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March 17, 2008 | 4 Comments

Hi, Garrison,
I'm 65 and have always been pretty happy with my use of the English language. However, in the last few years, I've noticed that every once in a while misspeak. Example: I was telling someone that an acquaintance was a lovely person and was "self-defecating!" It made me think of the friend who said that his golf wasn't so good these days, he was rather "erotic" on the course. In both cases, the speakers knew as soon as the flubs were out of their mouths that they had made a big mistake. So, how about you? Are your sixties having any effect on your loquaciousness?

Mary W.

Those aren't mistakes, Mary, those are comic inventions and I think that "self-defecating" points toward a new career for you as a writer — it's a phrase that anyone would be tickled to have invented. An "erotic" golfer strikes me as off kilter but "self-defecating" is brilliant. As for me, what I have to fight, at 65, is the lumbering pretentious voice of the great white male. That is why I don't teach and I'm avoiding politics this year. The risk of self-defecation is too great.


It's not just the 65 and older crowd who commit such "comic inventions". As a college teacher, I have the good fortune to see students produce them all the time. My favorite (and yes, it really did happen) is the freshman who wrote of how "St. Francis practiced flatulence, the art of bodily humiliation." It was 9 years ago, but that is one you do not forget.

I'm reminded of an airline Captain who had a predilection for using large words when a small one would do. One afternoon he told his passengers (via the cabin loudspeakers) that there were indeed some thunderstorms in the area, but thanks to the miracle of modern radar, "we'll be able to circumcise all of them."

This is, by the way, the same man who was punished for announcing, "those of you staying in Minneapolis be sure to set your watches back one hour. Those of you staying in Saint Paul be sure to set your watches back forty years."

The good Captain was unaware the mayor of Saint Paul was aboard...

After graduating with a degree in English ten years ago I have enjoyed a career in bartending. Over the years I have acquired many dear friends of every age--one of which is 82. While enjoying a "beer and a bump" she informed me she had finished her living will. Under no circumstance did she wish to be kept alive by artificial insemination. Well, really, who would?

The first time I heard that joke was from Howard Stern during an interview with Elvis Presley's last girlfriend Ginger Alden. She was describing Elvis' sense of humor. That's not to say Howard invented it though.

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