Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

         The goal of this blog is to be informative and include some English lessons, but in a light,
humorous way. As Captain Obvious would surely point out, school is hard enough under normal
circumstances, to say nothing of the myriad problems created by a global pandemic.
         With the end of the semester quickly approaching – and the papers, projects, and final
exams that come with it – I suspect some of you are feeling overwhelmed (that’s an example of
         Therefore this entry is strictly for laughs, or laughing. No spelling, grammar,
punctuation, or syntactical instruction today. Rather, my holiday gift is to you is some riddles,
jokes, and oddly worded sentences that created unintended and hilarious meanings. Hopefully
you will find them funny (or punny), although some (most?) may leave you groaning.
         First, some riddles.
         What’s the difference between a cat and a comma? One is a pause at the end of a
clause, and the other has claws at the end of its paws.

         Why do we tell actors to break a leg? Because every play has a cast.

         Where do you weigh a pie? Somewhere over the rainbow, weigh a pie. Note: it’s better
if you sing the answer.

Wording Matters

         Following are some bloopers that actually appeared in church bulletins or
announcements that demonstrate wording is indeed important. Thanks to Peter Marengo who
posted them in the English Language Police group:

         “The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching
for Jesus.’
         “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth
keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.”
         “Miss Charlene Mason sang, ‘I Will Not Pass This Way Again,’ giving obvious pleasure to
the congregation.”
         “At the evening service tonight, the topic will be ‘What is Hell?’ Come early and listen to
our choir practice.”
         “Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on Oct. 24 in the church. So ends a
friendship that began in their school days.”
         “This being Easter Sunday, we will ask Mrs. Lewis to come forward and lay an egg on the


Math 2020

         If 2020 were a math problem, it might look something like this:
         If you’re walking on ice cream at five ounces per toaster and your bicycle loses a sock,
how much gravity will you need to repaint your hamster?


Bad Math Jokes, Part II

         A coed walks into coffeeshop and proclaims, “it’s cold outside.”
         The barista replies: “Go sit in the corner. It’s 90 degrees.”

         Why are obtuse angles so depressed? Because they’re never right.
         Why was the angle freezing? It was less than 32 degrees.

Bad English Teacher Jokes

         What does an English teacher eat for breakfast? Synonym buns.

         What five-letter word becomes shorter when you add two letters to it? Short.

         What’s another name for Santa’s elves? Subordinate Clauses.

The Rudolph Mystery

         Finally, in the spirit of the season, this gem:
         In the song “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” not including Dasher and Dancer and
Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen, what was the name of the
“other” reindeer? … OK, time’s up. It was Olive. As in, “Olive, the other reindeer, used to laugh
and call him names …”
         Well, time to go. Or perhaps it’s past time.
         Happy Holidays, y’all!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

           In my last blog I noted “the word ‘queue’ is just a ‘Q’ with four silent letters.” But the
word queue is also ironic because the four silent vowels that follow the “Q” seem to be waiting
in a line. Confused? Consider the definition of the word queue, per the Oxford English
Dictionary: “A line or sequence of people or vehicles awaiting their turn to be attended to or to
proceed.” Or letters, in this case.
           Speaking of dictionaries, they are a valuable (necessary) resource for even the best and
the brightest of readers and writers. While most people rely on them for definitions and to
check spelling, dictionaries also provide us with phonetic pronunciation(s), the plural form,
syllabic breakdown, and the etymology of a word.
           Moreover, many words have multiple meanings. Occasionally, words have opposite
meanings and contradict themselves. Such a word is called a contronym (also contranym). e.g.,
sanction can mean “a penalty for disobeying a law” and “official permission or approval for an
           For example:
           Definition 1: The university handed down stiff sanctions to the fraternity for hosting a
party during the pandemic.
           Definition 2: Juan hoped his boss would sanction the proposal so he could begin work
           Now let’s visit some common, everyday words that are contranyms (yes, the plural is
spelled with an “a,” yet another quirk among the many in the English language).
           The word left can mean either departed or remaining. Example: The ravenous Mr.
Mallory grabbed four slices of pizza and quickly left the room. Fortunately, one piece was left
for the late-arriving Mr. Hassey.
           Dust is a noun turned into a verb that can mean either to add fine particles or remove
them. Example: Ms. Bristol dusted the dessert with powdered sugar as her final touch. Ms.
Allison was pleased to see her room had been dusted before Open House.
           Bolt can mean to secure or to flee. Example: With all of her students seated, Ms. Perry
bolted her classroom door and then announced she would administering a pop quiz. One
unprepared student bolted by climbing out a window.
           Trim can also mean either adding or taking away. Depending on who or what is being
readied, it can mean either of two contradictory things: “to decorate something with ribbons,
laces, or the like to give it a finished appearance” or “to cut off the outgrowths or irregularities
of.” And the context doesn’t always make it clear. If you’re trimming the tree, are you using
tinsel or a chain saw? Example: Mr. Westlund’s baseball players were trimming the infield
grass, getting it ready for opening day. Meanwhile, Ms. Cabe’s ASB students were busy
trimming the tree in preparation for their Christmas party.
These are but a few examples of contranyms. If you are interested in seeing a more
expanded list, click on or cut and paste the following link:

Students Say the Darndest Things
           One thing I (and most teachers, I suspect) learned early in our careers was to expect the
unexpected. A teacher can never be certain what a student will say.
           Without knowing the background (for instance, whether the student was joking or being
serious), it is difficult to know whether to laugh, cry or sigh at the following exchange:

           English Teacher: Name a book that made you cry.
           Student: Algebra.
           Sorry, math teachers.

Lights Out
           And to keep things light (pun intended), I’m going to close this article with a light bulb

Q. How many grammar cops does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. A light bulb is not changed; it is replaced.