New lexicon bumfuzzles befuddles wordsmith

The guy in the electronics department asked what sounded like an impertinent question: “Do you want a mouse with a dongle or without?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your wireless mouse, do you want one with a dongle or are you using WiFi?”

I still find it odd that we call the little slidey thing next to our computers a mouse. It doesn’t even like cheese.

But now, this total stranger in the electronics aisle wants me to distinguish between a wife mouse or one with a dongle.

“No, no, no.” He looked embarrassed, as he should. “Will your mouse talk to your laptop through WiFi — wireless fidelity — you know, with your modem, or are going to plug in a dongle, the little piece of hardware that looks like a snub-nose thumb drive so that your mouse interacts ONLY with whatever the dongle is paired.”

Now I was completely bumfuzzled. Such taradiddle I’d never heard. What palaver.

“Forget it,” I said. “In which aisle will I find paper and pencils?”

Yes, I make my living with words. I enjoy discovering new phrases, idioms, morphemes and articulations to add to my lexicon toolbox. As the great philosophers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb opined: “It’s only words, and words are all I have to take your heart away.”

But somehow, the toolbox got jostled and the lexicon scattered everywhere. Verbs, nouns, adjectives, all of them, mingled, mangled and mushed. I can’t make heads nor tails — not to mention dongles and thumb drives — out of anything anyone says to me anymore. What a quagmire of phonetic floundering.

Where do we get all these weird words? There’s the story that the umbrella was supposed to be called simply a brella — but the inventor hesitated. Um, yeah, I can see that happening.

An old directory — old being a relative term — says the proper term for a person who uses Twitter is a “tweep,” a mangling of the word “tweeter.”

I thought the correct word was “twit.”

But now Twitter is X, so now a person who tweets, I mean xes, is a treasure map? X marks the spot? Spot — here, boy! Who’s a good doggy, yes?

I used to get A’s in English. Now my score in language arts would be more like, “Huh?”

Here’s more fun with words, with a dash of grammar:

•   What’s the difference between a literalist and a kleptomaniac? A literalist takes things literally. A kleptomaniac takes things, literally.

The real, live actual word for someone who steals books is a biblioklept.

•   Some people cannot distinguish between “etymology” and “entomology,” which really bugs me in a way that I cannot put into words.

•   The past, the present and the future walk into a bar. It was tense.

•   I’ve ranted in this space before about unnecessary apostrophes. Well, I walked past a farm that had a sign which stated: “Duck, eggs!” I thought, “This time, it’s an unnecessary comma.” Then it hit me.

•   Can you imagine a grammar nerd trying to make a point with a knock-knock joke:

“Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?”


“To who?”

“Actually, it’s to whom.”

And that’s when you knock, knock the nerd over the head with Strunk and White’s “The Elements of Style.”

•   Remember, before was was was, was was is.

•   Blamestorming is a group of people putting their heads together to figure out who was most at fault for a plan’s failure.

•  A chairdrobe is the bedroom chair over which you drape your clothes instead of hanging them up. It is similar to the treadmilldrobe, but not quite the same as the floordrobe.

•  Destinesia is the term to use when you walk into a room but forget why.

I need to sharpen my pencil now. If you can explain dongle to me, give me a jingle. In the meantime, I’m digging out my old Dick and Jane books. Those words, I understand.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today