Like it or Not


I was like, standing at the store window and admiring the display when like, a stranger came right up behind me and like, asked me if I had any change and like, I didn’t know what to say like, what would you have done?

Like, I don’t know! I mean I really don’t know, not so much in reply to the question but something else. I mean, what can I say? Oh no, I’m getting tangled up in language; I’m catching some kind of disease. What is it? It’s not a disease. I think it’s a habit common amongst the younger crowd. It is the repetition of words or phrases that could easily be omitted and the meaning of the sentence would remain unscathed.

 I fear that often this need to use a word like, (oops!) such as, LIKE is more pronounced when the speaker is hugely excited in recounting an incident. For instance, imagine that 13 year-old Madge is describing her experience where she had an autograph signed by a Rock star.“Can you believe it? Like, there were like, a million kids like, pushing and shoving and like, I just …like, I dunno, like, pushed this guy on my left and like ……etc”.

 Of course there is another case of using, what can be called a “filler” and that is the phrase “I mean”. I’m afraid sometimes we are all guilty of this.

Ivan says to his friend after receiving his assignment back from the teacher,“I can’t understand this, I mean, I worked like a dog on this. It isn’t fair, I mean,….look at this, he underlines everything in red, I mean,…..”

 Where did Ivan get the idea of using I mean? His teacher certainly didn’t recommend its usage. He probably picked it up from general conversation around him and it became a pattern. It isn’t said in an excitable manner but simply used as a filler. I’m sure his teacher didn’t underline that phrase in red, because it’s only used when speaking.

 A young friend of mine told me that her teacher in High School practically made it a crime if he heard the word like used in a presentation. In fact, the student would receive a failing grade.

 Perhaps, we need to make the bar higher in the classroom.

What do you think?

Hot or Cold


We have arrived again at that time of year when we all seek respite from the scorching sun. We may choose the shade of a Maple tree or take advantage of the air conditioning in the nearest shopping mall. In each case we attempt to keep COOL


That last word cool is of interest in today’s blog. Why? Like many words, it has various meanings. The most common usage is related to weather as we suggested above. We also use the word cool to describe a person’s demeanor when faced with a disturbing situation. He/she remains calm and collected or as cool as a cucumber.


Sometimes cool can suggest opposite connotations. For example, one might be agreeable to something by saying ,”I’m cool with that idea”, but the opposite expressed like this: “ I had a rather cool response  from the committee to my idea.”


When decorating a room, one has to decide on a suitable colour. There are warm colours and of course cool ones, the latter being greens and blues


Back in the 1960’s the Hippies were cool were they not? In other words, they were “with it” or “hip” or they were regarded as “cool cats”. I suppose one could use the word fashionable. It seems to me that a very narcissistic attitude was indicated by the use of the word cool at that time.


These days, cool has been so over-used that it is becoming less evident except amongst younger people or adults who find themselves “at a loss for words” or are”speech-lazy”.


Here is a true illustration of a word being strangled. A few years ago when I was teaching English at Jillin University-Lambton College in Changchun, China, a colleague and myself sat down to design a test for our students. The dialogue while we worked would have been something like this. I would make a suggestion:

“Why don’t we make up a paragraph using words from our vocabulary list….”.pause

Mike: (not his real name) “Cool!”

“Then, leave a blank for each…..”

Mike: “That’s cool…”

“We could have the list of words at the top or bottom….”


“Or make it more diificult….with no list ,just the blanks “


And that was how the planning continued.


I began wondering if that was usual in Mike’s lessons. Would his students accept cool as a normal choice of vocabulary?

Rather than getting too upset, I decided to keep COOL ! 


A Wondrous Word

In my last blog, I felt there was a need to examine the use of current words. So, I decided to have a look at the tiniest of words, that is, so. That was last week.

As a reminder, we are discussing words that are overused or incorrectly used. This week, my vote for the most overused word is awesome.

I can hardly bear it any longer. It’s everywhere – on the street, in the mall, on the radio, television. It seems especially popular with teenagers; but no, even grown-ups are affected by this malaise.

I cringe when I hear it; not quietly, either. What I mean is this: if a couple are in the elevator as we drop to the ground floor and I overhear that four letter, oh, pardon me, I mean that seven letter word, something happens. My eyelids close, my lips curl back, the eyebrows rise (first one then the other) Of course I say nothing; it would be rude. For some reason the couple have stopped their chattering. Do you think they were aware of my reaction? I doubt it.

What does awesome mean? It does contain that small word awe which means wonder, esteem, reverence respect.

The other day, when walking down Bank Street here in Ottawa, I overheard three high school girls discussing their boyfriends. One remarked to the other,
“Hey, I saw you yesterday with Mark, he is totally awesome!”
Somehow, I cannot visualize Mark , handsome as he may be, as reverential or even wondrous. Certainly he couldn’t compare with, for example Niagara Falls could he?

When was the last time you used the word awe? Probably never, I am willing to bet. I suppose awesome has a place somewhere in our conversation but not on a daily basis, unless, you live in the Arctic and witness the Aurora Borealis regularly or you live next door to the Grand Canyon! Not too many years ago one might have used words such as amazing, fantastic, unbelievable, breathtaking or extraordinary. But, awesome? I don’t think so.

Here is my suggestion: let’s all agree to place awesome in the bottom drawer of a cabinet in the basement and leave it their for a decade or two. Perhaps, then, in twenty years, our eyes will light up to the sound of that wondrous of all words, awesome.

For now, though, I take out a pair of ear plugs before entering the elevator……just in case.

Words that become Pet Peeves

Word-Usage-Pet-PeevesOnce in a while I’m going to talk about words, word usage and my personal pet peeves, so let’s begin.

Today I am going to attack a simple two-letter word that for some strange reason is becoming very popular. Only in the broadcasting world has it gained popularity or may I say over-use. In fact it is being incorrectly used according to the grammar rules that we learned in school.

What is this beast of which I speak so disparagingly?
It is the word SO, repeat, so. I used it in the first paragraph above, correctly I might add. We, that is you and I are not at fault. It is those whom we see and hear on TV or radio, usually during an interview.

For example, the interviewer is asking the “expert” “Because the glaciers are melting every year and causing sea levels to rise, what exactly will be the effect?”
(answer) “So, the low-lying regions……”
Follow up question: “How much time do we have for making preparations for such a calamity?”
(answer) “So, a definite forecast is difficult……”

Here is another: “What advice would you give a parent who is concerned about a child’s constant cell phone use?”
Answer: “So, it’s important to……..”

How about this: “What is top priority in the government’s spending of our tax dollars; health care or national security?”
Answer: “So, we have to…….”.

Tell me if you can: who started this “fad” or whatever it is?
Quite clearly, the use of “so” in these examples is incorrect but what is also evident is that they serve no purpose and therefor are unnecessary.

The word “so” is a coordinating conjunction used to join parts of a sentence that are related, such as a sentence like this: “I need to know where you will be this afternoon, so please call me.”

A case could be made, but rather weak, that coordinating conjunctions such as “and” “but” could be labeled “Introductory” coordinating conjunctions. Often, as students we were tempted to begin sentences with “and” but soon corrected by strict teachers.

It will be interesting for you to listen to how this word slips in so easily without anyone taking notice, so be on the lookout!

Happy Father’s Day! Remembering TV Dads

fathers-day-2011This Sunday being the third Sunday in June is Father’s Day. Odd isn’t it that it follows Mother’s Day. In fact, Mother was worthy of having a special day before Father. But then, it only seems proper because as I implied in my last blog, Mother is on a higher pedestal than Father.

Now, I don’t believe that Fathers are competing with Mothers, are we? In fact, if we are then we must be losers. At least, that’s how we have been portrayed in movies and TV. Remember the Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, All in the Family, Archie Bunker, and of course Home improvement starring Tim Allen as Tim Taylor, his wife Jill and their three boys. In these productions Dad was regarded as less capable than his wife. Even the title of a series of films from the 1930’s and 1940’s, “Bringing Up Father”, gives us the impression that Father needs nurturing. And the title “Father Knows Best” leaves us wondering, doesn’t he?

As Dave McGinn proves in his article in the Globe and Mail (Friday, June 19, 2015) “Father know Jest”, a father’s redeeming feature is his ability to make his children laugh or to be more precise, before they are old enough to know better.

I have to admit that I am one of those fathers. My specialty is/was “Christmas Jokes”. These little gems would leave my children rolling on the floor with shrieks of joyous laughter. For instance, their favourite was as follows: Why did Santa Clause come down the chimney? Answer: Because the front door was locked. And this one: Why did Santa travel in a sleigh pulled by reindeer? Answer: His Mazerotti had a flat tire. Why doesn’t Santa go back up the chimney when he leaves? Answer: Because, Silly, the front door can be easily opened from inside. What is Santa’s favourite drink? Answer: CocaCola.

Of course as the children became older and more sophisticated as they gathered around the table for Christmas dinner, Dad would be greeted with words that obviously hid feelings of Christmas joy and anticipation such as “Oh, not your Santa jokes again!”

Such lovely children, really!

To Fathers everywhere,


Children and Physical Fitness

Jackie climbing a tree.

Jackie climbing a tree.

I am going to deal with another topic today; but it is not unrelated to our discussion of free play.

We just heard again today that Canada is near the bottom of world countries in the area of physical fitness of our children. I don’t know about you but I am not surprised. In fact that is what we were told last year.

I wonder what the scene is like on a typical public school yard at recess time. Since it’s twenty-six years since I retired from that kind of situation, I really do not know. Unfortunately, I can imagine. Not much.

The experts are saying that our children (like the rest of us) require at least thirty minutes a day of, preferably, aerobic exercise. I wouldn’t expect youngsters to jog around the perimeter of a playground although that would be a healthy activity; it just isn’t much fun.

What about kids kicking a soccer ball on the playing field? Oh, I forgot. Some schools do not allow soccer or baseballs because someone might get hurt. That rule also applies to some playground equipment.

How about “British Bulldog”? One thing though it can be rough if you play by the original rules. However, by simply touching the attacker, there is no possibility of injury. Skipping a rope would get the heart pumping; and let’s not forget “Tag”, the quintessential playground game of all games!

Do you know what? Anything would be better than sitting down somewhere on the playground with your friends and exercising your thumbs, wouldn’t it?

Innovation and Child’s Play.

cardboard-boxes-spark-creativityIt’s time to do something about those cardboard boxes on the floor of my son’s basement. Well, it so happens, they’re gone. What a shame, I thought. Surely, they could have served some purpose before being flattened out and sent away for recycling.

Just imagine you are a kid again and you come upon such a treasure. What would you do?

It depends on how old you are, doesn’t it? Suppose you are six years old. There is no hesitation; you choose one of the largest boxes, take it to your bedroom, turn it on it’s side and you crawl inside. Now you have a secret hiding place! Continue reading

Free Play and a Child’s Imagination

free playDid you think my last blog was too nerdy? Maybe it was. Think about this for a minute. We all have ideas about things. Some of these notions are regarded as geeky others are not.

Suppose a kid says to his or her friend, “I have an idea. Let’s go and see a movie.” That certainly is an idea, the result of thinking about “What’ll we do?” Would you say this person has a geeky idea? I think not. Why? Maybe because it was rather ordinary? It certainly wasn’t original or innovative or creative.

So, let’s go back to the theme of free play and watch how a child with an imaginative way of thinking would perceive, conceive and probably envision something when stimulated. Continue reading

Let’s Encourage Our Children’s Imagination!

children-need-imaginationIn my last blog, the one before Mother’s Day, I suggested that we had a problem. Oh dear, problems. Just what we need, more problems! Okay, let’s call it a situation.

I said that children don’t use ingenuity, imagination or creativity in their play. When Jim says to his pal Bill one sunny Saturday morning in June, “What’ll we do?” and the reply comes, “I dunno”. We have a situation, a challenge if you like. These two ten-year-olds will probably, and I realize I am making generalizations, decide on the usual, the easiest way out and will perhaps find themselves on their bikes heading for the local strip mall. How dull! Continue reading

The Importance of Mom

Happy-Mothers-DayI’m a little late with my blog this week. I’m blaming this on our federal government. Why? Well, I had one week left to get my income tax return completed if I were to avoid a penalty. This required total concentration during the week, but happily I managed to push the bulky envelope in the mailbox with three days to spare!

On returning home, I listened to the latest news and this is what I heard, “Due to an error in a computer entry at the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency), the deadline for Tax returns has been extended from April 30th to May 5th.” Typical, I thought. Continue reading