Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


         Graduation is fast approaching, although maybe not fast enough for the Class of 2021.
Four outstanding seniors were recently selected to address the graduates in ceremonies that
will be a bit different from past years. But, unlike the class of 2020, at least this year’s grads will
have the opportunity to walk and receive their diplomas.The speakers are Diana Flores Valdivia (valedictorian, Cornell), Melissa Rodriguez Martinez
(salutatorian, UCSD), Valeria Rodriguez (Southwestern/UCLA transfer alliance program), and
Michelle Zeng (UCLA).
         I had the privilege of working with all four to help them edit/tweak their speeches. But,
quite honestly, there wasn’t much me to change – a word here, a phrase there, maybe add
“this,” or perhaps delete “that.”
         It was obvious all four spent a lot of time preparing. I was definitely impressed, but not
surprised because all four were students of mine in AP English Language and Composition last
year. And, make no mistake, they were outstanding students, outstanding writers, and a
pleasure to have in class.
         If I could have had a roomful of them in every class, I would have taught for free. OK, that’s a
bit hyperbolic. But you know what I mean.
         In case you haven’t heard, there will be three live graduation ceremonies (alphabetically) on
Tuesday, June 2, in the stadium to allow for social distancing. There will also be a virtual
ceremony for those who are uncomfortable or unable to attend.

Musical Wordplay


         Since previous blogs have included some math and science humor, I figured it is time to have
some fun with our musicians. Although I don’t believe you need to be musically astute to enjoy
the following puns.
         I hope you don’t think I’m out of tune (or touch) for presenting the following:

         1. What is Beethoven doing now? Decomposing.
         2. Why did the pianist keep banging his head against the keys? He was playing by ear.
         3. What do you call a musician with problems? A trebled man.
         4. What’s the difference between a musician and an 18-inch pizza? An 18-inch pizza can
         feed a family of four.
         5. What do you call a singing laptop? A Dell.
         6. How can you tell the difference between a violinist and a dog? The dog knows when to
         stop scratching.
         7. Why couldn’t the string quartet find their composer? He was Haydn.
         8. How did the turkey win the talent show? With his drumsticks.
         9. What is the musical part of a snake? The scales.
         10. My girlfriend left me because of my obsession with Linkin Park. But in the end, it doesn’t
         even matter.
         11. Mr. Williams told me he was going to hit me with the neck of his guitar. I asked, “Is that
         a fret?”

         12. What do a viola and a lawsuit have in common? Everyone is happy when the case is
         13. What was Beethoven’s favorite fruit? BA-NA-NA-NAAAAA!
         14. How are trumpets like pirates? They both murder in the high C’s.
         15. Musicians? Oh yeah, we think outside the Bachs.
         16. Why did the guitarist get fired as a carpenter? Because he was shredding the floor.
         17. C, E-flat and G walk into a bar. The bartender points to the door and says, “Sorry, we
         don’t serve minors.”

         Thanks, or not, to Juliet Lanka (60 Corny Music Puns That are Completely Hilarious) for these

Musical Wordplay, Part 2


         Having taken piano lessons as a youngster and self-taught on the guitar, I didn’t have to
work “real jobs” for money during my high school and college years. Instead, I played a variety
of gigs with various garage bands.
         One time I bought our bass player a “get better soon” card. He wasn’t sick. I just thought he
could get a lot better.


         Among the SCPA’s many outstanding programs are the band and orchestra. And I hear they
are about to get even better. My sources tell me that CVH will welcome two incredible
freshmen in July who are certain to complement both groups.
         They are (drum roll) … Claire Annette and Amanda Lynn.
         Rim shot and cymbal crash, please. I’ll see myself out.
         Until next time, write on!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

         There is a measure of truth to the adage/cliché “money can’t buy happiness.” That said, it
certainly can make life easier when it comes to affording necessities – food, clothes,
transportation, shelter, to name a few.
         Money wasn’t a problem for Robert Pirosh. He was a well-paid advertising copywriter in New
York City in 1934. But he wasn’t happy.
         So, the 24-year-old Pirosh decided to do something about it. Determined to realize his
dreams of becoming a screenwriter, he composed what is certainly one of the most effective
cover letters ever written and sent copies to many executives in Hollywood.
         His efforts paid off. The letter secured him three interviews, one of which landed him a job
as a junior writer at MGM. Happiness and success ensued.
         Pirosh became a prolific writer for the leading entertainment company, highlighted by an
Academy Award for best original screenplay in 1949 for the war film “Battleground,” based on
the Battle of the Bulge.
         In a Hollywood career that spanned more than 30 years, Pirosh was a writer, producer or
director on many well-known films and television series. He alternated between dramatic
subjects, including the Oscar-nominated war movie “Go for Broke!” (1951), and madcap
comedy – most notably his contributions to the Marx Brothers classical farce “A Day at the
Races” (1937).
         Pirosh also taught writing at the University of Southern California to conclude his illustrious
career. A sidenote: Pirosh was born on April 1, 1910 (April Fools’ Day), and died on Christmas
Day, 1989.
         Why am I sharing this with you? I’m glad you asked. Certainly, the message of striving to
realize one’s dreams should ring loud and clear.
More importantly for me, and hopefully, is to recognize and appreciate the importance of
good writing. And, many (if not all) of you will likely write one/several cover letters during your
working life. The message here: good/great ones can make a difference.
         And now, without further blustering, here, for your enjoyment, is Pirosh’s letter:


Dear Sir,


I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn,

angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious,

black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave “V”

words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as

splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower,

scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land’s-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker,

genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I

like wormy, squirmy, meal words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling

words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York

advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood. But before taking the plunge, I went to Europe

for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.


I have just returned and I still like words.


May I have a few with you?


Robert Pirosh

385 Madison Avenue

Room 610

New York

Eldorado 5-6024

More Fun with Words


         If you have read previous blogs, you know I enjoy wordplay. Some are hilarious, some not so
much, and others are just plain groaners.
OK, you have been warned. Here now is my latest collection culled from the Internet:

• Venison for dinner again? Oh, deer!
• I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.
• I changed my iPod’s name to Titanic. It’s syncing now.
• I stayed up all night to see where the sun went … and then it dawned on me.
• When chemists die, they barium.
• I know a guy who’s addicted to break fluid, but he says he can stop any time.
• I’m reading a book about anti-gravity. I just can’t put it down.
• I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
• Broken pencils are pointless.
• I didn’t like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
• I was taking a class on communism, but dropped it because of lousy Marx.
• What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.

Final Thoughts

         Only in math problems can you buy 60 cantaloupes and no one asks what the heck is wrong
with you.

         “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.”

         – Ernest Hemingway

         Until next time, write on!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


         AP Exams are right around the corner, and I know many of you are preparing to take one or
more of these rigorous tests that accurately measure your college readiness in various subjects.
         Moreover, earning a 3 or higher on an exam may earn you college credit (depending on the
college/university you attend), which, in turn, can help cut one’s tuition costs and raise one’s
registration priority status – a key for freshmen who generally start at the bottom the pecking
order and often find it difficult to get all the classes they need.
         Obviously, the more exams on which a student scores a 3-5, the more college credits they
earn. And I know of many Spartans who preceded you who reaped benefits from the success on
the exams, earning from 21-34 units of college credit during their four years of high school.
         I am sure your AP teachers have instructed you well for your upcoming tests and are about
to begin the review process, if they haven’t already done so. I am also certain they have
provided you with another excellent resource: a schedule of live reviews on AP Classroom that
began April 19 and run through April 29.
         On the chance they you did not receive the schedule, here is a link to those sessions that you
can cut and paste: https://apcentral.collegeboard.org/about-ap-2021/updates/ap-daily-live-


A Final Word on the Exams

         You may have noticed I did not use the words “pass” or “fail” when referencing AP exams. Be
assured the omission was intentional.
         It always bothers me when teachers/students use those words when discussing AP tests
because those terms are not accurate in this case. One neither “passes” nor “fails” an AP exam.
         As noted, the test “measures college readiness in various subjects.” Further, Collegeboard’s
explanation of the 1-5 scoring system makes no mention of passing or failing.

AP Exam Score                          Recommendation                          College Course Grade Equivalent
         5                                          Extremely well qualified                                        A+ or A
         4                                          Very well qualified                                                  A-, B+ or B
         3                                          Qualified                                                                   B-, C+ or C
         2                                          Possibly qualified                                                   ––
         1                                          No recommendation                                              ––

         When encouraging my AP English Language and Composition students to take the exam, I
always stressed the obvious point of it being the best measure of a student’s college readiness
and demonstrates to them what they learned in the class.
         I also emphasized that it is not a pass/fail situation, and is, instead, a no-lose proposition. A
student has everything to gain (college credit), and nothing to lose.
         Some students fear scoring a 1 is of no benefit and may even hurt their chances of getting
into the college or university of their dreams. Not true – Fake News! College admissions deans
stress low scores do not detract from a student’s chances because it demonstrates they are risk

takers. Higher scores may certainly improve one’s chances, but lower ones are not deal-
         So, for you freshmen, sophomores and juniors who took AP classes this year but are not
taking the corresponding exams, I hope you will consider otherwise next year.

Back “Home” Again

         I had the privilege of being the public address announcer for two of CVH’s football games –
Hilltop and Bonita Vista – during the recently completed, pandemic-delayed season.
         The Hilltop game was more fun since the Spartans throttled the Lancers 42-21, and reclaimed
the Kiwanis Bowl trophy. That said, it wasn’t all about winning but a chance for athletes,
cheerleaders, faculty, staff, students, and parents to start to regain a sense of normalcy.
         The season finale on April 16 against Bonita Vista was bittersweet. It was Senior Night and
Homecoming. And while the tributes and ceremonies were well deserved and well done, they
lacked the fanfare of past celebrations for obvious reasons (thanks, COVID).
         I hope things are closer to normal in the fall, as I yearn to again see the stadium packed with
Spartan alumni, and the second-to-none halftime spectacular presented by the SCPA dance
         Still, it provided me with the opportunity to see colleagues and friends (and a few former
students) that I have not seen in far too long.
         Thanks Ms. Cabe and Mr. Wilson for inviting me back.
         Until next time, write on!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach

         I hope all of you enjoyed a fun, relaxing break, and return refreshed and energized for the
home stretch of a difficult and unprecedented 2021 school year.
         For those who will be returning for in-person learning, I hope it becomes a productive,
enjoyable, and safe experience for all students, faculty and staff.
         For some, the next several weeks will include preparing for AP Exams. If that includes you and
you are taking the AP English Language exam (or any exam that includes essay responses), feel
free to contact me if you have questions regarding thesis statements, organization/structure,
appropriate writing register, time management, or any other aspects of on-demand (timed)
         Email me at: dahatz@cox.net. I will send you a personal response and/or post it in my next
blog if I believe it is a question that could help most/all students (which most questions do).


Avoid Saying Very

         One of my ongoing goals in this blog is to provide tips and tricks to help students improve
their writing. And one easy way to improve your writing is to avoid using “very” as an adverb
when you are trying to emphasize or heighten the degree of the modified word.
         If you find yourself frequently using “very,” devoting time to finding a more concrete
(specific) word that accurately describes the point you are trying to convey improves your
writing and eliminates the need for “very.”
         I have posted examples in previous blogs. Here are some more to add these to your list:

                                                   Weak                                                  Better
                                             Very Serious                                          Solemn
                                             Very Poor                                               Destitute
                                             Very Creative                                         Innovative
                                             Very Painful                                           Excruciating
                                             Very Crowded                                        Packed
                                             Very Empty                                             Desolate (empty)
                                             Very Loose                                             Slack
                                             Very Lively                                              Animated
                                             Very Neat                                                Immaculate
                                             Very Often                                               Frequently
                                             Very Thirsty                                            Parched
                                             Very Tight                                               Constricting
                                             Very Cute                                                Adorable

The Hokey Pokey in the Elizabethan Era

         They didn’t have preschool when I was a child, but I remember learning “The Hokey Pokey”
at a young age, as, no doubt, most if not all of you did as well.
         Here’s a new take on this childhood favorite, courtesy of Grammarly.com. It is “The Hokey
Pokey” Shakespearean Style:

         O proud left foot, that ventures quick within
         Then soon upon a backward journey lithe.
         Anon, once more the gesture, then begin;
           Command sinistral pedestal to write.
         Commence thou then the fervid Hokey-Pokey.
           A mad gyration, hips in wanton swirl.
         To spin! A wild release from heaven’s yoke.
           Blessed dervish! Surely canst go, girl.
         The Hoke, the poke – banish now they doubt
           Verily, I say, “tis what is all about.

Say What?

         Here’s another example of miscommunication because the speaker wasn’t clear in their
instructions. See if you can find the ambiguity.
         Mom (to her son): “Honey, please go to the store and buy a bottle of milk. If they have eggs,
bring six.
         The son dutifully went to the store and returned with six bottles of milk.
         Mom: “Why the heck did you buy SIX bottles of milk?”
         Son: “BECAUSE THEY HAD EGGS!”
         Do you understand why the son misunderstood?

Something to Think About

         I will close today’s session with a wonderful quote from best-selling American author James
Patterson. There is more than a measure of truth to his profound statement:
         “There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading, and kids
who are reading the wrong books.”

Until next time, write on!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


         Let’s start the day with a quick survey. Read the following pairs of sentences, and then
determine which one you prefer in each set. Consider which is clearer, and easier to read.

         1. She slammed on the brakes as the car sped downhill.
         2. The brakes were slammed on by her as the car sped downhill.

         1. More than one-third of the students failed the exam.
         2. The exam was failed by more than one-third of the students.


         1. The sound engineers will remix the soundtrack.
         2. The soundtrack will be remixed by the sound engineers.

         I’m confident that you preferred the first sentence in each case. I certainly hope so because
all three sentences are written in active voice, as opposed to passive voice – in which all three
of the second sentences were written.
         Since some of you may not be clear on the difference between active and passive voice,
let’s do a quick review.
         Writing in active voice is critical to becoming a good writer because it follows a clear subject
+ verb + object construct that is easy to read and can make your writing more impactful. Passive
voice, on the other hand, can make for unclear, roundabout, and more wordy sentences.
         Looking back at the sample sentences, we see that in his instance the No. 1 sentences
follow the subject+verb+object construct:
         She (subject) slammed (verb) on the brakes (object) as the car sped downhill.
         Students (subject) failed (verb) the exam (object).
         Engineers (subject) will remix (verb) the soundtrack (object).

         In other words, active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action(s)
of the verb(s). Conversely, in passive voice the subject is acted upon by the verb. Again, using
the sentences above:
         The brakes (object) were slammed (verb) by her (subject) as the car sped downhill.
         The exam (object) was failed (verb) by more than one-third of the students (subject).
         The soundtrack (object) will be remixed (verb) by the sound engineers (subject).

         Before we examine more examples, let’s stress the importance of why writers should use
active voice, and, with rare exceptions, avoid passive voice wherever possible.
         Active voice immediately identifies both the action and who or what is performing the
action, adding clarity and precision to your words.
         For example,
Passive voice: The dog was walked my Maria.
Active voice: Maria walked the dog.
         The second example doesn’t mince words and gets straight to the point.

         Remember, active voice adds impact to your writing, and makes It sound as if you are
observing the action. Thus, active voice more easily engages readers and keeps them
interested, while passive voice makes it appear as if people or objects are waiting for things to
         Here four tips that will help you write in active voice and keep your sentences clear and
         1. Put the subject first so it’s clear who is performing the action;
         2. Avoid/limit the passive verb “to be.” Use a search engine if you need a list of “to be”
         3. When possible, swap -ing ending words of -ed. Gerunds and present participles (words
         ending in -ing) tend to be passive than verbs ending in -ed;
         4. Go easy on the adverbs. They may make your writing more descriptive, but too many
         adverbs and intensifiers bog down good writing. Better to select rhetorically accurate
         verbs, which eliminate the need for adverbs.
         Here are a few examples of how descriptive verbs make adverbs unnecessary:
                 Adverb Descriptor                                                  Better Verb
                 “ran quickly”                                                            Dashed
                 “listened secretly”                                                  Eavesdropped
                 “looked menacingly”                                              Glared
                 “loved dearly or greatly”                                        Adored
                 “cried uncontrollably”                                            Sobbed or Wept


         If you are still not certain or convinced that active voice is preferable to passive voice, here
are some more examples:

                 Active Voice                                                             Passive Voice

Beautiful giraffes roam the savannah.                    The savannah is roamed by beautiful giraffes.

We are going to watch a movie tonight.                  A movie is going to be watched by us tonight.

The crew paved the entire stretch of highway.      The entire stretch of highway was paved by the crew.

Thousands of tourists visit the Grand                     The Grand Canyon is visited by thousands of tourists every year.                                                                     Canyon every year.



Exceptions to the Rule


         All that said, there are times when passive voice is not only acceptable but may be
preferred. You might want to use it in the following situations:

         1. The actor is unknown:
         The cave paintings of Lascaux were made in the Upper Old Stone Age. (We don’t know
         who made them.)
         2. The actor is irrelevant:
         An experimental solar power plant will be built in the Australian desert. (We are not
         interested in who is building it.)
         3. You want to be vague about who is responsible:
         Mistakes were made. (Common in bureaucratic writing.)
         4. You are talking about a general truth:
         Rules are made to be broken. (By whomever, whenever.)
         5. You want to emphasize the person or thing acted on. For example, it may be your main
         Insulin was first discovered in 1921 by researchers at the University of Toronto. It is still
         the only treatment available for diabetes.
         6. You are writing in a scientific genre that traditionally relies on passive voice. Passive
         voice is often preferred in lab reports and scientific research papers, most notably in the
         Materials and Methods section:

         The sodium hydroxide was dissolved in water. This solution was then titrated with
         hydrochloric acid.

The Lighter Side

         And if you’re still reading, here are a few more bloopers culled from church bulletins and
announcements that once again remind us that everybody needs an editor:

         “The sermon this morning: ‘Jesus Walks on the Water.’ The sermon tonight: ‘Searching for
Jesus.’ ”

         “The Rector will preach his farewell message, after which the choir will sing “Break Forth into

         “The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind. They may be seen in the
basement on Friday afternoon.”

         Until next time, write on!

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


         I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the adage “Practice makes perfect.” This is
certainly true if you have ever taken lessons in the arts – musical instruments, voice, dance (to
name a few) – played organized sports (all of them), or learned a skill like cooking.
         Practice makes perfect is the mantra of teachers, coaches and instructors of pretty much
every teachable skill.
         Early in my coaching career I learned that this familiar phrase, now cliché, needs to be
amended. While practice can make perfect (if students work diligently to improve with the goal
of achieving perfection), learners often become distracted, lose interest, etc., and then simply
go through the motions or, worse, skip practice altogether. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of
this transgression – yes, mine is stretched high into the air.
         Since this is reality, this inspirational phrase should be modified to: “Practice makes
permanent.” Because if one works hard and strives to improve, s/he will get better and maybe
reach perfection. But those who merely go through the motions will develop bad habits and
plateau, likely at an unacceptable level. And when game time or showtime arrives, that is how
they will perform – well short of perfection.
         So, whether you are learning a new skill or a developing one that requires constant
refinement, the message is simple: work hard, strive to improve, or don’t bother. As the sign on
many a locker-room wall reads: “Go hard, or go home.”
         This is particularly true in writing. While many students embrace practicing in athletics and
the arts, and thus willingly dedicate countless hours hoping to achieve perfection, far fewer of
them are willing to expend similar time and effort on writing projects.
         Young writers, whether desiring proficiency or excellence, must understand that good
writing does not happen by accident and certainly is not achieved through last-minute all-
nighters or hastily rewritten first or second drafts with “final drafts” that merely include
superficial changes from the original.
         I will provide some writing tips in future blogs that I hope you will find use as you work to
develop your writing prowess.

Rereading Encouraged

         I have used this space before to demonstrate how homonyms, homographs, and
homophones can make it difficult to learn English, especially for (but certainly not limited to)
second-language learners. Following are some heteronyms (words that are spelled identically
but have different sounds and meanings) that may cause some readers to do a double-take:
1. The insurance was invalid for the invalid in the hospital bed.
2. There was a row among the oarsman about who would row.
3. They were too close to the door to close it.
4. A buck does funny things when does (females) are present.
5. A seamstress and a sewer fell into the sewer line.
6. Upon seeing the tear in her painting, the artist shed a tear.
7. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
8. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

9. To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
10. When he opened his eyes, he saw a saw.
Finally, there was the seamstress whose skills were average at best – they were only sew sew.

Poetic Justice?

One fowl is a goose,
         but two are called geese.
Yet the plural of mouse
         should never be meese.
If I speak of a foot
         and you show me your feet –
And I give you a boot,
         would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth
         and a whole set are teeth,
Then shouldn’t the plural of booth
         be called beeth?

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


         Whenever I watch TV news and the topic is a court case, the newscaster almost
invariably will say that the accused pled guilty/not guilty. Wrong! The past tense of plea is
pleaded. The accused pleaded guilty/not guilty.
         Sadly, many TV viewers don’t care. A poll several years ago revealed that 63 percent of
respondents preferred using pled, thus proving once again that the majority isn’t always right.
         But while pled may be the preferred usage, grammarist.com notes that pleaded is the
standard form:
         “Pleaded is the standard past-tense and past-participial form of the verb plea. Pled has
always been considered incorrect by usage authorities, but it’s so common that we have to
accept it. … But because pleaded is much more common and is unanimously accepted by all
dictionaries and usage authorities, it is safer than pled. And it should be noted that pleaded is
preferred by an especially wide margin in publications known for high editorial standards.”
         OK, there is your grammar lesson for the day. Now on to the fun stuff.

Body Parts Can Serve as Powerful Verbs

         When learning the parts of speech, most of us remember a noun is something that
“names a person, place, thing, idea, action, or quality.” With that in mind, we know body parts
are nouns because, well, they identify parts of the body.
         But heads, faces, knees, elbows, and the like can also be used effectively as verbs. Let’s
take a tour of the body to prove the point.
         You can head a company, but if things go wrong you will have to shoulder the blame.
         When we make poor choices, we eventually have to face the music.
         A good leader will back his employees, but if he doesn’t toe the line management can
skin him.
         You might eye someone suspiciously, or wait for the police to finger a suspect.
         Sometimes people strong-arm others to remove them from positions of authority. But
be careful, or you might be the next one to get elbowed out.
         I don’t always sing along with the radio; sometimes I just mouth the words.
         Be careful when nosing around in someone else’s business because they may not
appreciate it.
         When I can afford it, I like to foot the bill when I go to dinner with friends.
         In baseball, a fast runner can leg out an infield hit.
         With AP exams looming on the horizon, many students need to knuckle down so they
will be well-prepared.
         If you need to get somewhere but don’t have transportation, you can thumb a ride; or
you can ride with me if you can stomach my endless puns.

What’s Your Name?

         I have devoted space in previous blogs to the importance of clarity in both the spoken
and written word. Ambiguities and vagaries can lead to misunderstandings that often are
humorous and/or embarrassing.

         Herewith for your reading pleasure is an amusing exchange between a job applicant and
a prospective employer.

Applicant: “My name is Erik with a k.”
Employer: Writes it down. “And your last name?”
Applicant: “With a k.”
Employer: “No, I got that, Erik. What’s your last name?”
Applicant: “My last name is with a k.”
Employer: “Wait … your name is Erik Erik?”
Applicant: “My last name is With a K.”
Employer: “OK, wait a minute. So, to clarify …”
Applicant: “My last name is literally the phrase (uses air quotes) ‘Withakay.’ It’s all one word.”
Employer: Looks exasperated and finishes writing. “Now, Erik, please review the document to
make sure I’ve got everything right.”
Applicant: Reads the document, then says: “Not quite. … I spell Eric with a C.”
         I wonder if he got the job?

Parting thought: Until next time, I offer you some unsolicited but sage advice: Think before you
speak; read before you think.

Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach


A’s for the Day!

         Let’s start off the spring semester by saluting four of CVH’s finest students: Sarah
Balatbat, Roberto Rodriguez, Tiffany Tapia, and Cecilia Ymaz.
         This Fab Four competed in and completed the districtwide Academic Decathlon last
Saturday (Jan. 30). Unfortunately, it had to be held virtually because of the pandemic. Even so,
they were up to the challenge and (not surprisingly) well represented the Home of Champions
in typical Spartan fashion.
         I had the honor of judging one of the competitions. Sadly for me, I didn’t get to evaluate
any of our kids. However, it was obvious this event featured the cream of the crop of young
academians in the South Bay.
         So I am making a unilateral decision and presenting A’s for the Day in Academics and
Attitude to Cecilia, Robert, Sarah and Tiffany – Ms. Cabe, I hope that is OK.
         If not, then I’ll simply say” Hatz (sic) Off to all of them!


Name That Thing

         Almost everything you can think of has a name. And if you enjoy learning new words,
expanding your vocabulary and showing off your verbal prowess, then I have some nouns that
I’m betting most students (and teachers) are not familiar with. Disclaimer: I only knew of six of
them before a cousin in Maine shared the following list with me.
         Now, how often you will use them may be another matter. But if you like English, I think
you will find the following words interesting and educational – and a few of them amusing.
         1. The space between your eyebrows is called a glabella.
         2. The way it smells after it rains is called petrichor.
         3. The plastic or metallic coating at the end of your shoelaces is called an aglet.
         4. The occasional rumbling in your stomach is call a wamble.
         5. The cry of a newborn baby is called a vagitas.
         6. The prongs on a fork are called tines.
         7. The sheen or light you see when you close your eyes and press your hands on them
              is called phosphenes.
         8. The tiny plastic table place in the middle of a pizza box is called a box tent.
         9. The day after tomorrow is called overmorrow.
         10. Your littlest toes and fingers are called minimus.
         11. The wired cage that holds the cork in a bottle of champagne is called an agraffe.
         12. The “na na na” and “la la la,” which don’t really have any meaning in the lyrics of any
                song, are called vocables.
         13. When you combine an exclamation point with a question mark (?!), it is referred to
                as an interrobang.
         14. The space between your nostrils is called columella nasi.
         15. The armhole in clothes where the sleeves are sewn is called a armscye.
         16. The condition of finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning is called dysania.
         17. Illegible handwriting (a bane of all teachers) is called griffonage.”                                                             18. The dot over an “i” or a “j is called a tittle. It is also referred to as a superscript dot.
         19. The sickness or sick feeling you get after eating or drinking too much is called
                crapulence. Really. Look it up if you doubt me.
How many did you know?


Have Trouble Falling Asleep? Ponder These Questions

  • If the No. 2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still No. 2?
  • Why do people push harder on the remote control when they know the batteries are
    getting weak?
  • Why are actors “in” a movie, but “on” TV
  • What was the best thing before sliced bread?
  • Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?
  • Why do “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?
  • Why do British people rarely sound British when they sing?
  • At a movie theater, which armrest is yours?
  • Why are there no “B” batteries?
  • Why do people yell “heads up!” when you should duck instead?
  • Why are Arkansas and Kansas pronounced differently?
  • Your fingers have fingertips, but your toes don’t have toetips; yet, you can tiptoe, but
    not tipfinger.
  • Why is “w” called a “double U” when it is clearly a “double V.”

And finally – The word “phonetically” doesn’t even start with an F! Stuff like this is why
aliens fly right past us.

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.