Health care bull and other appetizing word'oeuvres

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Frankly, I'm disappointed in our readers. Following my column last week about typos and editing [To air is human, so give us a brake, Viewpoints, May 18], I figured all our amateur proofreaders would have combed through Wednesday Journal looking for errors, particularly in my column.

If you had, you'd have found one: I misspelled (alas, unintentionally) "d'oeuvres," as in "hors d'oeuvres."

I spelled it d'ouvres, omitting an "e." As I said, it's a notoriously difficult word to spell. I blame it on the French, who are shamelessly gratuitous with their letters, half of which are silent. Why they should need three letters, "oeu," to pronounce a sound I can't even reproduce phonetically on this page, is beyond me. But it makes me infinitely glad I'm not a copyeditor in France.

No doubt my conservative readers passed right (so to speak) over this gaffe because ever since France had the nerve to object to our mistaken invasion of Iraq in 2003, right-wingers refuse to recognize the French language. What most of us pronounce "Or Derves" in English, they would probably call "freedom appetizers."

As it happens, only two people commented on last week's column and apparently no one caught this multilingual miscue — perhaps because only those two (possibly polite) people actually read it. However, I'm mystified by the fact that conservatives in particular didn't glom onto the glaring typo on page 10 of our print edition last Wednesday — a profile of Harriet Hausman, one of my favorite River Foresters and an unapologetic liberal.

In the penultimate paragraph, we learn that "Hausman lobbies hard to protect President Barack Obama's health care bull."

Now if that isn't handing ammunition to conservatives on a silver platter — like some succulent freedom appetizer — I don't know my silver platters. Maybe they didn't read the story because the words "civil rights" appeared in the subhead, repelling them — like garlic to vampires.

And speaking of attention to words, I attended a thoroughly entertaining presentation by humorist Roy Blount Jr. at Unity Temple on May 12. Talking a lot about the sound of language and "making the page talk," he quoted a commentator who noted that the Irish poet William Butler Yeats "always sounds like what he means." Blount added, "That's my goal."

He worries that text messaging is rapidly becoming this society's primary medium for the written word. "I hate to have language at the mercy of lazy thumbs," he said.

And he contemplated the difficulty of speaking aloud the sentence, "I edited it." Try it; you'll see what he means. Blount, however, didn't point out another anomaly about that sentence. If you move the space two letters to the left, you end up with "I edit edit."

That's often how I feel by the end of deadline.

The other wordsmith, or perhaps I should say "WordSchmidt," to visit town was folk singer and poet Claudia Schmidt, who appeared at the Oak Park Public Library on May 16. When she's on the road, she often dines alone. "But it's OK," she said. "As I enter the restaurant, I tell them 'I'm a party of one.'"

When she took a hiatus from performing a few years back to run a B&B in Michigan, she said, "I jump-stopped my career." Schmidt is equally playful with her lyrics. In "The Strong Woman has a Bad Day Polka," she observes, "Whatever doesn't kill you makes you wish that you were dead." And before a romantic song, she reminded us of an observation by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko: "There are ex-husbands and ex-wives, but there are no ex-loves."

Here's one last clever bit of word play I came across while passing Parkview United Presbyterian Church at Oak Park Avenue and Jackson Boulevard. The sign in front reads: "This is a Ch__ch. What's missing? UR. Come worship with us."

Not a surprise, I suppose. Churches have long been worshippers of "The Word."


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Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 9:31 AM

I found a typo this week (not in your column) and didn't say anything about it....sometimes life is too short to sweat the small stuff. To err is human...

John Hubbuch from Oak Park  

Posted: May 27th, 2011 9:03 AM

In the category Best Wordplay On A Church Billboard I nominate the Salem Indiana Baptist Church. Playing off of Budweiser's "This Bud's for you.", on Good Friday the billboard read: "His blood's for you." Awesome!

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