mister language person answers your questions
by DAVE BARRY
Tribune Media Services
Welcome to "Ask Mister Language Person," written by the
foremost leading world authority on the proper grammatorical
usagality of English, both orally and in the form of words. In
this award-winning column, which appears nocturnally, we answer
the grammar and vocabulary questions that are on the minds of
many Americans just before they pass out.
Today, as is our wont, we begin with our first question:
Q. You have a wont?
A. Yes, but we comb our hair such that you cannot see it.
Q. With regards to the old spiritual song, "Gwine Jump
Down, Turn Around, Pick a Bale of Cotton," why is the singer
gwine jump down and turn around first?
A. He is hoping that he gwine pull a hamstring, and
somebody else gwine have to pick the bale of cotton.
Q. I work in Customer Service, and my co-workers and I
are having a big debate about whether we should say that your
call is "very" important to us, or "extremely" important to us.
We argue about this all day long! My question is, how do we stop
these stupid phones from ringing?
A. Someone will answer your question "momentarily."
Q. I am a speechwriter for a leading presidential
candidate, and I need to know which is correct: "integrity OUT
the wazoo," or "integrity UP the wazoo."
A. We checked with both the Oxford English Dictionary and
the Rev. Billy Graham, and they agree that the correct word is
Q. I have trouble remembering the difference between the
words "whose" and "who's." Should I put this in the form of a
A. In grammatical terminology, "who's" is an
interlocutory contraption that is used to form the culinary
EXAMPLE: "You will never guess who's brassiere they found
in the gumbo."
"Whose" is the past paramilitary form of "whomsoever" and
is properly used in veterinary interrogations.
EXAMPLE: "Whose gwine spay all them weasels?"
Q. I am a writer for "The Sopranos," and I've been
arguing with one of my colleagues over the correct wording of
some dialogue. I think it should be: "Bleep you, you bleeping
bleeper!" Whereas he insists it should be: "Bleep yourself, you
bleeperbleeper!" So I had him whacked.
A. Now he bleeps with the fishes.
Q. Are you going to flagrantly pad this column with
actual examples of language usage sent in by alert readers, as
is your wont?
A. Of course:
TODAY'S WRITING TIP: In writing a resume, make sure that
it is "up to date" and reflects current economic conditions:
- David Davidson sent an article from the Tybee News
containing this statement about the mayor of Tybee Island, Ga.:
"He also said an older woman suffered a broken hip when a dog
pounced on her and read a long letter from someone supporting
the dog ban."
- Tim O'Marra sent in an article from the Skagit Valley
(Wash.) Herald containing this sentence: "Suspecting the action
was suspicious, the officer ordered both of them to raise their
- Chaz Liebowitz sent in an article from The Miami
Herald that begins: "Davie police are searching for a man with a
.25-caliber semi-automatic handgun to rob a convenience store
- Several readers sent in an article from the Richmond
Times-Dispatch concerning a dump truck driver who "dropped more
than 59,000 pounds of processed human excrement in Interstate
295" and was charged with "failure to contain his load."
- Sue Colson sent in a "Police Blotter" item from the
Port Aransasme (Texas) South Jetty, consisting entirely of this
fascinating statement: "No goat was found in the trunk of a
vehicle when an officer responded to a complaint on East Avenue
G at about 1:20 p.m."
WRONG: "I am currently working for a "dot-com company."
RIGHT: "I am currently living in an appliance carton."
GOT A GRAMMAR QUESTION? Your question is very important
to Mr. Language Person.
(Dave Barry is a humor columnist for the Miami Herald.
Write to him c/o The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami FL
33132. The Dave Barry-for-President campaign needs you! Check
out Dave's Web site at
(c) 2000, The Miami Herald
Distributed by Tribune Media Services, Inc.
Back to Grammarian's Page
Back to Home Page