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April 2 2015
In a Fred Austaire-Ginger Rogers movie there was a song about differences. “I say tomayto, you say tomahto. I say eether, you say eyether. The idea was that these differences would lead to a break-up: “Let’s call the whole thing off.” But dancing proved stronger than pronunciation, and true love prevailed.
Whenever I hear of someone proclaiming an English Only requirement for citizenship, I wonder which English do they mean. Is it the speech of people in England? After all, they have some proprietary rights to the language.
If England’s English becomes standard, does that mean we Americans would stop articulating all the letters in “secretary” and utter instead “secretree”? Would we have to stop pronouncing “forehead” as two words to rhyme that part of the skull with “horrid” as in the nursery rhyme?
Proper pronunciation is not a matter of saying all letters of a written word. No one, I believe, says the “t” in “whistle,” and only Popeye pronounces “muscle” with the “k” sound. And while we’re at it, where does the “r” in “colonel” come from?
We Americans are not always precise in diction. Compare English “butter” and “water” where the “t” is articulated and not in slovenly American “budder” and “wader.” Even in saying the Pledge of Allegiance we often say “Unided States” resembling Spanish “Estados Unidos.”
Some Americans do enunciate the “t” in “often” and the “n” in “government” but not many. In New England some natives pronounce “forehead” as “forrid.” Which of these pronunciations is correct?
The truth is that there are many American dialects, each one with its peculiarities. Each of these dialects would be correct in its locale. One of the most distinctive differences is the omission of “r” in both New England and Southern speech. There is no “r” in farm a friend from Alabama informed me. He pronounced it “fahm.”
In Massachusetts a motel clerk advised me to “Pahk yo cah in the pahking lot.” A man had a puzzled look when I asked where North Street was. He said he had never heard of it. Then his face lit up. “Oh, you mean Nawth Street.”
The frequent omission of “r” had become a feature in the speech of southeastern England by the 17th century. From that region many of the people who settled both New England and Dixie emigrated.
But thrusting a beachhead between these r-negligent regions was the speech of Pennsylvania which was settled by Quakers from the north of England. Here the “r” had been preserved and was transplanted to America where it flourished.
Especially when Scotch-Irish Presbyterians settled in western Pennsylvania. They went down the Shenandoah and Ohio Rivers to colonize Mid-America. Even though many of us never had a Scottish ancestor, we inherited the “r” from them. The Scotch dialect is known for its burr.
They even gave us the intrusive “r” which dirties up our “wash.” When my sister Jo taught at Washington School, she found some of her pupils spelling the school’s name with an “r.”
The Middle-American speech became the dialect of two-thirds of America. Even though some of us substitute a “d” for “th” as in “Duh Bears.”
April 2 2015
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April 2 2015Are You Ready for Some Baseball?
I CAN’T SPEAK for others, but I’m ready for opening day of the 2015 MLB season. I guess the waiting is over—Sunday night the Cubs and Cardinals celebrate Easter with baseball’s season opener at Wrigley Field.
Leave it to MLB’s scheduling geniuses to set the curtain raiser at night, outdoors, in a cold northern city, in a stadium still under construction. The past tells us this game might be played between the snowflakes, with gusty lake-effect winds. Players and fans alike may be outfitted in long johns and ski masks.
If the powers that be decided a Cubs-Cards game would be an attractive opener, the better wisdom would have been to play in St. Louis where the odds for milder weather in early April are more favorable.
But what the heck? It is a game that showcases baseball’s best rivalry, and who knows? Maybe the weather gods will misread the calendar. We can hope.
The Wrigley Field reconstruction project, behind schedule thanks to the very cold weather of February, will leave the stadium bereft of right and left field bleachers. Any home runs hit will probably clang against construction cranes or naked girders. Thankfully, the renovation work will not disturtb the iconic ivy-covered outfield wall or the historic manual scoreboard that sits atop the center field bleachers.
A timetable for completion of this massive project is still undetermined; perhaps not before mid summer, according to the Chicago Tribune. But the ongoing progress should be intriguing to watch.
AND SPEAKING OF “intriguing to watch,” there is the team the Cubs will put on the field. Not in recent memory has any team sought for ways to deploy so many highly-touted young prospects. The names are by now pretty familiar. They include outfielder Jorge Soler, second baseman Javier Baez, slugging third baseman Kris Bryant, who may be moved to left field in favor of another prospect, Mike Olt, and infielder/outfielder Arismendy Alcantara.
So much potential here Cubs fans are practically drooling. But prospects are still prospects. How quickly will they develop, and figure things out? So far, in partial big league seasons, Baez and Olt, although very good defensively, and with power potential, have been strikeout machines at the plate.
Olt, for instance, had 225 at-bats for the Cubs in 2014, but batted .160 while striking out 100 times. Baez? He batted .169 in 213 at-bats, but struck out 95 times. That’s a lot of empty at-bats.
However, this team will be a lot more than prospects. Veterans like Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, Chris Coghlan, and others will be joined by center fielder Dexter Fowler (obtained from Houston) and catcher Miguel Montero (obtained from Arizona).
The pitching staff looks solid, anchored by Jon Lester, Theo Epstein’s multimillion dollar free agent investment. The signing of new manager Joe Maddon, one of baseball’s very best, should bring the kind of leadership to put the veterans in a comfort zone and shepherd the youngsters effectively.
This team should be much improved and perhaps even contend for a playoff berth
I WISH I could feel the same optimism for the Cardinals, my favorite team. But the team has age issues, a lineup lacking power, and a pitching rotation with question marks that spring training has exposed. For example, if the team stubbornly insists on finding injury-prone Jaime Garcia a rotation spot, how long before he takes his inevitable spot on the disabled list? Mother’s Day? Memorial Day?
Top-of-the-rotation starters Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn are solid, but right hander John Lackey is old. Super star-in-waiting Michael Wacha is recovering from surgery. Super prospect Carlos Martinez has electric stuff, but has yet to “find his way.” Youngster Marco Gonzalez has plenty of potential but is as of yet unproven.
As always, center field is a problem child for the Redbirds. Peter Bourjos can run fast, but had an anemic 2014 at the plate. Jon Jay, who usually wins this position, is recovering from surgery and is only average defensively, with a weak throwing arm to boot. Prospect Randal Grichuk combines right handed power with speed and a strong arm, but is not yet a proven big league hitter.
The multi-talented outfielder Jason Heyward, acquired by trade from Atlanta, is vulnerable to left handed pitching. So is first baseman Matt Adams.
OUT ON A limb. Here are my predictions for the 2015 National League Central, considered by many pundits as baseball’s best (and best balanced) division. Nothing will be easy for any team in the group.
1. Pirates. The rebuilding is complete for this very solid team, and manager Clint Hurdle provides excellent leadership.
2. Cubs. Strong pitching holds the fort while young stars develop.
3. Cardinals. Age and lack of power will be hard to overcome.
4. Reds. Will underachieve again.
5. Brewers. Missing too many moving parts.
We’ll look at this again in September to see how much crow I’ll have to eat. White Sox? Sorry, but I don’t follow the American League closely enough to have an informed opinion.
April 2 2015More that you can do before planting seeds
It is so good to see and feel the nice warm sun, and it is tempting to get started in the garden. Right now, the soil is too cold for seeds to germinate. If the soil is too cold and wet, they will just sit there and rot. If you are anxious to get started planting, you can plant your Caladium, Dahlia, Elephant Ear, and Begonias now in a container, and then plant them later in the soil when it warms up Place the container in a warm, sunny spot.
Remember that if you are planning to dig and plant trees or shrubs, call Julie at 811 before you dig. It is the law. They can tell you if there are any utility wires, cables or pipes in the area. It could also save you time and a lot of money if you happen to cause damage to a utility.
If you have ordered any new perennials or woody plants, they are usually shipped around the time they should be planted. If the soil is too wet or cold, just repot them into a larger pot and put them in a sheltered location, so they can adjust before planting. Plant them at the same depth as they are in the pot. It is best to plant on a cloudy day or in the early or late part of the day. Avoid planting in the heat of the day. Check the root mass. Any girdling roots should be loosened or scored with a knife to promote new feeder root growth. Water deeply and infrequently to encourage strong root growth.
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The Rest is Still Unrwritten
by John Colclasure of Lexington
April 2 2015
Dating Should Never Stop!
A long time ago, in what now seems like a far and distant land, a profound question was asked of a wise older man. “How do you find the time to spend with your spouse while raising kids?” I know, because I was the one who asked the question and that wise older man was a fellow police officer, who I have always admired and still greatly respect. He is a strong Christian family man, having been married to the same woman for many years (I don’t remember how long, but most likely they have passed the 50 year mark). Since that day, I have locked away in my somewhat shaky memory vault his response. I remember that he looked me straight in the eye and with a twinkle in his eye and a broad smile simply said, “You found the time when the both of you were single!!” Such a pearl of wisdom, coming from a man of few words, but one who needed but a few to make his point. He was absolutely correct.
Last week while writing a classic entitled “Retire – When?” that conversation came to mind and I have spent some time thinking about it. What happens when the wedding is over; the gifts have been unwrapped, thank-you notes have been sent and for many the honeymoon is over? Should the romance and the dating ever be over? What happens? Is there no longer a need for a grown man to settle, now that the prize has been won and real life begins? Is that all there is, as the song goes? Think about it.
Yesterday, while sitting in a hospital waiting room, I began to jot down some thoughts to the questions that I have just mentioned. I can still remember dating Mrs. C; after all it has only been 51 years ago. I often joke that I don’t remember being single, but I’m only joshing. I still remember those fun-filled minutes and hours talking and laughing, with an occasional peck on the check, but Mrs. C was more than content with holding hands. Then there were those long, long and even longer days and weeks while apart, that seemed almost unbearable. How I longed to hear her voice or racing to the mailbox to retrieve a much anticipated letter each day of the week. Those few minutes on the telephone or that letter only temporarily brighten the day. But the heartache and anguish would soon return, leaving only that last embrace or that seemingly passionate kiss on the cheek from that first, last or in between date. Whether it had been only an hour or a week didn’t seem to matter. The emptiness was always there. Someone once called it a feeling of being “incomplete.” Eventually, children came into the household and everything changed. I was no longer number one. At least in my selfish sinful mind. But even after several children and I went away for the first time to the Police Training Institute at the University of Illinois, that feeling of emptiness would return and yes I admit that I missed Mrs. C. How long those five days seemed. Sunday afternoon until Friday night. A mere 55 minutes away and the phone calls didn’t help. It could have easily been 55 hours away, and it wouldn’t have made any difference. That feeling was always there. A part of me was missing.
The years passed and the kids grew older and began moving away. With the passing of each year, complacency began setting in, at least on my part. The travel didn’t seem to bother me anymore, nor did it appear to bother Mrs. C. I have since learned that when I was away for police duty or training, that it did indeed bothered her. Gifts of flowers and candy became sporadic, if at all. My focus was always elsewhere until the day Mrs. C. didn’t give me a Valentine Day card. She had never missed my birthday, our anniversary or holiday or any special occasion. You might say that she got my attention!
Today, I no longer enjoy traveling away from her on business nor do I miss any of those special occasions and sometime I still send flowers, though not recently I must admit. But once in a while I remember to call her just to say hello and hear her voice that everything is OK. She likes that.
Thus like that wise man told me, “You found the time when the two of you were dating.” So my advice to those passing through those child-rearing years is to never, never quit dating your spouse. You may have won her heart, but one win does not make a season nor will it make a lifetime. Woo her every day and you will marvel at her response, if only you will remember, what brought the two of you together in the first place.
Till next time…john
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