Surprising question or questioning surprise

Given what’s happening in the world these days, it seems that we inevitably start discussing the same topic – our favourite punctuation mark. For me, there’s no contest. It’s the interrobang. It’s got the cool name. It combines the boppy élan of the exclamation mark and the Socratic wisdom of the interrogative point. It looks good on paper, especially compared to all the other boring punctuation. The apostrophe?! A catastrophe. The semilcolon!? More like semicolonic. The hyphen?! Mostly hype. They’re nothing compared to…


2017.06.30 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Surprising question or questioning surprise

Batman’s tag

Quite a few superheroes have descriptive taglines associated with them. For example, Superman is the Man of Steel and the Avengers are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Batman, Superman’s bestest frenemy, the rich man’s Punisher, has a tag that’s a bit of a head-scratcher: World’s Greatest Detective. After all, the Caped Crusader is not exactly Sherlock Holmes. Picture this conversation between Commissioner Gordon and our hero.

GORDON: Someone has stolen all the fishes from the Gotham Aquarium!

BATMAN: Hmm, who could have perpetrated such a nefarious act? The Riddler? Catwoman? Two-Face? I’ll have to return to the Batcave and do some detecting in front of a bank of really impressive computer screens.

GORDON: Hey, do you think it could have been the Penguin?

But Batman has already vanished into the night. 


2016.08.03 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Batman’s tag

Concerning confusonyms

No one cares about confusonyms. Synonyms and antonyms get all the glory. We study them in school. We learn long lists of them. Everybody knows that the antonym of synonym is antonym. Even their slightly annoying cousin, the homonym, is a bigger star in the linguistic universe. I mean, isn’t it obvious what the difference between ‘bare’ and ‘bear’ is without having a word to describe the concept? (Note: if you don’t understand the difference then you should probably avoid the woods.)

How come the confusonym doesn’t get any love? It is the rarest of the -nyms. Practically mythic. If it were an animal it would definitely be a cryptid. It has a much more subtle definition than a word that means the same thing as another word. That’s boring. Dull. Tedious. Humdrum.

Unlike the confusonym, which rocs [sic]!

Confusonym n. a word that is mistaken for another word due to identical spelling with the exception of one letter.

One measly letter. That’s all it takes to change everything. For example, leech and leach. One is a slimy bloodsucking parasite and one is a boring verb that means to remove stuff from other stuff by filtering a liquid through it. If you don’t think there’s a big difference between the two words then I recommend you watch the leach scene in Stand By Me. I’m sure Wil Wheaton would have much preferred it to be a leech scene.

Oops. I just confused my confusonyms.

2016.03.21 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Concerning confusonyms

John Oliver’s Technically Beautiful piece on Ottawa

A segment on the July 26 episode of John Oliver’s brilliantly hilarious HBO show Last Week Tonight skewered Ottawa over news that the city may not only be the second coldest national capital in the world (behind Ulan Bator) but also the infidelity capital (ahead of Kathmandu). The genesis of the piece was the rather surprising revelation that one in five Ottawa residents are registered on, a website for people looking to cheat on their spouses.

In introducing the segment, Oliver described Ottawa as, “The town known by locals as the city that fun forgot, and which once genuinely adopted the slogan ‘Technically Beautiful’.”

My jaw dropped when I heard those last two words. Those magical, masterful words. Back when this ill-fated slogan was adopted (very briefly) by Ottawa, I was a writer at the ad agency that came up with it. Myself and my fellow worker ants in the studio pointed out the obvious to the Powers That Be – this phrase would not be well received by the public. Its message is, of course, ‘Technically Beautiful… But In Reality Its A Hole’. I suggested that, if they liked those two words in tandem, why not go with ‘Beautifully Technical’ instead? However, the Powers That Be proved to be the Powers That Be Silly. Fortunately, city council killed the slogan both technically and actually dead.

Until last Sunday, when John Oliver brought it back to life and killed with it.

Last Week Tonight piece on the city that funny remembered


2015.07.29 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on John Oliver’s Technically Beautiful piece on Ottawa

Detecting True Detective

Can you guess which one of these characters is not from the second season of True Detective?

1. An alcoholic, corrupt detective who probably murdered his wife’s rapist.

2. A kinky, weaponized sheriff with a cult-leader father, sex-worker sister and mother who likely committed suicide.

3. A flighty landlord with a penchant for leisure suits, cravats and bug-eyed histrionics.

4. A horribly scarred, impotent army vet with a deathwish.

If you guessed number three then you are correct. That is a description of the Yellow King from the first season of True Detective.

2015.06.23 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Detecting True Detective


The phrase ‘putting two and two together’ means to figure something out from the information you have on hand. For example, as he plunged off yet another towering cliff, Wile E. Coyote put two and two together and came to the conclusion that teaming up with Elmer Fudd to catch the Roadrunner had not been a good idea.

Now my question – beyond why anyone would ever think teaming up with Elmer Fudd was a good idea – is why is it ‘two and two’? Why not put one and one together? Or three and three? Heck, why not five and five?

Maybe putting one and one together, ostensibly to make two, would have too much of a naughty connotation. Maybe three and three would be too scary because look what happens if you put three and three together three times in a row. Maybe the arithmetics of five and five would be too troublesome.

Some might say that two and two won out due to the pleasing homonymic properties it has with the word ‘together’. Well, I don’t believe that for a second. I put two and two together and realized there’s a lot more to it than that. Two is the smallest prime number. It is the first prime number. It is the only even prime number. That can only mean one thing: Two and two was chosen by the Illuminati to further their nefarious machinations.

2015.04.19 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Idiomata

It ain’t rocket science

When someone says, ‘It ain’t rocket science’, they mean that something is not difficult to understand. A less popular variation of this idiom is, ‘It ain’t brain surgery’.

You know what ain’t rocket science?

Rocket science.

Essentially, it’s strapping a big bomb onto a giant metal can and BOOM!, you’re in orbit. Hopefully. You know what else ain’t rocket science? That’s right. Brain surgery. We still basically have no idea how the human brain works. Twenty-first neurosurgery is only a few cuts (apologies) above the trephination practiced by our prehistoric ancestors.

I think we need a new idiom to replace these two oxymoronical phrases. It needs to use a science that’s truly impenetrable, that no one really understands, an unsolvable mystery to challenge the greatest minds. Something like…

It ain’t daylight savings time.

2015.02.06 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on It ain’t rocket science

Cool words #32

As noted in Cool words #23, ‘ultimate’, meaning last or final, and ‘penultimate’, meaning second to last are indeed cool words. But the lexical awesomeness does not stop with ultimate and penultimate. There’s also antepenultimate, meaning third to last, and preantepenultimate, meaning – you guessed it – fourth to last. So, for example, for the six Star Wars movies that have been completed to date, the antepenultimate film in the series’ story order is my favourite, with, ironically, the penultimate film a close second.

2015.01.16 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cool words #32

Cool words #23

‘Ultimate’ is a cool word. According to the OED, it means the last or final, beyond which no other exists or is possible. It also looks cool when you write it down and sounds even cooler when you say it. Way better than, say, a word like ‘residue’. That’s why the villain in the next Avengers movie is called Ultron and not Residutron. Same goes for Ultimate Fighting Championship/Residue Fighting Championship, ultimatum/residumatum, etc. In fact, ultimate may be the ultimate cool word, although it would have to beat out the likes of ‘avenger’, ‘gerrymander’ and ‘penultimate’.

2014.12.29 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cool words #23

Don of the Dead

I recently started watching an incredibly popular, critically acclaimed TV show on AMC. Not sure if I’ll be able to stick with it though. Every episode is basically an unrelenting nightmare of monsters and villains. It’s called Mad Men.

2014.12.01 | Uncategorized | Comments Off on Don of the Dead
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