have. Any of these options will allow more oxygen into the wine.  On a side note: it’s been proven that the best way to aerate a wine is to put it in your blender and give it a whirl. No, seriously. The Wine Spectator has a take on it. Check out that post.

What does a “sommelier” or “wine steward” do?

CA: A good sommelier knows his restaurant, the wine he pours, the ciders and ales and beers they have, and is even knowledgeable about cigars. They can help take you beyond the typical  “drink red with beef, white with fish.” Wine can either complement your food, or contrast with it; a good sommelier will take into account what you are ordering, plus your price point, and will suggest a wine that will go well with your meal. The absolutely most important thing the wine steward, or sommelier, does is choose the house wine. The house wine must pair attractively with all the dishes on the menu. If you’re interested in becoming a sommelier, here’s a great article on what it takes (or doesn’t take): .

A test question: What is “enology”?

CA: “Enology” is the study of wine. Did I pass? 

In my house, we talk about the wonder of the “Houdini”—not the master escape artist, but the handy-dandy wine-bottle opener we purchased. What are the names of some other neat contraptions you recommend for wine drinkers?

CA: I flunk this, sorry. I don’t do gadgets. I have a typical bartender’s corkscrew and that’s pretty much it.

And since you’re here, could you give us a quick suggestion for a white, a blush, and a red?

Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay bottleCA: My favorite white, this week, is Kendall Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay; for a rose´(I shudder at the term “blush”), Sofia has a nice one; and for red, my inexpensive go-to is always Smoking Loon Pinot Noir.

Anything else we need to know about the language of wine?

CA: In my opinion, the most important thing about wine is to not be intimidated by people who sound like they’re very knowledgeable; half the time they’re just as clueless as you are. The only thing you “need” to know about wine is, do you like it? Or not? If you don’t like it, then don’t buy it again. Pretty simple, huh?

I stumbled across a terrific post about tasting wine. Go to – she does an excellent job of taking the mystery out of wine tasting.

 Wow, Julie – I’m starting to realize just how much I don’t know about wine, lol! I’ll be doing some studying in the next few weeks. Thanks so much for having me here, I really appreciate it. 

It’s been my pleasure, Christine! I definitely know more about wine now. And yes, yes, of course you passed the test.

Do you have any other questions for Christine about wine or her books?

Demon Hunt: A Caine Brothers Novel
Christine’s most recent release

Christine Ashworth drinks wine, writes novels and plays, and encourages her extremely bright sons to get out into the job market. You can find her on twitter, facebook and at her website.

For more information about Christine, you can find her at Christine Ashworth-Wicked…with a Side of Saucy

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

It’s Amazing Words Wednesday, the day we enter the labyrinth of the English language, peek around the shrubbery, and see what we can find.

This past week I was perusing my Fun Encyclopedia, the one I previously mentioned in a post about word games. You’ve got to love a book published in 1940 with the subtitle “An All-Purpose Plan Book for Those Interested in Recreation for Clubs, Schools, Churches, and the Home.” This was my grandfather’s book which has found its way down to me, much to my ongoing delight.

RiddleI came across a section of riddles. You know, those wordplay conundrums like, “What’s black and white and red [read] all over?” A newspaper.

Riddles often make use of interesting wordplay to stump us or make us laugh. Sometimes the riddle uses a word that can be understood in more than one way, sometimes it’s a fresh way of looking at a word, and sometimes it’s just a silly observation about a word. You can see what I mean by looking at a few more riddles from the Fun Encyclopedia that you might, or might not have, heard.

  • What is the smallest room in the world? A mushroom.
  • Why wouldn’t mother let the doctors operate on father? Because she didn’t want them to open her male (mail).
  • What is it that you ought to keep after you have given it to someone else? A promise.
  • What is the longest word in the English language? Smiles, because there is a mile between the first and last letters.
  • What starts with a T, ends with a T, and is full of T? Teapot.
  • What asks no questions but requires a lot of answers? A door bell.
  • What is the oldest piece of furniture? The multiplication table.
  • What has four legs but cannot walk? A chair or a table.
  • When is a clock dangerous? When it strikes one.

Funology also offers a slew of riddles. Could you answer these?

  • What can you catch but not throw? A cold.
  • What has one eye but cannot see? A needle.
  • How many months have 28 days? All twelve of them.
  • What goes up a chimney down, but can’t go down a chimney up? An umbrella.
  • What travels around the world but stays in one spot? A stamp.

Some riddles are longer, more challenging, more outside-the-box. For instance, this classic riddle:

A young boy and his father are in a car accident.  The father dies at the scene. The boy is transported to the hospital and taken immediately into surgery, but the surgeon steps out of the operating room and says, “I can’t operate on this boy: He’s my son!” Who is the surgeon?

In previous years, this one tripped up plenty of people. It was featured in both All in the Family and The Cosby Show (with Clair stumping Cliff). But apparently, in today’s world, most children have no problem coming up with the correct answer: The surgeon is the boy’s mother.

Try out another one from

A magician was playing some smart tricks across the street. A boy approached him, and the man said, “I will just touch your forehead and write your actual name on this yellow paper. If I am wrong, then I will give you some of my magic stuff; otherwise, you have to give me $10.” The boy agreed, for he thought that no matter what name he writes down, he will deny it. But it was the boy who lost the bet. How is this possible? 

Did you guess? Were you stumped? Take the magician at his word:

The magician wrote “your actual name” on the piece of paper.

Riddles like these rely on how you tell them–the words chosen to relate the story, the order in which they are spoken, the set-up to lead you into a way of thinking that you must break out of to solve the puzzle.

Other riddles are less about the words and more about the circumstances (e.g., this Sherlock Holmes riddle). Although a word gal through-and-through, I am often perplexed by a good riddle. As soon as the answer is revealed, however, I feel like an idiot for not getting it sooner.

Riddles were a part of my childhood–not so much from friends and family, but from the villain of a campy superhero series. Indeed, this was one of my favorite memories of childhood:

The Riddler from Batman (Frank Gorshin)

I’ll leave off with some of The Riddler’s gems:

  • What do you call a sleeping bull? A bulldozer.
  • What does no one want to have, but no one wants to lose? A lawsuit.
  • How many sides has a circle? Two–inside and outside.
  • What has neither flesh, bone, nor nail, yet has four fingers and a thumb? A glove.
  • How do you divide seventeen apples among sixteen people? Make applesauce.
  • What kind of machine has ears? A train–it has engineers.

Yep, I ate that stuff up as a kid. I was ecstatic if I solved one before the Dynamic Duo. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen often.

Do you like riddles? What are your favorites? Do you get stumped easily?

Laugh with Me: It’s Punny!

Here on Amazing Words Wednesday, I like to take us through the labyrinth of language and discover fun stuff. Today I feel like we need a laugh–anything from a mild “ka-snort” to a big, gut-wrenching, knees-to-belly laugh. Whatever works for you!

So when a friend posted about puns on her Facebook status, I knew I had to share. Why?

Because I found this humerus!

Originally uploaded by User:Palica, mirrored by was_a_bee, via Wikimedia Commons



Which one(s) made you laugh? Do you enjoy word play like this? Do you have other favorite puns? Please share!

Note: I looked and looked for the original source of this Punography poster. If you know, please tell me so I can credit accordingly.

Naming a Haunted House

Welcome to Spooky Words Wednesday! Okay, it’s really Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, but since it’s HALLOWEEN, it seemed like a special version was warranted.

I’m personally not a big fan of the gore-and-gross and scare-your-pants-off aspects of Halloween, but plenty of people enjoy the fright and the creepiness of this season. Tonight there will be lots of people who visit haunted houses concocted from props, fake blood and guts, and dramatic flair. You may even be hosting one of those!

From the haunted house for kids
we created in our garage one year

So what should a haunted house be named? Just “Haunted House”? Indeed the makers of these monster-and-mayhem mazes get creative when naming them too. If you need an extra-special name for your own haunted house, here is some inspiration. (Be prepared if you decide to click a link; most of the websites have sound effects.)

Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Conley, Georgia.

Basement of the Dead, Chicago, Illinois.

Butcher’s Hollow, Farmington, Missouri.

Cataclysmic Castle of Fear, Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Corner of Chaos, East Windsor, New Jersey.

Delirium, Weston, West Virginia.

Disturbia, Huntsville, Alabama.

Field of Screams, Mountville, Pennsylvania.

Fright Farm, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota.

Frightmare, Westminster, Colorado.

Frightmore, Morrow, Georgia.

Headless Horseman Haunted House, Ulster Park, New York.

House of Blackbeard, Concord, California.

House of Torment, Austin, Texas.

Indy Screampark, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Insanitarium, Pinson, Alabama.

Nightmare on 19th Street, Lubbock, Texas or Nightmare on 17th Street, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Panic Attack, Wilmington, North Carolina.

Scream Acres, Napoleon, Ohio.

Terrortown, Toledo, Ohio.

The Asylum, Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Crypt, Phoenix, Arizona.

The Fear Factory, Mount Clemens, MichiganFindley, OhioJacksonville, Arkansas; and Aberdeen, North Carolina.

The Ghoullog, North Conway, New Hampshire.

The Mayhem Mansion, Morning View, Kentucky.

The Mortuary, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The Realm of Darkness, Pontiac, Michigan.

Trail of Fear, Lawton, Oklahoma.

Trapped in Purgatory, Staten Island, New York.

As for what I would name a haunted house, here are my ideas:

From Scooby Doo, Where Are You?

Scooby Doo’s Mystery Manor. Yep, that’s about the level of fright I want–enough to make Scooby jump into Shaggy’s arms and says, “Rud-roh.”

Party with the Paranormal. Bring on the vampires, werewolves, ghosts, zombies, etc., and let’s see how they amuse themselves on Halloween night.

The Junior High Dance. Just the thought of time-warping back there should be enough to make your nerves jump and your stomach shimmy.

Shock Block. Get a few houses on your block in on the deal, and this is a perfect name for the haunted house(s).

Roach Ranch. Actually, I would never name anything this, but if you want this particular gal to shudder from her scalp to her soles, the word “roach” anywhere in the title will do it.

The Graveyard. Seriously, why didn’t I find this one in my research? It’s simple, but effective.

What are some clever or creative names for haunted houses in your area? Have you ever hosted or worked with a haunted house? What suggestions for names do you have?


High School Mascot Names

On Friday, I’ll be hosting a fabulous guest to my blog to talk about high school football. In preparation, I wanted to spend Amaze-ing Words Wednesday in the labyrinth of mascot names.

High schools choose a name to associate with their school which will be uttered numerous times with football games, cheerleading, baseball, basketball, volleyball, soccer, hockey, etc. This name will be on the lips of the student body and supportive fans. So what names often get chosen for this honor?

Well, the number one high school mascot names is…drumroll, please…Eagles.

That tidbit comes from High School Nicknames, a website which compiled a list of the most common mascot names. I did my own research also to come up with the usual, and the unusual, mascots. Rather than just shoot the names out there all willy-nilly, let’s categorize a bit.

Animals. Animals are the most popular choice for a mascot name. Typically, a school wants a fierce creature to represent their school as a force to be reckoned with–whether on the football field or in the academic decathlon–but some like “Cardinals” may be a bit less ferocious. Here are common ones:

Eagles Mascot from Eastern Michigan University, CMadler, 10/10


If we really want to make our opponents shake with fear, I wonder why I didn’t see the Cobras or the Fire Ants.

Groups of People. What comes to mind if I say “Knights” or “Pirates”? Another source of mascot names is groups of people who have demonstrated bravery or fighting skills in the past. In a tip of a hat to champions and contenders, schools often select the name of well-known or local heroes. Do you recognize these?

“Sparty,” Michigan State University
Wikimedia Commons, Pizza12456, 4/10

Rebels (probably only in the South)
Blue Devils (after French soldiers in World War I nicknamed “les Diables Bleus”)
Red Devils

Missing from the list are Ninjas, Cheerleader Moms, and Political Pundits–all known for their sparring skills as well.

Mythical Creatures. Forget animals and people; some schools go for the supernatural. For instance, Rhinelander High School in Wisconsin named its mascot after a creature later discovered to be a hoax: the “hodag.”

Hodag captured,, public domain

Here are some other names of teams based on myth:

Titans (elite gods of Greek mythology)

Sorry, Twilight, I couldn’t find Vampires or Werewolves. My son votes that some school adopt Zombies as their name. Can you imagine the mascot?

Weather. There are also teams such as the Tornadoes, the Cyclones, and the Hurricanes. We may not enjoy such disastrous events in real life, but on the field of competition schools seem to welcome them.

Objects. One of the more popular choices for a mascot is the Rockets. Living in the Houston area with NASA at my doorstep and the NBA Rockets basketball team nearby, I can understand the draw of this moniker. You can also find Bombers and, for reasons I don’t in the least understand, the Wooden Shoes.

Funniest Names. After combing through several sites, I did find some names that struck me as clever.

Arkansas School for the Deaf – Leopards. Did they do it on purpose? Rock on! I hope their students can at least feel the beat.

Poca High School, West Virginia – Dots. Clever, huh? The Poca Dots! In case it doesn’t sound aggressive enough, click the link to see the actual mascot.

Johnson High School – Atom Smashers. Because, really, what’s more frightening than an atom smasher?

What do you think of mascot names? Should they be animals, people, mythical creatures, or something else? Have you heard any unusual or funny ones? What was your school’s mascot?

Sources: Ridiculous High School Mascots; High School Nicknames; Mental Floss-31 Unbelievable High School Mascots